In 2 John 1:1-13, John’s concern about Christians obeying the commandment concerning love is forcefully emphasized. The phrase “love one another” occurs 13 times in the New Testament. Jesus used it four times and said that believers’ love for each other would show that they were His disciples. The apostles Paul, Peter, and John reinforced this nine times in their letters. Genuine love for God is shown through obedience. Love and obedience are the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a believer. The truth that Christ is both God and man, Lord, and Saviour, is more than a set of propositions. It is living, and it abides forever.
False teachers, whom John calls deceivers and antichrists, were spreading false teachings. To keep walking in the truth was how John’s readers would defend against such teachings. Some people think that only the sincerity of one’s beliefs is important, but the truth of those beliefs is what matters. All truth is found in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.
John explicitly identifies Jesus as the Son of the Father to counter the claims of the false teachers, who denied that Christ had come in the flesh. The mention of truth and love anticipates two important themes in the rest of this letter. Truth and love are intimately connected, not just in hospitality but in the Christian’s everyday life, habits, and choices.
The doctrine of Christ refers to the teaching that Jesus was the Son of God who came in the flesh. Those who hold to this have true fellowship with both the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned here, simply because the Spirit was not the issue with the false teachers; Christ’s identity was.
In verse 7, John writes of an antichrist-one of several false teachers who were trying to convert John’s readers to their false beliefs-not the Antichrist. These deceivers did not confess the incarnation of Christ, and that was a fundamental heresy. Their teachings were contrary to the Word of God. Neither the Word of God which we have received, nor the Saviour and Lord who inspired it and lives in us, will ever change or abandon us.
The key to opposing false teaching is for God’s people to follow the doctrine of Christ, which is the truth that Jesus was fully divine and fully human. All who teach something different should not be welcomed in a Christian’s home or church; in fact, they should be shunned. The church should be a place of grace, but it must never tolerate the undermining of the faith.
Christians traveled throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD. For example, the apostle Paul wrote the Letter to the Romans and included a long list of people who were living in Rome, but Paul never visited Rome until he was arrested just before his death. Traveling Christians stayed as guests in the homes of other Christians from city to city. The Christian tradition of hospitality was an important part of the first-century church community, but John warned against its exploitation by people who masqueraded as Christians and took advantage of the generosity of Christian hospitality to spread their false teachings.
There is a threefold test to determine if a person is a false teacher:
- Does the prophet teach the truth?
- Does the prophet try to stay more than two days?
- Does he ask for money?
Although Christians should open their homes to nonbelievers for the sake of evangelism, Christians should not support false teachers in any way. In John’s day, traveling teachers needed a place to stay and people to teach. To open one’s home or church to a false teacher constituted an endorsement of his or her teaching and perpetuated his or her deception. These false teachers were carrying on a campaign to destroy the basic, fundamental truths of Christianity. The only correct response for Christians is to reject false teachers. Every believer will receive salvation, but those who live for selfish gain will lose those things they worked for, not receiving their full heavenly reward.
Loving God and loving others as we love ourselves, which is the core requirement of heaven, has remained the same from Old Testament times to New Testament times and on to today. John advocated a balance between a zeal for the truth, active tough love, and a discerning approach to people and situations. A false prophet is not helped in his or her own spiritual journey if he or she is allowed to exploit us. In the same way we do not do any favour to a confused person when we allow our lives to be woven by that person into a confused and distorted tapestry of false teachings. Such meekness is not love and is not just. John advocated the healthy mixture of law and gospel, of truth and grace, of wisdom and tough love.
In order to resist the devil and his false teachers, Christians must know God’s Word and depend on the Holy Spirit for discernment. We must study the Scriptures daily and become involved in a Bible study or worship service with other Christians. Most important, we have to get to know the Jesus who loves us and died for us. If we aren’t intentional in our walk with God, our spiritual energy wanes. If we don’t spend time meditating on Scripture, praying, worshipping, and fellowshipping with others, we lose the desire to please God. We forget the blessings He has given us. We forget to obey His commands. We become mixed with a secular world that continually draws us away from His goodness.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1819-1820)
- Palmer, E.F., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 35: 1,2, &3 John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 77-82)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010
- Carol Round, “Does Your Faith Walk Need an Energy Boost?” Retrieved from www.carolaround.com