|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Part five of a five-part series. Read part four.
Some day God may call on you to take an uncompromising stand for the truth and against false teaching. What will you do?
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:
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.
I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Look to Yourselves"
As we have seen previously in this series, John warns the woman to whom he is writing and her children that many deceivers have gone out into the word, who do not teach the truth about Jesus Christ.
This verse is introduced by the conjunction "for" (in the Greek hoti, which in this case is more accurately translated "because"). John is saying, "You must maintain your agape love for Christ and for your fellow believers, because many deceivers are ready to try to destroy it. They will do it by subverting the truth without which true love for Christ and the brethren cannot exist.
And so John says, verse eight, "Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward." Paul delivers a similar warning in Colossians 2:18 - "Let no one cheat you of your reward" by entangling you in man-made doctrines that are counterfeits and not the truth.
It is noteworthy that John says, "Look to yourselves..." Literally, in the original, it is, "Always keep a watchful eye on yourselves." Paul uses similar words in 2 Corinthians 13:5 - "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves." Literally, Paul is saying, "Test yourselves to make sure that your thinking agrees with the faith. Prove that it is so."
John is saying essentially the same thing. We need to be putting to the test everything we hear, to see if it agrees with Scripture. And, we need to be putting our own thinking to the test to make sure we are not drifting away from the infallible standard.
You Either Have God, Or You Do Not
Why is this so vital? John tell us in verse nine: "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." Here is the result that the test will yield. You either have God or you do not. You are either truly saved, or you are not. The key is what you believe concerning the doctrine of Christ.
What does he mean by the doctrine of Christ? The word in the original is didache, and it means the content of what is taught. John is saying that anyone who does not hold to the content of the teaching of the Word of God about Jesus Christ does not have God. He is not a believer. He has no right to teach or preach in the church. He has nothing to say to the people of God.
John goes on to say this in verse 10: "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." Note some very vital words in the original.
John says, "Do not receive" such a person. The phrase translated "do not receive" (me lambanate) means, "Do not be gracious or kind to this person." It also means, "Do not be impartial toward this person." True believers cannot be neutral when it comes to sound doctrine. We cannot be accepting of false doctrine, and we cannot be impartial about it either. We have to be firmly against it.
And, John says, do not receive such a person "into your house." The word for house here is oikia, which speaks of your dwelling place or your household. In other words, John is saying, do not even receive a false teacher privately, much less receive him publicly in the church. Do not have anything to do with him, John is saying.
And he says, do not even "greet" a false teacher. (The King James has "neither bid him God speed" which is not an accurate rendering of the Greek.) A literal rendering of the Greek would be, "A friendly greeting to him say not." The idea in the original is actually even more emphatic: "Do not have even a single encouraging word to say to a false teacher, or anything that might even sound like an encouraging word."
John gives us the reason for such an uncompromising stand in verse 11: The one who gives even the slightest encouragement to a false teacher, the one who extends any sign of friendship to a false teacher, "shares in his evil deeds."
The word that is translated "shares" is a form of the Greek koinoneo. It has to do with entering into fellowship or being associated with someone's evil deeds, becoming a partner in them, causing someone's evil deeds to spread or to gain influence.
When people in the church are neutral about false teaching, or they give it even the slightest encouragement, they are partakers in it.
The apostle Paul said that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Corinthians 5:6), and that false doctrine spreads like cancer (2 Timothy 2:17). It is deadly serious.
And so in his second epistle John is saying that this is the mark of the one who practices truth in love under Christ without compromise: You will not give the slightest encouragement to the spreading of the cancer of false doctrine, in your own thinking or in the church, because that makes you a partner with the false teacher.
This May Well Be Your Duty
Dear friend, if you have not already, you may well find yourself in a situation where you will have to risk the sacrifice of your own reputation in order to stand for the truth and against those who teach error. If you find yourself in such a situation - as more and more people are today - it is important to keep three principles in mind.
First, agape love must be your motivation in confronting apostasy. If you have in mind any motivation other than the preciousness of Christ, the preciousness of His truth, and the preciousness of His true church, then you need to think twice. I do not say that to discourage you from doing what the Bible says you must do. Your duty is clear. But you must constantly, continually check your motivation and make sure that by God's grace you keep it pure. That motivation must be love for Christ, and His church, and His truth.
Second, self-sacrifice must be this love's demonstration. Confronting false teaching and apostasy is not the easy thing to do. If you find that God has put you in the place of having to confront false teaching, you will find that it is going to be exceedingly time-consuming. It will take much prayer. It will take much effort. It will require you to spend much time in God's Word. You will find yourself spending much time in dealing with people on both sides of the issue - people who are for the truth and people who are against the truth. It will take much discipline to stay the course. You will need the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10 ff). This is a spiritual battle of the most intense kind.
Once again, I say this not by way of discouragement. Your duty is clear. But you must constantly, continually rely upon the Word of God as your authority and the Spirit of God as your teacher, and guide, and strength during the entire process. You will need to constantly check yourself for any danger signs that you are operating in the flesh. Remember that God's strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Remember that the work is done "not by might nor by power but by My Spirit saith the Lord" (Zechariah 4:6).
The third principle that you must keep at the forefront of your mind is this: Biblical truth is the issue. We are to speak the truth in love. The issue in confronting apostasy is always God's truth. The issue is not persons, or personalities, or reputations, or creeds, or confessions, or anything else. Do not let any of these other things become the issue. Do not do that yourself, and do not let anyone else do it. If anyone tries to do that, you must endeavor to bring the focus back to the issue of truth and error.
The Lord Jesus Christ said in John chapter 17 that God's truth is that which sanctifies. It is truth that sets the genuine believer apart from the imposter. It is God's truth that separates false teachers from the faithful ones. Stand for the truth, in love, under the authority of Christ, and without compromise