by Steven Chan
14 November 2010
Have you ever wondered why Jesus Christ having come in the flesh should be a controversial matter at all? To many of us, the question is not likely to be whether Jesus Christ came in the flesh but whether He was truly the Son of God. Yet, that does not seem to be the problem that the writer John was dealing with in his first epistle. He was specifically addressing the concern that some were teaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh.
1John 4:3, the Bible says: “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” John was unequivocal in stating that anyone who does not teach that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist”
The writer John goes on to state the following about Jesus Christ: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him…. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” (1John 4:9, 14, 15)
The truth that the writer John was affirming was that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” was not an unimportant detail – it is an integral part of the truth that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world to be the Saviour of the world. Earlier in John 1:14, the writer declared: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” According to Bible scholars, the epistle was written to address the teachings of Gnosticism that was affecting the believers at that time.
What is most intriguing is why any believer would want to deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh? Evidently these teachers were from the midst of believers: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1John 2:18, 19). More tragically, why would anyone be willing to even entertain such an incredible idea that Jesus did not come in the flesh? Apparently, they believed that Jesus came; they were merely rejecting the idea that Jesus came in the flesh.
It appears from the various verses in I John that these teachers had fallen into the erroneous position of teaching or advocating that Jesus did not come in the flesh probably because they were unable to accept that God as Spirit could possibly come in some bodily form, or in the flesh. They were perhaps also not able to appreciate that God can somehow be “compressed or limited” into “flesh and blood” or why it should even be necessary for God to be clothed with “flesh and blood”.
Right from the beginning of his epistle, John declared: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (I John 1:1,2). John affirmed the fleshly and bodily appearance of Jesus, continuing his declaration in John 1:14 that God became flesh and dwelt among man.
Just as these teachers had problems believing that God could come in the flesh and did come in the flesh, they seem also to have problems accepting the bodily resurrection of every man just like the Sadducees of Jesus’ days on earth (Matt 22:22-32). The Sadducees challenged the teaching of Jesus concerning the bodily resurrection of every man taught by Jesus when they posed the question to Jesus: to which man would the woman belong to in the resurrection? John addressed a similar issue in his epistle when he wrote in 1John 3:2: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” John was answering the question that was most likely posed by the erroneous teachers of what kind of body would the resurrected ones have? His answer: “we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” When Jesus comes again, we shall “see him as he is” and “we shall be like him”.
Unfortunately, some today are advocating that there will no bodily resurrection – they teach that it’s a spiritual resurrection and that the resurrection is already past. They similarly contend that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor 15:50) and that therefore there is no point or necessity for our bodies to be raised. They rely too much on their own reasoning much like the erroneous teachers of the day of John and that of the Sadducees during the earthly ministry of Jesus. The Bible counsels in Prov 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding”. They would rather reject plain teachings of the Scriptures such as the passage immediately following I Cor 15:50: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (I Cor 15:51-54). “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”(Phil 3:20)
In I John 3:2, the writer said that when Jesus appears, “we shall see Him as He is, and we shall be like Him”. Sadly, there are some among us who are bent on teaching that Jesus has already appeared the second time and that he will not be coming again – and that hence, it follows therefore “we shall not see Him as He is” and “we shall not be like Him” as all that has passed (they contend that Jesus appeared in AD70 and too bad, those living today missed it altogether) – and that we no longer have the hope that John wrote about in I John 3:2,3: “but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
Brethren, John said that “every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” – that hope is that “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” One really wonders that if that hope of seeing Jesus as He is and being like Him when He appears, has already passed, what is our hope today (if any), and is there any need for one to purify himself anymore since one has missed that much awaited event of the appearing of Jesus? According to Eph 4:4, we have ONE HOPE and we “wait for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:13) – our hope coincides with the appearing of our Lord. For those who teach that Jesus has already appeared in AD70 and that He is not appearing again, they have a different hope – it is not the “One Hope” that Eph 4:4 talks about and what Titus 2:13 & I John 3:2,3 teach.