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Guarding the Truth- 2 John

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: Walking in the Truth

On the website ministry127.com, I found these words from an unknown author. He tells us:

"Winston Churchill said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” That may be a common response to truth, but it places those who respond thusly on the road to tragedy and destruction. There is no way to love and follow God without loving and following truth. The two cannot be separated."

Sadly, we are living in a day and age where truth is seen to be subjective, instead of something that is based upon facts and reality. Further, the phrase “my truth” is usually meant to mean some combination of ‘my opinion’ and ‘my experience.’ However, unlike either of these phrases, the phrase “my truth” implies an unarguable quality. You can’t contradict me, because this is my truth whether it's yours or not.

But the actual fact is, there is no such thing as 'my truth.' Only 'the truth.' All else is false. Jesus, our Lord has told us:

"I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes unto the Father except through me." (John 14:6).

Jesus is the creator and the one who sustains all that is in this universe, or any other universe for that matter. He is the creator of reality and the one who sets the rules. And it is only through Him that we can have any knowledge of what is true and what is false, whether we accept it or not.

And truth is the main theme of the short New Testament epistle of II John. Specifically the truth of the gospel. The good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world, and salvation by faith in His name.

This book is often overlooked by many who read the Bible but has a very important message to all who will seek to understand and study its words as we live in this 21st century world today. And if we want to walk in the truth of God's Word, we mustn't ignore what John has to say.

Let us look more closely at this epistle and glean from it what the Lord would have us to know, so that we can properly apply these things to our lives today.

We begin by identifying the author, the reason for the letter and the letter's recipient.

I. Author, Occasion and Recipient of 2 John

1. Author of the Book

Although the author never mentions his name in the epistle, tradition tells us that it was the apostle John. He describes himself as 'the elder' in the letter which conveys that he is of advanced age by the time of this writing. John is the only one of the 12 apostles of Christ who died by natural causes. All of the others suffered a martyrs death. Although John faced persecution and suffering as well.

Besides this book, he is also believed to be the author of the Gospel of John, as well as 1 John, 3 John and Revelation.

The precise date of the epistle cannot be determined but 2 John would most likely have been written at about the same time as John’s other letters of 1 and 3 John, between A.D. 85-95. During this time he is ministering in Ephesus and is in the latter part of his life.

2. Occasion of the Book: The Gnostic Heresy

2 John deals with the same problem as 1 John. False teachers are influencing the church. They are beginning the teaching of the heresy which came to be known as Gnosticism. Gnosticism was more of a second-century religious movement claiming that salvation could be gained through a special form of secret knowledge which only the enlightened could achieve. But you could see the heresy starting in the time of the biblical writers as well.

The term Gnosticism is derived from the Greek word gnosis, meaning "to know" or "knowledge." This knowledge is not intellectual but believed to be mythical and comes through a special revelation by Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, or through his apostles.

They taught a lot of things such as a belief that matter was evil and spirit was good. And so, according to them, Jesus could not have been God in the flesh as the apostles and the New Testament writings teach.

Gnostics describe God as incomprehensible and unknowable rather than the Christian teaching of God as personal and desiring a relationship with mankind. They also separated the inferior god of creation from the superior god of redemption.

Adherents to this heresy believed that one had to have a hidden knowledge for salvation. That secret revelation frees the "divine spark" within humans, allowing the human soul to return to the divine realm of light in which it belongs.

Because of this, gnostics divided Christians into two categories with one group being carnal (inferior) and the other being spiritual (superior). Only the superior, divinely enlightened persons could comprehend the secret teachings and obtain true salvation.

This heretical teaching was also divided on their view of who Jesus was. Some taught that He only appeared to have human form but was really just a spirit. The other view is that the divine spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism and departed before His crucifixion.

It was these and several other beliefs by the gnostic teachers that John was denouncing in his epistles.

This heretical view, though they don't refer to themselves as gnostics, is still in existence today, both in various secretive cults and in such pop religious movements as astrology or alchemy.

The Masonic movement has been referred to as a Gnostic movement. And the popular book The Da Vinci Code (2003, Doubleday) by Dan Brown promotes Gnostic ideas as it attempts to undermine orthodox Christianity.

3. The Recipients of the Book: The Chosen Lady and Her Children

However, getting back to 2 John, lets look at the recipients of the book. The apostle was writing to someone whom he referred to as 'the chosen lady and her children.' Some people think that this phrase refers, in a metaphorical way, to a local church and the children are the members of the congregation. However, it is more likely an actual woman and her real life children who were known to John and apparently well known to the church as well.

The book revolves around John giving this lady instructions on what to do when people come to her seeking hospitality and are false teachers who are not preaching the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ.

From the context, it would appear that she was a woman of means who was known by everyone to be a person who gave hospitality to traveling evangelists and teachers of the gospel. She gave them food and lodging.

She had probably asked the apostle John what to do with some false teachers who came to her for this hospitality that she was famous for giving. She knew that, as a Christian, it was her duty to be loving to people and she had the gift of hospitality. However, she didn't want to encourage these false teachers and help them in distributing their teachings.

This lead John to write this short epistle to her and answer the lady's question.

II. Outline of II John

In making a proper outline of the book we have to realize that John is answering the chosen lady and her children about what she should do by getting her to realize that truth and love cannot be separated. The truth of the gospel means that we act out of love for God and showing His love to others. But real love cannot be at the expense of truth. Or as Paul tells us:

"Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth." (I Corinthians 13:6).

