“I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. 5 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. 6 And 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. 7 For 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. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone 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. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”
The spirit of Anti-Christ has always been in the world. When we hear the term as students of the Bible, usually the first thing that comes to our mind is the person the Bible calls ‘Antichrist’, who will rise up in the time of the Great Tribulation to make a false peace with Israel and so forth.
But the serious student of the Scriptures is also aware that this person will only be the embodiment of the spirit that has been at work in the world, using deceived and deceiving men and women of unbelief to propagate the Satanic lies concerning God and Christ in order to undermine and destroy, if it were possible, the church and her true message.
John talks about this spirit in his first letter and equates the term ‘antichrist’ with the emergence of the last days and denial of the truth concerning who Jesus is.
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” 1 Jn 2:18
Now, if John was warning the church at this early stage that the spirit of antichrist was at work in ‘many’ even then, and if he taught that by the presence of these deceivers his readers were to recognize that the world was in its last days, then how much more now, two thousand years later, should we of the church be watching for this same spirit to be at work and recognizing the signs before us?
“Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” 1 Jn 2:22
“…and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” 1 Jn 4:3
So when we come to this letter that is designated the second letter of John to the church, we find him issuing the same warning concerning the deceivers who in the spirit of antichrist had gone out to deceive, and the same encouragements to hold fast to the truth.
Satan’s fundamental deception from the Garden of Eden until now is that God is not truly concerned and God is not going to keep His promises. That is the very foundation of every lie the enemy has fostered on mankind.
The fact of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world to die for sin and His resurrection and ascension is the eternal and undeniable proof that God does indeed care very much and that He is well able to keep all His promises concerning the redemption and perseverance of His elect.
It should come as no surprise to us therefore, that every cult, at the foundation of its teaching, denies the deity of Jesus, and every anti-Christian claim has at its base the denial of man’s need for salvation and that this one Person was the incarnate God who became Man in order to provide that salvation.
DETECTION OF DECEIVERS
The Scriptural imperative for the true church then, is that we should guard against error and stand firm for truth. John, in the early verses of this letter, has equated love for God and for one another with obedience and the keeping of His commandments. Therefore in order to walk in this obedience to the truth we must be able to recognize error and mark these deceivers when they come among us.
And by the way, there is ample evidence in this text to infer that not all deceivers come to us from outside of the church, but that some begin within the church and work their deceptions there. In verse 8 there is the admonition to ‘watch yourselves’, and in verse 9 John speaks of those who ‘go too far’ or ‘go on ahead’ of the truth. We’ll talk more of this later.
So how do we detect the deceivers? It’s not as though they go around wearing ‘I’m a deceiver’ t-shirts, or handing out business cards that say, ‘Have deception, will travel’.
You may have seen a commercial on television for a popular pest control company, that begins with a doorbell ringing and when the resident opens the door there is a man-sized termite standing there trying to deliver a pizza, or asking to use the phone. He has a smooth, quiet voice reminiscent of a slick-talking salesman or a potential kidnapper trying to lure a victim away and the person at the door is just staring at this large termite with an expression of horror, because it’s obvious to them that this is no pizza deliverer and they don’t want him coming in to use the phone. It’s done for a laugh but it makes its point.
The fact is though, that enemies of the truth of God’s Word are not so obvious and at times even Bible-believing church members are led astray by them.
In fact, the word John employs that is translated ‘deceivers’ there in verse 7 means ‘one who leads astray’. They aren’t there just to convince you of something they believe to be true and they want you to join them. They want to lead you astray. They want to lure you away from the truth for their own gain and selfish ambition.
These are not innocents who come to you in sincerity and thinking they are doing you good. They are deliberate deceivers who hate Christ and do not care if they destroy you with their lies.
This is something that I think many Christians have difficulty ever understanding.
There are people out there who lay awake at night brain-storming ways to deceive others, to get something over on others, to hurt people because they enjoy it.
The Bible even talks about these people. Listen to Psalm 36:1-4
“Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. 2 For it flatters him in his own eyes concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it. 3 The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased to be wise and to do good. 4 He plans wickedness upon his bed; He sets himself on a path that is not good; He does not despise evil.”
Once again let me remind you that they don’t look like big termites at your door and they don’t wear ‘Deceiver’ caps. They come offering a Bible as a gift and a book of Mormon to go with it. They come dressed in pretty dresses with small children at their side, offering you a free pamphlet to read.
