By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; con-substantial with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us". (The Creed of Chalcedon, 451 AD)
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 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. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already." (1 John 4:1-3)
A well-known saying goes, "The key to a strong defense is a strong offense." I think there is a lot of truth in that, and it certainly applies to spiritual warfare. Both of the texts quoted above--The Chalcedonian Creed of 451 AD and 1 John 4:1-3--accentuate this truth. Let's take a brief look at the latter first.
First, please note that we are commanded or ordered by John to be discerning...this is not an optional extra or suggestion. He lovingly (beloved) commands that we be discerning. It is impossible to overstate how much a profound and insidious effect the "virtue" of TOLERANCE has become...it is nearly venerated in our culture, making it hard to swim against the tide. However, John is insisting that we must be "intolerant" of teaching that originates in hell instead of heaven, if we are to be faithful followers of Christ.
Second, this text is a command to discern between teachers/teaching that is from the Holy Spirit and teachers/teaching that is inspired by demonic forces.It is not just paranormal phenomena or activity that is demonic; certain teachers and teachings are demonic as well. Once again, it cannot be overstated how contrary to the world spirit controlling our culture that this very strong judgement is.Truth, by its very nature, must stand in antithesis to non-truth. In other words, part of fearing God (and not man) is being valiant for truth, and opposing error. As "the father of lies" Satan delights in distorting biblical truth, especially that which relates to the Person and Work of Christ (the gospel).
Please note that it is NOT a command to discern if the source is a trapped spirit!! The only two sources of teaching/doctrine mentioned in 1 John are the Holy Spirit or unholy spirits. There are many folks who profess to be Christians and use their alleged gift of discernment on paranormal investigations to supposedly distinguish between the presence of human and demonic spirits. That notion and practice is utterly foreign and repugnant to the clear meaning of this text.I have heard folks refer to this passage to support their necromatic practices, but is totally foreign to the intent of Holy Spirit in this text.
Third, it is very instructive that the Litmus test to distinguish between teaching/teachers which are from God and those from Satan is doctrinal in nature. Specifically, the test John lays out is Christological..having to do with the Person and Work of Christ. But John is more specific still....affirming the full humanity of Jesus is the test (there are others tests as well, as this is not an exhaustive list of discernment tests) Does anyone find it surprising that John does not mention the DEITY of Jesus in this context? John is here accenting that the denial of the full humanity of Jesus is demonic.Elsewhere, John writes some of the strongest affirmations of Jesus' full deity found in the bible. Evidently, there was a demonic heresy gaining popularity which John felt needed to be addressed...the beginnings of gnosticism.
Have you ever heard of the heresy known as "docetism"? It was the first Christian heresy. It comes from the Greek word "dokeo", which means "to seem or appear". Docetism taught that Jesus only appeared to be a man or human. For various reasons, the idea of God becoming human...suffering, and ultimately dying a horrible death was unfathomable and scandalous.According to early church tradition, Simon Magus, mentioned in Acts 8:9-24, attributes the rise of gnosticism in the church to Simon. And this gnostic view of God and reality made the Incarnation seem ludicrous to its adherents.It is said that Simon and Simon Peter battled it out in Rome over the true nature of Jesus. So, the apostles had to fight hard for the truth.
If Jesus only appeared to be human, then that destroys the Incarnation, and the basis for the substitutionary atonement,because He wouldn't be truly representative of us. Jesus HAD to be fully God and fully man for His atonement to be truly effective as a once for all sacrifice for sins. (see book of Hebrews for extended treatment)
Simon taught that Jesus only appeared to have suffered and died.
It is the denial of the real humaness of Jesus, that John says is a hallmark of demon inspired teaching/teachers.It seems to me that John was already confronting the very same spirituality that has become so common today--gnosticism or New Age.
When cleansing a house we say, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus of Nazareth!" Have you ever considered why we add "of Nazareth"? It is the BIBLICAL Jesus--fully God and fully man--that demons are terrified of....and must bow to His authority.The fuzzier our conception of Jesus is, the weaker our offense and defense becomes.
The key to a strong defense in spiritual warfare, is a strong offense. We must reject our aversion to doctrine/theology, and enthusiastically embrace Chalcedonian (biblical) Christology. That is certainly what is being implied in 1 John 4:1-3. It was the crisis posed by heretics that jump-started the attempts of the early church Fathers to further explain the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ.Later, there was another heresy known as Arianism (which denied the full deity of Jesus) which, from a human perspective, almost destroyed the church. But God raised up men valiant for truth, and the Truth prevailed. NOTHING CAN SQUASH GOD'S CHURCH.
Harold O.J. Brown was a brilliant professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Seminary (recently deceased in 2007). I am reading (or re-reading) his book "Heresies" which is a history of the church's struggle with heresy, from the second century until present day.While the word "heresy" may not be in vogue, it is indispensable for those who believe in biblical truth--truth implies or assumes its opposite...non-truth or falsehood. Heresy is not small error--it is serious, potentially soul-killing, church-splitting error (e.g. denial of Trinity or deficient view of Christ). Many of the epistles of the New Testament were written, at least in part, to correct heretical notions that were splitting churches and causing Christians to stumble.Will you have the courage to lovingly call heresy, heresy? Or are we ashamed of the gospel?
During the first 400 years of the New Testament Church, it was in danger of being overrun by the very same spirituality/beliefs that are common today--gnosticism/occult paganism/New Age. Almost all the apologetics during this time was devoted to defending and explaining the Trinity, divine creation, and the biblical view of WHO JESUS IS. The Creed of Chalcedon in 451 AD (quoted above) is considered THE definitive statement regarding dual nature of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man. Please take the time to read it slowly and carefully, as it seeks to walk a very fine line between heresies on the right and the left. I wish I had the time to walk us through it, but I do not.However, if you carefully and prayerfully meditate on this creed, it will equip you for being even more effective in spiritual warfare. For over 1,000 years this Creed has been vigorously affirmed by bible believing Catholics and Protestants, and viewed as the clearest explanation of Jesus ever written.(outside of the bible). Sharpen your sword soldier!
It is Professor Brown who stated that, whenever a culture''s view of Jesus becomes fuzzy, then necromancy soon rears it ugly head (pg. 53)...and that the early church Fathers were often attacking the gnostics belief/practice of necromancy.The explosive growth of belief in spiritism in the last 20 years, coincides with a corresponding weakening in our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth. Due to our culture's aversion to being :judgmental" and veneration of tolerance, we MUST return to the old paths of rich, Chalcedonian Christology. JESUS IS LORD!! AMEN.
"Seeing Ghosts through God's Eyes" (also in a Kindle edition)...please consider purchasing my book which uses science, logic, and the bible to analyze the true source of power behind paranormal activity.