The Doctrine of Christ

Michael Johnson

(2 John 9, 10)

Observant readers of Scripture have long noted that the character of the second epistles-2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, etc.,-is one of decline and a falling away from revealed truth. In the Second Epistle of John, that character is clearly apparent. In verse 7 it reads, "For many deceivers are entered into the world..." They are described as those who do not confess Jesus Christ come in the flesh, an expression which occurs also in 1 John 4: 2 in connection with discerning the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

The writer is disposed to think that the expression, which heads this article, embraces all that the apostle John teaches about Christ's person and work in both his Gospel and Epistles. From the way these two expressions are linked together in the Second Epistle there can be no doubt that it must embrace whatever the words, "Jesus Christ. come in the flesh" mean. It is vital we have some clear understanding because otherwise we will neither be able to identify nor refuse those who do not bring the doctrine of Christ. What follows attempts to clarify the meaning.

It could never be said of any one of us that we came in the flesh for we had no previous existence. The Lord Jesus did! John 1: 14 speaks of it: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us... full of grace and truth." Those beautiful words are saying that He-the Word-was there before His incarnation, clearly asserting His personal greatness and glory. It is not simply that He has made God fully known by His incarnation and death, but that He alone was ever able to fully declare Him, for He ever was and is God. Whoever first used the words about John 1: 1, "Eternal existence, eternally distinct personality, eternal deity," not only caught the very spirit of Scripture but also hit the nail on the head in relation to the deity of the Lord Jesus.

However, that is not all, for Scripture has more to say about His pre-incarnate existence. John's Gospel was written to teach and maintain the truth of eternal relationships within the Godhead. One writer has written of those relationships as the very heart of Christianity. Another, writing to clarify that truth in the mid 1850's, when it was strongly assailed, asked a very simple but vital question, "Had the Father no bosom in eternity?" The Bible not only says He had, but tells us so much about the One who eternally dwelt there-the Son of the Father's love (Col. 1: 13, J.N.D. Trans.). The matchless words of John 1: 18 illuminate all-"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." This relationship is highlighted in 2 John verse 9 in the words, "He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." So in addition to His deity, the doctrine of Christ includes also His eternal Sonship.

It hardly needs to be said, let alone dealt with at length, that, "come in the flesh" must also mean that, sin apart, the Lord Jesus was a man; spirit, soul and body! Scripture bears witness to this: -

"Jesus... was troubled in spirit..." (John 13: 21)

"Now is My soul troubled..." (John 12: 27)

"Who... bare our sins in His own body on the tree..." (1 Peter 2: 24)

This is what Hebrews 2: 9 means when it says, "Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death... that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Had He not been truly man, He could never have laid down His life an offering for sin. But He was and is truly man. He did lay down His life, both to glorify God and to lay that unshakeable foundation, upon which God in perfect grace is eternally and distinctively blessing the simple believer in Jesus.

Others would no doubt expand the foregoing. This simple outline is written to encourage us all in these perilous days to faithfully hold the truth in love. To cling to His Name and His Word in days of conflict is faithfulness indeed.