Title: Defend the Faith
Text: II John 4-11
FCF: We often struggle with how to respond to those who teach a false gospel.
Prop: Because true children of God walk in truth, love and obedience, we must defend the faith.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to II John. In a book that only spans 13 verses, it may be a little surprising to see that we will be covering the vast majority of them in this sermon. There are all kinds of different preachers out there. Some preachers tend to be a little more topical and cover large portions of scripture in their sermons. Others tend to be more exacting of the text and cover sometimes only a word per sermon. My philosophy has always been to try to capture the thought of the author. Paragraphs typically serve as good indicators for where the author’s thought begins and ends – the only problem of course – is that the manuscripts we have of the text of scripture from the original languages did not include any punctuation at all – much less paragraph markings.
I really did try this week to separate this sermon into two. However, what became apparent was verse 4 through 11 has no obvious thought break. Starting in verse 4, he makes a point and continues to run with that point until he starts to say his goodbyes. I suppose we should expect in a letter this brief that he would probably only have 1 point to communicate clearly and then say his goodbyes.
There are two dangers. If I divided his thought we may miss his meaning, if I don’t you may lose some details. I decided the latter was the better option, but I need your help. There is a lot in this sermon – so you must keep paying attention.
I am in II John, I’ll begin reading in verse 4. I am reading from the NET but you can follow along in whatever version you prefer.
The last couple weeks I have let you off easy with a couple shorter sermons. Well this week is where we make up for it. We are covering a lot of ground, so do your best to pay attention. The folks at home have the luxury of a pause feature, but for those who are here, do your best to stick with me ok.
I.) Genuine Christians walk in truth, love and obedience, so we must live in truth, love and obedience. (4-6)
a. [Slide 2] 4 – I rejoiced greatly because I have found some of your children living according to the truth,
i. There are two ways we could read this. One is fairly passive aggressive and the other is not.
ii. John could be saying that he is rejoiced to find out that not all of the people in the church there had stopped living in the truth.
iii. Or, John could be saying that he met some of the church there and was overjoyed to find that of that small sampling, all of them were living according to the truth.
iv. I don’t think John would have pulled any punches and worded it this way if it was the former. So, the latter interpretation is preferred. Not being the elder or leader of the church in question, he may not have had opportunity to meet with many of the church there. But, what a joy it would be, after seeing the fallout of the church from I John, to meet others from another church who remained faithful.
b. [Slide 3] Just as the Father commanded us.
i. If you have not picked up on the line of reasoning by now that God expects obedience from those who are truly His people – I’d say that you may be a visitor here and this is your first time in this church.
ii. God’s command to His true children is to live according to the truth. To walk in obedience. To live as if you are the ongoing recipients of His grace, mercy, peace, and love. Because you are.
iii. But John is not just going to complement this church… now he will exhort her.
c. [Slide 4] 5 – But now I ask you, lady () that we love one another
i. In the next couple verses there are parenthetical statements that disrupt the flow of thought. I have approached this by excluding those phrases from consideration until we finish the thought.
ii. I feel as though this will help us not get distracted.
iii. John’s charge is that we love one another. It is interesting.
iv. He is not charging her exclusively – but all of Christianity including himself. With what command?
v. To love one another.
vi. So why is he commanding her to do this? Is this church failing to do this?
vii. Well that is where the parenthetical statement comes in…
d. [Slide 5] (not as if I were writing a new commandment to you, but the one we have had from the beginning)
i. It is not that this church had been failing to love one another.
ii. In fact John said before that he loved them in truth. And since, at least some of them were walking in truth, it is logical to conclude that they also were continuing to love one another.
iii. Rather this is a standing order from the Father that all His children love His children with the love of Christ.
iv. From the beginning is not the beginning of time but rather the beginning of their conversion.
v. Jesus said that he gave a new command that they love one another as He had loved them.
vi. And so this command is the marching order from conversion to glory.
