2 By this[a] you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses[b] Jesus as the Christ[c] who has come in the flesh is from God,
1 John 4:2tn There is no subordinating conjunction following the ἐν τούτῳ (en toutō) here in 4:2, so the phrase could refer either (1) to what precedes or (2) to what follows. Contextually the phrase refers to what follows, because the following clause in 4:2b-3a (πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ ὁμολογεῖ ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστὸν…ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν ᾿Ιησοῦν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν), while not introduced by a subordinating conjunction, does explain the preceding clause beginning with ἐν τούτῳ. In other words, the following clause in 4:2b-3a is analogous to a subordinate clause introduced by an epexegetical ἵνα (hina) or ὅτι (hoti), and the relationship can be represented in the English translation by a colon, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every Spirit that confesses Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, but every Spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”
1 John 4:2tn This forms part of the author’s christological confession which serves as a test of the spirits. Many interpreters have speculated that the author of 1 John is here correcting or adapting a slogan of the secessionist opponents, but there is no concrete evidence for this in the text. Such a possibility is mere conjecture (see R. E. Brown, Epistles of John [AB], 492). The phrase may be understood in a number of different ways, however: (1) the entire phrase “Jesus Christ come in the flesh” may be considered the single object of the verb ὁμολογεῖ (homologei; so B. F. Westcott, A. Brooke, J. Bonsirven, R. E. Brown, S. Smalley, and others); (2) the verb ὁμολογεῖ may be followed by a double accusative, so that both “Jesus Christ” and “come in the flesh” are objects of the verb; the meaning would be “confess Jesus Christ as come in the flesh” (so B. Weiss, J. Chaine, and others). (3) Another possibility is to see the verb as followed by a double accusative as in (2), but in this case the first object is “Jesus” and the second is “the Christ come in the flesh,” so that what is being confessed is “Jesus as the Christ come in the flesh” (so N. Alexander, J. Stott, J. Houlden, and others). All three options are grammatically possible, although not equally probable. Option (1) has a number of points in its favor: (a) the parallel in 2 John 7 suggests to some that the phrase should be understood as a single object; (b) option (2) makes “Jesus Christ” the name of the preincarnate second Person of the Trinity, and this would be the only place in the Johannine literature where such a designation for the preincarnate Λόγος (Logos) occurs; and (c) option (3) would have been much clearer if Χριστόν (Christon) were accompanied by the article (ὁμολογεῖ ᾿Ιησοῦν τὸν Χριστόν, homologei Iēsoun ton Christon). Nevertheless option (3) is preferred on the basis of the overall context involving the secessionist opponents: Their christological views would allow the confession of the Christ come in the flesh (perhaps in the sense of the Spirit indwelling believers, although this is hard to prove), but they would have trouble confessing that Jesus was (exclusively) the Christ incarnate. The author’s failure to repeat the qualifying phrases (Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα, Christon en sarki elēluthota) in the negative repetition in 4:3a actually suggests that the stress is on Jesus as the confession the opponents could not or would not make. It is difficult to see how the parallel in 2 John 7 favors option (1), although R. E. Brown (Epistles of John [AB], 492) thinks it does. The related or parallel construction in John 9:22 (ἐάν τις αὐτὸν ὁμολογήσῃ Χριστόν, ean tis auton homologēsē Christon) provides further support for option (3). This is discounted by R. E. Brown because the verb in John 9:22 occurs between the two accusative objects rather than preceding both as here (Epistles of John [AB], 493—although Brown does mention Rom 10:9 as another parallel closer in grammatical structure to 1 John 4:2). Brown does not mention the textual variants in John 9:22, however: Both P66 and P75 (along with K, ƒ13 and others) read ὁμολογήσῃ αὐτὸν Χριστόν (homologēsē auton Christon). This structure exactly parallels 1 John 4:2, and a case can be made that this is actually the preferred reading in John 9:22; furthermore, it is clear from the context in John 9:22 that Χριστόν is the complement (what is predicated of the first accusative) since the object (the first accusative) is αὐτόν rather than the proper name ᾿Ιησοῦν. The parallel in John 9:22 thus appears to be clearer than either 1 John 4:2 or 2 John 7, and thus to prove useful in understanding both the latter constructions.
You'll get this book and many others when you join Bible Gateway Plus. Learn more
You must be logged in to view your newly purchased content. Please log in below or if you don't have an account, creating one is easy and only takes a few moments. After you log in your content will be available in your library.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to choose a monthly or yearly subscription, and then enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate, click the button below.
Upgrade, and get the most out of your new account. An integrated digital Bible study library - including complete notes from the NIV Study Bible and the NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition - is just a step away! Try it free for 30 days.