We are continuing in our study of 2 John today. Last week we looked at the first four verses, in which the word truth is used five times. The importance of the truth is the theme of this epistle. As we continue in our study of the remaining verses, you will notice that we no longer see the word truth. But nevertheless, the truth is still the focus of the passage, it’s just referred to in different ways.
For instance, starting in vs five John refers to the truth as the commandment. God’s commandments are truth. He is not merely talking about the 10 commandments, but about all the commands of God, all the word of God, the truth of God.
Then in vs 7, he speaks of deceivers. To be a deceiver is to be someone who speaks the opposite of the truth, or who subverts the truth. You must have a standard of truth in order to determine if someone is a deceiver.
Then in vs 9 John speaks of the teachings of Christ. Well, Christ taught the truth about God. He said He was the way, the truth and the life. To speak of Christ’s teaching then is just another way of speaking of the truth. So the thrust of the epistle is the importance of the truth. And I think ultimately he is writing to the church to defend the truth. John just refers to the truth in a variety of ways so that we understand the full scope of what constitutes truth.
So this little epistle is about the truth. It’s about defending the truth, living in the truth, as he said in vs four, walking in the truth. Jesus said that we are to worship God in spirit and in truth. Jesus said that the word of God was truth. And Paul said that the church is the pillar and support of the truth. So John writes here to a particular church and the congregation of that church, whom he calls the chosen lady and her children. He uses a euphemism or an indirect way of addressing the church in order to perhaps protect them from undue persecution. But he writes them a warning to defend the truth, to uphold the truth, to abide in the truth in light of the deceivers that are working to destroy the church.
John is reaching the end of his life, probably in his nineties at this point. And like Peter and Paul who have since died, he recognizes that in the life of the church since Pentecost, there are many deceivers, many antichrists that have risen from among the ranks of the church, whose diabolical goal is to destroy the church.
Paul spoke of that happening many years previously as he was leaving the church at Ephesus, which John was now the pastor of. Paul said many years earlier, in Acts 20:29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
And John sees that very thing happening. He has already written in 1 John 2:18 “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” And he says virtually the same thing in this letter to this church in vs 7, saying, “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.” The deceivers are those who have subverted the truth about Christ.
So in vs 4, which we looked at last time, John said he rejoiced to see that some of the lady’s children were walking in the truth. He’s referring to some of the congregation of this church. That’s the goal of our instruction, that a believer walks in the truth. To walk refers to a lifestyle, to your manner of living. To live in accordance with the truth.
Jesus said to the Father concerning His disciples in His prayer before His crucifixion, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.” Sanctification is the progression of our walk with Christ. To walk in the truth speaks of the process of sanctification. And sanctification is an essential part of our salvation. Heb. 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” Sanctification is the process of living holy lives, being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Sanctification happens as a result of, and following our justification. In the full scope of salvation, we are first justified, then sanctified, and then glorified. All three elements are essential to salvation. Sanctification is our walk in the truth.
John says though, in order to walk in the truth, we must love in the truth. He says in vs5 and 6, “Now I ask you, lady, not as though [I were] writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.”
Notice the sequence. John says we must walk in the truth. Then he says we must love one another. And then he says love is to walk in His commandments. So to walk in the truth is to walk in love, and to walk in love is to walk in the commandments. That’s an echo of what Jesus taught in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
This is critical to understand; you cannot separate obedience from love. You cannot say “Oh, how I love Jesus,” and not keep His commandments. John said back in 1John1:6 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and [yet] walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” You cannot say you love God, you have fellowship with God, and walk in sin, or not walk according to the commandments. If you say that, you are lying, and you do not practice the truth. There it is again, the correlation of truth with the commandments, the teaching of Christ. The idea of practicing the truth is the same as to walk in the truth. It doesn’t mean you are perfect, but it does mean you get better at it with practice.
But on the other hand, he adds to that principle in the next verse, 1 John 1:7, “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Notice the sequence there. If you walk in the Light, that is you walk in the truth, then you have fellowship with one another. In other words, walking in the truth produces love, or fellowship with one another. It’s interesting, that he doesn’t say that walking in the truth produces love for God, but he says that walking in the truth produces love for one another. We show our love for God by loving one another, and we love one another by keeping His commandments.
That indicates that love is not a sentiment, it’s not a feeling that you have towards someone, or an attraction that you have, but love is a commitment to obey God by serving others. I conducted a marriage ceremony yesterday, and I was reminded in the vows that in marriage we do not just make vows to one another. But we make a vow to God to love one another with a sacrificial, serving love. That’s why the marriage vows are binding for as long as you live. Because you made a vow to God, which is not predicated on how you feel now, nor on how you may feel 30 years from now. But it’s a vow to obey God which is to love one another until death brings separation from that vow.
