Author: Ron Graham
To begin our study of the first letter of John, we look at how John deals with the idea that Christ came in the flesh —in other words the “human nature” of Christ.
One of John’s strong points is that Jesus was a real human being. John is proclaiming a Christ whom he had "beheld" -looked intently upon. Not only had he seen him, but he had heard him, and even handled Christ with his own hands (1John 1:1-3).
Later, in chapter 4:1-3, he says that any person who does not confess that "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh" is not from God and is "antichrist" (cf 2John 1:7).
The issue of whether Christ the Son of God was a human being of flesh and blood is crucial to how we view the cross of Christ. If Christ God’s Son was not flesh and blood, then it was not Christ, God’s Son, who was dying and shedding his blood on the cross!
John makes it clear that "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanses us from all sin" (1John 1:7). Christ "came not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood" (1John 5:6). The Son of God, whom God acknowledged at his baptism, is the same one who died on the cross and shed his blood for our sins.
John believes that Jesus will be manifested again at his second coming (1John 2:28). However, he will then be manifested not as he was on earth, but as he now is in glory. He has "not yet been revealed" but we are assured that "we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is" (1John 3:2 cf 4:17).
The reason people would deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is that they believe the flesh to be corrupt. The idea that flesh is evil has serious ramifications.
Was the flesh and blood of Jesus evil? If the flesh is evil, then the holy Son of God could not have come in the flesh or shed his blood as a propitiation for sin, because the blood from his flesh would be evil. But his blood "cleanses us from all sin" (1John 1:7). So the flesh cannot be evil.
If the flesh is evil, how could Jesus be sinless? Were the flesh evil of itself, then no one could live in the flesh without sin. Jesus, therefore, must have been a sinner by the very nature of his flesh, so he cannot be the sinless Christ, the Son of God, Saviour of the world! That is why the antichrist teaches that Jesus is not the Christ (1John 2:22).
If the flesh is evil, how can we have victory over sin? If the flesh is evil, then we cannot conquer the practice of sin while we remain in our flesh. John, however, teaches us that, whilst we must acknowledge that we have sin (1John 1:8-10), we must also acknowledge that we ought not to sin, and that we can overcome sin through Jesus Christ (1John 2:1-2,28-29; 3:4-10).
If the flesh is evil, how can we "love not the world"? John’s comments about "the lust of the flesh" (1John 2:15-17) do not mean that the flesh and its desires are evil of themselves any more than "the world" which God created is evil of itself. If we love the world instead of the God who created it, then we disobey the very last verse of 1st John. If the flesh were evil of itself, then we couldn't help loving the world and it would be pointless for John to say, "Do not love the world" (1John 2:15).
It is instructive to compare the prologue of John’s gospel account with the prologue of his first epistle. In both prologues, we observe certain common elements in John’s teaching about Christ, as shown in the following chart...
|Comparison of first chapters of John’s gospel and First John.|
|"In the beginning..." John 1:1|
|"What was from the beginning" 1John 1:1|
|"...was the Word" John1:1|
|"concerning the Word of Life" 1John 1:1|
|Life in Jesus|
|"In him was life" John 1:4|
|"concerning the Word of Life" 1John 1:1|
|"and the Word was with God" John 1:1|
|"the eternal life which was with the Father" 1John 1:2|
|Manifested in the flesh|
|"and the Word became flesh" John 1:14|
|"and was manifested to us" 1John 1:2|
|Fellowship with God|
|"the right to become children of God" John 1:12|
|"our fellowship is with the Father" 1John 1:3|
|God’s only begotten Son|
|"the only begotten of the Father" John 1:14|
|"and with His Son Jesus Christ" 1John 1:3|
|Light versus darkness|
|"the light shines in darkness" John 1:5|
|"God is light and in him there is no darkness" 1John 1:5|