The Lord's Day
April 18th, 2004
2 John 5-13
Do Not Take Him In
If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to 2 John. We’re continuing our study of 1, 2, and 3 John today. We've already observed that the letter of 2 John in a very warm and cordial way, in addressing a local congregation of Christians, applies the principles that John has elaborated more clearly and comprehensively in the letter of 1 John. One of the things that we saw John say over and over in 1 John was that there were three tests, or evidences, of true Christianity. There was a doctrinal test: that is, fidelity to what the apostles taught about Jesus Christ in His person and work. There was a moral test, a love for God's commands and a walking in accordance with Scripture. And there was a social, or relational, test: that is, a real and tangible expression of love and care and concern on the part of believers for other believers, Christians truly loving and caring for their fellow Christians in the local congregation and elsewhere. And John brings to bear this as a test against certain false teachers in their own time, and he continues to do so in this book, as will be evident today.
In fact, today as we look at these nine little verses from 2 John 1:5-13, you’ll see again the perpetual practicality and applicability and timeliness of the word of God–not just to our day and time but also to our own church and community. John has opened this letter with an exhortation about living in truth and love. He's calling these Christians to a firm embrace of the truth and an expression of love in their relationship to one another, and he continues and elaborates on that theme in the rest of this little book.
Let me outline for you the passage before us today because you’ll see again the outline of those three great tests reflecting themselves in the outline of this little letter. Remember the doctrinal, the moral, and the relational tests? Well, notice how he works in this book. In verses 5 and 6, he speaks to the moral test of love and obedience. In verses 7-11, he speaks to the doctrinal test, what the church believes and embraces about Jesus Christ in His person and work. And then if you look at verses 12 and 13, he's back to the issue of Christian fellowship, mutual love and expression of concern for one another. And so we see even the outline of the remainder of this book mirrors his concerns for Christians to walk in accordance with biblical truth, to walk in accordance with biblical teaching about the Christian life, and living in allegiance to the word of God, and showing real and tangible love to one another. Now before we hear this word read and proclaimed, let's look to God in prayer and ask for His Spirit to illumine our hearts as we hear His word. Let's pray.
Our Lord and our God, this is Your truth. Men did not invent this. They did not invent Your truth. These are not the opinions of men, however holy and enlightened they may have been. This is Your divine revelation to us through holy men who You by Your Spirit carried along that they might write Your word to Your people. We thank You for this, O God. We pray that we would receive Your word for what it is, the very word of God; that we would harken to it in obedience. We ask that by Your Spirit You would open our eyes to behold wonderful things in Your word; but more than that, to embrace the truth, to believe the truth, to trust the Savior, to trust God's promises and to live and walk in the light of the truth of God. We ask these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hear God's word:
“5Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. 7For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 12Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full. 13The children of your chosen sister greet you.”
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.
1. John calls us to obey the old commandment–to love one another (5-6). [An exhortation to real Christian love, and an explanation of the relation of love and law in the Christian life]
Love, law, heretics and Christian fellowship–all in nine verses…who but the Apostle John could've pulled that off. But he does it and it makes sense, doesn't he? It connects to exactly the points that he's been making to us over and over. And I want to spend a few minutes with you this morning highlighting three great truths which he has for us in this passage. The first you’ll see in verses 5 and 6 where he speaks about love and he relates it to law. He gives us an exhortation in verses 5 and 6 to Christian love, to real Christian love, and he gives us also an explanation of the relationship between love and law, between love and obedience in the Christian life.
John is speaking to an issue that is a standing issue for Christians today. There are so many people who believe that Christianity doesn't entail a call to obedient discipleship. They believe that Christianity is about freedom, freedom to do whatever you want. We’re no longer under the law. We’re no longer under obligation. We’re under grace and rules can have nothing to do with us in the Christian life. And John so helpfully in this passage relates for us love and law in the Christian life. In fact, John calls us here to obey the commandment of love. And that phrase is not a contradiction, “the commandment of love.”
