Walk in Love and Truth!
2 John 4-11
Stephen Caswell © 1999
Walk in Love and Truth
During an interview, a former network news anchorman said that a " doctrinaire person cannot be a good news reporter. He then defined a doctrinaire person as someone who has deep convictions of absolute truths in the areas of politics or religion. If he meant that a reporter should present the truth in an objective manner, unaffected by personal biases, I would agree. But if he meant in a more general sense that we must not bring convictions of right and wrong to discussions of politics and religion, I would strongly disagree. After all, none of us would have political or religious freedom were it not for men and women who had convictions for which they were willing to die.
As Christians we need to know the truth and live by it. Because of this, we may be called narrow, or extreme, but it doesn't matter. It is because our forefathers stood up for the truth that we are here today. John wrote to the church and encouraged them. They had been practicing the truth. But then he warned them about false teachers who were deceiving some of the brethren. So John encouraged them to stand up for the truth! Today we need to heed this same warning lest we too fall into error. John tells them two things to do.
1. Practice the Truth
2. Protect the Truth
The first thing John says to do is to: I. Practice The Truth
2 John 4 says this: I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
a. John's Applause - He praises them, for walking in the truth. v. 4
John rejoiced when he found some of the brethren walking in the truth. He was pleased that they were living the way that they should. John uses the term walking to describe how they were living. Life is like a journey to a far away land. Such a journey is made up of many steps. The Bible says Christians are to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. Each step we take in our lives should be in obedience to the truth. Christians should live differently to the world. They must live holy lives, speaking truthfully. They must be honest and have integrity.
Prisoners Escaping in World War II
The French resistance helped allied pilots and escaped prisoners get to safety during World War II. They knew where and when the enemy soldiers patrolled near the borders. These French Guides led the allied soldiers safely past the border. Without the guides the soldiers could step on land mines or be recaptured by the enemy. It was of vital importance to obey the guide and follow in his steps. In the same way Christians are strangers in hostile territory. If we want escape the clutches of the enemy then we need to follow the guide book. We need to follow in the steps of the Lord Jesus Christ
1 John 2:6 says: He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked
But the sad part of this verse is that not all were walking in the truth. For John says some were walking in the truth. So obviously some weren't. Some were disobedient to the word of God. Perhaps they had been deceived by false teachers who had come amongst them. Some were living as if they didn't belong to Christ. They lived like people in the world.
The following warning comes from the book, Pilgrims Progress.
Come hither, you that walk along the way,
See how the pilgrims fare that go astray:
They're caught into an entangling net,
Because they did good counsel forget:
It is true, they were rescued, but yet you see,
They are scourged by boots: let this your caution be.
Nevertheless John praises the faithful ones for their shinning example. It doesn't matter if others go astray, God expects us to remain faithful.
b. John's Appeal - He pleads with them to continue to walk in love. v. 5-6
2 John 5-6 says this: 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.
Most conservative commentators believe that the elect lady is a reference to a house church. Peter uses a feminine title to describe the Church at Babylon. The Church is referred to as the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5:23 ff. No matter how we look at this letter it was probably written to a house church. John is addressing a number of believers in this letter.
Love in Action
A young man sent a love letter to his girlfriend. It read " Darling, I'd climb the highest mountain, sail the widest ocean, cross the hottest desert just to see you. P. S. - I'll be over Saturday night if it doesn't rain. "
His love was all talk, no action. Unlike this young man, John wants believers to have a love that is not just words. He wants them to have a love that is active. He doesn't want them to glory in past achievements and do nothing in the present. So after praising them for walking in the truth he encourages them to continue this way. What is involved in loving one another and walking in love? Can you command love? John says that this commandment we have had from the beginning. This commandment was as old as the gospel itself and was not new. Jesus Christ exemplified what it means to love one another. He told us to love one another as He loved us. Jesus Christ chose to serve others. He showed that His love for us was more than just feelings by reaching out to people in need. He demonstrated it in a life of service for others. This of course was exemplified in His death on the cross.
