1 Thess 3:1-5; 2 John 1:4-11
SS Lesson for 01/06/2019
Devotional Scripture: John 15:12-17
False Teachers in the Church
False teaching in the church is a multimillion dollar enterprise. Many organizations offer research and opinions on various Christ-claiming groups that are seen to be on the edge of orthodoxy or that have strayed into heresy. Such heresy-hunting is supported by donations, publishing, conferences, etc. These organizations perform an important service, given the seemingly endless supply of false teachers. The problem is that what one church considers heresy might be normal and central to another church’s doctrine! Since the early days of the church, accusations of false teaching have been flying. Some of the first issues, such as requiring circumcision for church membership (Acts 15), may seem irrelevant to us today. Other early issues seem very contemporary, such as the role of works in salvation and the authority of Scripture. One of the constant threats from false teachers centered on the nature of Christ. The first-century church taught that Jesus was fully human and fully divine (as hard as that might be to comprehend). Church leaders knew that an overemphasis or underemphasis on either part of this doctrine would quickly lead to heresy. So they guarded both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus as cornerstones of the faith. The authors of today’s passages, Paul and John, both needed to deal with false teachers who denied the teaching of the apostles and threatened the church’s existence. From their writings we learn ways to identify false teachers and how to deal with them.
Lesson Context: 2 Thessalonians
Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians from the city of Corinth in AD 52. This dating makes the letters of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, likely written just a few months apart, among the earliest writings of the New Testament.
Paul had been in Thessalonica earlier, but he didn’t stay long due to Jewish opposition (Acts 17:1–10). The intent of his letters was to help the infant congregation understand his teachings more accurately in his absence. The church in Thessalonica would then be more resistant to heresy. False teachings in the first century had many faces, some more dangerous than others. One particularly dangerous heresy that threatened the church’s survival was Judaizing. It was related to the church’s emergence from Judaism and separation from the synagogue. Many early Christians were Jews, and some of them saw Christianity as the next step of the Jewish faith—a sort of super-Judaism. Such teachers believed that all aspects of the Jewish law applied to the church, even to believers of Gentile background. This included circumcision for the males and adherence to Jewish food laws for every Christian. The error of Judaizing was a belief that salvation required keeping such laws.
Lesson Context: 2 John
The author given in 2 John is merely “the elder.” But the three letters of John have been attributed to John the apostle from the first century. Church tradition tells us that he had come to the city of Ephesus and lived there until his death, sometime before the end of the first century. We do not know the order in which the three letters of John were written. This letter is addressed “to the lady chosen by God and to her children” (2 John 1). The elect lady may be a prominent woman in one of the churches in the Ephesus region, or this may be John’s figurative way of referring to the church. The letter encourages its recipients to continue living lives of love but also to be on guard against, and reject, the false teachers who have been visiting their congregation. In so doing, it touches on a then-emerging threat to the first-century church, a threat that scholars today call Docetism. This threat originated with Gentiles and their Greek philosophical traditions. The term Docetism comes from a Greek word that means “to seem.” The primary tenet of Docetism was that Christ’s sufferings were only apparent; they only seemed real, but were not. As one writer sums it up, Docetism maintained, against Christian affirmations to the contrary, that Christ’s existence was “mere semblance without any true reality.” We see the apostle John explicitly declare otherwise in 1 John 4:2, 3. He knew that if this teaching prevailed, then the entire basis for the Christian message would be lost. If Jesus did not suffer, then he could not have died. As a result, there would be no death to pay for sin (contrast Philippians 2:7, 8; Hebrews 2:14; etc.). Docetism transformed into the highly destructive heresy of Gnosticism in the second century AD.
