Background: John was one of the twelve disciples who followed Jesus and one of Jesus best friends on the earth. He spent three years listening to Jesus teaching and watching him serve people and perform miracles. This man that John had given his life to follow was much more than an ordinary man, Jesus was God in flesh. John wanted everyone to know it! He spent the rest of his life telling people to believe in Jesus. John also wrote several writings that are now contained in the Bible, including the Gospel of John, the three letters of 1, 2, and 3 John, and the Revelation.
As John got older, a new challenge to faith in Jesus was rising, the challenge of false teachers. They were taking ideas and terms from Christianity and pouring their own religious thoughts and concepts into them. These people talked about Jesus, God, and love, but their ideas had different meanings. One group denied that Jesus was really a man. They claimed that Jesus humanity was an illusion, that he never really lived as a human or died on the cross. Another group claimed that Jesus was just an ordinary man, but that the “Christ” spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism, gave him the power to minister, but then left him just before the crucifixion. Both groups denied the resurrection. For the church, these false teachings presented an incredible danger, as they led people astray from the true faith in Jesus to follow a false teaching, and ultimately lead people to eternal separation from God. Much of the writings of John, especially his letters, were written to refute the false teachings and lead people to trust in the real Jesus, God who became a man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for your sin and mine, and then rose again three days later.
This letter was written to followers of Jesus warning them to be careful to listen only to teachers who believe in the real Jesus. The letter is written to “the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth.” There are two primary theories about the recipient. One is that the letter is actually written to a Christian lady and her family. The other is that the “lady” refers to a church and “her children” are the members. Either way, the challenge is clear, do not listen to false teachers or be led astray.
Application: About every three or four months, I will spot them in our neighborhood. Sometimes I will notice the two guys on bicycles, or I will see the white shirts and ties. I know they will eventually hit our door, holding literature in their hands, desiring to tell me about “Jesus”, at least as they perceive Him. But their Jesus is always a different Jesus. Mormons believe Jesus is a man who is working his way to being a god. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is a created being and the brother of Lucifer. Christian Scientists believe Jesus was an enlightened man who discovered the God-spark within him. These, and many other cults use the same terms and ideas used by Christians to speak of their faith in God and Jesus, but they pour completely different meaning into the concepts, and end up with a different world view that the one presented in the Bible. Most deny the Trinity, and will either refute the deity of Jesus or His humanity.
So what should you do when they come to your door? The people addressed by this little letter were warned to be very discerning about who they welcome and listen. Traveling teacher’s and philosophers were common in the first century, and they would arrive at a person’s home or church, wanting to stay there and teach. In an attempt to be loving, and open minded, some would receive these teachers and give them a chance to teach their family or the church. John warns that followers of Jesus must be very discerning, and careful about who they allow to teach and influence them. In 2 John 1:10-11, John even tells them not to give him any greeting, “for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” This does not mean that they cannot say “hello”, or have a conversation. The greeting is one that affirms the teacher and his doctrine. John is saying that they are to be very careful that a person has a strong faith in the real Jesus and is orthodox in his doctrine before giving the person a platform to teach.
I’ve had several conversations with the people coming to my front porch. I’ve even invited them into my home for an iced tea and a time of conversation. I have listened to their false teaching, and have shared the Gospel and the real Jesus with them. I once had a conversation with two people from one cult and had them asking so many questions and doubting their own faith that the group black listed me. After that encounter, this group’s missionaries would skip my house every time they came to my street. But I am very careful that I know what I believe, and that I don’t allow them to influence me too much. I take special care to make sure that the people I allow my children to learn from understand the truths of the Bible and point them to Jesus. And I am diligent not to support any teaching on any level that will lead myself or other people away from trusting the real Jesus and believing the true Gospel.