Rev. Houck is pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois.
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
This text teaches us that Jesus Christ is very God. Before we look at that great truth, let us consider what the cults think of Jesus Christ. The Mormons have an extremely heretical view of Christ. Jesus, they say, was a pre-existing spirit along with the spirits of all men. The only difference between Christ and us is that He is the firstborn of the Father-God’s children. Those who follow Jesus will become His heirs and, like Him, be equal with and one with God. Thus Christ is not the God, but He becomes one with Him along with all of mankind.
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Christ was the highest and firstborn of all God’s creatures. Even though he is sometimes designated “a god,” he is not “the God.” Christ has a brother, Lucifer, who rebelled, while Christ, then called Michael, the Captain of Jehovah’s hosts, remained obedient. In the incarnation, Michael was changed into the form of a man. After he died, he became a spirit once again. Even though the Jehovah’s Witnesses consider Christ a kind of a god, He is not the God, equal with Jehovah.
Christian Science makes a sharp separation between Jesus and Christ. Jesus is the man, and Christ is an impersonal divine idea. Jesus Christ is not God. He is God-like. He is a representative of God, but not in a unique way. Mrs. Eddy is viewed as the feminine representative of God, the motherhood of God, while Jesus is the masculine representative of God, the fatherhood of God. Thus Jesus Christ is not God. At most, the man Jesus possessed a divine idea.
Of the four cults, the Seventh-day Adventists are the only ones who teach that Jesus is God. However, they contradict that truth by teaching that Christ took a polluted human nature. They say that, in His humanity, Christ partook of our sinful, fallen nature. But how can the person of the holy Son of God take a human nature that is sinful? By their doctrine of the incarnation they deny their doctrine of Christ’s deity.
In contrast to all of these false teachings of the cults we have the teaching of the Spirit of God in this text, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Here it is declared that Jesus is the Son of God. That is the same as declaring that He is God. That is clear from Jesus’ confrontation with the high priest. The high priest commanded Him inMatthew 26:63, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” When Jesus answered, “Thou hast said…” the high priest rent his clothes and said that Christ had spoken blasphemy. The high priest knew that by confessing that He was the Son of God, Jesus confessed that He was God.
Notice that the apostle John makes this statement again in the next chapter. In 1 John 5:5 we read, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Every place in the Bible where Jesus is called the Son of God, it is declared that He is very God.
In some passages Jesus Christ is called God, not just the Son of God. We read inRomans 9:5, “… of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”
There are other passages that attribute to Christ characteristics which belong only to God. Christ is said to be eternal in Micah 5:2: “…whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” The apostle Peter ascribes omniscience to Christ when he says in John 21:17, “… Lord, thou knowest all things….” Jesus calls Himself omnipotent in Revelation 1:8: “I am Alpha and Omega … the Almighty.”
Jesus is said to have done works that only God can do. According to John 1:3, He has created the world: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” InHebrews 1:3, He is said to uphold the world providentially: “Who…upholding all things by the word of his power….” InLuke 5:20, He is said to be the Savior in that He forgives sins: “And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
In other passages divine honors are ascribed to Christ. We read of Stephen in Acts 7:59: “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Would a dying believer commend his spirit to anyone but God?
That brings us to the question, “What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God, very God Himself?” First of all, it means that the only begotten Son of God was God before He became incarnate. It is important to understand this, because several cults speak of a pre-incarnate spirit. Before His incarnation, Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God, the second person of the divine Trinity. He was not an impersonal spirit. He was the person of the Son of God, subsisting in the divine nature with the Father and the Spirit. As such, He was just as much God as the Father and the Spirit. He was not subservient to the Father or the Spirit, but equal to them. He possessed all the divine attributes that they possessed. He was just as infinite, sovereign, and glorious as they were. He participated in all the divine works of the Father and the Spirit. His mind was the divine mind. His will was the divine will. He was not one of three gods. The Son and the Father and the Spirit were and are the one only true God.
In the second place, that Jesus is the Son of God, very God, means that after His incarnation He remained true God. In the incarnation, the person of the eternal Son, with His divine nature, took upon Himself a human nature. Thus we read in verse 14, “…the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” The Father (the triune God) sent the Son (the second person of the Trinity) into this world to be made a man to save man. That human nature of Jesus Christ was a real human nature with a body and soul. That is what John tells us in verse 2: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” After the eternal Son took a human nature He remained true and eternal God. He did not give up His deity. Thus the man Jesus Christ, who walked upon this earth, preached the gospel, suffered, died, and arose again from the dead, was and is God come in our flesh. That is what it means that Jesus is the Son of God, very God Himself.