e. [Slide 6] 6 – () This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning; Thus you should walk in it.
i. The first part of this is another parenthetical statement so continuing John’s thought, he says
ii. That this command to love one another, since it IS something you were given from the beginning that adds weight to the fact that you should walk in it. That you should live it.
iii. But parenthetically John wants to define his terms.
iv. What does it mean to LOVE one another?
f. [Slide 7] (Now this is love: that we walk according to His commandments.)
i. Obedience to God is love.
ii. So obeying God equals loving other believers. We need to adjust our understanding of what it means to love one another.
iii. As we pointed out in our I John series – we love others by loving God. And we cannot love God if we do not obey Him. Our love toward our brothers and sisters is not, in fact, aimed at them at all. Our love is aimed at Christ in them.
iv. To obey the second greatest command, you must obey the first.
v. And so here again as we saw in I John these three evidences of being fathered of God continue to exist.
vi. In I John we noted that a person who has growing faith, enduring selfless love, and progressive obedience is a person who has been fathered of God.
vii. In II John Truth contains all the giftings of God the triune to His beloved children. And John has commended some of this congregation for walking in truth. Now he asks them to walk in love which He says is walking in obedience. Truth, love and obedience.
viii. This sounds an awful lot like Faith, love and obedience from I John.
ix. And as we discovered in our Wednesday bible study this past week – separating truth, love, obedience, grace, mercy, peace, is a fool’s errand. They are one – all-encompassing gift of God to His dear children in Christ.
x. So, what then is the command that they should walk in? They must love… and if love is defined as obedience to God, and if love flows from truth, then all three are commanded. We love in truth and to love we must obey God.
xi. So the command is to walk in truth, love and obedience.
g. [Slide 8] Passage Truth: John tells his readers that the commands that God has given them from the beginning of their new life in Him, endures even now.
h. Passage Application: That they must walk in truth, love and obedience and continue to do so. He will build and expand on this and what this means in the text to follow.
i. [Slide 9] Broader Biblical Truth: Zooming out from the text to I John, to Romans, to Ephesians, to Leviticus, to Deuteronomy, to Isaiah, to Micah – we see that God has always and will always command His people to walk in truth, love, and obedience. And no matter which covenant context you are in, the life of those in covenant with God continues to bear the same fruit.
j. Broader Biblical Application: And now – in the New Covenant, we who are IN Christ bear all the more the responsibility and the capability of walking in truth, love and obedience.
[Slide 10(blank)] But John is only getting started. He needs to expand on this to bring out a specific expression of this application.
II.) Genuine Christians walk in truth, love and obedience , so we must watch out for deceivers. (7-8)
a. [Slide 11] 7 – For many deceivers have gone out into the world,
i. So the segue to this next point is difficult to realize.
ii. John says “for” for is a word of subordination. It means that whatever follows is somehow related to what has been said before.
iii. So John desires greatly that this church continue to walk in truth, love and obedience.
iv. So related to that thought is this one…
v. Many liars have gone out into the world. This implies that they were once not in the world. This is not John’s way of expressing someone who has rejected or lost their salvation, but rather a person who has left or rejected the confession of the church proving they were never part of them.
vi. Now we may balk at that and wonder what does one of these have to do with the other, but it seems fairly obvious.
vii. If all believers have been commanded to and will continue to walk in truth, love, and obedience – then when you find some “believers” who do not… you should take note. They are liars.
viii. But how do we know they are no longer walking in truth, love, and obedience?
b. [Slide 12] people who do not confess Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh.
i. Doctrinal confession and adherence is included in walking in truth. It is not the sum total – but it is included. And therefore, one sign that they are not walking in truth, love, and obedience is that they deny doctrinal truths.
ii. What particularly is their brand of lie –the specific context in which John writes here is the teaching that Jesus Christ was a human.
