The Second Epistle Of John
The Refusal of False Teachers
In the days of the apostle John, antichristian teachers and false prophets had already arisen in the Christian profession. It was therefore of the utmost importance that believers should be on their guard as to the true character of those who took the place of teachers amongst the people of God. There was the danger, on the one hand, of accrediting a false teacher or, on the other hand, of rejecting a true servant of God. The apostle's Second and Third Epistles meet these difficulties. The Second Epistle was written to warn the faithful against receiving those who denied the truth as to Christ. The Third Epistle encourages us to receive and help those who teach the truth.
In both of these short Epistles much is made of the truth, for it is only as we test teachers by the truth that we shall be able to discover whether they are false teachers or true servants of God.
(V. 1). In this Second Epistle the apostle addresses himself to an individual, the elect lady, and her children. He speaks therefore of our individual responsibility. His motive in writing this letter of warning was love, in which others, who had known the truth and thus been brought into the circle of Christian love, would join.
(V. 2). Secondly, he is moved to write "for the truth's sake which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever." He seeks that the saints may be preserved from deceivers and that the truth may be kept free from error.
(V. 3). He desires that this lady may enjoy the blessing of grace, mercy and peace "from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." The apostle thus emphasises the very truths that were being called in question by the deceivers against whom he warns us, even as he has already done in the First Epistle. Moreover, he desires that these blessings of grace, mercy and truth may be enjoyed, not in a merely human way, but as these saints are found walking in truth and love.
(Vv. 4-6). In the verses that follow, the apostle applies this truth and love to our practical walk. It is only as we are grounded in truth and love, and walk accordingly, that we shall be able to resist false teachers. The apostle is writing to those who know the truth, and in whom the truth dwells (verses 1, 2). Now he rejoices that they are found "walking in truth". If we are to escape error and refuse deceivers, it will not be enough to know the truth; we must also practise the truth according to the commandment we have received from the Father. From the first Epistle we know that the Father's commandment is "that we should believe on the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another" (1 John 3: 23).
It is no new commandment that the apostle is writing, but that which we have heard from the beginning. What we had from the beginning, set forth in Christ, was the full truth as to divine Persons, the Father and the Son, and that we should walk according to the new nature in love to one another.
Moreover, love manifests itself in a walk in obedience to the Father's commandments, according to which we are called to walk in the truth as expressed in Christ from the beginning. This would mean a walk in holiness and love, for the great truths made known in Christ are that God is love and God is light.
(V. 7). Thus, with the truth known and dwelling in us, and with a walk in consistency with the truth, we shall be prepared to detect and refuse the many deceivers that have gone out into the world. These deceivers are exposed by their attitude to Christ. They may assert that Jesus Christ was a good Man, but refuse to confess that He is "come in flesh." To confess that Jesus Christ is come in flesh is to own that He existed before He became flesh. There would be no sense in saying of a mere human being that he is come in flesh. How else could he come? To deny that Jesus Christ is come in flesh is thus to deny His previous existence, and therefore the denial that He is a divine Person - God. The one who denies this great truth concerning Christ at once exposes himself as "a deceiver and an antichrist".
(V. 8) As there are such in the world, the apostle exhorts us to look to ourselves, lest in any measure we are influenced by these deceivers and turned aside from the truth, thus losing a full reward for our labours in the day to come.
(V. 9) To preserve us from the evil influence of those who profess to have made advance upon the truth revealed in Christ from the beginning, he says, "Whosoever goes forward and abides not in the doctrine of the Christ has not God" (N.Tn.). To refuse the truth of the Father and the Son made known in Christ is to be in total ignorance of God. To abide in the truth is to have the knowledge of both the Father and the Son.
(Vv. 10, 11) If, then, one comes to the house and brings not this doctrine, he is neither to be received nor given any common greeting. When the truth as to the Person of Christ is in question, it is not enough to express disagreement with the false view; nothing must be done that would put any sanction on the evil doctrine or on the one holding it.
There may be much faulty apprehension of many truths and defective interpretations of the Word, for we all have much to learn, but when the truth as to the Person of the Christ is denied, there is to be no compromise with the evil or toleration of the one holding the evil. To bid such an one God speed would be to partake of his evil deeds.
(Vv. 12, 13). The apostle had many things about which to write that could wait until they met face to face, but, as these deceivers were denying the truth as to the Person of Christ, this matter was urgent and called for a letter that exhorts this lady, and indirectly all believers, to stand with uncompromising firmness for the great, vital truths of our faith concerning the Father and the Son.