"This is love, that we walk according to His commandments." (2 John 6)
This little book of 2 John in its 13 verses sums up what all of 1st and 2nd John have told us. We must keep on walking in the Christian faith and watch out for deceivers along the way.
"Walk and Watch" sums up what 2nd John is saying to us.
This epistle, or letter from the Apostle John was addressed to the "elect lady" and her children. Some think John was writing this to a church and its members, and others think it is addressed to a particular Christian lady to whom John in his elderly years writes to encourage her and all Christians to walk in Christ's commandments.
Verse 4 says "I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth as we received commandment from the Father." There is a song that says these words: "The greatest joy of my salvation is to know that my children walk in truth."
John says that some of her children are walking in truth. And, he reminds her to keep on walking in the truth. He reminds us all that we are to love one another.
Watch out for those who would try to deceive us.
Back in the time that this letter was written there were false teachers that John warned the people about. Some said that Jesus was not a real human being, others said that He was only a good man. And, others denied that faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus made any real change in the lives of people. John is warning against these false teachings throughout all of 1st, 2nd and 3rd John.
In 2 John, verses 8 and 9 it says: "Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. 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."
Notice that John includes himself in the warning to the Christians. "that we do not lose...that we may receive..." John is aware that any of us can be led away from the right path of following the Lord, even those who have followed closely for a long while. If it were not possible to backslide, why would there be so many scriptures warning us to be careful?
Who is it that we need to "watch out" for? Verse 9 tells us that "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God." What is the "doctrine of Christ"? A summary is found in what this same apostle said in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." This verse is sometimes referred to as the "Gospel in a nutshell." That is why we so often quote it. God the Father gave His only son to die on the cross for us. Jesus rose from the dead. Everlasting life is promised to all who believe. Simply stated, this is the doctrine of Christ.
We know there are those who blatantly speak against who Jesus is. Some teach that Jesus was "a" son of God, not "the" Son of God. Some teach that Jesus was just a good man, and no more than that. But, perhaps we face more subtle attacks on the doctrine of Christ. A good test for any teaching that we hear is to ask if the teaching goes beyond the revelation in Christ to so-called new or better "truth". All we need to know for faith and living is found in and through Jesus Christ as recorded in His Word. Watch out for anyone or any group that wants to add to or take away from the clear teachings of Christ.
Watch even the "Christian" teachers who do not stick clearly to what the Bible teaches when giving their interpretation of the text. Even while preparing this message I came across something in a Bible commentary that tries to colour the words of Scripture. See what you think. Regarding verses 8 and 9 which we just read, one writer says this: "take good heed to themselves while so many artful errorists were around them, lest they should be drawn away from the truth, and lose a part of the full reward which they might hope to receive in heaven...The crown which they will wear in heaven will be less bright than that which they might have worn, and the throne which they will occupy will be less elevated. The rewards of Heaven will be in accordance with the services rendered to the Redeemer, and it would not be right that they who turn aside or falter in their course, should have the same exalted honours which they might have received if they had devoted themselves to God with everlasting fidelity... It is painful to think how many there are who begin the Christian career with burning zeal, as if they would strike for the highest rewards in heaven, but who soon waver in their course, and fall into some paralyzing error, until at last they receive, perhaps, not half the reward which they might have obtained." (Barnes Notes on the New Testament page 1503)
Is this what the Bible said? Does it teach that there are "degrees" of rewards? ("half the reward", etc.?) That, if you follow Jesus for a while and then turn away, you still receive a reward, but just not as good a reward? Where do you read that in the Bible? Isn't that really just one person's idea? Be careful of even Christian commentaries on God's Word. So many people have been led into the error that once we become a Christian that nothing or no one can keep us out of heaven. What about Saul in the Old Testament? He ended up consulting a witch - against the clear teaching of God's Word. He committed suicide. Was he still a follower of God? What about Judas? He was a disciple of Jesus, but he allowed the love of money to turn him away and even to the point of betraying Jesus. What about Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5. They lied to the Holy Spirit and were struck dead. Yes, we can fall away from walking with the Lord. Many, many passages of Scripture warn us about falling. Check out what you hear with what the Bible teaches. Ezekiel 18:4 gives this solemn warning: "The soul who sins shall die." 1 John 1:7 reminds us that "If we walk in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." There is security in the life of the Christian - but it is conditional security - it depends on if we keep on walking in the light He gives us. We need to keep diligent in our Christian walk and beware of Satan's tricks to make us think that we are going to go to heaven, if we are not even following the Lord! Can you think of any greater trick that Satan could use in our lives?
If someone teaches against any part of the doctrine of Christ we are told in 2 John, verses 10 and 11: "do not receive him into your house nor greet him. For he who greets him shares in his evil deeds."
So, what does this mean? It almost sounds rude to us that we wouldn't receive someone into our house or greet him. We like to think of ourselves as tolerant of everyone's beliefs. So, what does this mean for us?
John's words against extending hospitality to such teachers must be read against the background of the situation. Many traveling teachers and prophets were in the early church. Usually they were welcomed into the churches to teach or to preach. This congregation is being advised to test such a person's doctrine and not allow perversive instruction in the house. One of the early Christian documents, called the Didache, also gives similar instructions to the churches: "Let every apostle who comes to you be received in the Lord...but not everyone who speaks in the spirit is a prophet; he is only a prophet if he has the ways of the Lord. The false and the genuine prophet will be known therefore by their ways." If someone wanted to come to our church and teach or preach, we must know that they are speaking the truth of God's Word. If we encourage them to speak and they are speaking false things, we are guilty of contributing to their deeds. Even if what they say is true, but the way they live is wrong - we know that we are not to promote their teachings.
We may not have too much trouble avoiding false teachings, but there is another area we may need to be more careful about. We must watch that we do not lose our faith when difficult things happen to us.
God is at work in the lives of people even when we are totally unaware. Be encouraged! God does hear and answer prayer! Do not let the discouragements of the present moment turn you away from obeying and serving the Lord.
So, we find here in this little book of 2nd John a reminder to walk the Christian faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. And we are told to walk with the Lord and to love one another. And, we are told to watch out for those people or teachings that would seek to turn us away. And, do not let discouragements turn us away from following the Lord.
How are you doing in your walk with the Lord? Do you know the secret - the power of the Holy Spirit living in you Who gives you the power to keep walking in the Lord? Are you careful what you let have influence on you? Watch out for those who would deceive you. Read God's Word, read Christian books, listen to the testimony of others as to how God helps them. Share your faith with others. Pray for one another. Be encouraged in the Lord.
Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
Holiness, godliness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness in personal and church life