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inquiringmind

Acts 16:16-18 vs. 1 John 4:2

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1 John 4:2 says that "every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ come in the flesh is of God," but in Acts 16 a demon possesed girl appears to have endorsed the message preached by Paul.

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying; The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (Acts 16:16-18, JST.)

Is there a contradiction here?

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Yes. But an apologist will explain it as TWO different spirits speaking through the girl: her own spirit was informed by the knowledge of the lying spirit(s) possessing her; and she had enough control over her own body while not under their influence to speak of what she knew....

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Is there a contradiction here?

No better way to deceive and remain in a possessed body than to say you believe, and no better way to lead others astray than give the impression that the soothsaying that accommodates the possession is condoned.

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No better way to deceive and remain in a possessed body than to say you believe, and no better way to lead others astray than give the impression that the soothsaying that accommodates the possession is condoned.

Maybe, but doesn't 1 John 4:2 say that a spirit not of God couldn't confess "Jesus Christ come in the flesh" (and wasn't Paul preaching Jesus come in flesh)?

How could an unclean spirit endorse his message (whatever it's motives) if 1 John 4:2 is (always, and at all times) true?

That's what I don't understand.

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How could an unclean spirit endorse his message (whatever it's motives) if 1 John 4:2 is (always, and at all times) true?

Evil spirits do not confess, they contradict (always, and at all times).

People are spirits (in bodies, whether occupying their own or another

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So if you saw an angel claiming to be Gabriel, or Moroni, would "did Jesus Christ come in the flesh" be a reliable test question?

Could you tell whether he was from God by his answer?

(If so, how could the girl in Acts 16 say "these men are servants of The Most High, and show us the way of salvation"?)

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The "full" answer to your question is NO..... There is no contradiction between the two scriptures.

Questing Beasts answer as to how LDS would answer is also false.

The actual answer is that even the Devil and his Angels know and confess God. They can even pose as Angels of Light. The "difference" is that not everything they do and say is the truth. They always use a little truth to tell great lies. They are "perverter's" of the truth.

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The "full" answer to your question is NO..... There is no contradiction between the two scriptures.

Questing Beasts answer as to how LDS would answer is also false.

The actual answer is that even the Devil and his Angels know and confess God. They can even pose as Angels of Light. The "difference" is that not everything they do and say is the truth. They always use a little truth to tell great lies. They are "perverter's" of the truth.

But then, what does 1 John 4:2 mean?

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So if you saw an angel claiming to be Gabriel, or Moroni, would "did Jesus Christ come in the flesh" be a reliable test question?

Could you tell whether he was from God by his answer?

Spiritually discerning the difference between someone confessing Jesus (confess means the Holy Ghost attends their statements) and contradicting Jesus (meaning the Holy Ghost does not attend their statements) is accomplished by receiving the light of Christ, the power of the Holy Ghost, or the Gift of the Holy Ghost. No question is a reliable test question without the Spirit to discern the response. Without discernment, one cannot tell if a messenger is of God or not. Evidently Paul could tell the difference. 1 John 4:2 is about someone confessing Jesus, or proclaiming truth with the Holy Ghost attending his statements.

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inquiringmind,

1 John 4:2 needs to be read in the context of the larger passage and of the whole epistle in which it appears. John is urging his Christian readers not to believe every "spirit" but to test the "spirits" to see whether they are from God (v. 1). These "spirits" in many cases were speaking through "false prophets," as John explains. So the context here is supposedly Spirit-inspired prophetic utterances or revelations purporting to come from the Spirit of God. John is warning his readers that some supposedly Christian teachings and revelations are not actually from the Spirit of truth but are from the spirit of error (vv. 3-6). To distinguish false revelations from true ones, John mentions a doctrinal issue of particular importance in his readers' immediate context. There were some professing Christian teachers who were denying Jesus Christ's coming in the flesh. These false teachers apparently claimed that Christ was a divine spirit that only appeared to take human form, or that only appeared to be personally manifested in Jesus. We have reports from other writers about these false teachers toward the end of the first century; their teaching is known as Docetism (from the Greek word dokein, "to seem"). A contemporary counterpart to that ancient heresy would be today's New Age teaching, which distinguishes between Jesus, the ordinary man, and the Christ, the divine principle or presence or consciousness manifested in him.

