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The Epistles of John (Part 40): 1 John 4:15

by Stephen Hebert on Tuesday - 7 July 2009

in New Testament

This is the 40th part in an ongoing series on the epistles of John.

English Standard Version Nestle-Aland 27
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. Ὃς ἐὰν ὁμολογήσῃ ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ μένει καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν τῷ θεῷ.

I chose to set this verse aside for its own examination, even though it largely deals with themes found in the previous chunk, because of one word: confess (ὁμολογέω). This word has so many meanings in English, and I think it’s appropriate that we try to nail it down and understand it within the context of Early Chistianity.

On the one hand, ὁμολογέω has a legal definition. It means, quite simply, to agree. If you’re familiar with Greek roots, it should be easy to understand why: homo- (same) + -logos (word). This term runs rampant throughout secular Greek literature both before and after Christ. Within those texts it sometimes has specialized meaning (e.g., within the realm of Socratic dialogue in Plato), but, generally speaking we can think of it as “agree.”1

Here in 1 John, however, we are not talking about a courtroom or a Socratic dialogue; therefore, the word must be doing something different. Notice that the act of confession here, the act of publicly2 acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God, is attached to a salvific reward: God abides in him and he abides in God. This confession has purpose and does something very special.

I think that when we are looking at ὁμολογέω in the Johannine Epistles we are seeing a kernel of proto-orthodox doctrine; we are seeing a thesis that the author believes to be rock-solid theology.

By adhering to this teaching, the confessor is opening himself/herself up to the presence of God, allowing God to enter and fill, to abide. The confessional has dual properties:

  • Theological Thesis
  • Worship

Theological Thesis: Jesus is the Son of God.
Worship: Confessing this with my lips opens me up to receive the Spirit.

Finally, I’d just like to touch on the importance of words to Early Christianity. In John 1:1 we see that Jesus himself is referred to as “THE WORD.” Consider for yourself how important words are in your own life. To what extent do words dictate your reality? No doubt, we’ll touch on this in the future — words are cultural currency, they generate cultural capital, and can be used to edify or degrade, to confess or deceive.

Article Series - The Epistles of John

  1. The Epistles of John (Part 1): 1 John 1:1–4
  2. The Epistles of John (Part 2): 1 John 1:5
  3. The Epistles of John (Part 3): 1 John 1:6–7
  4. The Epistles of John (Part 4): 1 John 1:8–10
  5. The Epistles of John (Part 5): 1 John 2:1
  6. The Epistles of John (Part 6): 1 John 2:2
  7. The Epistles of John (Part 7): 1 John 2:3–6
  8. The Epistles of John (Part 8): 1 John 2:7–8
  9. The Epistles of John (Part 9): 1 John 2:9–11
  10. The Epistles of John (Part 10): 1 John 2:12
  11. The Epistles of John (Part 11): 1 John 2:13
  12. The Epistles of John (Part 12): 1 John 2:14
  13. The Epistles of John (Part 13): 1 John 2:15
  14. The Epistles of John (Part 14): 1 John 2:16
  15. The Epistles of John (Part 15): 1 John 2:17
  16. The Epistles of John (Part 16): 1 John 2:18
  17. The Epistles of John (Part 17): 1 John 2:19
  18. The Epistles of John (Part 18): 1 John 2:20
  19. The Epistles of John (Part 19): 1 John 2:21
  20. The Epistles of John (Part 20): 1 John 2:22
  21. The Epistles of John (Part 21): 1 John 2:23–25
  22. The Epistles of John (Part 22): 1 John 2:26–27
  23. The Epistles of John (Part 23): 1 John 2:28
  24. The Epistles of John (Part 24): 1 John 2:29
  25. The Epistles of John (Part 25): 1 John 3:1–3
  26. The Epistles of John (Part 26): 1 John 3:4–6
  27. The Epistles of John (Part 27): 1 John 3:7–10
  28. The Epistles of John (Part 28): 1 John 3:11–12
  29. The Epistles of John (Part 29): 1 John 3:13
  30. The Epistles of John (Part 30): 1 John 3:14-18
  31. The Epistles of John (Part 31): 1 John 3:19–22
  32. The Epistles of John (Part 32): 1 John 3:23–24
  33. The Epistles of John (Part 33): 1 John 4:1–3
  34. The Epistles of John (Part 34): 1 John 4:4–6
  35. The Epistles of John (Part 35): 1 John 4:7-8
  36. The Epistles of John (Part 36): 1 John 4:9
  37. The Epistles of John (Part 37): 1 John 4:10
  38. The Epistles of John (Part 38): 1 John 4:11-12
  39. The Epistles of John (Part 39): 1 John 4:13–14
  40. The Epistles of John (Part 40): 1 John 4:15
  41. The Epistles of John (Part 41): 1 John 4:16–17
  42. The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19
  43. The Epistles of John (Part 43): 1 John 4:20–21
  44. The Epistles of John (Part 44): 1 John 5:1
  45. The Epistles of John (Part 45): 1 John 5:2-3

Footnotes

  1. NB: In specific legal contexts the word means “confess” as in admit to guilt. Within legal proceedings it can also mean to agree or to make a statement. Sometimes, it seems like ὁμολογέω just means to speak in court! Truly a jack-of-all-trades!
  2. I don’t want to spend to much time on this, so I’ll footnote it. I do not think that this type of confession is to be made privately. Given the wide range of meanings of ὁμολογέω, however, it is difficult to say that for certain.

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