Now back in our text, John says that the command is not new, but it is old, one we had from the beginning. What is he talking about here? Well, Jesus answers that in His response to a lawyer who asked him what was the greatest commandment. Jesus said in Matt. 22:37-40 ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
So these two commandments, given hundreds of years before, were the summary of all the commandments. All the commandments hinge on loving God and loving your neighbor. So as Paul said in Romans 13:10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” And he said in 1Cor. 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love.” Love is the result of walking in the truth, of walking in the commandments.
So, John admonishes the church to walk in the truth, and then love in the truth, and then his final point, guard the truth, or defend the truth. This is a vital function of the church, to guard the truth, to defend the truth. Because the truth is and always has been under attack since the beginning, and that attack continues today. In fact, I would say that the truth is being assaulted more today than ever before. In the past, it was pretty much a front on attack. But today, it’s much more insidious than that. It’s a flank attack or even an attack from the rear. The attacks against the truth today are camouflaged as being sensible, as being relevant, as scientific, as more contemporary interpretations of the truth. And instead of many attacks coming from outside of the church, they are coming from within the church.
John starts this admonition with a warning; vs 7, “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.”
Back in 1 John 4, John said in vs 1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” These false prophets John calls deceivers, antichrists who are filled with the spirit of deception and who seek to destroy the church. When I speak of the church, I’m not speaking of an institution, but of the Christians that make up the church. And these false prophets destroy the church by undermining the truth.
Notice that John says there are many deceivers. Not just a few. I would dare to say that the majority of the mainstream churches today have gone so far astray from the truth today that it is unlikely that anyone in their congregations can understand enough truth to be saved. Satan has skillfully infiltrated the church pulpits with pastors that have abandoned the authority of scripture, they have abandoned the doctrine of absolute truth; they have abandoned the principle that there is no other way to be saved than through Jesus Christ, they have abandoned any teaching about sin, they have abandoned the inerrancy of scripture in regards to creation, or the doctrine of the judgement of God upon sin, and about hell. They preach another Christ, another gospel, which is really not another gospel at all, but the doctrine of demons. That’s why John says they have the spirit of antichrist.
Antichrist means another Christ. A Christ who didn’t come as God in the flesh to die for sin as a substitute for sinners, to pay the penalty for the judgment of God. But a Christ who just set an example for how we are to live. The false prophets of John’s day were saying that Jesus wasn’t God, but that He was just a man upon whom the Spirit of God came at His baptism, and left when He died upon the cross. If that were true, then Jesus was not God incarnate, and He could not atone for sin, and He could not accomplish forgiveness for our sins. But false prophets offer many varieties on that false doctrine. But the end result is they diminish Jesus Christ and His gospel, and subvert the truth so as to lead people in destruction.
John says to the church, “watch out for yourselves.” Don’t be duped, don’t be deceived by the reasoning of false teachers. This is not just some theoretical exercise, but false teachers and false doctrine is dangerous to you and to your loved ones. John says if you fall prey to it, It’s possible to lose what you have accomplished, to lose your reward. Now he isn’t talking about losing your salvation here. Salvation is not a reward for our behavior, but it’s a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. Salvation is by grace, and therefore, according to Romans 11:29, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” If God gave it to you, He isn’t going to take it away.
So then what is John referring to, when he says you might lose your reward? I believe that it means you lose the reward which God will give for those works of righteousness which we have done for the kingdom of God. The Bible teaches us that there are rewards in heaven for the things we have done as Christians for the kingdom of God. But if you become duped by false teachers and adopt false teaching, you stand to lose out on your reward because you will be found to be following a doctrine that retards your sanctification and consequently makes to no effect your work for the kingdom. But there is a reward for those that walk in the truth and fulfill their stewardship as servants of Christ. Jesus said in Rev. 22:12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward [is] with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
So we have been warned to guard against deceivers, to beware of false prophets because they are working to destroy the truth. That truth John correlates to the teaching of Jesus Christ. It’s what in other places is referred to as the apostle’s doctrine. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that means all of the apostle’s doctrine. Not just a segment of it, or cherry picking bits and pieces of it that you like, and discarding those you don’t. But the acceptance and belief in all of Christ’s teaching. That is the truth.
John continues his warning about abandoning the truth in vs.9, 2 “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.” I think that when John says here “anyone” or in some versions, “everyone”, I believe he is referring to those false teachers he spoke of in vs 7. He is describing them as someone that has gone too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ. They have left the path of truth, and taken off down a rabbit trail that may seem to be connected to the truth, but in fact is a diversion.