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
v. 4. Evidently John had encountered members of this church (some of your children; cf. v. 1) somewhere and was delighted (it has given me great joy; cf. 3 John 3-4) to observe their obedience to the truth. He used their fidelity, which he had observed, as a positive starting point. What they were doing (walking in the truth; cf. 3 John 3-4) was precisely what the Father commanded. To walk in the truth is to be obedient to the truth God has made known. John wanted the whole church to do the same.
v. 5. In his final reference to the church under personification (until v. 13), John enjoined it as a dear lady. What he wrote to the church was not some new requirement but one the church has had from the beginning (cf. v. 6). (For the same idea, see 1 John 2:7.) It is nothing other than the command that we love one another. As in the larger epistle, the apostle encouraged his readers to follow the old ways as he sought to help them resist the innovations of the antichrists (2 John 7).
v. 6. But what does it mean to “love one another”? The answer: This is love, that we walk in obedience to His commands. As he had also done in 1 John 5:2-3a, John defined Christian love in terms of obedience to God. A Christian who truly seeks God’s best for his brothers and sisters can only do so by obeying what God has commanded him to do. Love undirected by God’s revealed will may easily degenerate into unwise, sentimental activity. Believers who are “walking in the truth” (2 John 4), that is, living in response to what God has revealed, love each other. Brotherly love is part of the truth God has revealed and commanded. The latter part of verse 6 is difficult in the original. The niv rendering could be essentially correct (though the words in love interpretively render the Gr. en autē, “in it”). An alternative rendering would be, “And this is the command, that you walk in it as you have heard from the beginning.” Under this construction of the text, John was affirming that obeying God’s commands meant adhering to what had been commanded in the form in which it was expressed from the beginning. Taken in this way, the writer’s words were designed to warn against any “reinterpretation” of God’s will, such as the antichrists might propose. The movement from the plural “commands” (v. 6a) to the singular command (v. 6b) is natural for this author (cf. 1 John 3:22-23). The many specifics of God’s will can be thought of as a single obligation.
v. 7. This verse is more closely linked in thought with verse 6 than the English rendering suggests. A Greek conjunction meaning “because” (hoti) has been left untranslated. The reason for John’s previous admonition is that many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. As in the first epistle, the apostle expressed his concern that many false teachers had arisen (cf. 1 John 2:18; 4:1). These teachers were “deceivers” (planoi, “ones who lead astray”; cf. planaō, “lead astray,” in 1 John 2:26; 3:7). Their very number (as well as a probable variety of erroneous ideas) made them a substantial threat to Christian churches such as this one. What bound the false teachers and their views together was their unbelief and rejection of Christ’s Incarnation. The present participle “coming” (in the phrase “coming in the flesh”) focuses on the principle involved in the Incarnation: Jesus taking on (coming in) and continuing with a human nature (cf. 1 John 4:2). This truth about “Jesus Christ... coming in the flesh” is what the deceivers denied. Some taught that Jesus’ body was not truly human; it only appeared that way. That, of course, contradicted the truth of the Incarnation, that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human (Col. 2:9). Such a denial marks that person as a deceiver as well as an antichrist. (See 1 John 2:18). The word the before “deceiver” and “antichrist” could be misunderstood. The English article “a” (rather than “the”) is sometimes appropriate for rendering the Greek definite article when an unnamed individual is in view. John did not mean to say here that “any such person” is the unique, end-time figure known as the Antichrist.
v. 8. Because of the appearance of these deceivers, the readers needed to watch out for the disastrous spiritual effects which any compromise with their ideas could lead to. The danger is not loss of salvation, of course, but loss of reward. The niv uses the second person verb (you) for all three of the statements in this verse. But “we” (following most mss.) is preferred: “that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (kjv). Early scribes and editors may have altered the “we” to “you” in these places to avoid the suggestion that the apostle could share in a loss of reward. But the author’s touch was both delicate and humble. He regarded himself as a co-laborer with his readers and their loss would be shared by him if they did not effectively resist false doctrine. The antichrists were a threat to the work of the Lord in which he and they were mutually engaged. It should be noted that the phrase be rewarded fully shows that failure by the readers would not totally deprive them of reward. God would not forget what they had done for Him (cf. Heb. 6:10). But the fullness of their reward (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15) was threatened by the subversion of the antichrists.