We shouldn't take 1 John 4:2 beyond this contextually understood meaning to teach something that conflicts with other NT statements. John does not mean that demonic spirits did not know who Jesus was or could not bring themselves under any circumstances to identify him. He means that the spirits behind false doctrines such as that Jesus Christ had not actually come in the flesh were not from God. These spirits that were not from God, when they claimed to be inspiring Christian teaching or revelation, spoke falsehood. But even then, they did so by mixing falsehood with truth. Thus, false prophetic revelations about Jesus claimed to honor Christ, to recognize him as special or even divine; they affirmed that the Spirit of God produced revelations; and presumably made other correct affirmations. But they placed those statements, correct as far as they went, in a context of false doctrine, distorting the truths they claimed to affirm.

According to the Gospels, demonic spirits knew who Jesus was and could identify him when it served their purpose. Jesus more than once had to silence demoniacs whose demonic spirits called him "the Holy One of God" or "Son of the Most High God" (e.g., Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7) . These accounts do not contradict 1 John 4:2 when all of these passages are taken in context. The demons were not confessing Jesus or trying to pass themselves off as the Spirit of God; they were demonic spirits crying out against Jesus, whom they perceived to be opposed to them.

The case of the possessed slave-girl in Acts 16:16-18 is a little different. In this instance the demonic spirit possessing her evidently decided to try to co-opt Paul's message by pretending to be in league with him, on a distorted application of the principle that "if you can't beat them, join them." By loudly proclaiming that Paul and his companions were "servants of the Most High God" proclaiming "the way of salvation," the spirit that spoke through the girl was apparently trying to discredit Paul's message by making it seem that Paul was part of the same outfit as the girl and her exploiters. (The girl was a slave-girl owned by some men who were using her "gift" to make money.) Referring to the apostle and his associates as "servants of the Most High God" and as proclaiming "the way of salvation" was a generic enough affirmation that could be understood in any number of ways; both Gentiles and Jews could accept such language and pour into it any meaning they liked. The spirit was thus "damning with faint praise" the message of the apostle and his associates. There is no contradiction here with 1 John 4:2.

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inquiringmind,

1 John 4:2 needs to be read in the context of the larger passage and of the whole epistle in which it appears. John is urging his Christian readers not to believe every "spirit" but to test the "spirits" to see whether they are from God (v. 1). These "spirits" in many cases were speaking through "false prophets," as John explains. So the context here is supposedly Spirit-inspired prophetic utterances or revelations purporting to come from the Spirit of God. John is warning his readers that some supposedly Christian teachings and revelations are not actually from the Spirit of truth but are from the spirit of error (vv. 3-6). To distinguish false revelations from true ones, John mentions a doctrinal issue of particular importance in his readers' immediate context. There were some professing Christian teachers who were denying Jesus Christ's coming in the flesh. These false teachers apparently claimed that Christ was a divine spirit that only appeared to take human form, or that only appeared to be personally manifested in Jesus. We have reports from other writers about these false teachers toward the end of the first century; their teaching is known as Docetism (from the Greek word dokein, "to seem"). A contemporary counterpart to that ancient heresy would be today's New Age teaching, which distinguishes between Jesus, the ordinary man, and the Christ, the divine principle or presence or consciousness manifested in him.

We shouldn't take 1 John 4:2 beyond this contextually understood meaning to teach something that conflicts with other NT statements. John does not mean that demonic spirits did not know who Jesus was or could not bring themselves under any circumstances to identify him. He means that the spirits behind false doctrines such as that Jesus Christ had not actually come in the flesh were not from God. These spirits that were not from God, when they claimed to be inspiring Christian teaching or revelation, spoke falsehood. But even then, they did so by mixing falsehood with truth. Thus, false prophetic revelations about Jesus claimed to honor Christ, to recognize him as special or even divine; they affirmed that the Spirit of God produced revelations; and presumably made other correct affirmations. But they placed those statements, correct as far as they went, in a context of false doctrine, distorting the truths they claimed to affirm.

According to the Gospels, demonic spirits knew who Jesus was and could identify him when it served their purpose. Jesus more than once had to silence demoniacs whose demonic spirits called him "the Holy One of God" or "Son of the Most High God" (e.g., Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7) . These accounts do not contradict 1 John 4:2 when all of these passages are taken in context. The demons were not confessing Jesus or trying to pass themselves off as the Spirit of God; they were demonic spirits crying out against Jesus, whom they perceived to be opposed to them.

