Harsh Instructions

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The last time we were in 2 John, 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 his readers 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 10-11 says, “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; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”

In v. 10, John takes a different direction than he has in previous verses. In his first letter, John mentioned love 46 times. He talked about loving the brethren as evidence that we have “passed from death into life” in 1 Jo. 3:14. In 1 Jo. 4:7-8 he said, “Let us love one another for love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows Him. The one who does not love does not know God for God is love.” Is this a contradiction to what he wrote before?  “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.” This seems to be pretty harsh for John, the disciple that Scripture refers to 5 times as the disciple, “whom Jesus loved.” Some Bible scholars want to throw this verse out claiming that it is unloving. John says, “If anyone comes.” He’s not talking about some hypothetical possibility that people always like to challenge you with. This is a likely scenario; this is a real likelihood in the life of an authentic Christian, so we need to be careful to understand this verse in its context.

As he has broadly said before, he’s talking about anyone – all inclusive. John has been telling them to walk in the truth. The deceivers that have gone into the world are not walking in the truth, are not abiding in the teaching of Christ, and therefore do not have God. John is not talking about a Christian brother or sister, he’s talking about a deceiver – someone intentionally trying to lead you astray. But don’t misunderstand John’s harsh warning and conclude that he has turned unloving. He’s not saying be mean, unkind, or judgmental. He’s not saying don’t try and talk to them and convince them they’re wrong. He’s not saying don’t bother to examine the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul that told Titus, “To exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”  (Tit. 1:9) And Paul didn’t use a do as I say not as I do mentality. Acts 17:2 says, “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” This was what Paul was about. John is saying of course talk about it, but he’s not talking about something that we can agree to disagree on. You know the old statement, “Okay, you have your Jesus and I can have mine!” He’s talking about essentials. He’s talking about Jesus coming in the flesh. Denying that aspect of Christ denies everything about Christ and His purpose for coming. This is not a secondary, minor doctrine. It is the essential doctrine – everything else sits atop the foundation that is Jesus.

So what do you do?“Do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting.” Don’t give them a platform for their deception. Don’t give them an audience for their false teaching. This doesn’t seem very hospitable. It seems really contrary to John’s life guiding principle of loving others. In fact, it seems to be the opposite. Rom. 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” Gal. 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Our responsibility is clear. Yes, love them. Yes, try and persuade them with the truth. Yes, try and evangelize them. Yes, minister to them. BUT: don’t let them stay with you. Back in John’s day, it was quite common for traveling missionaries to stay in the homes of local Christians. Don’t do this. “Do not give him a greeting.” That’s kind of strange. In other words, don’t send them off with your or God’s blessing. Matt. 10:14, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” The principle is the same. Don’t look back, don’t change what you believe, don’t compromise. Simply move on in prayer.

But what if we do participate? John says if we do invite them in, if we do fall for their deception, we are guilty by association. “The one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” If you invite them in, give them a greeting, you would actually be participating in what they are doing. In our society, people often determine what is right and wrong for Christians to do. They define what is right or wrong. They determine what the Christian thing to do or not do is. In the Christian community, we sometimes take this to the extreme of offering grace despite the warning of Scripture. If someone comes with a different gospel, lovingly, but firmly refute it. Don’t worry if some might accuse you of being unkind or unloving. Allowing error to continue is neither kind not loving. Allowing error to continue is detrimental to authentic Christianity, detrimental to the Kingdom, is detrimental to the cause of Christ. Don’t be afraid to stand up for truth. Don’t be timid in defending what you know to be right. There are people that will get into a knock down drag out fight over the superiority of their vehicle yet don’t say a word about the truth that is found in Christ. There are people that will argue over sports or politics, but when it comes to the truth that is found in the gospel of Christ, they will be silent. There are people who will butt into a conversation about the best college team, the best doughnut or the best coffee, but when it comes to religion, they don’t want to offend anyone. Our fight isn’t against the cults, but against the ultimate deceiver, against the one the Bible describes as being a liar from the beginning. Eph. 6:10-20 is an excellent passage describing who our fight is against and how can we be prepared for the battle that is coming, for the battle we are in. I encourage you to take the time to read it.

The Lord has entrusted His battle to us. We are His soldiers. Time is short to engage in the fight for truth. Will you stand with Christ today?

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