v. 9. The danger is now spelled out clearly. Anyone who runs ahead (proagōn; most mss. read “turns aside,” parabainōn) and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God. These words suggest strongly that the apostle was thinking here of defection from the truth by those who had once held to it. The word “continue” renders the Greek verb menō, familiar because of its frequent use (23 times) in 1 John in reference to the “abiding” life. A person who “does not continue” in a thing has evidently once been in it. The New Testament writers were realists about the possibility of true Christians falling prey to heresy and warned against it. John had just cautioned his readers about possible loss of reward (2 John 8). They were thus now (v. 9) cautioned not to “overstep” the boundaries of sound doctrine, but to “remain” where they were, to “continue in the teaching (didachē; cf. v. 10) of (i.e., about) Christ.” To deviate from the truth is to leave God behind. God is not with a person who does so. What such a person does, he does without God. This, of course, does not suggest loss of salvation. Instead it points to a doctrinal deviation, with its accompanying disobedience. In contrast with the defector from the truth, whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. This says that God is with those who persist in the true doctrine about Christ. (Here may also be another subtle affirmation of the deity of Christ; cf. v. 3.) But John no doubt had more in mind than mere creedal orthodoxy. He used menō, his characteristic word in the Johannine Epistles for the life of fellowship with the Father and Son, for the second time in verse 9. The roots of its significance in these letters are in texts such as John 8:31 and 15:1-7. For John, a person who “continues in the teaching” is one who “abides” or “makes his home” there. His connection with the truth is vital and dynamic, so he has a dynamic relationship with God whose commands he obeys (cf. John 14:21-23 for another expression of this kind of relationship). “Abiding” and obedience are inseparable in Johannine thought.
vv. 10-11. But “continuing” in the truth about Jesus Christ calls for a firm response against those who have become purveyors of false doctrine. Hence John added, If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. In the Greco-Roman world of John’s day, a traveling philosopher or religious teacher was a familiar phenomenon. Christian preachers also traveled and relied on local believers for support and hospitality (3 John 5-8). But the readers of 2 John were urged to be discriminating. If someone “comes” to them (the implication is “in the role of a traveling teacher”) without also bringing sound doctrine (didachēn), he should be refused help. The Greek verb for “bring” is pherō (“to carry”), which continues the travel motif. If the truth is not part of his “baggage,” he should receive no hospitality from those who are loyal to that truth. (By contrast, hospitality is to be shown to true believers [3 John 5, 8].) But a deceiver is not even to be given a greeting of welcome, since to do so would be to share in his wicked (ponērois, “evil”; cf. “the evil one” [to ponēron], 1 John 2:13-14) work. “Welcome him” (2 John 10-11) is literally, “Say ‘Greetings’ to him.” In Greek “greetings” here is chairein, related to chairō, “to rejoice, be glad.” Chairein was used as a cordial address of welcome or farewell, something like “I am glad to see you” or “I wish you well” (cf. Acts 15:23; 23:26; James 1:1). To some modern minds these instructions seem unduly rigid and harsh. A great part of the problem, however, lies in the modern inclination to be highly tolerant of religious differences. One must frankly face the fact that the New Testament writers did not share this spirit of toleration. Their commitment to the truth and their consciousness of the dangers of religious error called forth many stern denunciations of false teachers. Not surprisingly, this modern age, having a diminishing sense of the dangers of heresy, has lost its convictions about the truth. But the passage ought not to be taken beyond the writer’s intent. He was thinking about false teachers actively engaged in disseminating error. In this activity they are not to be helped at all. Even a word of greeting might tend to give them a sense of acceptance that could be misconstrued. The readers were to make plain from their aloofness that they in no way condoned the activities of these men. The same must be true today. But John did not directly address the question of how efforts should be made to win such people to a recognition of the truth. Yet it is clear that any such efforts must be conducted so that they are not confused with any form of approbation.
1 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone,
2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,
3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.
5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
21 When the Lord heard them, he was very angry; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel, 22 for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins."
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.
41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.
6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.
12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;
11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment,
6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
“This epistle is more remarkable for the spirit of Christian love which it breathes than for anything else. It contains scarcely anything that is not found in the preceding; and out of the thirteen verses there are at least eight which are found, either in so many words or in sentiment, precisely the same with those of the first epistle.” (Adam Clarke)
1. (2 John 1:1-2) To the elect lady and her children.
