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Last week John spoke of the importance of truth. He said we are to walk in the truth that we’ve had from the beginning. Walking in truth gives the idea of something we are actively engaged in. Truth is our foundation and it gave John great joy to know that people were walking in it. Up to this point, John has been reminding them of things they were already doing, things he said in his first letter, and now he comes to the real reason he’s writing this letter.
2 John 7-9 says, “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.”
John starts out with the truth about Christ. As we have seen on numerous occasions, truth matters to John. He offers a warning in v. 7 that, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world.” This is a parallel passage to 1 Jo. 2:18-19. Many deceivers have gone out. Many – not a few. Deceive comes from the word that means to deliberately cause someone to believe something that is not true. This is in contrast to those that are walking in truth. Where have they gone? “Out into the world.” That evil system that is set against God. How do we really know they’re against God? They, “Do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” This is the age old mark of a false teacher, of a deceiver, of a cultist. They attack the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ. Show me someone that does not acknowledge Jesus as the Christ; that does not believe that Jesus is God, and I’ll show you someone that is on the path of destruction. This is common among cults. They attack the cornerstone of our faith. They attack the foundation that is Christ. What you believe about Jesus shapes your theology. What you believe about Jesus influences your beliefs about creation, humanity, sin, and of course salvation. The deceivers of John’s day, like the deceivers of today are dangerous. The people that claim a different gospel than the gospel that centers on Jesus Christ are destructive. Those that claim the Bible is irrelevant for today. Those that claim Jesus is a god rather than the one and only true God. Those that claim all roads lead to heaven. Those that claim there is no literal heaven or hell. Those that claim the body simply ceases to exist after death.
There are many deceivers and they would include the Gnostics which was a growing group at the time. Why was Gnosticism growing? Remember that they believed Jesus never actually became flesh. Flesh was evil and impervious to anything the spirit did so it didn’t matter how the body lived. That’s a convenient way to live a life enslaved to sin yet still somehow believe you’re a Christian. We still see this today, although we probably don’t attribute it to Gnosticism. In our modern, churchy society, we simply redefine sin and redefine the character of God. The big but here is that, “This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” There is an abiding truth that lives in the heart of every believer. There is an influence in this world for good. There is still a chance to win the world for Christ. As long as there is a chance for good to prevail, evil sets itself against Christ, sets itself in opposition to all that is good and pure and holy. John is emphatic: “This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
John provides a very clear warning in v. 8. He simply says, “Watch yourselves.” In other words, watch out, be on your guard, be careful, be ready. Watch is a verb – a present tense command. There is no time that you can let down your guard. Remember there are many deceivers in the world that want to derail and destroy you and they do it by deception. They say . . . it’s just one time; it won’t hurt anyone; it’s my body; what your wife (or husband) doesn’t know won’t hurt her (him); everybody does it. John says be ready. Do not be complacent. There will always be a pull to that easy type believism. Have you ever said something like, “I’m surprised they believed something so wrong.” I can’t believe they believed that email. I can’t believe they sent money to that Nigerian prince.
Many people are swayed to untruth because it’s easier. Matt. 24:4, “And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.” Be careful what you hear, including in this place. One caution though. Before you go on a rant or tirade, have your facts straight. If you take exception to something I say I encourage you to come to me. I’d be glad to discuss it, but please do your homework first. I can’t tell you how many people believe things that have no basis, that are grounded in feelings rather than facts. This is in the church and out. “Watch yourselves” John says. Why? So “that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” John is concerned that they could lose what they have worked so hard for. Let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture. In Eph. 2:8 Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” So John is not talking about working for salvation, he’s talking about faithfulness; he’s talking about perseverance, he’s talking about being steadfast as a result of your salvation. He’s talking about all the work in evangelism, in teaching, in gentle pastoral care, in discipling, in mentoring would all be lost if the church does not continue to walk in the truth they received from the beginning. If you watch yourselves, you’ll be ready to combat the deception of those antichrists that are present in the world.
1 Cor. 3:8 says, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” In the Christian life, there are rewards to be gained. That’s not why we do things necessarily. We serve because we love God. One of the wonderful things about God is that He rewards us for the things we do in His name. Heaven is not the reward John’s talking about – remember we’re not saved by works, but by grace. John’s talking about walking in it – walking in truth. Because we’re walking in truth, we’re demonstrating that we really belong to Christ. Our lives are filled with the things that matter most to God. We are Kingdom minded; we look at life through the eyes of God. In his gospel, John wrote, “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” (Jo. 4:36) Since we are wrapped up in authenticity, we stand with Christ and are on the alert for deceivers and false teachers.
John offers a very sobering conclusion. This is an all inclusive statement and pretty condemning too. He says, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.” That’s a pretty broad claim to make. “Goes too far” means to be progressive. It gives the idea of new ways of thinking, of the new things of Jesus Christ and His Father. It is a continual search for the latest Christian trends and fads. It is seeking fresh ideas; always looking. On Paul’s second missionary journey, he came to Athens and met with the same type of people John is talking about. Acts 17:21 says, “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend all their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” Remember it was John that said, “I’m not coming to you with a new commandment, but with one that we’ve had from the beginning.” It is the unchanging truth. Heb.13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We need to take this with a cautionary note. John is not condemning the new. In Gen. 1:28 God’s mandate to Adam and Eve was to subdue the earth. Ps. 115:16, “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.” Man’s quest for knowledge is not bad. This quest gave us such things as the wheel, the lever, eyeglasses, electricity, the combustion engine, yellow stickies, and Facebook. The message and teachings of Christ are unchanged, but the method is continuously changing. We have technology and we should use it to spread the unchanging gospel message. “The one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” This is a present reality for the authentic Christian. That means living out the principles that are found in His Word. Jo. 7:16, “So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
Once again, we see the reality of abiding in Christ. Just as we saw in 1 John, being a follower of Christ means you are consistently living out and demonstrating the principles that are found in God’s Word. If you don’t abide in Christ’s teaching, you don’t have the Son and as a result, you don’t have the Father.