By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. – 1 John 4:2-3 ESV
1 John 4:1-6
“I believe in Jesus!” How many times have you heard someone make that statement? Does saying those four simple words make someone a “believer” in Jesus? The real question we need to ask someone who makes that claim is, “What do you believe about Jesus?” Belief in Jesus can run the gamut from the mere acknowledgement that He was an actual historical figure to the assurance that He was the Son of God sent to be the Savior of the world. And those are two extremely different views. So what someone believes about Jesus is critical to understanding what they mean when they say they believe in Jesus. The same is true of those who claim to teach truth regarding Jesus. Just because they use His name does not mean they believe He was God in human flesh, sent to pay the penalty for the sins of man. In fact, there are many today who are reinventing and redefining Jesus, creating a hybrid, more user-friendly version that better suits their own agenda.
Their Jesus is not the one we read about in the Scriptures. He is not the one the apostles wrote about and spent their lives teaching about. The same thing was true in John’s day. Which is why he warned his readers to test the spirits. Not everybody who used the name of Jesus was speaking on behalf of Jesus, or teaching the truth regarding Jesus. Their message may have sounded plausible and even pleasing, but if they were teaching a different version of Jesus than what the apostles taught, they were to be avoided at all costs. John’s criteria was simple. They had to confess “that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2 ESV). Belief in the incarnation of Jesus was the foundational requirement for authenticity as far as John was concerned. If someone refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, sent to earth in human form, in order to live a sinless life and die a sinner’s death on behalf of man, then whatever else they taught about Him would be false. Denial of Jesus’ diety and humanity would be the equivalent of worshiping a false god. God’s Word taught that Jesus was deity, the second person of the trinity, who left heaven, came to earth “in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins” (Romans 8:3 NLT). If anyone rejects that version of the truth about Jesus, they are not worshiping the God of the Bible. They are not believing in what God said regarding Jesus. “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5 NLT). They are not believing what Jesus said about Himself. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33 ESV). He went on to say, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 ESV). And Jesus completed His message concerning Himself with the words, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40 ESV). Jesus came to live, to die, to rise again from the dead, and to provide sinful men with a means by which they might be made right with God.
If Jesus was NOT God in human flesh, then He would have been unable to live sinlessly. If He did not live sinlessly, then His death on the cross would have failed to propitiate or satisfy the just demands of a holy and righteous God. A sinful sacrifice would not have sufficed. If Jesus had been only a man, He would have had a sin nature just as the rest of us. He would have been insufficient and unsatisfactory as a sacrifice. But Paul reminds us, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT). Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:24-25 NLT). To believe in Jesus is to confess that He was the Son of God. It is to confess that He was God in human flesh, who lived a sinless life, died on the cross as payment for the sins of all mankind, who rose again and sits at the right hand of the Father, and is one day coming back. Any other version of Jesus is wrong. It is dangerous, deceptive and deadly. What we need to discern is not simply that others believe in Jesus, but what do they believe about Jesus. Paul put it simply and succinctly when he wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NLT).