Notice John's words in verses 5 and 6: “Now I ask you, lady–”. Isn't that a beautiful way to speak to the church, by the way, speaking to this congregation of believers as this dear and precious bride in the sight of God? “Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.” John, as he exhorts us to love here, reminds us that he's not coming up with something new. This commandment to love one another in the Christian church isn't something that he invented. It's no ethical novelty that can be traced to John. This comes from Jesus. And, of course, when Jesus makes the exhortation, He's making it from the Old Testament. Moses had told us that we were to love one another. Moses had emphasized that we were to love our neighbor. And Jesus in the Upper Room knew that He was referencing that glorious, Old Testament, biblical ethic of mutual love when He said, “Brothers, a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” And the newness of it wasn't that it was a new ethical standard. It was the final sentence, the final phrase, “as I have loved you,” that was new. Jesus in His own life and ministry and death and resurrection had provided for us the index, the measure of what real love is, and He's now calling His disciples to live in love towards one another in the way that He had shown them love. He had shown them love as He washed their feet in that Upper Room, even though they would all betray Him. He had shown them love when He had washed the feet of the one who would betray Him into the hands of His enemies. He had shown them love as He sweat as drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had shown them love as He hung on the tree of Golgotha for their sins with the mockery of the world in His ears and heart. He had shown them love; now they were to love. And John can say, ‘We've heard this commandment from the beginning.’ In other words, John is saying, ‘There's never been a day in your Christian discipleship when you didn't know that you were called to obey the Great Commandment; because Jesus, your Savior, is the One who has said, ‘Brothers, sisters, love one another as I have loved you.’
And I want you to notice how John in verse 5 makes it clear that this love isn't like the love we normally think about: This is a commanded love. “This is the commandment which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.” He repeats it again in verse 5, “This is the commandment that you should walk in it,” that is, walk in love. Notice that love is commanded. Now that in and of itself shows that Christian love cannot be reduced to mere feeling or emotion. Christian love is more than that. Christian love is an obedient response to God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Jesus has shown us what love looks like in practice, and His disciples respond obediently in love. But Christian love is also unselfish service of our Christian brothers and sisters undertaken by deliberate choice. To elaborate the kind of love that John is speaking of here is deliberately seeking the best interest of our fellow Christians and personally ministering to them out of a gospel care and concern, even at our own cost, for the sake of Christ. John is calling us…Jesus is calling us to a costly service of one another, a real and tangible love and care and concern for one another.
And, furthermore, if you look at verse 6 notice the reciprocal relationship between love and law, between love and obedience. John says, “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” Now that's an interesting way to describe love, isn't it? “This is love, that we live according to the law.” And then he turns it around. “This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.” In what?–in love. ‘This is the commandment, that you walk in love.’ So John is saying that to love is to live God's commandments, and God's Great Commandment is to love. And he's saying nothing new when he says that. Do you remember Jesus’ words? “On this all the Law and the Prophets hang, that we love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves.”
Now John is summarizing a great and important biblical truth. We so often hear, “Christianity is not about rules.” And, of course, it's not all about rules; it's about much more. It's about the person of Christ. It's about the gospel. It's about the power of the Spirit working in us. It's about the glory of the Triune God. It's about a lot of things…but there are rules. God's law is not our enemy once we have been brought under the reign of grace. God's law becomes our friend when we are under the reign of grace. And so simply saying that Christianity is not about rules doesn't quite do justice to the new commandment. Jesus didn't say, ‘Love one another as I have loved you…if you feel like it, on your good days, not because you have to but because you want to.’ He says, “Love one another as I have loved you. This is My commandment: if you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Sometimes we hear love and law set in opposition. “Christianity's about love, not about law.” Well, John's reminding you here, ‘Love is law…and the law is love.’ No, to set these things in opposition, to deny the obedience which is entailed for Christian disciples, that's unapostolic: it's not in accordance with the apostles’ teaching. It's undominical: it's not in accordance with Jesus’ teaching. Christians are to love as an act of glad and joyful and grateful and willing obedience to God's word, and we are to live in accordance with God's word as an expression of, as an act of love. And John so beautifully ties those together in our discipleship.
Do you see how this reflects his great moral test? Are we walking in accordance with God's word? He says, ‘If you’re walking in love, then you are walking in accordance with God's word. And if you are walking in accordance with God's word, then you are walking in love.’ And people always try and separate those things, but they belong together.
2. Deceivers defined, believers warned to watchfulness, procedure reviewed (7-11). [An exhortation to watchfulness in the truth and to Christological orthodoxy]
John's not done yet. If you look at verses 7-11, he has a very important point for us. He gives us here an exhortation to watchfulness in the truth. He gives us an exhortation to continue to believe the truth about Jesus Christ: the truth which Jesus taught His disciples, the truth which the disciples proclaimed to the world, the truth which was inscripurated in God's word in the Old Testament and was being revealed in the New Testament.
