Confessing Christ in the Flesh

Ellet J. Waggoner

The Present Truth | March 8, 1894


“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (1 John 4:2, 3). Confession means, speaking the same thing; acknowledging that which is said; agreeing together. The confession of sin is the acknowledgment of sin that has been pointed out. The Holy Spirit comes as a convicter of sin, and says, “You have sinned in this thing,” and we confess our sin when we speak the same thing, and say, “Yes; that is true.”
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” An instance of this is found in the case of David, who had slain Uriah in battle, and taken his wife. Nathan the prophet was sent to rebuke him, and by means of a parable he made the enormity of the sin stand out vividly before the king. Then he said to him, “Thou art the man.” “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.” There was confession. And there was faithfulness in forgiving, according to the promise; for immediately Nathan replied, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Sam. 12:13). David agreed with the Lord, speaking the same thing. That was true confession. Confession, therefore, means the acknowledging of what has been made known to us.


“Every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” It does not say that every spirit that openly denies it, but every spirit that does not confess it. Bearing in mind what is meant by confession, we learn from these verses in John’s epistle that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a fact, whether we confess it or not. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb. 2:14). “For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:16-18).
The Apostle Peter exhorts us by this fact. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1, 2). He who arms himself with the same mind as Christ, will not, even while remaining in the flesh, live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of the flesh; because although Christ suffered in the flesh, being tempted in all points like as we are, yet it was without sin. He, the Son of God coming in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, “condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).


We have here the statement of Scripture that Jesus Christ, the Word, who was in the beginning with God, and who was and is God, “was made flesh and dwelt among us,” in us, “full of grace and truth.” In being made flesh, He took upon Him the same kind of flesh that we have, the flesh of man, which is sin, for Paul said on Mars Hill (Acts 17:26) that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men.” The Revised Version has it that God has made us one, that is, one person, Adam, all persons, thus showing emphatically that all human flesh is the same. The apostle also says that there is “one kind of flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fishes” (1 Cor. 15:39). So that there is but one flesh of man; so that whether white or black, yellow or another-color, whether dwelling in Europe, Asia, or Africa, all men are of one flesh.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and such like” (Gal. 5:19-21). This is the description of human flesh. Whatever we may know of man and of the wickedness of men in the flesh, we may each one know this, that is the wickedness of our flesh. This is something, which should ever keep down pride and self-exaltation in the human heart. The cruelty and abominable deeds that startle us are the natural works, which spring spontaneously out of just such flesh as we all have. When we hear of deeds of savagery, whether among civilized or uncivilized people, all feel the indignation which we must all feel, we are reminded when our indignation begins to boil over into condemnation, that there is but one flesh of man. So we have nothing to boast of over another. Boasting is excluded, and our indignation turns to . . . because such are we by nature.


And now we read that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, when He took upon Himself the nature of man; was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, “in all things like unto His brethren” (Heb. 2:17); and more than that, we read that even now He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15), our weaknesses. He has not forgotten the temptation and suffering which He felt when upon the earth; but He knows and feels it still. Seven hundred years before Christ was manifested in the flesh, Isaiah said, by the Spirit, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).
Jesus Christ “was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). It is by Him and in Him that we have lived and do “live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He is the true light that “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9); and that light is the life of men. (Verse 4). It is only by the life, which is given to men through the grace of God in Christ, that men have the power to commit the evil deeds, which we see and know. It is the breath of life which God breathed into man’s nostrils, and which He still continues to them, that men use in blaspheming the name of God. It is the power, which not only comes from God, but is the life of God, which men pervert in fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind.


When God in His mercy gave to sinful man probation, and permitted him to live on this earth, so that he was not blotted out of existence in the very act of sinning, He simply continued to him for a time a portion of His own life, with which to live that probation. He gave man His own life, so that he might show whether he would live that life to the glory of God, by allowing Christ to direct the life, and live it in him, or whether he would take it and still pervert it to his own base uses. In Him all men live and have their being, and so “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Thus it is that the Lord says, “Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins” (Isa. 43:24). That life of Christ is in every man that comes into the world, the life by which he lives and moves, and it is that which every man uses and perverts in the commission of sin. So that every sin committed in the flesh since the fall of Adam is a sin charged up to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is laid on Him.