iii. This is a teaching we should be extremely familiar with although it is somewhat disconnected from our culture. Most people today assume Jesus was a human just not God.
iv. John’s words here affirm both though. Jesus as Christ coming in flesh. He was the Messiah of God that came in flesh. Both God and Man.
c. [Slide 13] This person is the deceiver and the antichrist!
i. John had similar language to refer to these folks in I John.
ii. Definite articles in Greek do not function with the strength that they do in English.
iii. This is rightly translated the deceiver and the antichrist – but we dare not think or assume that he is saying that such liars are THE deceiver and THE antichrist.
iv. The man of lawlessness and Satan Himself are not somehow absorbed or in possession of a person who is an apostate who denies Jesus’ humanity. Such a statement stretches the Greek article farther than it can go.
v. But we should walk away from this text with the strong language that John has used.
vi. Such people – who were once part of the assembly, who now deny Christ come in flesh, who deny his atonement, who deny the Sonship to Yahweh, who deny the Old Testament program set in motion and fulfilled in Christ – such people who deny core Christological truth…
vii. Are they confused? Deceived? Are they victims? Ought they be coddled? Ought they be plead with to repent?
viii. John calls them the deceiver and the Antichrist. What does this mean?
ix. They are working for their master Satan and in the spirit of the man of lawlessness that is to come.
x. Those… are VERY strong words. Words we ought to be mindful of when we speak about people who have “deconverted” – specifically those who have deconverted and now adamantly oppose or teach against their former confession.
xi. It is not that they are simply unsaved. It is not that they have been deceived. THEY ARE NOT VICTIMS!
xii. Rather – they are agents of darkness. They are anti- Christ. They are God’s enemies.
xiii. So what is John’s call upon his readers? How will they walk in truth, love, and obedience in reference to those who have gone out?
d. [Slide 14] 8 – Watch out, so that you do not lose the things we have worked for,
i. Beware! Beware! John says.
ii. Jude says they are dangerous reefs leading only to shipwreck
iii. Beware oh Christian! They only destroy!
iv. If you do not beware, what will happen? We will lose what we have worked for. What does that mean?
v. Well this is somewhat of a subject of debate.
1. Some have looked ahead to verse 9 and seen it as a plainer expression of what John says here. In other words, to lose what we have worked for, is to prove that they were never truly converted. This church will lose what the apostles had labored over in their community – specifically the conversion of their souls. This however, seems to present more questions than it does answers.
2. The other way to approach this is to define this as the ministry of the gospel. Although Jesus has given a guarantee that His church will be victorious over the gates of hell – that does not mean every local visible church. Some churches will be (and indeed have been) ravaged by apostates and false teachers. If they are allowed to persist. If they are coddled. If they are not seen for what they are… They will destroy all that we have worked for.
vi. This second interpretation is what I prefer when I look at this text. It makes more sense to me that John is not necessarily talking about the church’s status in relationship to salvation, but rather the church’s status in relationship to the work of God in the world.
vii. So the negative reason they should beware is that these apostates are sure to destroy what God is doing in their community if they allow them.
viii. The positive reason though is…
e. [Slide 15] But receive a full reward.
i. So that the full reward in that day when we approach that throne will be given to us.
ii. That we who have been found faithful in the little things will be given more.
iii. How we conduct ourselves in ministry here on earth does have an effect on our reward in the kingdom to come. And while are not told precisely what that means or how that works – John’s point is this…
iv. Do not underestimate the destructive power of the apostate. If you do, you will watch as the entire ministry crumbles around you.
v. Instead – beware and mark them. Prepare each other for their lies. And stand firm and defend the faith so that you will be found faithful and rewarded accordingly.
vi. We have the hope for eschatological reward. That great kingdom of which we are ambassadors now. The kingdom is coming and now is. Be sure to receive your full reward. Beware of these people.
