Bible Studies: 2nd John

Guarding Sound Doctrine: The Proper Motivation

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
The Biblical motivation for maintaining sound doctrine in the church is agape love - love for Christ, love for His truth, and love for our brothers and sisters in the true faith.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part two of a five-part series. Read part one.

The Biblical motivation for maintaining sound doctrine in the church is agape love - love for Christ, love for His truth, and love for our brothers and sisters in the true faith.

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)

Review

In this series we are focusing on a question that is often asked in various forms: What is the nature of the instruction God is giving through John, and how does it apply? Is it a command regarding the believer's household and family, the local church as a body, or both?

In the first article of this study, we saw that John by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit uses the word oikia in verse ten rather than oikos. John's use of oikia emphasizes the house as a physical building, rather than placing the emphasis on the oikos, the household associated with the building. This, as we shall see, is a key difference. God the Holy Spirit has chosen the words of Scripture deliberately and carefully, down to the smallest word and letter (Matthew 5:18), to communicate revealed truth accurately.

Now that we understand the primary usages of oikia and oikos in the New Testament, and John's inspired choice of oikia in the commandment of verse ten, it is also important for us to understand how oikia is used in context in John's second epistle.

The Recipients

First, we note that the epistle is addressed to a specific woman (verse 1-3).

The Elder, 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.

It is also noteworthy that in the verses that immediately follow, John quickly shifts from the singular form of "you" in the Greek to the plural form of "you" as well as the pronoun "we." In the main body of his letter, John addresses not only "the elect lady" but also the wider audience of true believers who would read this letter, both when it was first written and down through the centuries.

The Imperative of Love

Secondly, we find that John emphasizes the imperative of agape love to govern the relationship of true believers to one another. In verses 4-6, John declares that the exercise of such love is not a matter of mere emotion or subjective opinion. On the contrary, agape love is manifested in the believers' ordering their lives and thinking according to objective truth - Christ's commandments, or as John calls them twice in verse 9, "the doctrine of Christ."

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. (2 John 4-6)

The Danger of Deceivers

Thirdly, John states to this wider audience the reason why the exercise of agape love among true brethren in Christ is so necessary: There are many deceivers on the scene who do not confess the true Christ, nor do they teach the truth about Him.

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. (2 John 7-8)

Our fellowship in Christ, John says in verse three, is "in truth and love." The two are inseparable. Those who do not proclaim genuine truth are likewise incapable of genuine Christian love.

The True Nature of False Teachers

Fourthly, John declares unequivocally that unrepentant false teachers are unbelievers, and that those who abide in sound doctrine exhibit the contrasting genuineness of their faith in Christ.

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. (2 John 9)

Some postmodern commentators try to downplay this distinction, but we know from John's other inspired writings that he has in mind the vastness of the gulf between the false teacher and the true believer. In his Gospel account and first epistle, John describes it as the irreconcilable difference between spiritual darkness and spiritual light, and between spiritual death and spiritual life.

John employs the contrast between spiritual darkness and spiritual light eighteen times in his Gospel account, often quoting the Lord Jesus, and seven times in his first epistle. John employs the contrast between spiritual death and spiritual life (again, often quoting our Lord) fifty-six times in his Gospel account. There can be no mistaking the meaning that God the Holy Spirit communicates in 2 John verse 9: Unrepentant false teachers are the most dangerous of unbelievers, and must be treated as such.

The Imperative of Separation

Fifthly, having emphasized the need for agape love among true believers, John instructs not only the lady to whom he is directly writing, but also a broader audience, to deal with such false teachers in a specific way - and he clearly states why this is essential:

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)

Finally, we see John returning to the singular form of "you" - once again addressing himself only to "the elect lady" in the closing verses of his letter:

Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen. (2 John 12-13)

Now that we better understand the context of the command, "do not receive [the false teacher] into your house," we also need to clearly understand how John employs other key words in his epistle. We shall take up those points in our next article.

Next: The Key Element of Christian Unity

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