1 John 4:1-3
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…
Did ever human folly go so far as this, asserting the unreality of Christ's bodily presence, and making Him but a phantom? Even so is the testimony of history. The apostle had felt the heaving of that breast, the beating of that heart, and he arrayed himself firmly and intelligibly against the philosophy of his times, that really, in effect, made Jesus Christ a phantom — an existence without bodily proportions and substantiality. To exalt the purity of Christ, to make Him the illustrious soul they desired to recognise Him, they were forced to deny the reality of His bodily presence, and maintain that it was but show, without substance. That He actually died upon the Cross they could not allow, and some argued that when the Cross was taken by Simon the Cyrenean, a change was made, and the Cyrenean was actually crucified, while, in his shape and appearance, Jesus passed away. How absurd the conclusions to which theories drive men! Against these ideas the apostle protested. He that professeth not that Christ was really a man, a proper substantiality, is not of God — is not instructed by the Divine Spirit — hath not the truth. There are many who do not weigh well this matter. They deem it of little consequence whether they have an ideal or an historical personage as the embodiment of excellence. They say the idea is sufficient, and rest satisfied with that. They talk of Christianity being as old as creation; that it is but the growth of the idea of the race; but they overlook the essential difference between the effect of a mere idea and an actual person, and that if by any subtlety of metaphysics, or play of poetic fancy, or theological vagary, we make Jesus not to have laboured and suffered, died and rose, as the Gospels represent Him, the real, regenerating power of His example is gone; it is but as fine poetry, or fine music, and the whole of Christ's resistance of evil is less than the actor's performance. I pity those who thus dismiss Christ as a phantom that has spoken. Dream or reality, fable or historical fact, it is all the same to them. Not so with John's estimate of what man would need. He that confesseth not that the Christ of whom my Gospel treats, who is there portrayed as I saw Him; he who denies that that excellence came in the flesh, is not of God. He denies God's greatest benefaction. He accepts not the grandest thing ever done for humanity. He does not believe that the highest ideal of character has been realised. What we want is such a sight of Jesus as will exert a transforming power. It was this kind of seeing Jesus that wrought the vast change which took place in the first centuries of the Christian Church. It gave new elements to thought. It made life more to be desired. It poured into the channel of human activity new forces of civilisation and progress, and every department of social life felt the power of the grandest of all lives. Phantom though He may be to many, Jesus has filled the world with His presence. It cannot be denied. It is a moral, spiritual power. It has its judgment seat in our midst, and men of the world, of the bar and the senate, instead of attempting to set aside His authority when it crosses their path, try their power to bring His consecrated name to the support of their position. Christ is no phantom. He is before us in social usages, laws, institutions — in the best blessings of our homes, the best aids to social improvement, the happiest tendencies of the wondrous activities of the world.
Parallel VersesKJV: Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.