The case of the possessed slave-girl in Acts 16:16-18 is a little different. In this instance the demonic spirit possessing her evidently decided to try to co-opt Paul's message by pretending to be in league with him, on a distorted application of the principle that "if you can't beat them, join them." By loudly proclaiming that Paul and his companions were "servants of the Most High God" proclaiming "the way of salvation," the spirit that spoke through the girl was apparently trying to discredit Paul's message by making it seem that Paul was part of the same outfit as the girl and her exploiters. (The girl was a slave-girl owned by some men who were using her "gift" to make money.) Referring to the apostle and his associates as "servants of the Most High God" and as proclaiming "the way of salvation" was a generic enough affirmation that could be understood in any number of ways; both Gentiles and Jews could accept such language and pour into it any meaning they liked. The spirit was thus "damning with faint praise" the message of the apostle and his associates. There is no contradiction here with 1 John 4:2.

Thank you Rob. That was excellent.

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Some good answers also came about when I asked this question a few weeks ago.

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I found this on the internet, and I think it's a quote from Joseph Smith (?), and he seems to suggest a historical/cultural interpretation of 1 John 4:2.

Does anyone know if this quote is from him, where and when he said it, or if he was the first to look at it this way?

Some will say, "try the spirits" by the word. "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." 1 John 4:2, 3. One of the Irvingites once quoted this passage whilst under the influence of a spirit, and then said, "I confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." And yet these prophecies failed, their Messiah did not come; and the great things spoken of by them have fallen to the ground. What is the matter here? Did not the Apostle speak the truth? Certainly he did -- but he spoke to a people who were under the penalty of death, the moment they embraced Christianity; and no one without a knowledge of the fact would confess it, and expose themselves to death, and this was consequently given as a criterion to the church or churches to which John wrote. But the devil on a certain occasion cried out, "I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God!" Here was a frank acknowledgment under other circumstances that "Jesus had come in the flesh." On another occasion the devil said, "Paul we know, and Jesus we know"--of course, "come in the flesh." No man nor sect of men without the regular constituted authorities, the Priesthood and discerning of spirits, can tell true from false spirits. This power they possessed in the Apostles' day, but it has departed from the world for ages.

False Spirits in the Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also had its false spirits; and as it is made up of all those different sects professing every variety of opinion, and having been under the influence of so many kinds of spirits, it is not to be wondered at if there should be found among us false spirits.

Soon after the Gospel was established in Kirtland, and during the absence of the authorities of the Church, many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen, and wild, enthusiastic notions were entertained; men ran out of doors under the influence of this spirit, and some of them got upon the stumps of trees and shouted, and all kinds of extravagances were entered into by them; one man pursued a ball that he said he saw flying in the air, until he came to a precipice, when he jumped into the top of a tree, which saved his life; and many ridiculous things were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the Church of God, to cause the Spirit of God to be withdrawn, and to uproot and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed for the salvation of the human family. But when the authorities returned, the spirit was made manifest, those members that were exercised with it were tried for their fellowship, and those that would not repent and forsake it were cut off.

http://emp.byui.edu/...yTheSpirits.htm

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Is there a contradiction here?

Add Luke 8:27-30 (and it's St. Mark equivalent) and Matthew 7:21 to the apparent contradiction with 1 John 4:2.

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Maybe, but doesn't 1 John 4:2 say that a spirit not of God couldn't confess "Jesus Christ come in the flesh" (and wasn't Paul preaching Jesus come in flesh)?

1 John 4:2 doesn't say a spirit couldn't confess Jesus... just that "every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God...

See other posts about discernment, and lying spirits...

GG

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1 John 4:2 doesn't say a spirit couldn't confess Jesus... just that "every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God...

See other posts about discernment, and lying spirits...

GG

You're quoting 1 John 4:3.

At face value, 1 John 4:2 does seem to say that a spirit that was not of God couldn't confess Jesus (come in the flesh.)

JS offers an interesting historical/cultural interpretation (based on the imperial persecutions) but was he the only one to ever suggest interpreting this verse in that way?

