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First John: 1 John 4:2a-The Means By Which the Recipients of First John Can Confirm the God the Holy Spirit’s Teaching Lesson # 145

First John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  59:05
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First John: 1 John 4:2a-The Means By Which the Recipients of First John Can Confirm the God the Holy Spirit’s Teaching

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1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (ESV)
By this you know the Spirit of God” is composed of the following: (1) preposition en (ἐν), “by” (3) dative neuter singular form of the demonstrative pronoun houtos (οὗτος), “this” (4) second person plural present active indicative form of the verb ginōskō (γινώσκω), “you know” (5) articular accusative neuter singular form of the noun pneuma (πνεῦμα), “the Spirit” (6) articular genitive masculine singular form of the noun theos (θεός), “God.”
The demonstrative pronoun houtos means “this” and is “kataphoric” which means that it is referring to the assertion “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” which immediately follows it.
This word houtos is the object of the preposition en which is a marker of means indicating the means by which the action of the second person plural present active indicative form of the verb ginōskō, “you know” is accomplished.
Therefore, this prepositional phrase indicates the means by which the believer can confirm that any teacher’s doctrine originates from God the Holy Spirit or from the devil.
The verb ginōskō means, “to confirm” since John is attempting to instruct the recipients of First John as to how they can be assured that a particular teaching originates from the Spirit of God.
The second person plural form of this verb means “any one of you” or “each one of you” since the word refers to the recipients of First John as a corporate unit and is used in a distributive sense, which emphasizes no exceptions.
The present tense of ginōskō is a gnomic present used to describe something that is true any time.
It expresses the idea that any one of the recipients of First John can “at any time” confirm a particular teaching originates from the Spirit of God.
The articular form of the noun pneuma means “the Spirit” and refers of course to the Holy Spirit and also contains the figure of metonymy which means that the person of the Spirit is put for His teaching.
This interpretation is indicated by the fact that in context John is trying to help the recipients identify if a particular teaching originates from God the Holy Spirit or from Satan.
The noun theos refers to the Spirit and not the Father, which is indicated by the fact that the word is functioning as an epexegetical genitive which means that it is identifying for the recipients of First John that the Spirit is God and consequently, the word is affirming the deity of the Spirit.
1 John 4:2 By means of this, any one of you can at any time confirm the Spirit’s teaching who is the one and only God: Any spirit which does acknowledge Jesus as the Christ appearing in a human body does possess the characteristic which originates from this the one and only God who is the Spirit. (Author’s translation)
The apostle John in 1 John 4:2 solemnly presents to the recipients of First John the specific teaching or doctrine which will help them to identify whether any teacher and his teaching does originate from God the Holy Spirit or from the devil.
Simultaneously, it would also identify for them the means by which they can critically examine any teacher’s doctrine in order to determine if they and their teaching originate from God the Holy Spirit or from the devil.
This doctrine is the hypostatic union since John asserts that any spirit which does acknowledge Jesus as the Christ appearing in a human body does originate from God the Holy Spirit.
As we noted, “any spirit” refers to a particular viewpoint which is communicated publicly by any teacher through instruction.
Therefore, John is teaching that this doctrine is the means by which the recipients of First John can confirm that any teacher’s doctrine does originate with God the Holy Spirit or not.
This interpretation of 1 John 4:2 is based upon the kataphoric use of the prepositional phrase en toutō (ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this.”
It can be interpreted as either “kataphoric” or “anaphoric.”
The former would indicate that this prepositional phrase is referring to the assertion in 1 John 4:2Any spirit which does acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, appearing in a human body does originate from this God who is the Spirit.”
Therefore, it would express the means by which the believer can confirm that any teacher’s doctrine originates from God the Holy Spirit.
Consequently, this prepositional phrase indicates that the doctrine of the hypostatic union is the means by which the believer can confirm if any teacher’s doctrine originates with God the Holy Spirit or not.
In other words, the means by which the child of God can confirm that any teacher’s doctrine is inspired by God the Holy Spirit is that their teaching acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, the God-man.
If they adhere to John’s Spirit inspired apostolic teaching that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, then their doctrine originates with God the Holy Spirit.
If this prepositional phrase en toutō (ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this” in 1 John 4:2 is “anaphoric,” then this would mean that this prepositional phrase is pointing back to 1 John 4:1, which is composed of a prohibition followed by a command and a hoti causal clause.
The first class condition presents the assumption of truth the sake of argument.
The prohibition required that each of the recipients of First John continue making it their habit of not trusting in every spirit which refers to a particular viewpoint communicated by a teacher through instruction.
Then, John issues a command which is found in the apodosis of this first class condition and stands in contrast to this prohibition.
The protasis asserts for the sake of argument the recipients of First John confirming these spirits or teachings possess the characteristic originating from the one and only God (the Father) and which characteristic is truth.
This is a responsive first class condition which would indicate that they must confirm this teaching is from God in order to ensure that they continue to experience fellowship with God.
If they don’t, they will not experience this fellowship.
The command requires that each one of them continuing to make it their habit of thoroughly and critically examining these spirits or teachings.
Then, John presents the reason why they must obey this command by asserting that many false prophets are traveling about in the world.
Therefore, the anaphoric use of the prepositional phrase en toutō (ἐν τούτῳ), “by means of this” would then indicate that by thoroughly and critically examining the spirits the recipients of First John could confirm if any teacher’s doctrine originates from God the Holy Spirit.
However, it is better to interpret this prepositional phrase as kataphoric, which is indicated by several factors.
First, the preceding command in 1 John 4:1 to test or thoroughly and critically examine the spirits is functioning as we noted as the apodosis of a first class condition.
Thus, it is connected to the protasis which speaks of how the believer can confirm that any teacher’s doctrine possesses the characteristic of truth which originates from the Father.
Therefore, this command answers the protasis or in other words, this command answers for the recipients of First John how they can confirm that any spirit or teaching is truth from God, which would indicate that John has already identified for them how they can confirm any teacher’s doctrine is truth from God.
Correspondingly, this would also identify for them how they can confirm any teacher’s doctrine originates from God the Holy Spirit.
However, if we interpret the prepositional phrase en toutō, “by means of this” as anaphoric, then John would not be able to identify the specific means by which the recipients of First John can test the spirits or various types of teaching to determine if they are from the Spirit who is God.
If you recall, in verse 1, as we noted, he only told them that they must test the spirits and did not identify the specific doctrine which would enable them to do so.
However, if this prepositional phrase is kataphoric he has done so since this would mean that he is identifying the doctrine of the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ as the specific means by which they can determine if any teacher’s doctrine originates with God the Holy Spirit or with the devil.
Correspondingly, he would also be identifying this doctrine as the means by which they are to test the spirits or in other words, critically examine any type of teacher’s doctrine to determine if it is truth from God or a lie from the devil.
Thus, we can see that verse 2 is epexegetical in that verse 1 is ambiguous and verse 2 defines specifically how the recipients of First John can confirm if any teacher’s doctrine originates with God the Holy Spirit or with the devil.
Verse 1 is ambiguous only in the sense that John commanded them to test or critically examine any type of teaching in order to determine if it is truth from God or not.
As we noted, he did not identify the specific doctrine which would enable them to do so.
However, verse 2 does this since he asserts that adherence to the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ is the specific means by which they can use to confirm if any teacher’s doctrine originates with God the Holy Spirit or with the devil.
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