You cannot really show biblical love without truth and it isn't really loving to be untruthful. That is especially the case if we say we love someone and don't give them the true gospel of God's love for sinners.

And you cannot have biblical truth without love. That makes you into some kind of person who is acting out of condemnation of others and not to persuade someone to come to the love of Christ. You become an arrogant, angry and rigid person who is preaching a gospel of pure judgementalism who doesn't care for the lost.

John is clearly teaching a balance here.

With that in mind, I suggest this outline of 2 John:

Introduction (1-3)

Greetings to the chosen lady and her children from John who loves them in the truth and also greetings from all who know the truth.

I. A Commendation for Those Who Walk in Both Truth and Love (4-6)

II. Warning Against False Teachers (7-11)

III. John's final Greetings and a Desire to See the Recipients of the letter Face to Face (12-13)

III. Introduction: John's Greetings to the Lady and Her Children

Now let's look a little closer at each of these parts of John's outline. First of all, he introduces his epistle like this. He says:

"The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." (1-3).

The basis of Christian hospitality is the truth of the gospel. God's love for us causes us to want to love others whom God loves. Further, John accentuates the need for truth by repeating the term 4 times in these first 3 verses.

Truth refers to the fundamentals of the faith such as the belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came from heaven and became flesh. It is a faith in His death burial and resurrection for the sins of the world. It includes His ascension into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. And it is a belief in His coming again.

This truth abides in us and will be with us forever. It is because of that truth that grace, mercy and peace will be with us from God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. All these blessings come by adherence to the truth and by God's love.

IV. A Commendation for Those who Walk in Both Truth and Love (4-6)

Next, in verses 4-6 John begins to commend those who walk in both truth and love. He expresses his happiness that his children in the gospel continue to walk according to the commandment that they received from the Father. Indeed John isn't giving any new commandment here. It is Jesus' commandment that we love each other.

John ties the concept of truth here with the commandment to love as he points out that this commandment is something they have heard before. If you remember, Jesus Himself went so far as to say that we can summarize the whole Old Testament law in two great commandments. When He was asked what is the greatest commandment in the law, we see how He responded in the Gospel of Mark. It says:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29).

With this emphasis on both truth and love, John is now ready to address the issue at hand. That is: "What should one do with these deceivers or false teachers?

V. Warning Against False Teachers (7-11)

So, what is the way a Christian ought to handle false teachers. We have to remember that these are the people that Jesus called 'wolves in sheep's clothing' in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:15). These are people who are neither loving nor truthful. They are out to devour the flock of God. They lead people astray from the truth of God and cause them to believe lies. And they do it deliberately.
Here is what the apostle John says about these people:

"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 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. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." (7-11).

The original language here in talking about those 'who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh' conveys the idea of a habitual denial of the undiminished deity and humanity of Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus was fully God and fully man. The easiest way to spot a cult or a false prophet is to find out what they teach about the deity and humanity of Christ. Those who deny either one are the deceivers that John is talking about.

When the apostle says that we aren't to receive them into our homes or give them a greeting, this is not a case of entertaining someone who disagrees on minor issues. These false teachers are carrying out a regular campaign to destroy the basic truths of the Christian faith.

The only solution for dealing with someone like this is complete dissociation from them by genuine believers. They should not be given any aid of any type. Not even a greeting. We should aid only those who proclaim the truth of the gospel.

To help these people by our hospitality is to help them in the spread of their heresy. And it also gives the impression that we sanction the teachings of these anti-christs. We should rather have a complete loyalty to Christ and His Word alone.

We need to realize that these men aren't Christ's emissaries. They are being controlled by Satan who often masquerades as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).

Further we should be concerned about the eternal destinies of those whom these people are influencing. They are leading people astray and away from Jesus who loves them. And to aide these deceivers is being unloving to those whom they are guiding away from the truth.

So love for others and a desire to be hospitable should be natural for the Christian. However, so also should a desire to defend the truth of the faith that was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 1:3). And we must defend that truth at all costs.

Conclusion

John ends his epistle by saying that he has much more to tell them but doesn't want to do it by using the papyrus sheet and the water, charcoal and gum resin that they used to write with back then. It is translated as paper and ink by our English translators. He rather wants to talk with them face to face, or literally 'mouth to mouth.' Through doing this their joy would be made full. The blessing that comes with true hospitality is full joy.

It is a hospitality based upon the teachings of the Word of God and the truth that it gives. We, like John, are also living in a time where the truth is being cast out and it is being replaced by the foolishness of human wisdom. And there are deceivers in many of our churches who claim the name of Christ but are out to destroy the church of Jesus Christ.

But, thank God, ultimately they won't win. Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords and every knee will bow before Him one day. And it may be very soon. Until then, we all need to live out the truth and teach the truth of Jesus Christ to the world that God has placed us in for His glory. We must expose the imposters who seek to destroy us and the work of God in this world.

And finally, we must be hospitable to those who are out to spread the true gospel of the grace of God to this lost world and do everything that we can to partner with them and participate in their good deeds.

Let us thank God that we are on the winning team! And may we show that gratitude to Him by the words that we say and the deeds that we do. Further, let us demonstrate the glory of God to those lost souls out there who need to come to know and love Him like we do! I pray that the Lord will help us to spend our lives loving others by giving them the truth!

© 2021 Jeff Shirley

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