f. [Slide 16] Passage Truth: Since, as we noted the word “for” includes subordination, the truth that all believers walk in truth, love, and obedience remains. As an extension to that ongoing truth, John warns that there are those who will not endure in truth, love and obedience. So what is to be done with them?
g. Passage Application: John teaches his readers that they ought to beware – to keep on guard for who have left and are now teaching doctrine opposed to what they had heard about Christ. For two reasons. 1.) so that the work they began may not come to nothing and 2.) so that they may receive their full reward.
h. [Slide 17] Broader Biblical Truth: Again – since “for” indicates subordination- A believer walking in truth, love, and obedience would never be one of these people who fail to confess a proper Christology. And so, the only conclusion is that these people are liars. This was in I John, it is in Galatians, it is laced throughout the Scriptures. What they believe and teach is how we determine if they are false or not. If they are a liar or not. So the only question is - what do we do with these liars?
i. Broader Biblical Application: From Old to New Testament the teaching is the same. Beware. Mark them. They only destroy and rob you of God’s reward.
[Slide 18] For us this teaching is very difficult. How is it that walking in truth, love, and obedience can also include excommunicating someone from the truth, excluding them from love, and dismissing them from the community of obedience? We will see this in the next words of John.
III.) Genuine Christians walk in truth, love, and obedience, so we must not welcome false teachers. (9-11)
a. [Slide 19] 9 – Everyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God.
i. This serves as a doctrinal reminder of what John was saying in verses 4-6.
ii. To run ahead, to excel, to separate yourself from the pack, is usually viewed as a good thing.
iii. But to run ahead past the teaching of Christ is actually to run away from the bonds of saving faith.
iv. Perhaps John is quoting his enemies, who may have said, “we have gone beyond the simple teachings of Christ to more excellent things.”
v. The teaching of Christ here is not the teaching Christ taught but rather the teachings about Christ.
vi. It is not ok for someone to leave the Christological truths that we have received to form some novel iteration of Christological truth.
vii. There are a great many areas of life that coming up with new ideas is something to be desired. Theology is not actually one of them.
viii. John says plainly if you ever depart what you have learned of Christ and cling to other teachings not already revealed – then you cannot be God’s child.
b. [Slide 20] The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son.
i. If the first point was true so is this.
ii. The one who remains, safe and secure in Christological truth has both the Father and the Son. Why?
iii. Because to have the Father you must go through the Son
iv. And to have the Son you must have the right one. One who is not God, not a man, not the messiah, not the atonement, not the high priest, not the king, not the prophet, not the intercessor, not the mediator – that one is not the Son.
v. So what relationship does this statement have to what John said previously about losing what we’ve worked for and attaining a full reward? Potentially, John extends his warning beyond just the ministry in their community and even into their very hearts. Not only could you lose the gospel’s impact – but at some point, if you succumb to the teachings too – you may yet prove that you were never God’s in the first place.
c. [Slide 21] 10 – If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house
i. Anyone – actually broadens John’s thought. Before, apostates were in view (those who had gone out) but now it is anyone who does not bring what they had taught. Or to put it positively, anyone who brings a message other than normal Christological confession. What do you do with these folks?
ii. Not even receive them into our houses? Wow. That seems kinda harsh right?
iii. This could mean either deny hospitality or even deny them entrance into a house church. In either case the point is made that they ought not to bring these false teachers in among them and effectively approve of their message.
iv. This is a far cry from how we treat false teachers today. Many reach out and carefully attempt to lovingly woo them into the fold. Some even invite them to their churches to debate and lovingly correct. John says don’t even let them in the door.
v. But wait – there’s more.
d. [Slide 22] and do not give him any greeting.
i. Do not even say to them – Good day! Hello! Good Morning!
ii. Wow, really?
iii. The greeting here no doubt implies an expression of welcoming and even (as we see in letters) a recognition of what is true of them in Christ. How can you express welcome or truth about them when all that is simply not true. John is basically saying – don’t lie.
