The Apostle John’s warning against Docetism (Modalism)
There were some in the Apostle John’s Day who believed that Jesus was the Spirit of ELOHIM in the Old Testament, but they also believed the Spirit of ELOHIM was the Spirit of God, which made Jesus to be God Himself!
Therefore, John began his first letter saying:
“indeed our relationship is with the Father, AND with His Son Jesus Christ.”
(1 John 1:3)
But how could anyone believe that Jesus was God if no one has seen God at any time? Apparently, these people denied that Jesus was the man they saw. They thought that Jesus was only the Spirit inside the man.
To this, John wrote:
“Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one, the anointed man)? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.”
(1 John 2:22)
“By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”
(1 John 4:2-3)
The Son of Man as the Spirit of Christ in Mark Chapter Two
The expression “Son of Man” refers to the dual nature of Christ as a man, and as the Spirit who was manifest in the flesh. This was emphasized in the second Chapter of Mark.
When the scribes questioned whether a man could forgive sins, Jesus healed a paralytic before them, saying: “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.” (Mark 2:10)
The Spirit of Christ, the Angel of YHVH, has the power to retain and forgive sins, as God said “Behold, I send an Angel before you… do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions.” (Exodus 23:20-23)
In the same Chapter of Mark, Jesus said to the scribes: “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28). Because, Jesus Christ was YHVH ELOHIM, for whom the Sabbath was made, as explained in the fourth commandment: “the seventh day is the Sabbath of YHVH your ELOHIM” (Exodus 20:10).
The Expression Son of Man emphasized Christ was not God
The phrase “Son of Man” also emphasized that Jesus was not God, and was first used in the Book of Numbers:
“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.”
Jesus Himself said “only God is good” (Mark 10:18). Meaning that only God is inherently good, and completely incapable of a lie. But Jesus Christ made Himself perfect through His obedience, and His imitation of the Father.
Because Jesus Christ is not God, He provided a great example for us. He demonstrated that it was possible for a real human being to live a sinless life, through dependence on God. He had to live according to faith, the same way that we do. When He prayed to God, He was really praying to God, and not to Himself. He was not acting.
God Himself could not die for our sins
The Son of man could not be God, because God Himself could not die for our sins. God departed from Jesus Christ on the cross, because He bore the sins of men. God could not lay the sins of man on Himself.
The Apostle John’s final warning against Docetism (Modalism)
The Apostle John made his final warning in his second letter:
“He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has BOTH the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
2 John 1:7,9-11
These words were echoed by Justin Martyr, in 150 AD: “For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son.” (First Apology, Chapter 63)