1 John 4
Is the incarnation important? Unfortunately, when we hear words like incarnation, we might be tempted to think that it is just a big fancy word that doesn’t mean anything to us. However, as we will see from 1 John 4, the incarnation is vital the Christian religion.
What is the Incarnation?
The incarnation refers to the assumption of a true human nature by the Son of God for the redemption of humanity. The incarnation was recorded in Luke 2:35 when the angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” The angels told the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). John described the incarnation as “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14).
False Prophets Deny the Incarnation
1 John 4:1-3
John said “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn 4:1). So what is one distinguishing mark of a false prophet? “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every Spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 Jn 4:2-3). John addressed a heretical movement that was already prevalent in the primitive church. There were some who denied that Jesus had a real physical body like we have.
The denial of Jesus’ real physical body arose from two streams: 1) the Gnostics who claimed everything physical was evil and therefore Christ could not have any physical body, and 2) the problem of how the eternal God could enter space-time with a real body. John would have none of this heresy. The Spirit said those who deny that Jesus had a real body this way: “this is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 Jn 4:3).
So why is the incarnation so important? Without the incarnation, the Son of God would not have become like his brethren in every way to become a merciful high priest (Heb 2:17). Without the incarnation the Scriptures are wrong (Jn 1:14). Without the incarnation, Jesus could not have died for our sins (Matt 27). Without the incarnation, Jesus could not have been raised as the firstfruits from the dead (1 Cor 15). Without the incarnation, we are still in our sins (1 Cor 15). The incarnation is at the heart of Christianity. To deny the incarnation is to deny the entirety of the Christian religion.
The Incarnation is How Christians Overcome
1 John 4:4-6
1 John 4:4 is often separated from 1 John 4:1-3. This is unfortunate because the incarnation is the link between both sections. 1 John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” In 1 John 4:1-3, John demanded we confess Jesus was among us physically. So, looking at verse 4 again, we can see that we Christians have overcome the false prophets in 1-3 because the one who is in you or among you is greater than the one who is in the world. John wanted his readers to know that Christians overcome false spirits, false prophets, and “the one who is in the world” through Jesus’ incarnation.
So, how is it that the incarnation is so powerful? The incarnation is so powerful because it allows us to see God and to enjoy his presence. Look at the special way John described the influence of the incarnation in John 1. First, he wants us to know that at the incarnation “we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father (Jn 1:14). Secondly, through the resurrection and “of his fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (Jn 1:16). Finally, it was through the incarnation that humans were able to see God. John said, “No one has ever seen God. The only begotten God, the one at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (Jn 1:18). The incarnation was also powerful because it is in the incarnation that people are with God in the fullest since yet. John wrote, “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten from the Father” (Jn 1:14).