Here in this passage John defines deceivers. He calls believers…he warns believers to watchfulness and he reviews the procedure for dealing with those who deny the truth about Jesus. John, when he says in verse 7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world,” is simply echoing the promise of Jesus to the disciples. Do you remember that Jesus told the disciples that there would be deceivers, there would be false teachers, there would be false Messiahs–Jesus said it! Do you ever get discouraged because of all the false teaching in the church? It's proof that Jesus is who He said He was, because Jesus promised that there would be false teachers. “Don't be discouraged”–It's easy to be when you see so much false teaching. Jesus predicted that there would be. If you didn't see false teaching, Jesus would've been proven wrong. But Jesus in His earthly ministry and thereafter warned His disciples that there would be false teachers, and John is saying in verse 7 that they've gone out just like Christian missionaries. Jesus sent out Christian missionaries to the ends of the earth to tell the truth, and John says, ‘You know what? These false teachers have gone out into the world too, but they've been sent by somebody different. They haven't been sent by God; they haven't been sent by the Father; they haven't been sent by Jesus–they've been sent by somebody else.’
And notice again in verse 7 that the false teaching that they've been purveying is about the very heart of the faith: They do not acknowledge the incarnation of Jesus the Messiah. In other words, they call into question what Jesus said about Himself; they call into question what the apostles preached and wrote about Jesus; they call into question the Bible's testimony as to who Jesus was; they call into question the reality of His deity by denying the fullness of the truth of the incarnation; they call into question the truth about His full humanity by calling into question the incarnation. And John in verse 7 is unequivocal in his denunciation of their teaching. “This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” He's saying, ‘Let me tell you where these missionaries came from. They call themselves Christians. They tell you they’re going to lead you into deeper truth. They come from Satan and they are the very expression of antichrist. They are fulfilling what Jesus warned us even before He was crucified and risen.’
And, consequently, if you look at verse 8 John warns Christians to be on guard against the deception of these teachers lest we become spiritual losers. And then in verse 9, he elaborates his description and his denunciation of these false teachers. “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.” It's very interesting. Apparently these false teachers themselves were saying to Christian congregations, ‘We’re going to take you beyond what you've heard before. We’re going to bring in a new paradigm. We’re going to take your knowledge and belief to a new level. We’re going to leave behind the old ways and we're going to show you something really deep and profound, something better, something more fulfilling, something more compelling to the world.’ And John is saying, ‘When you go beyond the truth of Jesus Christ, you not only lose Christ; you lose God.’ Isn't it amazing to you how many people want God but they don't want Jesus? They want God; they want spiritual blessing; but they want to find another way other than Jesus to have it. These people were doing the same thing: They left Jesus behind. And John is saying, ‘When you leave Jesus behind, you leave the possibility of relationship to God behind.’
And I want to say, It's not just John who's saying that. John is saying that because he heard Jesus say it. Jesus is the One who said, “I am the Way. I am the Truth. I am the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” When the apostles said that “There is no name under heaven whereby a man can be saved, but by the name of Jesus, the Lord and Messiah,” they were not making up some narrow-minded, bigoted exclusivism on their own. They were simply repeating what Jesus had taught them. And John is saying, ‘If you move past that, you've moved right past Christianity and you haven't found God. You've lost Him, because Jesus is the only way to God.’
Now you say to me, “But this isn't applicable to where we are today. How often do you have Gnostic prophets show up?” Well, did you read the newspaper yesterday? We've got a Gnostic prophet coming to town. John is speaking about precisely what Marcus Borg is teaching, precisely about what Marcus Borg is teaching. Marcus Borg is teaching two things primarily: 1) that Christianity is not the only way. In fact he says, “If I believed that Christianity was the only way, I wouldn't be a Christian.” No problem, Marcus. You’re not! And 2), he is teaching that the Christian church has invented the Jesus who is different from the original Jesus. Now guess what. Marcus Borg knows more about the original Jesus than the people who lived with Him! You know, the people who wrote down what He said, the people who worshipped Him, the people who died for Him. Marcus Borg knows more about that Jesus than they did. Marcus Borg knows that that Jesus didn't think He was the Messiah, the Son of God. He was a great prophet who taught us to love one another, show compassion, and join the Sierra Club–that's what He taught us. And John is talking about exactly that kind of thing. Move past that Jesus. Move past the Jesus of His own teaching. Move past the Jesus of the apostles. Move past the Jesus of the Bible…and you've just moved right out of Christianity. It's not a new…it's not an emerging paradigm. It's a very, very old paradigm…and that's exactly what John is speaking to here.