Therefore, To love means to choose to act on behalf of others. To love means to treat people the way God treats us. To love means to put others first. To love means to serve. Jesus said that the two great commandments were to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Therefore when we love our fellowman we are fulfilling the commandments. To walk in His commandments is to love one another.
Are you walking in the truth? Do you obey God's word? Does your lifestyle show that you are a believer? Are you walking in Jesus steps? Do you love one another? Or do you only love those who you love you? The Bible commands us to love one another as Christ loved us. Love like faith involves our wills. We must choose to love God and keep His commands.
Not only did John tell them to practice the truth he also told them to:
II. Protect the Truth by Looking Out & Keeping Out
1. Look out for those who Deny Apostolic Doctrine, the incarnation. v. 7
2 John 7 says: 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.
The United States Treasury Department has a special group of men whose job it is to track down counterfeiters. Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it. How do they learn to identify fake bills? Oddly enough they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money. Rather they study the real thing. They become so familiar with authentic bills that they can spot a counterfeit by looking at it or, often, simply by feeling it.
Christians should take the same approach. If we study God's word we will know what genuine Christianity is like, and be able to spot a counterfeit Christian quite easily. The word deceiver comes from the word planoi from which we derive the word planet. They are people who have wandered off the right course and gone astray. The verb form of this same planaw word means to lead astray or cause to wander. Therefore believers need to know what the Bible says about genuine Christianity so that they can detect false teachers when they come.
These people are both deceived and deceivers. But it is worse than this because they are also called Antichrist. They resist the cause of Jesus Christ by denying His deity. The word confess comes from the verb omologew and means to say the same thing as. This is the same word used in 1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We agree with God about our sins, we say the same thing about them He does. But these deceivers do not say the same thing as the apostles. They deny the incarnation of Christ or His deity. They don't preach the Apostolic Doctrine! They deny the truth passed down by the Apostles.
2. Look out for those who Depart From Apostolic Doctrine
2 John 9 says: 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.
The New American Standard Bible says it this way:
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.
The thought presented here is that of a runner going to far ahead. Someone who changes the nature of the race. The implication here is that the false teachers had been running the right way at one time. But then they departed from the truth. They added to the apostolic doctrine. They denied that Jesus was always the Son of God. Some of these false teachers said that the Christ came upon the man Jesus at His baptism and then left prior to the cross. Others said Jesus only appeared to be a man, He was really a ghost like spirit being. Anyone who adds to Scripture is a heretic. They have gone too far. They have run on ahead and therefore must be rejected. John says that such a person does not have God. Only those who remain in the apostolic teaching have both the Father and the Son. A clear implication in this verse is that Jesus is God. John warns us how these deceivers deny the incarnation in v 7. He then warns us how they depart from the truth in v 9. Now he warns us how they can deprive us of our reward in v 8.
3. Look out lest you lose your Full Reward. v. 8
2 John 8 says: Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
Probably everyone here will remember how Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson broke the 100m world record. He beat all the competition to win the gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games. But his victory was short lived. Just after the race, he suffered disgrace and humiliation when it was proven that he had been taking performance enhancing drugs. All of the time, hard work and planning was in vain. He had not competed according to the rules. He was disqualified and forfeited his prize.
John is warning believers about the same thing here. This is why he commands believers to look out for themselves regarding these false teachers. He commands them to beware, watch out, keep watch. It is possible to lose your reward by failing to keep the rules. It is important how we start the race, but it is just as important how we finish the race. If believers are led astray by false teachers they will forfeit some of, if not all of their reward. This warning should encourage us to be discerning. We must prove everything by the apostolic doctrine now recorded in God's word. Paul gave a similar warning to the Corinthian's in his first epistle to them.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says this:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
The Lord Jesus gave a similar warning to the Church at Philadelphia. Revelation 3:11 says:
Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
Are you competing according to the rules? Have you been deceived in some area by a smooth talking person in a cult? Are you testing what you believe with the Scriptures? What we believe is important. I encourage you to test all things and hold fast to what is good and to reject what is evil. For then you will receive a full reward!
