Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dealing with False Teachers in 2 John

2 John 1:5-11
“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after His commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his deeds.”  

Here in John’s second epistle, he writes to a woman at an assembly of believers he is in contact with. He gives the lady and the assembly she is in fellowship at the same exhortation to do the commandments of the Lord. There was no new commandment to give this group of believers, nor are there any for today’s believers. It is the commandment you have heard from the beginning dear saint, from the time you believed on Christ and made the decision to follow Him. We are to love one another, all believers ought to have this affection towards each of his brothers and sisters in the Lord. But there are many who assume the name and appearance of a christian and yet deny Christ. If they were common enough in John’s time for him to write that ‘many deceivers are entered into the world’ then the deceivers have waxed in number over the millenia. John’s second epistle offers some great reminders not only to walk in the commandment to love one another as the Lord has commanded us, but also some much needed advice on how to deal with false teachers and apostates who take the name of Christ. 

It can be quite easy to forget this little epistle as so many of us have before, but without it, we who stand fast in the faith would be inclined to show hospitality as hospitality is a trait of love, to all believers– even the apostates. This is precisely the reason why John did not simply give this elect lady an exhortation to continue in the commandment of love but also issued this important warning of deceivers and antichrists who deny that Christ had come in the flesh. 

During this period of church history, the heresy of gnosticism was on the rise. A man named Cerinthus was one of the most well known teachers of gnosticism. He taught that Jesus of Nazareth was just a man who received the Christ at His baptism, and the Christ left Him in the garden of Gethsemane. Cerinthus did not believe in the pre-existence of Jesus Christ, or in His deity. He denied that Christ had come in the flesh and gained a wide following with his teachings. His teachings continue to abound to this day, with many famous Hollywood actors and actresses, Jane Fonda and Shirley Maclaine to name a few. 

If a person claims to be a christian but denies either explicitly or implicitly that Christ– the pre-existent Son of God– came in the flesh and dwelt among men, then that person is an antichrist. Other christians are not to welcome that person into their home, no matter how pleasant and friendly they may be. Believers are called to suffer many things; we are sometimes called to suffer shame, reproach, affliction, persecution, and more. But one thing we can not suffer in our homes or in the assembly at large is a false teacher who denies either the humanity of deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

If a professor of the faith transgresses the standard of the doctrine of Christ and departs from thence, they do not have the Spirit dwelling in them. It is not that they lose the Spirit, for that is impossible, but that they never had it to begin with. However, if a professor abides or, remains, in the doctrine of Christ, they have both the Father and the Son as well as the Spirit. This teaching is not to be confused with Perseverance of the Saints that is taught in Calvinist theology. Perseverance of the Saints is better known as Lordship salvation which is endorsed by the calvinist John MacArthur. Another teaching that deviates from 2 John 1:9 is the Arminian teaching known as Uncertainty of Perseverance. 

Ironically, the Calvinist teaching on eternal security is very similar to the Arminian teaching. Calvinists teach that if one is surely elect, they will persevere in the faith; Arminians teach that anyone– elect or non-elect– can get saved, but they can lose their salvation if they commit a horrible sin or a great number of sins. In short, Calvinism teaches that no one can be assured of their salvation, Arminianism teaches that anyone who is saved is not secure in their salvation. 

You must remain in the doctrine of Christ so that you may remain in the Father and the Son. It does not have to do with good works, or not sinning, but holding fast to strong doctrine. If we remain in the doctrine of Christ, which Paul calls the doctrine of godliness in his letters to Timothy, we will be exercised to produce good works and keep from habitual sin. So the doctrine of Christ or the doctrine of godliness, has many benefits, chief among them being kept in the hands of the Father and the Son. 

If there come any into our gatherings who do not bear this doctrine, we are not to welcome them into our homes as we would with other believers. We are not even to bid them God speed or some other courteous line of farewell. Letting them into our homes could affect our testimony in some way if our neighbors see us letting in some false teachers such as mormons or JW’s. If our neighbors see us extending hospitality to these false teachers, they may assume that these cults are as orthodox as we are. If on the other hand, they see us telling them to not come back to our house, or some other unwelcome statement, they should get the picture. 

Even wishing them well, these false teachers, is spoken against by the apostle John. While we may be sincere in our intentions to be polite by wishing them well, we must not, for that would cause us to enter into fellowship with them. It would be a loose sense of fellowship, nevertheless the word “partaker” used in verse 11 means to enter into fellowship with another. In the apostle’s day bidding someone God speed also carried along with it the sense of supporting someone financially if they were in need. Today, it is equally important to neither support false teachers or verbally assent to their teachings. In no way, shape or form do we want to make ourselves look like we are in concord with Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15).