THE ELDER, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever.
a. The Elder: The writer of this book identifies himself as the Elder. Presumably, his first readers knew exactly who he was, and from the earliest times, Christians have understood this was the apostle John writing.
i. “John the apostle, who was now a very old man, generally supposed to be about ninety, and therefore uses the term presbyter or elder, not as the name of an office, but as designated his advanced age. He is allowed to have been the oldest of all the apostles, and to have been the only one who died a natural death.” (Clarke)
b. To the elect lady and her children: Perhaps this was an individual Christian woman John wanted to warn and encourage by this letter. Or, the term might be a symbolic way of addressing this particular congregation.
i. “The phrase is, however, more likely to be a personification than a person - not the church at large but some local church over which the elder’s jurisdiction was recognized, her children being the church’s individual members.” (Stott)
ii. “This appears to have been some noted person, whom both her singular piety, and rank in the world, made eminent, and capable of having great influence for the support of the Christian interest.” (Poole)
iii. John probably did not name himself, the elect lady or her children by name because this was written during a time of persecution. Perhaps John didn’t want to implicate anyone by name in a written letter. If the letter was intercepted and the authorities knew who it was written to by name, it might mean death for those persons.
c. Whom I love in truth, and not only I: Whomever the elect lady was, she was loved by all who have known the truth. If we know and love the truth, we will love those who also know and love the truth - the truth which abides in us also lives in others who know the truth.
i. We see John quite focused on the idea of truth, as he was in all of his writings. He used the word truth some thirty-seven times in his New Testament writings.
ii. This shows that what binds Christians together is not social compatibility or political compatibility or class compatibility. What binds us together is a common truth. This is why truth is important to Christians.
d. Will be with us forever: The truth does not change. The truth will be true forever, and we will have the truth forever in eternity. Many people today think that the truth changes from age to age and from generation to generation, but the Bible knows that the truth will be with us forever.
2. (2 John 1:3) John’s salutation to his readers.
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
a. Grace, mercy, and peace: John presents a slightly expanded version of the standard greeting in New Testament letters. He didn’t just wish these for his readers; he confidently bestowed them by saying they will be with you from God the Father.
b. In truth and love: John can hardly write a verse without mentioning these two of his favorite topics. The grace, mercy, and peace God has for us are all given in truth and love. Apart from God’s truth and love, we can never really have grace, mercy, and peace.
i. “What deep, sweet rhythm of meaning there is in the first three verses of this letter! One reads them over and over again. Oh, that the grace, mercy, and peace, may be with us, from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and in love.” (Meyer)
c. The Son of the Father: “The apostle still keeps in view the miraculous conception of Christ; a thing which the Gnostics absolutely denied; a doctrine which is at the ground work of our salvation.”
B. How to walk.
1. (2 John 1:4) John’s joy to find they are walking in truth.
I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
a. I have rejoiced greatly: This is a pastor’s heart - to know that his people are walking in truth. While truth is not the only concern of a pastor, it is a great concern; and it is a great comfort for a pastor to see those he loves and cares for walking in truth.
i. “The children mentioned here may either be her own children, or those members of the Church which were under her care, or some of both.” (Clarke)
b. I have found some of your children walking in truth: John rejoiced because when God’s people are walking in truth they also abide in God. The same idea is expressed in 1 John 2:24 :Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. Truth is not only important for its own sake, but also our walking in truth shows we are walking with the Lord.
i. Trapp on the idea of walking in the truth: “Not taking a step or two, not breaking or leaping over the hedge to avoid a piece of foul way, but persisting in a Christian course, not starting aside to the right hand or the left.”
2. (2 John 1:5) The commandment to love one another.
And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.
a. I plead with you, lady: John was not too proud to beg on such an important matter; not when it came to something as vital in the Christian life as the commandment that we must love one another.
b. Not as though I wrote a new commandment: John knew this was nothing new to his readers (he repeated the theme all through 1 John and his gospel). Yet because it was so essential, it had to be repeated and used as a reminder.
3. (2 John 1:6) Showing the love of God.
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
a. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments: If we love God, we will obey His commandments. We do this not because we think His commandments are heavy burdens, but because we see that they are best for us. They are guides and gifts to us from God.
b. Walk according to His commandments: Real love will walk this way. Perhaps John warned against those who thought the only important thing in the Christian life was a vague love that had no heart for obedience.
i. “Perhaps you fail to distinguish between love and the emotion of love. They are not the same. We may love without being directly conscious of love, or being able to estimate its strength and passion. Here is the solution to many of our questionings: They love who obey.” (Meyer)
4. (2 John 1:7-9) A warning against the presence and dangers of false teachers.
