This is the second article in a 3-part blog series. Read the first installment here as context to the message John is giving the church in the book of 2 John.
The church that John is writing to in 2 John is facing danger. In this letter, he gives them an instruction, then he speaks about the real danger they are facing, and finally, he gives them a serious warning.
Here’s the instruction, set out for us in 2 JOHN: 5 –
‘And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.’
John instructs the church to love each other and to love the other churches. Now that doesn’t sound so pressing does it? Well, if you are thinking of love as a warm fuzzy feeling towards someone else, then John’s seriousness here seems very misplaced! But the biblical sense of love is so much more than wanting to be nice to someone. John goes on to tell us what he means by this love in verse 6:
6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
Love is about obedience to God
See, in John’s mind, to love each other is to obey God’s commands. Loving others is about obedience to God. John’s instruction is that this church must be obedient to God. If they call themselves Christians, their lives must match that! He calls it walking in the truth; walking in love. John is actually just copying Jesus’ own words here. Do you remember Jesus said that you can summarise all the commands of God as love? God’s command is that we love God above all other things and that we love one another. So the instruction John wants to give this church is that they should be obedient to God’s commands and this will result in them living in love. But why does he feel the need to give them this instruction now? What is it that is so serious?
John now turns to the real danger facing this church. In verse 7, John says: “I say this because many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Now that’s serious. You see, John cares about the spiritual life and growth of this church and he sees that there are people in their midst who are deceivers – they are preaching a false gospel. They lie about who Jesus is. They say that Jesus isn’t really God; that God didn’t take on flesh and blood. And they are causing the true believers to doubt their faith – to doubt whether Jesus is in fact the saviour of the world. Maybe that doesn’t sound too dangerous to you…I mean what’s the big deal of having wrong information about Jesus? Let me tell you, it is a big deal – it’s a huge deal! Wrong information about Jesus could lead this church to give up on the Christian life altogether; it could stop them from persevering! So he gives them a serious warning to show just how dangerous false teaching is:
“Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
John says, “Watch out! Be careful!” False teaching is dangerous because it has the potential to make us miss who Jesus Christ actually is, and what He has done for us. It could lead to us not knowing the Father or the Son at all. See, if you believe a different doctrine, a lie about Jesus, then you will not know Jesus or God the Father. There is nothing more serious – this church want to be people who know Jesus and know how to be saved, just like I’m sure you do. False teaching threatens that, and could lead to us not knowing Jesus and therefore not being truly saved.
Keep on going in the truth
So, John tells this church if they want to be safe from the influence of false teachers and deceivers they need to continue in the teaching of Christ. The person who truly knows God is the one who continues in the teaching of God’s word. They need to continue in the gospel truths they trusted when they first put their faith in Christ. John is saying: Don’t fall for new and interesting ideas, new and interesting spiritual experiences. This church doesn’t need those things, instead it needs to keep trusting and growing in the truth they already have. Just like them, if we want to make sure that we are not led astray we need to know the truth inside out.
A TV show called Openbarings exposes religious cults and false teaching in South Africa. In one episode, they spoke about a pastor who told his congregation to eat grass. He said that God wanted his congregation to eat grass! Later, he claimed that God wanted the church to drink petrol, saying it tasted just like pineapple juice. And the scary thing is, many people did what he said! You can watch the videos on YouTube. Consuming petrol is poisonous and leads to all sorts of problems with breathing, dizziness, convulsions and vomiting. But the spiritual dangers are so much more important. This man is a false teacher, claiming to have new revelation from God – and his listeners are following him even when it harms them. They are being distracted away from the true gospel. Now, you might think you would never fall for such a teaching. But we do fall for falsehood all the time – we fall for more subtle false teachings. Teaching that says: If I am a good person and live my life right, then surely God will let things work out well for me. Surely I won’t suffer with health issues or struggle financially if I follow Jesus; I will have lots of money and be successful. Or we fall for the teaching in our own hearts that tells us that because our lives are tough, God obviously doesn’t love us. He isn’t a good God after all!
We are taking in teaching all the time. Think about the shows you watch on Netflix or the magazines and books you read…what are they teaching you? Many of them tell us that life is all about us, and that we deserve to build our whole lives around our wants and desires. They tell us that in order to be truly happy we have to have this, that and the other thing! And the more we let our minds linger on these influences, the more they will pull us away from Jesus. John is saying that you need to be aware that false teaching is out there, and you need to ensure that you continue in the gospel truth if you want to continue in Christ.
In verse 10, he tells the woman that if false teachers want to come and speak to her house church, she must be ruthless – not entertaining their words for a second. She must not welcome them into her home. In those days, showing hospitality was very important. If someone came to your home, you were expected to feed them and make them feel welcome. But in this case John says that the consequences are so serious, inviting them in will be sharing in their wickedness. No, for the sake of your own walk with Jesus and that of the other believers stay far away!
So what does all this mean for us?
Firstly, remember that if you are a believer, you know grace, mercy and peace with God, and that this is a gift that God has given you. You didn’t earn it, but God has graciously given it to you. And the same God who brought you into relationship with Him has promised to keep you remaining in Christ till the day He returns. In verse 2 John tells the believers that Jesus lives in them and will be with them forever; this Jesus is powerful enough to help us stay in Christ.
Read the third post in this blog series to find out more about what this means for us:
First blog: Your Amazing Race in 2020- will you keep going?