Bible Studies: 2nd John

Give No Encouragement to False Teachers

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
2nd John tells us that granting a false teacher access to your church, home, or mind is to become an accessory to his spiritual crimes.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Final of a five-part series. Read part four.

2nd John tells us that granting a false teacher access to your church, home, or mind is to become an accessory to his spiritual crimes. The time may come when you as a Christian must do the difficult thing: put your personal reputation on the line by taking a public stand against a false teacher.

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. (2 John 9-11)

In the fourth article of this series, we began to see the full impact of these climactic verses of John's epistle. The Holy Spirit through John gives Christians an unequivocal command: Do not let the false teacher cross the physical threshold of your home or your church. Give him no access.

We also saw the further clear implication: We are not to allow false teachers to cross the threshold of our minds, any time or any place - not only through direct personal contact, but also through radio, television, books, magazines, the Internet, and other means. Just as we must not give the false teacher physical access, we must not give him mental access.

Unthinkable In Much of Today's Church

To the postmodern mind that dominates much of the evangelical church today, such an attitude seems unthinkable. In large segments of the church, the only intolerable thing is intolerance itself. But God's Word marks the false teacher as one who "does not have God" and commands no toleration of the false teacher anywhere, anytime - and God issues this righteous demand on the basis of a proper view of agape love.

We are to give no quarter to the false teacher and his errors because God's self-sacrificial love in sending His only Son to die our death in atonement for our sins, and to give us newness of life by the Spirit so that we may walk in the truth, demands this. The false teacher must be utterly unwelcome in our homes, our churches, and our minds because we are to love Christ, His truth, and our fellow believers - and seek, in love, to protect His true Church from spiritual calamity.

Because of the muddled thinking that dominates much of the present-day church, obedience to the command of 2nd John 9-11 often comes at a cost. This exercise of agape love within the body of Christ can often involve the sacrifice of the faithful believer's reputation in the eyes of men. But it will never involve the sacrifice of your reputation in the eyes of God.

Doing the Difficult Thing

There may come a time when you have to do a very difficult thing in the body of Christ because of the imperative of agape love. We live in a time when false teaching about the most fundamental, foundational doctrines of the faith is in some places creeping into the church, and in other places rushing in. We live in a time when people within the church - both members and leaders - are decreasingly submitting to the Word of God, increasingly submitting to the word of man, and increasingly driven by their varying feelings rather than Biblical facts.

The time may come when you will need to point out that there is false teaching within your own church - the word of man substituted for the Word of God; a false gospel supplanting the one true Gospel. This is the dangerous situation in growing segments of nominal evangelicalism. The problem may be in a home Bible study, a Sunday school classroom, an educational institution of the church, or the pulpit itself. The problem may be in your home; the time may come when you must tell a friend or relative who insists on bringing false teaching into your home that he is no longer welcome unless he desists.

The Christian who recognizes false teaching has an obligation, on the authority of the Word of God, to stand up and point out the problem because of the imperative of agape love. You must do it if Jesus Christ is indeed precious to you. You must do it if your fellow believers are precious to you because they are precious to God. Based on that motivation, you may be called upon to demonstrate your agape love by making the self-sacrifice of putting your reputation on the line by pointing out and rejecting false teachers. You must do that in a respectful, Christ-honoring, Bible-focused way - but never in a way that compromises God's truth.

Silence Is Acceptance

It is a lie to say that the loving thing to do in such a situation is to keep quiet. That is the unloving thing to do. To keep silent in the presence of error is the opposite of genuine Christian love. It is not an expression of genuine love for Christ or for the brethren. Indeed, it is a counterfeit of agape love. It is disobedience to Christ. Silence puts your fellow brethren - the people who are supposed to be precious to you in Christ in the bonds of love - in grave spiritual danger.

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9). Silence in the face of error is hypocrisy. Accommodation of false teachers is hypocrisy. It is not love for God's people, it is love for the world. "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). Let me remind you once again of the admonition we find later in John's first epistle: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him" (1 John 3:18-19). Agape love says that God's truth matters. The truth of God, not persons or personalities, is the issue in confronting false teachers and their errors. We must maintain that focus.

As we conclude this series, let me take up two related practical questions that readers and listeners have asked us.

Dealing With the Cultists

How should a Christian deal with the representatives of cults such as the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses who come to your door? Based on the force of the commandment of 2 John 9-11, I believe that their presence on your threshold is such a serious matter that any interaction you may have with them should take place outside the door of your home.

Do not even admit them across the physical threshold of your house, because once they enter they may soon cross the threshold of an unsuspecting mind - perhaps not yours, but perhaps the mind of someone else within your household. You owe it to the members of your household to protect them from the very physical presence of false teachers. Clearly, they are at your door on a mission to subvert your family from the truth. Dallying with cultists is dangerous business.

Give cultic missionaries the Gospel as an ambassador and herald of Christ, but do not allow them a foot in the door of your home.

Testing the Spirits

Does the commandment of 2nd John 9-11 mean that a Christian should not examine and understand a false teaching for the purpose of refuting it? No, but we must act with great care. When we point out false teaching to our fellow church members or to our household, someone may well ask the question, "What is wrong with it?" Sometimes deadly error is extremely subtle, and it may be couched in seemingly Biblical terms so that it appears sound and harmless. We may need to more fully understand a false teaching in order to properly answer that honest question, and to help others understand that the false teachers are twisting the words of Scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

We must always undertake such a task not with an "open mind" but with an open Bible and a submissive spirit; praying for the protection of the Holy Spirit from falling into error ourselves; praying for the Spirit's illumination of His truth and the strength to obey it; and, praying for discernment between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Our attitude must ever be, "The Bible is the sole standard by which I will prayerfully and carefully evaluate and expose this falsehood."

This is the clear implication of the command of 2nd John verse 10 for the believer living in our spiritually confused time: Do not fall into the postmodern, Satanic trap of looking at false teaching with an "open mind" - which is, in fact, an undiscerning mind. Do not even psychologically "receive" the false teacher in that way, or effectively "greet" him in your mind by having an attitude that could give false teaching the slightest credence, and thus even the most subtle foothold.

In his first epistle, John gives this exhortation, which must always govern the Christian's approach to false teachers and their evil message:

Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [i.e., confesses the truth concerning the full deity and full humanity of Christ and all that this means] is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 3:24-4:6)

Here John reminds us that spirits other than the Holy Spirit exist - demonic spirits, who are the force behind false teachers and their message. As Christians are the heralds of their Lord, false teachers are the spokesmen for Antichrist. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The test that must be applied to all teaching is, in fact, a test of the spirit behind it. Only the truth will conform to Holy Scripture authored by the Spirit of God. Anything else has its origin in the spirit of Antichrist. The word "test" in this passage is the term used for examining and appraising metals to determine their purity and value - whether they are real or counterfeit, whether they are pure or riddled with impurities. Christians must test every teaching by rigorous comparison with our only infallible standard, the Word of God.


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