For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
a. Many deceivers have gone out into the world: John was aware false teachers were a danger to the church in his day.
i. “The immediate problem in [2 John] is that of traveling teachers or missionaries. According to Christian ethics all who thus traveled about were to be shown hospitality by Christians in the town to which they came.” (Boice)
b. This is a deceiver: John mainly had in mind the danger in his own time, the danger of those who thought that the Jesus, being God, could have no real connection with the material world. They said that He only had an apparent connection with the material world.
i. To combat this, John made a plain declaration: we must confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This means Jesus came as a real man in His first coming, but also means He will come as a human being - although glorified humanity, and that added to His eternal deity - a real flesh and blood Jesus will come again to the earth.
c. This is a deceiver and an antichrist: Against this false idea of Jesus, John insists those who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh are the deceivers and in have the spirit of the antichrist.
ii. This spirit of antichrist will one day find its ultimate fulfillment in the Antichrist, who will lead humanity in an end-times rebellion against God.
d. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God: There is nothing noble, sincere, courageous, or admirable in a false Jesus. To deny the Biblical Jesus is always to reject the Father and the Son both. John here draws a critical line of truth, over which it is heresy to transgress.
i. In our own day, we must deal with modern denials of the Biblical Jesus with the same passion John did in his day. Today, with our “scholarly” denials of Jesus and the historical record of the gospels, it is more important than ever to know who the true Jesus is according to the Bible and to love and serve the true Jesus.
ii. “To say no to God’s way of revealing himself is to say no to God himself, for he will not let himself be known by men except on his own terms.” (Marshall)
e. Transgresses: The word transgresses has the idea of “going beyond a boundary.” We never go “beyond” the teaching of Jesus, of who He is and what He has done for us. Anyone who thinks we have or should go beyond what the Bible plainly says about Jesus transgresses.
i. “There is a true progress in the Christian life, but it is progress based upon a deeper knowledge of the historical, biblical Christ. Progress on any other ground may be called progress, but it is a progress that leaves God behind and is, therefore, not progress at all.” (Boice)
ii. “When the teaching of the Bible needs to be supplemented by some ‘key’ to the Bible or by some new revelation, it is a sure sign that ‘advanced’ doctrine is being put forth.” (Marshall)
f. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for: To depart from the true Jesus means you put yourself in jeopardy to lose the things the apostles and other faithful saints worked for. This shows us that it isn’t enough for us to start out right, we must finish in faith to receive a full reward.
5. (2 John 1:10-11) Instructions for dealing with the false teachers.
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.
a. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine: If someone comes to us, denying the true doctrine of Jesus, and promoting a false doctrine of Jesus, John says we should give no hospitality, no aid, to the ones who promote their own false version of Jesus. To do so is to share in his evil deeds.
i. “The words mean, according to the eastern use of them, ‘Have no religious connection with him, nor act towards him so as to induce others to believe you acknowledge him as a brother.’” (Clarke)
ii. “Suppose the visiting teacher claimed to be a Christian missionary or even a prophet but taught what was clearly false doctrine. Hospitality would demand that he be provided for, but to do so would seem to be participation in the spread of his false teachings. Should he be received or not?” (Boice)
b. He who greets him: John means greets in a much more involved context than our own. In that culture, it meant to show hospitality and give aid. Yet, for the weak or unskilled believer, it is best if they do not even greet (in the sense of speaking to) those who promote a false Jesus (like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses).
i. These words sound severe, but John has not lost his love. We must consider these three points:
· John is not talking about all error, but only error which masquerades as true Christianity.
· John is not talking about all who hold the error which masquerades as true Christianity, but about those who teach those errors which masquerade as true Christianity.
· John is not talking about all teachers who err, but those who err in the most fundamental truths, and those who are active in spreading those fundamental errors.
ii. This does not mean that we should have nothing to do with those who are caught by the cults. As John indicates, we should make a distinction between those who teach these Christ-denying doctrines (those who bring this doctrine) and those who merely believe the doctrines without trying to spread them.
c. Do not receive him into your house nor greet him: This may also be translated do not receive him into the house. John may be referring most specifically to not allowing these heretical teachers to come into the house where Christians met together.