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inquiringmind,

1 John 4:2 needs to be read in the context of the larger passage and of the whole epistle in which it appears. John is urging his Christian readers not to believe every "spirit" but to test the "spirits" to see whether they are from God (v. 1). These "spirits" in many cases were speaking through "false prophets," as John explains. So the context here is supposedly Spirit-inspired prophetic utterances or revelations purporting to come from the Spirit of God. John is warning his readers that some supposedly Christian teachings and revelations are not actually from the Spirit of truth but are from the spirit of error (vv. 3-6). To distinguish false revelations from true ones, John mentions a doctrinal issue of particular importance in his readers' immediate context. There were some professing Christian teachers who were denying Jesus Christ's coming in the flesh. These false teachers apparently claimed that Christ was a divine spirit that only appeared to take human form, or that only appeared to be personally manifested in Jesus. We have reports from other writers about these false teachers toward the end of the first century; their teaching is known as Docetism (from the Greek word dokein, "to seem"). A contemporary counterpart to that ancient heresy would be today's New Age teaching, which distinguishes between Jesus, the ordinary man, and the Christ, the divine principle or presence or consciousness manifested in him.

We shouldn't take 1 John 4:2 beyond this contextually understood meaning to teach something that conflicts with other NT statements. John does not mean that demonic spirits did not know who Jesus was or could not bring themselves under any circumstances to identify him. He means that the spirits behind false doctrines such as that Jesus Christ had not actually come in the flesh were not from God. These spirits that were not from God, when they claimed to be inspiring Christian teaching or revelation, spoke falsehood. But even then, they did so by mixing falsehood with truth. Thus, false prophetic revelations about Jesus claimed to honor Christ, to recognize him as special or even divine; they affirmed that the Spirit of God produced revelations; and presumably made other correct affirmations. But they placed those statements, correct as far as they went, in a context of false doctrine, distorting the truths they claimed to affirm.

According to the Gospels, demonic spirits knew who Jesus was and could identify him when it served their purpose. Jesus more than once had to silence demoniacs whose demonic spirits called him "the Holy One of God" or "Son of the Most High God" (e.g., Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7) . These accounts do not contradict 1 John 4:2 when all of these passages are taken in context. The demons were not confessing Jesus or trying to pass themselves off as the Spirit of God; they were demonic spirits crying out against Jesus, whom they perceived to be opposed to them.

The case of the possessed slave-girl in Acts 16:16-18 is a little different. In this instance the demonic spirit possessing her evidently decided to try to co-opt Paul's message by pretending to be in league with him, on a distorted application of the principle that "if you can't beat them, join them." By loudly proclaiming that Paul and his companions were "servants of the Most High God" proclaiming "the way of salvation," the spirit that spoke through the girl was apparently trying to discredit Paul's message by making it seem that Paul was part of the same outfit as the girl and her exploiters. (The girl was a slave-girl owned by some men who were using her "gift" to make money.) Referring to the apostle and his associates as "servants of the Most High God" and as proclaiming "the way of salvation" was a generic enough affirmation that could be understood in any number of ways; both Gentiles and Jews could accept such language and pour into it any meaning they liked. The spirit was thus "damning with faint praise" the message of the apostle and his associates. There is no contradiction here with 1 John 4:2.

Good job

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Good job

Thank you.

But I'm interested in whether any commentators prior to Joseph Smith offered this kind of contextual (historical.cultural) interpretation?

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You're quoting 1 John 4:3.

At face value, 1 John 4:2 does seem to say that a spirit that was not of God couldn't confess Jesus (come in the flesh.)

JS offers an interesting historical/cultural interpretation (based on the imperial persecutions) but was he the only one to ever suggest interpreting this verse in that way?

Not to belabor the point... but... neither 1 John 4:2 or 4:3 says anything about a spirit that couldn't confess Jesus... both say only that a spirit that does is of God, and a spirit that doesn't, i.e., won't, is not of God.

There is no "couldn't."

At least that's how I comprehend the statements... I read the JST the same way. The only thing JST changed was in reference to the spirit of antichrist.

GG

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Not to belabor the point... but... neither 1 John 4:2 or 4:3 says anything about a spirit that couldn't confess Jesus... both say only that a spirit that does is of God, and a spirit that doesn't, i.e., won't, is not of God.

There is no "couldn't."

At least that's how I comprehend the statements... I read the JST the same way. The only thing JST changed was in reference to the spirit of antichrist.

GG

The part I'm interested in is verse 2, which says that EVERY spirit that does is of God.

Joseph Smith said that that was only true for the audience John was writting to (at that time and place.)

I'd like to know if any sectarian commentators ever interpreted the verse in this was (or was Joseph the first to offer this interpretation)?

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I have limitted access to study aides here, and I know some of you must have access to old bible commentaries and patristic texts.

I'd really like to know if JS was the first to suggest a historical/cultural interpretation of 1 John 4:2.

Can someone help me out?

(I'm particularly interested in anything pre 1840's.)

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