When we all pause and think about it, we have learned the Truth - the doctrine of Christ - by means of letters or epistles. How we all appreciate receiving a brief letter of encouragement.
We have an example of an inspired letter, which continues to encourage modern Christians near the year 2,000. Indeed, it may be more important now that when it was first written. It is a letter from the beloved apostle John. It is called Second John in the Biblical canon.
John only describes himself as the “older man” or the Presbyter. Some believe it is addressed to a Christian congregation, while others think it written to a Christian sister and her children. Either way the power of the letter is not lost on us.
Many believe Second John to have been written near the turn of the First Century by the beloved Apostle John. Surely he was an ancient man by this time and suffered all those ailments, which attack a person nearly 100 years old. Despite these his heart was devoted to the Church he had seen grow up around him in the six decades since the death of his Master, Jesus Christ the Nazarene. He felt two compelling obligations: to preserve the original faith with its doctrine, and, the motivating force of Christianity -- love. About four decades before the great missionary of the Faith, Paul, had already warned about those who would pervert the Doctrine of Christ with “different teachings.”
In First John, the beloved Presbyter had called his period of time “the last hour.” He knew following the death of all the Apostles and their appointed representatives the Church would undergo a fermentation, a field of wheat with weeds planted among them, until the weeds nearly choked out the wheat. What would a Christian man -- one who leaned against the breast of the rabbi from Galilee -- wish to tell the Church before his own death? And do this in less than 400 words?
John introduces his main theme right away using one of his key words - Truth. 2 John 2 reads in part, “This Truth remains in us and it will be with us into the Age.” The Presbyter’s concern is that this “Truth” remains the same one the Church had at the very beginning. He has a particular “truth” in mind and is assured the Church still contains that Truth: “I am the Truth.” [John 1:14, 17; 8:31; 14:6] The “truth” contained all that Jesus and his inspired disciples taught.
John expresses his joy at hearing this sister or congregation continues in that original Truth: “I rejoiced exceedingly when I discovered your children continue to walk in truth in accordance with a commandment we received from the Father.” [2 John 4] Here “truth” is without the article. [3 John 3] Despite the foretold apostasy and “falling away” [2 Thessalonians 2:3-9; 1 Timothy 4:1-3] these “children” continue conducting themselves according to the original Nazarene truth. It is interesting he would say “the Father” rather than Jesus. What is this “commandment”? [Compare 1 John 3:23.] God’s “commandment” involves two major factors: conviction in Jesus as Christ and Son of God, and, loving concern for one another. To John, one cannot separate love from God’s commandments. [2 John 5, 6]
It is here John associates God’s commandment on love with what he is to call “antichrist.” 2 John 7 reads: “For many deceivers have left [us] and gone back into the world. These [deceivers] do not confess that Jesus Christ came in flesh. These are the deceivers and the antichrist.” Jesus foretold such. [Matthew 24:24] Paul did also. [Acts 20:29] As did Peter. [2 Peter 2:1; compare also 1 John 2:18, 19 and 1 John 4:1]
John particularly identifies these as those whom, “Do not confess that Jesus Christ came in flesh.” Jesus was a true anthropoid - a human being of flesh, bone, and blood. [John 1:14; Romans 5:14; 1 John 1:1, 2] He was physically nothing more than a perfect man like Adam during the “days of his flesh.” [Philippians 2:5-7; Hebrews 5:7] He was not God in an apparition of flesh. Nor was he ever called a THEOS-ANTHROPOS, or god-man. [1 John 4:2]
Some render “deceivers and the antichrist” -- GDSP: imposter and Antichrist; NEB: arch-deceiver. Only John uses the designation “antichrist” which literally means against Christ. [1 John 2:22; 4:3] The designation includes all deceivers and apostates. They were mainly identified in the first century by three factors: a] false doctrine; b] a lack of loving concern for their fellows; and, c] unrighteousness. First John deals in such details. See notes in Nazarene Commentary. The “man of lawlessness” of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9 is such an antichrist, whether a class, type, group, or individual.
Now John gets into the details regarding these deceivers. He lays stress on the importance of “Christ’s doctrine.” Read the following as though John wrote the letter to you:
2 John 8-11 All of you be careful so that you do not ruin our work, but rather that you receive a full reward. Every person who pushes ahead and does not remain in Christ’s doctrine does not have God. The person who remains in the Doctrine has the Father and also the Son. If anyone approaches you and does not bring this Doctrine, do not receive such into [your] house. Do not say a greeting to such. For the person who says a greeting to such is sharing with the wicked works of [such persons].
John cautions his readers: “All of you be careful so that you do not ruin our work.” [Or, look to yourselves, keep watch, be on your guard, take care; TCNT: do not lose the fruit of all our work; PME: throw away all the labor that has been spent on you] John’s reason is that you, “Receive a full reward.” [Or, reap the benefit of it in full, make sure of] It is reward enough just to be a disciple of Jesus. The full reward would include ageless life in heaven. [John 4:36; 2 Corinthians 5:1] So, he warns, “Every person who pushes ahead.” [Or, goes beyond, runs ahead; see 1 Corinthians 4:6]
Not only must his readers be on guard against these deceivers, but they must also “remain in Christ’s doctrine.” [Or, teaching of Christ] Such may be found in the Gospels and the inspired writings of the Nazarene’s disciples as instruments of the promised pneumatic-helper. [John 16:12, 13] The Christian who does not remain in this doctrine has no relationship with God, or “does not have God.” [Or, NOR: does not have hold of God] [John 14:9]
In contrast, “The person who remains in the Doctrine has the Father and also the Son.” [Or, in that teaching] This ‘remaining in Christ’s doctrine’ is surely done by continual study and meditation of Christ’s teachings, as well as humbly walking in them by obedience. [John 3:35] Those who do so have an intimate relationship with both the Father and the Son. It is worthy of note that the Spirit is not mentioned here. [In this regard compare notes on Matthew 11:27 in Nazarene Commentary 2000©.]
More is needed John writes. It is not enough to just remain in Christ’s doctrine. These deceivers, or antichrists, are so dangerous that the Presbyter adds: “If anyone approaches you and does not bring this Doctrine do not receive such into [your] house.” [Or, if you are visited by anyone; and does not bring this teaching.] Some would limit this “doctrine” to just the belief that Jesus did not come in the flesh. It is “Christ’s doctrine” John has mentioned in verse 9. It seems fair to conclude John refers to those deceivers and antichrists who were once part of the Nazarene community but have now gone apostate.
There is a story of John who was on his way to the public baths with some disciples. Upon entering it was learned an apostate was present. John told the others: “Let us flee from here, lest the building collapse!” This is a more severe reaction than those who have sinned as ordinary humans. [Compare notes on 2 Thessalonians 3:11-15.] Note how such apostates work their way into households and lead away captives. [2 Timothy 3:5-13]
John adds, “Do not say a greeting to such [and thus] share with the wicked works of [such persons].” It is best to have no communication at all with such antichrists. Let them pass without notice. Romans 16:17 counsels to “avoid” or “shun” such sectarians.
We are now nearly 2,000 years removed from these early warnings. Today Christendom [the Kingdom of Christ] is divided into thousands of sects with hundreds of teachings formed in the centuries after Christ and his apostles. John’s brief letter is just as powerful today, as the weeds seem to over-power the wheat in the field of the Lord. We do well to examine daily God’s Word in the teachings of the Nazarene to assure we also continue to “remain in Christ’s doctrine.”
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
Back to Index to Biblical Articles