Summary: False teachers seek to add to the truth of Christ, going beyond what He taught. We must be know sound doctrine if we are to avoid false doctrine. Knowing truth will enable one to spot a counterfeit.
Exposed to the Truth
The letter John wrote to the elect lady and her children was short and to the point. He was impressed with the testimony of their lives and their commitment to abiding in the truth. It is evident that John desired to encourage them in the faith, seeking to equip them to continue their stand for truth.
As we consider the entirety of the letter, we discover that John closed with a stern warning against false teachers, providing detailed instruction in dealing with those who opposed the faith, and sought to spread false doctrine. The elect lady and her children had been faithful to the Lord and John hoped to encourage them to remain committed. He knew the temptations and adversity they faced. Subtle, false teachers had been successful in leading many astray. John was determined to do all he could to prevent the elect lady and the children from falling victim to the schemes and deceit of false teachers.
Paul offers sound wisdom when dealing with similar situations. 1 Cor.10:12 – Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. As we move through these closing verses, we will discover the subtle tactics of false teachers. In order to prevent falling prey to such teaching, we must be aware of their tactics and approach. The best defense against false teaching is a thorough understanding of the core doctrines of the Bible. We must abide in the Word while abiding in Christ if we are to overcome those who seek to hinder our faith and undermine sound doctrine. False teachers work very methodically, rarely, if ever removing all truth. They leave enough truth to make it palatable, while sprinkling in false doctrine subtly.
As we conclude John’s second epistle, I want us to consider the instructions he provided as we think on being: Exposed to the Truth.
I. The Condition of Men (9) – Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. John revealed that all men fall into one of two categories – those who reject sound doctrine and those who abide faithfully in sound doctrine. These can be classified as false teachers and faithful believers. Let’s take a moment to examine each category. Consider:
A. The False Teachers (9a) – Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. John declared those who violate the truth of God, failing to abide in the sound doctrine which is founded in Christ do not have God. Transgression or violation of truth has a devastating activity associated with such endeavors. It actually has the idea of “going too far; literally going beyond what Christ has established.” John declared that many false teachers have sought to move out ahead of Christ, wandering beyond the truth He proclaimed and established. Consider some insightful commentary: "There are many teachers, ministers and laymen alike, who would like to be progressive and creative, to come up with a novel idea, to make some advancement in thought. They want people to recognize and approve them; therefore, they try to impress people. In so doing, they go beyond Christ and what He taught. They twist or branch off from the teachings of Christ. John warns against this: if a person does not stay in the teachings of Christ, then he does not have God. He is not saved; he is not truly born of God." (I)
Early believers, including John and the elect lady were forced to deal with such deception being promoted by false teachers, and we continue to face such dangers today. In fact, when one considers false teachers, this attribute is almost always present. Men want to be recognized for their wisdom and ability to “discern” the Scriptures. They often claim to have new revelation or specific insight that was previously hidden to former generations.
Typically, these teach in a manner consistent with their agenda, whatever that may be, seeking to distort and twist the Scripture to substantiate the doctrine they hope to promote. Many times, these will promote doctrines with legalistic tendencies founded on works of the flesh to obtain or show the righteousness they desire. These will likely uphold the Gospel of Christ, but upon closer examination of their doctrine, one discovers they have in essence added to the Gospel, requiring other means of justification beyond the finished work of Christ. The truth has not changed since John’s day. We must be cautious of these because they do not have a right relationship with God – in fact, they do not have Him at all. They are lost in sin, separated from God.
B. The Faithful Believers (9b) – He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. In contrast to the false teachers, John declared those who abide in the doctrine of Christ have both the Father and the Son. These rest solely in the truth of the Gospel, the finished work of Christ to fully atone for sin, providing salvation and reconciliation to God.