But John also told the church to: b. Keep Out.
1. Don't receive false teachers into your house.
2 John 10 a says: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house
The Historical Context
During the first century there was a good network of roads through out the Roman Empire. Travel by ship was also quite extensive. Consequently many people travelled on business or to visit friends. The Roman Government kept the peace and travel was generally quite safe. This ease of travel enabled the gospel to be spread very rapidly by travelling evangelists. But when one was travelling he needed to be able to stay at night. There were many inns and taverns to cater for such travellers.
But most of these places were not known for their moral purity and were in fact places of ill repute. They also sold alcoholic beverages and were often very unclean and many were flea infested. So the early Church provided accommodation and food for such travelling ministers. They may have washed or mended clothing. They may have given financial help to this evangelists. They saw the importance of the ministry of hospitality. They understood that this aided the spread of the gospel and therefore the cause of Christ. This same principle is still applied today by many who see hospitality as a way they can serve the Lord.
But John's warning here was very much needed. Because false teachers were beginning to use the church's help to spread heresy. John commanded them to be discerning and keep out the false teachers lest they help in the spread of heresy. The test was the message that they carried. If they did not bring the " Apostolic Doctrine " then they were to be rejected. The apostolic doctrine centred around the person of Jesus Christ. If the preacher denies that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh then he is an Antichrist and must be rejected.
John Commanded them not to receive false teachers into their homes. Do you?
Illustration of J. W. s. gaining credibility by association
What about Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who come door to door? Should we receive them in ? From this Scripture here we should not! We can and should talk to them, but I do not believe we should invite them inside. This gives them credibility before our neighbours and is in disobedience to God's word. If we buy their material or give them money we are supporting the spread of heresy. If I invite them in, they can then go to my neighbours and say " Pastor Caswell invited me in, why shouldn't you? "
We need to be very discerning when dealing with the cults. This does not mean we cannot invite unbelievers into our home. Nor does this mean that we cannot have relatives who belong to such cults into our home. But it does mean that we must be careful not to encourage or assist in any way those who proclaim heresy. For such people are servants of Satan and lead many to hell.
The truth is that they do need to hear the gospel so they can be saved. But it is very unlikely that they will acknowledge Jesus Christ as being God's Son come in human flesh. They will not accept that he is equal with God and to be worshipped. And unless they do that they cannot be saved.
2. Don't give them a word of greeting.
2 John 10b-11 says: nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
This does not mean that we should be rude to Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. But we should not encourage them in any way. They are spreading destructive heresy and we are to have no part of it. If we greet them with a good day or give them a greeting in the Lord's name we become involved in their evil actions. They are not ministers of Christ but of Satan. Therefore we must not encourage them in any way. We can share the gospel with them and even tell them that we will pray that they may see the truth. But that is all.
Have you accepted teaching from those who deny the incarnation? If they are wrong in this, then they must be rejected! Do you know the doctrinal position of people you support in ministry? Have you supported people who don't believe that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh? Do you invite the cults into your home? If you do, you must be careful not to give them credibility before your neighbours! Do you encourage people in the cults as if they are really brethren? These are areas that we need to be very discerning of. I encourage you to check out the ministries you give financial help to, lest you unknowingly support the enemy.
Are you practicing the truth? Are you walking in it? Or have you departed from the truth? Are you obeying God's commandment to love one another? Do you express this love in practical service for those in need?
Are you holding the truth before you or have you fallen into error? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God's Son come in the flesh? Or do you deny this vital doctrine? Do you receive people into your home who are the enemies of Christ? Do you encourage those who preach a different gospel? We need to be discerning with God's truth. We need to practice it and protect it!
Ephesians 6:23-24 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.