Some thinking as I prepare for Sunday:
1 John 4:2-3 says:
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” NIV
What does John mean? Surely he cannot mean that verbally agreeing with orthodox doctrine about the identity of Jesus is enough to prove without a doubt that a teacher of prophet is from God.
Jesus said that: “Not everyone who says to me, “‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”(Mat 7:21) “Lord, Lord” is doctrinally orthodox verbal confession, but Jesus indicates that in and of itself it is not enough.
What about the word? Other translations use another word instead of “acknowledge”. The E.S.V. for example uses the word “confesses” which gives the English reader the clue needed to link this verse with 1 John 1:9 where the same word is used. (See also 1 John 4:15)
Confession, be it of sin, or of the identity of Christ, cannot be merely verbal affirmation with no heartfelt commitment. Surely what John means here is that a prophet is from God when both their lips and their lives confess that Jesus has come in the flesh.
Does my life give tangible evidence that My mind and heart believe that God, in his grace and kindness become incarnate in this world in Jesus Christ in order to redeem me? Does my life give tangible evidence that I revere and submit to Jesus Christ as Lord?
(John Piper reflects on the meaning of confess in this sermon.)