This serves to explain the good traits, the generous impulses, and the desires for righteousness, which are manifest to a greater or lesser extent in all men. Even the wickedest men show at times good traits, and have times of yielding to better influences. These good traits and impulses and occasional longings for righteousness, are the result of the Divine light—the life of Christ—, which is given to every man. They are the strivings of the Spirit. The flesh itself is totally corrupt, and irreclaimable, so that every good thing must come from God.
Christ has not forgotten, and cannot forget the sufferings of the temptations incident to sinful flesh; because He still lives, and His life is still given to man, and will continue to be given to all men, even to sinners, as long as probation continues. All men still live by it, and therefore He is now identified with human flesh, and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Inasmuch, therefore, as He suffered in the flesh for sin, and yielded up the life which had been perverted by men in sin, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” (Heb. 7:25).


When Christ was here on the earth in the flesh, it was God manifest in the flesh. “Believest thou not,” He said, “that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” God was in Him in the flesh, which He voluntarily took, —the only begotten Son abode in the bosom of the Father, and therefore He knew no sin, although in sinful flesh. This is “the mystery of godliness.”
So we have this glorious fact, the confession of which will lift the soul up to God, the fact that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, that all iniquity is laid upon Him and charged up to Him, and that He bears all the weaknesses and sinful tendencies of the flesh of man. He accepts it. And He still bears it; neither will He lay it off until He comes “the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28).
This being a fact by the word of God, whosoever confesses the fact, whosoever “confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God,” and whosoever “confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God.” But it is a fact whether it is confessed or not. It is a glorious truth, —one with which one can go to the outcast and tempted, —that although Christ has “gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him,” yet He still abides with men. Before the first advent His life was the light of men, and upon Him was laid the iniquity of all. And when He came to earth revealed as a man, it was simply in the line of giving to us a larger manifestation of the fact, and showing to us what God in the flesh, unhindered and not denied, means.
Jesus Christ witnessed a good confession before Pontius Pilate. And that confession, and that witness to the truth, He maintained throughout His life, —that He was the Son of God, and that the Father dwelt in Him. He confessed the Father’s name before the world. In Ps. 22:22 it is written, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren;” and in John 17:26 Christ repeats it, “I have declared unto them Thy name.” Every moment of His life He was confessing and never denying that He came from God and went to God, always acknowledging that the Father was in Him. He confessed, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself; but the Father that dwells in Me, He does the works” (John 14:10). He confessed continually that God had come in His flesh, and showed to us what the life of God in human flesh means when it is always confessed, never denied, and never perverted.


And now He “is come in the flesh.” You can go to the tempted and outcast with that, and assure them that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and that every sin that they have committed, and even the sinful nature which led them into those sins, He takes upon Himself, and identifies Himself with it, assuming all the responsibility for the sins committed with the life which has been perverted. Oh, the blessedness of the fact that God hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21). Tempted, and suffering as no man ever yet suffered in the flesh for sin, He knew no sin. Again and again He said of Himself He could do nothing, but He trusted God; and when we read that Jesus Christ came and took all the weaknesses of sinful flesh, we also read that these weaknesses never manifested themselves in His life. Therefore when from the heart we confess the fact which the Scripture tells us, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh even now, and even in us, because we are in the flesh, the recognition of that brings also the other fact with it, that in Him was no sin while in the flesh; therefore His life, while we confess it, cleanses us from sin.
This is not a fact to be passed over once for all. It is not something to be experienced one moment, and then to be looked back upon as an experience, as many regard conversion or the new birth. Present experience is what counts. He that “confesses”—is confessing—is of God. He that confesses it day by day, and hour by hour, and moment by moment, living continually in the recognition that Christ is in him, and that it is His life that he has, —He is of God.
“For Christ also hath suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). It was in order that we might abide in Him, and His life be perfectly manifested in us. That part of it Christ has performed. “I in them,” yes, in sinful flesh. Now He wants us to acknowledge that fact continually, that we may thus be in Him. He in us means that He has taken all of our sins and carried our sorrows, —that our burdens are upon Him, and that He feels them. We in Him means that we are made “the righteousness of God in Him,” and that all His righteousness which He had in the flesh is ours. All our sin is His; all His righteousness is ours. He in us to bear the sin, that we may bear the righteousness.
There is everlasting glory and life in that confession; for “this is life eternal that we might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). This weakness of ours He feels; for Christ is come in the flesh. This sin He has borne. He knows all about it. Not only did He bear it then, but He bears it still, since it is His life that He has given us. He gave it to us, because He “tasted death for every man,” and it is His life that feels and meets the pressure of this sinful flesh of ours. Those evil desires, that thirst for liquor, that craving of appetite, the longings of the flesh, —He has felt it all, and even now identifies Himself with us, and says, “I know that. It touches Me. I am come in the flesh, have identified Myself with it, and every sin is laid on Me.”
Just as soon as we can know that, and while we continue to know it, the soul is filled with joy unspeakable. It makes known to us the fact that the One who feels that sin, who identifies Himself with us in it, is the glorious Son of God in whom is no sin, and therefore all His righteousness is ours, and we are in Him as He is in us. For the knowledge that He bears the sin, is the knowledge that we are freed from its guilt and power.