And John has some fairly stern words, words that as you might imagine have gotten him into trouble with liberals over the years. He says this, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [that is the true teaching about Jesus Christ], do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting.” Now you say, ‘Now, wait a second, John. You've forgotten what you just said in verses 5 and 6. You were talking about being loving; now you’re being mean and nasty and narrow-minded. And these poor, wonderful, smart people that are going to come along and teach us a new paradigm, you’re telling us we can't even speak to them nicely? John hasn't forgotten what he just said.
The reason that we can have fellowship with one another across every conceivable, humanly constructed and invented boundary is because we have been united out of all of our differences in Jesus Christ by faith. We've become brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ because we have recognized that He is the only hope of salvation. He is the Lord; He is Messiah; He is the only One who can forgive us of our sins–and that has provided for us a bond of unity. And if we deny that, my friends, there can be no unity; there can be no fellowship; there can be no expression of love. Around what are we going to build unity?
And John hasn't forgotten what he said. John knows that your souls are at stake. And I want you to notice John's not picking on confused believers here. John's not saying that every time we disagree with one another we need to dis-fellowship one another. John's talking about an issue at the heart of the gospel: he's talking about Jesus. He's talking about His person. He's talking about His work. He's talking about the gospel. We as Christians have glorious fellowship with many Christians with whom we have significant disagreements, but we don't have Christian fellowship with those who deny Jesus.
John is saying, ‘Christian, don't dabble; don't mingle; don't be pulled in through a personal relationship with someone who is teaching something that's going to cut you off from your only hope of salvation.’ John is so emphatic that he even says that we shouldn't show hospitality to a false teacher. That is an amazing statement for the New Testament that is always exhorting the Christian to show hospitality to fellow Christians. No, Christians are not to be surprised by the presence of false teachers. They’re the work of the evil one. And Christians are to be watchful lest we fall into the trap of false teaching, and Christians must recognize that those who reject the claims of Christ do not have God. And Christians are not to receive or welcome false teachers into their fellowship, because he who denies Christ forfeits God and cannot have fellowship with those whose only hope and trust is in Jesus Christ for salvation as He is offered in the gospel.
3. Fullness of joy is experienced only in fellowship with believers (12-13). [Concluding remarks that remind us of the importance of corporate, churchly Christian fellowship]
But John ends this little letter with yet another exhortation. You see it in verses 12 and 13. It's a concluding remark…it's a passing remark that he makes about the importance of corporate, churchly Christian fellowship. He reminds us that the fullness of joy is experienced only in fellowship with believers. John says, “Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.” John's saying that he longs to come to these Christians that he and they might know the joy of face-to-face fellowship.
You see, John knows that fulfilled joy in the Christian life is inextricably connected not only to communion with God, but also to Christian fellowship. There are so many Christians today who say, “Oh, I worship God. I just do it on my own on a boat. I'm out fishing; I'm communing with God. I don't need to come to church on Sunday.” And John says, ‘There is no experience of the fullness of joy in the Christian life without fellowship with other believers, without gathering around the Lord's means of grace on the Lord's Day, fellowshipping with one another in worship, encouraging one another to love and to good deeds; because all those who are united in Christ are united to all those who are united to Christ.’ We can't be indifferent about fellowship with one another. We need one another. God didn't intend us to grow in grace or experience joy apart from one another.
And so John longs to be with these Christians. Don't you love the greeting of the sister congregation at the very end of the letter? “The children of your chosen sister greet you.” Isn't that a beautiful way for one church to send greetings to another? But, you see, the greeting itself rests on the union that we have with one another in Jesus Christ, and it expresses the need for fellowship that we all have.
