As our 2 John letter draws to a close, John begins to give specific instructions to the church in how we deal with this problem.
2 John 8-9 (NKJV)
8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
John says to the church, watch yourselves.
But he actually says watch yourselves as in watching each other, in a sense. The word watch means to guard and protect. The church is asked to guard and protect each other against these false teachings. He’s not asking us to work on this by ourselves. He’s asking the group to protect everyone within the group. The guarding is a collective effort because there is safety in numbers. Like a flock of sheep huddled together, you don’t want the stray one to get picked off on the edges, you pull everyone in tight and you guard them. If we don’t guard each other in this way, John says some might lose their reward. That you do not lose what we have worked for, speaking about what the apostles have done collectively within the church to grow the church up in the truth of the gospel and of the doctrines of the faith. 2 John
Then he says so that you, individually, will not lose any of your rewards. That you may receive a full reward. The reward he is speaking about is the same thing Paul is speaking about in 1 Corinthians chapter 3. It is explained by Paul in that chapter that believers will be judged by Christ after we die. That judgment will be according to the quality of the work we gave Him during our life on earth. That judgment will lead to a measure of reward for each of us according to our service. According to 1 Corinthians chapter 3:9-15:. 2 John
1 Corinthians 3:9-15 (NKJV)
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
John’s warning here adds a very important and interesting element to our understanding of 1 Corinthians Chapter 3. John is teaching us here that judgment is not an all or nothing judgment. We may see our rewards discounted for our errors or faithlessness at some level. Theoretically, if we earned a certain amount of reward in the first 20 years of walking with Christ, and then we go astray for the final 10 years of our life on earth, then we might lose 50% of our reward. In other words, there is a system of puts and takes that the Lord is managing, the economy of God’s reward is such that He is aware of what we do and our reward might vary depending on whether or not we are faithful because John’s statement says you may receive a full reward. It implies a certain amount may be predetermined that we may have already earned and then lose. Or maybe we are working up to be able to obtain. An interesting wrinkle on the whole idea of standing before Christ, as we know we will and be judged for our service and earning a reward. 2 John
What will cause us to lose a reward? What are we guarding against in this case? John says in verse 9 that it’s possible for a Christian to transgress too much. John says it’s possible for a Christian to leave Christ behind, in the sense of not abiding in the teaching of Christ. Remember, abiding means to stay or remain close. It’s the opposite of transgression. So those who remain under the counsel and authority of the word are in a position to please the Lord and receive a full reward. Those who run away from Christ are potentially forfeiting some or all of that reward. Also, John says they do not have God. Is John saying they are unbelievers? We know that cannot be true because unbelievers never had a chance at reward in the first place. If there’s a chance that reward is lost, and if that is one of the consequences, then that immediately tells us we have to be speaking about believers. There is no reward held out for unbelievers. There is only hell. 2 John
Secondly, does that mean John is suggesting they are no longer saved if they do not have God? No, because scripture is clear that salvation is a permanent work of God. John, himself earlier in the letter reaffirmed that. So what does it mean for a believer to not have God? The word for have in Greek (echo) can also mean accompanying or experiencing. When a believer runs away from the word of God and lives a life outside the authority of scripture, they are living without God in their life. In a practical sense, from the experience, they are having and from the decisions, they are making and the way their mind and heart are going, they are living without God. The Spirit of God is still living inside them, and they are certainly still redeemed by the blood of Christ. But in terms of their experience, in terms of their walk in faith, they are walking without God.