“Every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” It is not every spirit that says that it is not a fact, not every spirit in whom it is not a fact; for it is a fact. But every spirit that does not confess that Christ is come—not has come, but now is come—is not of God. It is always now. And when we confess this fact, that Jesus Christ identifies Himself with us in our sinfulness, He also confesses us before the Father in His righteousness, and we are one with Him. So the righteousness of faith speaketh on this wise, “Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (That is to bring Christ down from above!)” He is come down in the likeness of sinful flesh. “Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (That is to bring up Christ again from the dead.)” He is risen. “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach; 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” (Rom. 10:6-9). Confess what? —That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. There is something in that which every man in this world may lay hold of and find in it a lifting up.


We confess that His life is ours. Everything then is to be brought to the touchstone of the life of Christ. We confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and His righteousness is ours, because His life has no sin in it. Sin is “the transgression of the law,” and the law was in His heart (Ps. 40:8), and “out of the heart are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). So the life of Christ is the law of God. He said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). Therefore when we confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, it means that the life we live is the life of Christ, —“Christ lives in me,”—and we cannot confess that unless we are letting Him live the life in His own way. We must not be so presumptuous as to think that we can live the life of Christ ourselves. We have no power to do it. Therefore we shall find that to confess the life of Christ, to confess that He is come in the flesh, is to confess that while in the flesh He kept the commandments of God; and while we confess that, we confess allegiance to the law of God, that He may live it in us.
Let us see what is involved in the confession that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and that in the perfect example that He has set us in the flesh, He kept the Father’s commandments. What will He live in us when we confess that He is come in our flesh, and when we by continually confessing that fact, allow Him to live the life in His own way?


“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3).The tempter showed to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and said, “All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” But the Saviour said, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:8-10). Therefore when the devil presents himself to us in any form, to bring something between our soul and God, if we confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, then He says in us and for us, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” “Then the devil leaves Him,” and so he must leave us when Christ living in us commands him to depart.
“Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex. 20:7).Christ said to the Father, “I have declared Thy name unto My brethren.” And not in vain did He do it, for Christ came not in vain; He did not suffer in vain. So we find wrought in us, the utmost reverence for the name of God.
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8-11).There was once a time when the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath day, as the disciples were allowed without rebuke to pluck the ears of corn, thrashing out the grain and eating it as they walked through the fields. But He said that the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath day; He had not broken it, because it was His day. Then at another time a man was healed on the Sabbath day, and the Jews accused Him of breaking the Sabbath; but He told them that it is “lawful to do well on the Sabbath days” (Matt. 12:12). It is one of the commandments of God of which He said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments.” He was not a breaker of the Sabbath commandment, which says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8-11).
That is the day on which Christ said it was lawful to do well, not to do ill. It is the seventh day of the week, the last day, which the Jews profess to keep, but did not. Christ kept it, and He comes in our flesh for the purpose of keeping it in us. So when we have confessed for years, it may be, that Christ is come in the flesh, that His life is in us, there comes to us at last the fact that He always kept the commandments, and it dawns upon us that the fourth is one of them, and that it enjoins the observance of the seventh day, the Sabbath. But it will be inconvenient for us to keep it, and will cause the loss of friends, and possibly the loss of our very means of gaining a living. Suppose we say, “We will still confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, but we cannot go so far as to keep the Sabbath of the Lord, —the seventh day.” How will that do? “He that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God”; but all the time Jesus was in the flesh, the will of the Father was perfectly done in Him. It is not with the mouth alone that confession is made. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Of some it is written, “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him” (Titus 1:16). It is from the heart that the true confession comes. “He that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” But Jesus Christ in the flesh always did and does the will of God; therefore we confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, —our flesh, —when we yield to everything that the Scriptures reveal to us in His life. Whenever a new feature of His life appears, we are to say to Him, “Live this in us also by Thine own life. Keep the Sabbath in us, even as Thou didst in the flesh in Judea and Galilee.”
Then again the Lord says, “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:12).And Jesus said, “I honor My Father.” And further we read in Luke 2:51, that as a child Jesus was subject unto His parents. So a child as well as older people confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and, confessing that, they will have His obedience lived in them: Christ learned obedience, and will impart to them obedience.
“Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13).Christ said, “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56). So far was He from taking men’s lives that He laid down His own life to save them. So then He, who from the heart confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, will be ever careful of the welfare of others.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). Jesus is of purer eyes than to look upon evil. He was pure in heart. So, knowing that He felt the strivings of the lusts of the flesh, because He was tempted in all points as we are, but yet without sin; if when we are tempted, we confess that Jesus Christ is in our flesh, we know that by the power of the endless life which dwelt in Him and enabled Him to put down and condemn sin in the flesh, we also are made the righteousness of God in Him.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness” (Ex.20:16). Jesus said, “For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (John 18:37). “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). When we intelligently confess that He is in us, we shall allow Him to witness to the truth, in us.
“Thou shalt not covet” (Ex. 20:17).So far was Christ from coveting, that He would not even hold on to that which He had. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not to be a thing to be grasped to be on an equality with God; but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8). In Him was no grasping after the things of others, but all meekness and lowliness. And when day-by-day and hour-by-hour we confess that Jesus Christ is come in our flesh, all these graces He brings into us, identifying Himself with our sins, that we may be in Him identified with all His righteousness.