i. “Perhaps, therefore, it is not private hospitality which John is forbidding so much as an official welcome into the congregation, with the opportunity this would afford to the false teacher to propagate his errors.” (Stott)
ii. “We see how such [false] teachers were treated in the apostolic Church. They held no communion with them; afforded them no support, as teachers; but did not persecute them.” (Clarke)
d. Shares in his evil deeds: We are defined by what we reject as much as by what we accept. In this, some are so open minded that they are empty headed. It is wise to keep an open mind on many things; but one would never keep an open mind about which poisons a person might try. You may say yes to all the right things; but one must also say no to what is false and evil. We need to become good at rejecting what should be rejected.
i. “They were persons who claimed to be leaders; they were advanced thinkers, they were progressive. The Gnostic teachers of the time were claiming that while the gospel of the historic Jesus might be all very well for unenlightened people, they had a profounder knowledge. Such were to receive no hospitality.” (Morgan)
ii. In the late 19th Century, the rise of theological liberalism brought forth generations of Christian pastors, leaders, and theologians who denied many of the fundamentals of Biblical Christianity. Though it was a broad and varied movement, at its root theological liberalism thought that Christianity had to re-evaluate all its doctrines in the light of modern science, philosophy, and thinking. They rejected the idea that a doctrine was true simply because the Bible taught it; it also had to be proved true by reason and experience. They believed that the Bible was not an inspired message from a real God, but the work of men who were limited by the ignorance and superstitions of their time. For them, the Bible was not either inspired or supernatural. The importance of the Bible and its message was not in its literal or historical truth, but in its changing spiritual message.
iii. Sadly, Germany took the lead in theological liberalism and German philosophers and theologians had a profound impact on British and American Christians. Men like Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and the Tübingen School of Theology, and Adolf Harnack. To promote or support these men or those who believe in or advance their Bible-denying theology is to share in their evil deeds.
1. (2 John 1:12) John anticipates a future visit.
Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
a. I hope to come to you and speak face to face: We must generally sympathize with John’s preference for personal, face to face communication rather than the writing of letters - though we are thankful for this letter.
2. (2 John 1:13) Conclusion.
The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
a. The children of your elect sister: Telling us that the elect lady (2 John 1:1) has an elect sister, and that they both have children does little to identify with certainty who John is writing to. Perhaps all it tells us is that if John used the term elect lady as a symbol for the church, he used it rather loosely (saying that she has a sister and children). The most likely idea is that the elect lady (a particular church) had an elect sister - other “sister” churches from which John brings a greeting.
b. The children of your elect sister: This last reference to the elect sister and her children remind us that though we must be on guard against false teachers, the true followers of Jesus are more than just our group. If we allow our desire to defend the truth to make us unloving and intolerant, Satan has won a great victory.
(Adapted from URL:http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/view.cgi?bk=62&ch=1)
There will always be those in the church who are looking for innovations and modifications to Bible teachings that make them uncomfortable. We sometimes must walk a tightrope between loving tolerance for such people and rigid intolerance of their false teaching. As difficult as that may be, church leaders cannot neglect their responsibilities in this regard. When leaders allow the “love one another” mandate to suppress their duty to reject dangerous false teaching, they are not acting in love for church members as a whole—members who need the guidance of mature Christian leaders in their congregation.
At one time, I thought my most important duty as a Christian was to tell others about Jesus. I passionately embraced the belief that if I was not witnessing to others about Jesus or trying to recruit new converts, I was not doing God's will. I'm not sure when all that changed. I do know that at some point I realized that knowing what was true about Jesus and proclaiming it to others wasn't enough. What God desired more than proclamation of truth was a life lived in accordance with it and that the only way that could be done was through obedience. The dilemma I faced once I realized how important it was to obey God was where to start. The Jews said that God gave the people 613 commands when they were wandering in the wilderness. Did I need to concern myself with all of these or only the first ten—the Ten Commandments? And what about the other things Jesus told His disciples they were to do? Was I supposed to be concerned about these as well? At one point, I attended a seminar that focused on describing in minute detail how many of these commands were supposed to be observed. This didn't help clarify the issue, however. It only added to the list of things I thought I needed to do if I wanted to obey God. I think that Jesus understood the consternation we may feel as we try to make sense of what it means to be obedient to God. Perhaps that's why He distilled God's commands regarding human relationship down to one by saying, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). It often requires lots of sacrifice, patience, and perseverance when I am treated unkindly or unfairly. But I know that by doing so, others may be able to see through me what Jesus is like.