Two of the shortest books in the Bible are the second and third epistles (or letters) of John, known as 2 John and 3 John. If the Bible has such short books, is there a message from God to us in these very short books, that could both be read in one sitting? There definitely is a message in these two short epistles. We will take a look at what 2 and 3 John are about, to whom is John writing, and what is the message for us. It is needful to note that John wrote these epistles around the year 90 A.D or shortly after – many years after the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and even many years after all the other apostles had left the scene (died in Christ).
The second epistle of John begins with John writing as the elder. He did have the authority as an apostle, and also as an elder. He writes to the elect lady and her children. Who is this elect lady? Is she a special saint, or a special person? I do not think so. He is writing here to a household, or if you like, a family of Christian believers, those who are born again and have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them. He does not write to a particular local church or gathering, but to a family of believers.
The main subject in this epistle is the truth (verses 1-4). What type of truth is this which he writes? Is it the gospel of salvation? Here, it is something deeper, on which our salvation depends. It is the truth of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ that John writes here. Before proceeding to the main issue, John repeats the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ to love one another (verse 5). This is also found in John’s first epistle (chapter 3:14) and what the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples in John 13:34. Obviously John was there with the Lord and was paying attention, as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Now John comes to the main issue of the epistle – that many deceivers have gone out into the world (verse 7). Who are these deceivers? John describes them as those who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in the flesh. This is a very serious matter, because Jesus Christ did come in the flesh, otherwise how would He have died on the cross, His body pierced, and how would He have redeemed us, fallen man? He had to become a Man in order to take the place of fallen man, otherwise there would be no salvation for anyone.
What are the characteristics of these deceivers? I do not want to stereotype and single out a particular sect, because that would be wrong to do so. These are people who come to us with a specific message that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh, and that He was not the only begotten Son of God. They are not people we meet at work, or school, or out in the street. These are people who purposefully come to us (a family, or household) with a fatal message, and if we are not grounded in the truth, we can be tossed by their teaching and easily accept their sweet words and ways of getting their message across. What does John write to his readers (and us) about what should be done? If we read verses 10 and 11, we are told to not even receive or greet these people, and if we do, we partake with them in their wicked works. This may seem very harsh, but it is the truth if we are to hold fast the teaching that we received from the beginning – verse 8. You might ask, shouldn’t we spread the gospel to anyone and everyone? Yes, we should, and this does not prevent us from doing so. However, if this certain type of people will not listen to the gospel message that we present to them, then we have nothing to do with them. What if one of the people who have been deceived by this teaching is our own family, or extended family? Do we visit them or have nothing to do with them?
We need to be careful here – those who are deceived by this teaching, it does not necessarily mean that they will preach this teaching and spread the lies that they have been deceived with. If some of these people are family members and invite us to their home for a meal or to spend time together, it is up to our conscience whether to accept or not. There is a similar event in the life of Namaan who was a leper and was healed. He asked Elisha that God would pardon him when the king leaned on his hand to bow to the god of the king of Syria. Elisha’s response was for him to go in peace (2 Kings 5:18-19). If a poor deceived person, who has been brainwashed with this error of teaching about Jesus Christ not being God, or not coming in the flesh, we can have liberty in explaining to him or her the passages in Scripture that teach the truth about the Person of Christ. The message of warning for us is to not receive a person who comes to our homes with the particular purpose of attempting to deceive us with fatal teaching, so we need to have some discernment about who to stay away from and who to speak with.
Having these things before us, there may be some differences in Scripture teaching and we can bear with that and also learn, but if it compromises the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are NOT to compromise at all with those who present such fatal teaching. When the truth of the Person of Christ is denied by those who come to us, we are to have nothing to do with those people.
Again, to repeat what has been before us, these deceivers can be anyone, but we are not to label them as such, until they come to us with this fatal teaching. Yes, they could be in our workplace, our place of education, or even acquaintances, but if they do not speak to us and attempt to use sweet words to advertise this fatal teaching, then we can interact with them in our sphere of work, education, or wherever we meet them, and show Christ in our lives to these people. Therefore, the message of 2 John is clear – to not receive or greet anyone who purposefully comes to our home to bring a fatal message to us. What is this fatal message or teaching? That Jesus Christ did not come in flesh and that He is not the Son of God. May we be grounded in the truth of the Person of Christ in order to identify the false and fatal teachings that are out there to attempt to destroy our faith in the blessed Son of God.