There is a sense in which the cults confess the deity of Christ. Even though it is clear from the writings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, they are very reluctant to admit that when they come to your door. They will even say that they believe the same thing about Jesus as you do. But when you question them they reveal the fact that what they mean is that He is a god, not the God. He is not equal to the one they call “Jehovah.”
The Mormons are the same way. They do not want to deny that Jesus is God if they can help it. They will tell you that Jesus is the Old Testament Jehovah. They will tell you that Jesus is the creator of the world. This leaves the impression that they believe Jesus is God. What they don’t tell you, unless you question them, is that Jesus is not the Father-God, but one of His sons. They also do not tell you that you can be god as much as Christ is.
Thus these cults make a confession that Jesus is the Son of God that is not sincere. They make a confession that is meant to leave the impression that Jesus is God, but it is not a true confession.
On the other hand, notice this text, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God….” Our calling is to confess Jesus Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 10:32, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” When we confess Jesus Christ, we are to confess that He is the Son of God, very God. Our calling is to acknowledge to ourselves and to the world that Jesus Christ is God come in our flesh. We must confess Christ the way the Ethiopian Eunuch confessed Him in Acts 8:37: “…And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
What is more, that confession must be sincere. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses might make false confessions, but a true believer makes this confession from his heart. That John is speaking of a sincere confession is seen from the parallel passage in I John 5:5. There, instead of saying, “confess that Jesus is the Son of God,” he says, “believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.” This teaches us that confession is to come out of a heart of faith. We are to confess that Jesus is the Son of God because we believe that He is the Son of God. The apostle says in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Behind the confession of the mouth, there must always be the belief of the heart. If the heart does not believe it, the confession is false and not sincere.
We have to remember this when members of a cult come to our door and want to talk to us. They will try to get us to talk about all kinds of things, but they will avoid talking about Jesus Christ. They will talk about Bible study. They will talk about how terrible the world has become and how sinful it is. They will talk about the last days. But they will not bring up the subject of the deity of Jesus Christ. They will look for subjects on which they think you will agree with them. Don’t let them do that to you.
Remember your calling. Confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Force them to deal with that issue. Force them to admit that they do not believe that Jesus is God. To do that, you will have to take them to the Scriptures. In so doing, you will be able to show them that they are a cult and not Christian. You will have to condemn them as false prophets, as antichrists. As John says in verse 3 of this chapter, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist….” That they do not believe that Christ, the Son of God, is come in the flesh means that they are antichrist. That is what we must confess and testify to the cults.
That brings us to the result of making this confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Before we look at that, let us look at the result of not confessing. The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and Christian Science practitioners do not have Jesus Christ. Even though they take the name of Jesus upon their lips, the name is meaningless because they deny who He really is. They speak of Jesus as if He is their Savior, but He is not their Savior. In the great day of judgment, Jesus’ reaction to them will be the same as that in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Jesus does not know those who are members of cults in that intimate way of love as He does His people. When Jesus knows His people in love, they know Him. They know Him as the Son of God. The cults do not know Jesus in that way.
Because they do not have Jesus, they do not have the one only true God. They are not in God and God is not in them. For God does not deny Christ. Nor does He have anything to do with anyone who does deny Christ. One who denies Christ, denies God. This is the sad thing about the people who belong to cults. They may be “moral” people, but they do not have God.
On the other hand, the one who confesses that Jesus is the Son of God has this great benefit, “God dwelleth in him and he in God.” First of all, God dwells in him. That is, the triune God dwells in his heart, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God. When a person confesses that Jesus is the Son of God and believes it in his heart, it is because He has been regenerated and God Himself has come to live within him. What a great blessing. The infinite, almighty, gracious, merciful God dwells in the heart and life of the true believer. He knows that God is near unto him. He knows God’s love and mercy. He knows God’s abiding presence that leads him and guides him. The great, sovereign, glorious God dwells with him and shall remain with him both in this life and in the life to come. He does not become God. But throughout eternity God will dwell with him and bless him with all the blessings of salvation.
Not only is God in him, but he is in God. He is safe and secure in the life of God. He is upheld by and lives in the life of His God. That is because he is in Jesus Christ. The believer, confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, is united to Christ and is a member of the body of Christ. Because of this union with Christ, the Son of God, he is united with God. In the way of his faith in the Son of God, he is one with Jesus Christ and the Father.
Let us take care, therefore, that we not be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other cults who deny the deity of Christ. Let us confess from our hearts that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, very God Himself.