What he says is the way you can know if someone is a false prophet, is an antichrist, is whether or not they abide in the teaching of Christ. If they don’t abide in Christ’s teaching, then he says they are not of God, and you should not listen to them. Think of the cults for a moment. All the major cults either add to the scriptures, or they add to the gospel of salvation, and they usually add another apostle, who they won’t admit has the same authority as Peter, Paul and John, or even Jesus Himself, but in practice they give this person even greater authority to define, and determine what scripture is really saying. People like Joseph Smith, who started the Mormons. Or Mary Baker Eddy, who started Christian Scientists. Or Ellen White who started the Seventh Day Adventists. Or Charles Russel who started the Jehovah Witnesses. All of these people’s writings are prodigious, rivaling scripture. And their disciples consider them to be of the same authority as the scriptures.
But according to John, we can know that they are false by the fact they don’t abide in the teachings of Christ. But those who abide in the teachings of Christ, John says, have both the Father and the Son. You should remember what Jesus said concerning His teaching – that He spoke the things from His Father. In John 8:26, Jesus said “I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.” And in vs 28 Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [He,] and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” So there is no disparity between what the Father says and what Jesus says. If you abide in His teaching, then you have both the Father and the Son.
John feels so strongly about the truth, he feels so passionately about the deceivers who are trying to subvert the truth, that he says we should have nothing to do with them. We should avoid them, abstain from their teaching, and abstain from fellowship with them. He says in vs 10, “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.”
In the early church, they usually met in one another’s houses. There were no church buildings such as is common today. So John is saying if someone comes to your church bringing a teaching that is not in accordance with Christ’s teaching, then don’t even let them in the building. Don’t give them a platform to air their deceit. Don’t welcome them into your house.
See, there is a limit to love. Love must be in the truth. Love doesn’t accept everything and everyone that comes down the pike when such people are really deceivers who are trying to destroy the truth. Love is jealous of the truth. Love guards the truth, defends the truth. Love does not give place to that which will hurt the child of God, which deceives the Christian, which defrauds the church of her reward. There is a time and place to be vigilant, even to be militant for the sake of the truth of the gospel. Love doesn’t mean we accept those false teachers and give place to them.
You know, there is a place for righteous anger. I get angry at the false teachers which proliferate the so called Christian television stations. I get angry because they are able to come right into the living rooms of people’s homes and far too many naive Christians welcome them with open arms and naively accept their false teaching. I get angry over that. I’m sure some of you think I shouldn’t get angry. But I think Jesus got angry and yet did not sin. He got angry at the deceitfulness that was going on in the temple, which was the house of God. He said you have made my Father’s house a den of thieves. And He took a bullwhip and cleaned out the temple and kicked over their tables and chased them out.
Paul spoke to Timothy about false prophets and deceivers who he said they were to avoid. 2Tim. 3:6-8 “For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these [men] also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.”
Now I think Paul is not denigrating women there, but using a metaphor for spiritually weak people in the church, who allowed false teachers into their homes, who may have sincerely had a desire to know the truth, but were unable to do so, and in fact were deceived because they were learning from false teachers who were opposed to the truth. And so I think we are justified in feeling some anger towards those people who put a stumbling block before others, who prey on the weak.
But of course, when we call out these false prophets, we risk being accused of being unloving. I saw a story the other day on the news about a father whose son came home from school and said that a man had approached him at the bus stop and did some things that made him feel uncomfortable. And so the father staked out the bus stop the next morning. The man in question jogged by the bus stop at his usual time, and stopped to speak to the young boy, and reportedly touched the boy inappropriately. This jogger by the way, was one of the pastors of a local church.
Well, when the father of the boy saw this man touching his child that way, he took off and tackled this guy and from the looks of the photo, he permanently rearranged the culprits face. Now you may not think that was very nice. But I happen to think that is what love looks like. That father loved his son so much that he would take whatever action was necessary in order to assure that this creep would never get the chance to take advantage of anyone again. Now I am not advocating violence against false teachers, however I am advocating that we avoid them like the plague, that we do not give them any platform, not even extend to them a Christian greeting, lest we find that we share in his evil teaching of subverting the truth, and putting a stumbling block before the naive.
So in this little letter to this unnamed church, John wanted to make it clear that the truth is essential, that walking in the truth is the means by which we show love for one another, and that the defense of the truth is critical to the life of the church. He goes on to say that there are other things he wants to tell them, but he will wait until he sees them face to face. These things he wrote about he felt were too critical to wait, but the rest he will tell them when he comes, so that their joy may be full.
And then he closes his letter by saying, 2John 1:13 “The children of your chosen sister greet you.” I think that is merely the way in which he references the people in his church who are sending their sister church their greetings. And I am sure that the Spirit of Truth, writing through John, speaks to our church the same things, that we should walk in the truth, love in the truth, and defend the truth. Let us be on guard against deceivers who are preying on the church and distorting or subverting the truth.