A Brief Analysis of 2 John 7-11
By David Barron
The apostle’s written words at 2 John 7-11 are important for Christians everywhere, providing essential caution for us all to observe. The epistle was penned to a Christian woman and her children (v. 1). While it may be suggested that these children were only spiritual in nature (cf. 1Jo. 2:1), they are most certainly her physical offspring as John rejoices having ‘found them walking in the truth’ (v. 4). Were they only spiritual children and not “walking in the truth” they would not have been her children at all, but in this case John finds those who are her children so “walking.” Upon admonishing them to continue in love John provides a warning.
Because many deceivers went out into the world, those not confessing Jesus Christ to have come in the flesh, this is the deceiver and the antichrist. (v. 7)
The denial of Jesus having come in the flesh was an early heresy known as Docetism. Instead of having 'become flesh' (John 1:14) he only seemed to have been flesh, so he only seemed to have died, the ransom only seemed to have been paid and the resurrection only seemed to have occurred. In other words, the very foundation of the gospel message was entirely false and no action had taken place upon which we might find salvation.
Those presenting Docetism were deceivers, misleading people on the nature of the true, historical Jesus. They were the antichrist; their teaching was in direct opposition to Jesus Christ and the work he accomplished. He could not have achieved all that he did without having truly been a man, having died and been resurrected. He claimed to have done this and he most certainly did (Rev. 1:18), contrary to claims by those advocating this doctrine.
Watch yourselves, that you may not lose the things we worked out, but that you may receive a full reward. (v. 8)
A straight forward warning for which we must all strive, contra those who insist we cannot lose our reward. John’s warning is expressly against being mislead by false teachers, though universally applicable. Never would we want to lose the things worked out in ourselves or in our ministry, so it is essential to remain watchful.
Everyone transgressing and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. The one abiding in the doctrine, this one has the Father and the Son. (v. 9)
With varying views of what “the doctrine of Christ” consists, some understand it as those doctrines Christ himself presented, while others the doctrines concerning him. The latter is certainly preferable, with John writing against a false doctrine concerning him. Quite naturally one must abide in the doctrines that Christ directly provided, as found in the Gospels, but this is not John's immediate concern.
One cannot have the Father alone, ignoring Christ and worshipping God. Only by “abiding in the doctrine” does one have both. Only by having this and remaining in it can one “receive a full reward.”
If anyone comes to you and does not bear this doctrine, do not receive him into the
house, and do not speak a greeting to him. (v. 10)
What doctrine must one bear? John’s use of touten leaves no ambiguity, referring back
to “the doctrine of Christ” (v. 9). Those having turned away from the biblical teaching concerning Christ—here specifically the Docetae—are not to be welcomed, not even greeted. Those distorting the absolute fundamentals of the Christian faith who once accepted the true, biblical teaching were then and are today the epitome of apostates. These ones were and are the antichrist, for they oppose Jesus and his work and make the faith of those they mislead vanity.
For the one speaking a greeting shares in his evil works. (v. 11)
The word chairo, denoting a formal greeting, a wishing of well being, an expression of approval. Reaching out to such ones with expressions of welcome and approval would be unacceptable, for to do so would be to ‘share in their evil works.’ The extremity of their course is equally paired with the extremity of the Christian response. We are to entirely avoid interaction with those who stray to deny the Christian fundamentals pertaining to who Jesus is and what he has done.
This warning should not be understood to mean we are to avoid those bearing a false teaching who have never learned the true “doctrine of Christ,” for they are actually opportunities in our ministry to bring to God and Christ. We should reach out for such ones with the gospel, overturning false teachings that they might understand the God's word more clearly.