The believer is not experiencing the life they could have with Christ because they are walking without Him in the way they are choosing to live. But scripture also tells us even when we are faithless, He remains faithful to us because He cannot deny Himself. And Himself, the Spirit, lives in us. But when we abide, remain, with God in our walk, we have the fellowship of, John says both the Father and the Son. That’s an interesting statement because what he is suggesting is you had one of them already, now you get both. And that is exactly true. In other words, we have not only the Father by virtue of the Spirit living in us, now on top of that we also enjoy the benefits of Christ in our life. That is the word of God working in our life. We will have both the Father and the Son in that respect. Because all Christians possess the Father by virtue of the Spirit. There is no denying that. God remains faithful. The question is, are you going to live with Christ in the sense of the word. Are you going to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as Peter says at the end of his second letter? Is that who you are going to be? And that John says requires that we guard. 2 John
In verses 10 and 11, John gives a final piece of advice to the church concerning the false
2 John 10-11 (NKJV)
10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
John makes his teaching on this point a litmus test for the church. If anyone comes to the church as a teacher but is unwilling to agree with this teaching. What he is referring to is the principle that Jesus is God in the flesh. If they don’t agree with that teaching, if they maintain a heresy, then he says the church must deal harshly with that person. We cannot receive them into our house. Now, that reference to a house is cultural in this case and it tends to take us off the mark a little. In that day, church activities were largely conducted in homes. And traveling teachers and many teachers were usually itinerant, they were usually accommodated in the homes of those they were teaching in the church. So the issue here isn’t really one of hospitality in the simple sense. Not in the way we might have assumed. John is essentially prohibiting the church from opening its doors to allow false teachers to operate within the body. Because the body was operating largely at home. Especially during the time of persecution, you didn’t set up a shingle somewhere outside a building and say this is where the church meets because that would be the fastest way to get persecuted. 2 John
That is also the meaning in the sense of “greeting”. We are not talking about ignoring, shunning, giving someone the silent treatment, You can see that as a sort of trivialization of what he is really talking about. A greeting, in that day, meant to welcome the person into the assembly. To acknowledge them as Christian and to acknowledge them as a brother in the Lord. To identify with them, to agree they are one of the group. We might think of it as a different word, membership. Granting affiliation, in other words. Greeting them in that sense. Remember, they are itinerated mostly and they come into town and they are there for a while and then they leave. While they are there they want to set up shop. They want to establish a church base. They want to establish places they can be received and teach. They are looking for a greeting in that respect. Not a casual hello, but you are welcomed, come on in. John says you may not do that. 2 John
To acknowledge them as Christian would be wrong. If they do not agree that Jesus is God incarnate, John says you do not acknowledge them as Christian nor welcome them into your assembly. I think sometimes we make the mistake of doing something sort of like this. We try to win someone over to Christ by giving them more credit than they are due. Hoping by association we might influence them ultimately for Christ. If we allow them to join with us as supposed Christians when we know they hold to false doctrines that deny Christ, for example as the God incarnate that He is. Then we are taking a huge risk when we are flatly disobeying scripture.in this case. We cannot do this because it places a priority on the wrong things. We are favoring the potential need of the one over the needs that have already been established for the many. When we do this, John says we participate (or share) in their deeds. 2 John
Glenn Barker comments on this with a helpful analogy.
He says parents must discriminate as to whom even among their relatives they entertain in their home. Some relatives might be of such questionable character as to menace the moral, spiritual, and physical welfare of the children. Such relatives must be excluded. Parents must balance their concern for their relatives with their responsibility for their children. 2 John
Well, the children of God is no less valuable to us than our own if not more so. And therefore, we should be concerned if we invite these people in hoping to reform them, we’ve let the wolf into the pen. We can’t do that.
In verses 12 and 13, John says:
2 John 12-13 (NKJV)
John’s Farewell Greeting
12 Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
13 The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
Finally, John ends with a statement of longing to share more in person and his final words indicate what we suspected in the beginning. The persecution of the church had made sharing details difficult. You notice he says I have many things to write to you and I don’t want to do so with paper and ink. That sounds suspiciously like someone who is afraid of writing too much down and revealing too much to someone who might read it, doesn’t it?
So John says I will come to you later and I will give you more of what I wanted to give you when I see you in person. And therefore his closing uses the same analogy of ladies and children. We are going to have to wait until we get to Heaven and see John, to find out what more he wanted to say. 2 John
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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