e. [Slide 23] 11 – because the person who gives him a greeting shares in his evil deeds.
i. Welcoming them into your home and expressing to them what is true of a Christian but what is definitely not true of them – only serves to confuse.
ii. That is the evil deeds of the apostate and false teacher – he sows confusion and destruction.
iii. Expressing your welcome and even indicating that certain things are true of them when they aren’t – makes you the cause of confusion and destruction as well.
f. [Slide 24] Passage Truth: John reiterates his point – that true children of God continue to walk in truth, love, and obedience. They do not stop.
g. Passage Application: So what do they do with those who have stopped? Those who have left the faith and are now teaching a different gospel? Are we only to look out for them – or can we do more? John says to be unwelcoming to them and their teachings.
h. [Slide 25] Broader Biblical Truth: All true believers continue to walk in truth, love and obedience. We know this. We have seen this truth taught in various contexts. So what else do we do with those who are false teachers?
i. Broader Biblical Application: In order to walk in truth, love and obedience, you and I must have a passion to keep God’s church pure. To keep His gospel pure. Why? Because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. And anytime we add to or take away from the gospel that has been revealed, we make it something else entirely. When confronted with an apostate or false teacher who preaches an anti-Christ message… what does it mean to walk in truth, love, and obedience? It means to politely, without violence, have nothing to do with them. We see those false prophets of the old testament punished with death by stoning. In the New Testament Paul says if anyone, me, and angel, another apostle – if ANYONE presents another gospel to you – LET THEM BE ACCURSED! Let them be punished forever and ever.
[Slide 26 (blank)] So how then can we live?
Friends in the last year, so many people have deconverted from Christianity. So many have said, they once believed in God and Jesus, but now they see that the teachings of scripture are antiquated and out of touch and simply untenable.
Added to this, there are so many voices out there – influential voices – voices that masquerade themselves as evangelical – yet do not teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I’m not talking about those who might water down scripture – although they aren’t much better. Specifically, I am speaking of those who preach a Christ, a cross, a God, a Spirit that is not of the bible.
Recently – one of these teachers was publicly exposed as a false teacher in a documentary that is now on Netflix – that if you haven’t seen, you should go see, called American Gospel. In addressing this confrontation this false teacher called the film demonic and dangerous. Probably because it had the audacity to suggest that his peddling of the prosperity gospel was in fact not the gospel at all.
What ought to be our response to those who peddle a gospel that is less or more than the scripture tells us?
Seriously! What are we to do with them? Pray for them? Seek to help them? Reach out to them? What?
We are, in a word, unwelcoming of them. Let them be accursed. We ought to oppose them. “But I thought Christ tells us to pray for our enemies.” Yes pray for OUR enemies. But John has revealed them to be not OUR enemies but God’s.
Just as we do not pray for Satan to repent – so also we do not pray for apostate false teacher to repent either. Let them be accursed.
Why? That seems so unloving!
That is because your love is focused on the wrong person. You are trying to love the enemy of God when you should be focused on loving first the children of God. For the sake of the purity of the church and those who are young in the faith – Let them be accursed. There is too much at stake, the work is too great, the time too short to waste our time praying for and lovingly welcoming false teaching apostates.
Now I do want to clarify. John is not talking about your Christian friend who has a few things loose in his theology. John is not talking about the atheist, Satanist, wiccan or Muslim down the street that denies the God of the bible. He is specifically talking about those who were among us, who confessed the same things that we have or at least appeared to, and have left that behind to confess something different. Specifically, he is talking about Any person who claims to have or have had the gospel of the bible, but preaches something different… that is what he is talking about.
John gives us clarity on how we are to respond to those who teach a different gospel than we have heard. They are enemies of God, so we reject them and their message. Not in a violent way, but in an aggressive way, not to harm them, but to defend the faith.
This is walking in truth, love, and obedience. This is an expression of all who are genuine children of God. We defend the faith.