“Every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” The spirit of antichrist is described in 2 Thess. 2:4, exalting itself and opposing itself “above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This is that spirit of antichrist, confessing not that Jesus is come in the flesh to subdue and keep it under, but exhibiting the very lusts of the flesh, domineering and using force, building up self continually. We exhibit that spirit of antichrist when we would bring everything to our standard, and judge every man by ourselves. Jesus said, “I judge no man.” How wonderfully the principle of freedom and religious liberty is manifested in the life of Christ. We get that glorious liberty when we confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.
Whose life were we prostituting all the years that we have lived in sin? It was the life of Christ. In Him all men live and have their being. He gave us His own life, all the while knowing that He was the standard of everlasting righteousness, and yet He did not compel or force us in any way. He simply drew us all the time by His everlasting love. Such wonderful freedom was never known among men.
Men say, “There are many of us that believe thus and so. We as a people, as a church, as a nation, hold this to be truth. Those who do not believe as we do must be compelled to do so. If they cannot be compelled to believe, we will compel them to act as though they did, and to conform to our customs. It is an offense to us that men should thus act contrary to what we believe. It disturbs us, and they must be forced to stop.”


But Jesus Christ lived with us all these years, while we were sinning. Did it not disturb Him that we sinned, that we blasphemed His name, and perverted the life He gave in endless ways? Most surely it was a grievous offense to Him; yet He said, “If any man hear My words and believe not, I judge Him not” (John 12:47). “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” Not by one hair’s breadth will He compel us to act contrary to our own will. That will He has set forever free. He has besought us. Long and lovingly He has pleaded with us to accept Him; but never did He seek to compel. In Him we learn the perfection of religious liberty.
Now He says, “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). So if we have been bound down by the chains of the flesh, and the dominion of the flesh has asserted itself over us (and that dominion is only a manifestation of that same dominion that men in the flesh have asserted over others), we know that Christ was compassed with the infirmities of the flesh, and yet was free. He was the Word of God, and the word of God is not bound. And when we confess Him in our flesh, we know that He steps in and takes that burden, and the burden of sin is ours no longer; it is His. “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” The burden we have not known how to carry, the bondage of evil that will overshadow us, He will take upon Himself, and show us how to be free. He will show us what He can do with sin. That weakness is His; He will show us how His strength can be made perfect in weakness.
Whatever the difficulty and temptation, we confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and He accepts us and says we are in Him and He lives in us. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). Yes, because He, the chief among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely, came down and suffered as the chief of sinners, because He bore the sins of all. The chief in heaven, He died the chief of malefactors. So we are the chief of sinners, that in us, as chief, Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering and salvation. Oh, let everything that hath breath praise the Lord, and let all say, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”


Tell it to the world, not to the people, to the devil himself when he comes to tempt us, “Jesus Christ lives in me.” “I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). What will be the result of this confession; when Jesus wrought a wonderful miracle, the people glorified God who had given such power unto men. (Matt. 9:8). He Himself was passed by, and God was glorified. The Apostle Paul said, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Gal. 1:15, 16). And when to Paul it was revealed that the Son of God was in him, in order that he might confess Him before the world, the brethren heard that he now preached the faith, which he once destroyed, and they glorified God in him. (Gal. 1:21). When Christ is revealed in us, men will glorify God because of what is seen in us, even as they did in the cases of Jesus and Paul.
Christ is the light of the world, the light which lighteth every man which cometh into the world; and so He says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works (the fruit of that light) and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
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