So John has three important words for us today. You love God; you’re a Christian. And you’re going to love His word, you’re going to love His commands, and you’re going to know that His commands are love. You’re a Christian; you’re going to love Jesus Christ–not the Jesus Christ of men's opinions, not the Jesus Christ invented by this sect or that sect, not the Jesus Christ reduced down to human proportions by brilliant scholars; you’re going to love the Jesus Christ of the Bible, Jesus as He is offered in the gospels. You’re a Christian? You’re going to fellowship with other believers who believe in that same Bible and who believe in that same Jesus and who want to live in accordance with that word, and you know that you’re not going to have fullness of joy until you’re fellowshipping with them. May God grant His word to dwell richly in our hearts. Let's pray.
Lord God, Jesus Christ is the church's one foundation. And as our foundation and chief cornerstone, we rest and trust in Him alone for salvation. And because You have saved us by Him You have also brought us into a family. So make us to be a family, a true community in Christ. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Peace be to the brethren. Amen.
A Guide to the Morning Service
The Call to Worship
All of our worship services begin with a “call to worship.” This “call” is taken directly from Scripture. It is usually a short portion of Scripture quoted by the minister and declared to the congregation, often from the Psalms. Why do we begin our services thusly? Because biblical worship is always a response to God's gracious revelation of Himself to His people. He takes the initiative to come to us in grace and seek us out, before we ever respond to Him. Hence, all our worship services begin with a scriptural “call to worship.” In this “call” we are reminded that God always takes the initiative. He always comes toward His people first, in grace. Our worship is a reflexive response to His gracious call.
The ministers who lead in prayer during worship here at First Presbyterian seek to fill their prayers with Scripture and assist the congregational prayer to God by praying from the heart to the Lord. We do not write out prayers and read them, or simply re-use set forms, nor is our public prayer without forethought. We practice studied prayer. We usually outline our prayer beforehand and then pray by memory and heart. Through each of the two main prayers today (the opening “Prayer of Adoration and Invocation” and the “Morning Prayer”), the minister will cover the main points of prayer: adoration, confession, assurance of forgiveness, thanksgiving, intercession, and supplication.
The Reading of Scripture
Paul told Timothy “give attention to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13) and so, at virtually every morning service, a minister reads a substantial section of Scripture. The public reading of the Bible has been at the heart of the worship of God since Old Testament times. In the reading of God's word, He speaks most directly to His people. We generally read consecutively through Bible books. Currently, we are reading through the Book of Proverbs.
We are currently in the midst of a series of Sunday morning messages based on the little books of 1, 2, and 3 John. Today's message is the second (and final!) of our studies in 2 John. 2 and 3 John elaborate the main points of 1 John in the context of specific situations in the church life of the later first century. These lessons are so relevant to our current situation that they hardly need translation. By the way, would you like to hear today's message again or maybe even share it with a friend? Tapes are available from the Church Library and Tape Ministry, either individually or in sets, for check-out or for purchase. And now it is possible to listen to and even download from the internet many of the sermons preached in this church. Go to http://resources.christianity.com/fpcjackson/ or just click on the Life Audio link from the library page of the church's web site – www.fpcjackson.org.
The Psalm and Hymns
Our God, Our Help in Ages Past (Psalm 90)
We begin our sung congregational praise this morning using Isaac Watts’ famous paraphrase of Moses’ Psalm 90. It reminds us of God's eternity and providence. Despite our finitude and the seemingly ephemeral nature of human existence, believers face the future with a godly and certain confidence because our God reigns and rules and protects His people. No wonder Watts entitled this song “Man Frail, and God Eternal.” William Croft's majestic tune “St. Anne” is named after the church (St. Anne, Soho, London) he served as organist. Interestingly, this hymn was sung at the funeral of former British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill, in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, 1965.
Come, We That Love the Lord
This is a hymn of mutual exhortation and encouragement to the love of the Lord and His Church. Every one of Watts’ stanzas included in our hymnal is worth memorizing (by the way, if you were wondering, Watts wrote ten stanzas to this hymn!). There are so many good theological points made in the lyric, it's hard to limit one's enthusiasm for the text. Perhaps my personal favorite of them is “The men of grace have found glory begun below.”
The Church's One Foundation
Samuel Stone's words “The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord” are thoroughly biblical and, in light of our study of 1 and 2 John, we might add, thoroughly Johannine. The text picks up many strands of the morning sermon's Scripture passage.
This guide to worship is written by the minister and provided to the congregation and our visitors in order (1) to assist them in their worship by explaining why we do what we do in worship and (2) to provide them background on the various elements of the service.