Gnosticism and Jesus
A theme that appears in John’s Gospel and his three epistles is that of Jesus coming in the flesh. The following verses will demonstrate the emphasis John places on the subject:
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”(Jn. 1:14)
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—"(1 Jn. 1:1)
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the fleshis from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”(1 Jn. 4:2-3)
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”(2 Jn. 1:7)
You will do well to note that all the phrases highlighted above in bold emphasize Jesus’ incarnation. False teachers in John’s day began to spread blatant lies that became the foundation for a problematic doctrine contrary to God’s truth. That doctrine as can be observed from the last of the four verses listed above, teaches that Jesus was not flesh but rather He was all spirit (Gnosticism). Gnosticism is a broad doctrine that encompasses much more facets, but the essence is that it denies Jesus’ incarnation. This doctrine originated since some believed it wasn’t possible for Jesus to be in the flesh yet not sin. To appease their thoughts concerning this, they chose to believe He was all spirit and not flesh. We are all very aware of the fact that Jesus was tempted as we are, yet He did not sin (cf. Heb. 4:15). He was perfect! Gnostics generally do not deny this fact, but they do have a problem when one says He was all flesh yet perfect. They believe it is impossible for one to be all flesh and not sin because the flesh is inherently evil and sinful. I do admit, as a sinner who falls short of God’s glory time and time again, I may find it difficult to grasp the idea of a perfect human being but that does not give me any rope to deny it happened. Just because I can’t understand something does not mean it’s not true. In fact, manufacturing a doctrine on the basis of such ideas is rather immature wouldn’t you think?
John found it of utmost importance to encourage his readers to maintain separation from those blatant lies and false doctrine. During the end of the 1stcentury and stretching into the 3rd, Gnosticism was a thriving religion that found its way into many churches and homes. John could personally testify to the fact that he touched Jesus and spent time with Him. If anyone could refute the idea it was him. Gnosticism may not be as prevalent today but it’s still out there. Many people use this doctrine as a reason to live a sinful life (citing that the flesh is inherently sinful). Jesus illustrated we could overcome temptation and find a way out. We aren’t perfect, but we can be faithful. And that’s all Jesus asks of us. That we would do our best to put effort into our relationship with Him and ask Him for help out of difficult situations is what we can do to fight sin and the devil. Denying Jesus’ incarnation won’t help us see God, but it will only make us pitiful and enemies of God.