They come as the sincere school teacher or the caring counselor and in many other guises; but the one common thread that connects them all is that they deny that Christ has come in the flesh – and no matter what they say that sounds right, when it comes down to who Jesus is their lie exposes them for who they really are!
DECEPTION OF DECEIVERS
So what is their specific message and where does it come from?
What does it mean, first of all, to say that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; and why is it so important?
The thing that John is teaching here, and that is a repetition of his teaching in his first letter – and indeed the purpose of his Gospel – is that the eternal God became a Man while still being fully God, and that Jesus is that God/Man.
It is important simply for the fact that if Jesus was not fully God and Man He could not have accomplished redemption for sinful man. If Jesus was not God then He could not pay the penalty for sin. If Jesus was not man He could not die.
So we conclude that this is the fundamental truth that Satan would want to fight and destroy, therefore his messengers carry a contrary message, therefore it is their denial of Christ’s coming in the flesh that gives them away.
Some taught that Jesus was not a human, but only appeared to be. He was an illusion; a vision. Others taught that He was a man, an average human being, and that the Christ ‘spirit’ – not the third Person of the Godhead we call the Holy Spirit but just a sort of cosmic essence – entered into this human Jesus at His baptism and left Him before His crucifixion.
We believe Christ came in flesh. They taught that Christ came into flesh. Hear the difference?
How does this teaching violate the fundamental doctrines of our faith? Well, if Jesus was just a man, then He was a sinner since the Scripture teaches that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It denies the virgin birth, since if He was just a man He had to be born of a man and a woman. He could not, therefore, be the atonement for sin, and this ‘Christ entity’ that came and went from Him accomplished nothing for mankind.
The Mormons teach that Jesus was the brother of Lucifer. They also teach that Jesus was conceived by a physical union between God the Father and Mary. Now whether that makes Mary also the mother of Lucifer I do not know.
They teach that Jesus was created, and that He was our elder brother who progressed to become a god.
There is a teaching that Jesus was the offspring of a sexual union between God and some female entity named Sophia (wisdom).
There are so many variations of the lies that there could be a college class on them – and probably is.
What is important for us to understand today is, that while there are these deceivers that are obvious to the careful student of the Bible, who knows the truth and can spot them from afar, there are also the more subtle lies and the more careful deceivers and in order to spot the counterfeit the true believer must be very familiar with the feel and sound of the truth.
I mentioned earlier that I was going to come back to this. Many deceivers, and John is the one who uses the term ‘many’, there in verse 7, many have gone out into the world.
Now when he uses that phrase ‘gone out into the world’, he is speaking of those who have gone out from the church, meaning that at some point they were a part of the church.
He issued this same alert in his first letter, in 1 Jn 2:19 and again in 4:1
“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”
Then in 4:1 John exhorts:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
So you see Satan has his own missionaries also. God gives His chosen ministers the truth and sends them out into the world, and Satan has his chosen deceivers and he also trains them and sends them out.
Now as I was working on this sermon I remembered that a year or two ago I saw some numbers from a Barna survey that might be applicable in order to demonstrate this presence of error within the church.
I thought I’d find a questionnaire somewhere that included the question, “Do you believe Jesus was God incarnate?”
I did not. I’m sure one exists somewhere, but after an hour or so of looking I could not locate a survey with that particular question. I did however come across several articles that had sprung up as a result of a survey the Barna Group took in 2007, wherein the question was asked “Do you believe that on earth Jesus Christ did not commit sins like other people?”
I jotted down some numbers from that survey to give you here because even though it does not touch directly on the issue we’ve been discussing, it does expose the degree of error residing within the church.
This particular survey was taken in order to estimate the percentages of responses in churches of various sizes and study those results.
The numbers should alarm you.
In churches surveyed that had up to 100 people, only 49% said they did not believe Jesus sinned while on earth. In churches surveyed of 100 to 200 people, 50% did not believe Jesus sinned on earth. In churches of 201 to 499, 59%, in churches 500 to 999 the number was 65%, and in mega churches of 1000 or more that were surveyed, only 74% said that while on earth Jesus did not sin as other people sin.
Now we all know that there are conditions and circumstances that can skew those numbers. I am not trying to feed you some ‘written in stone’ information to take away and mull over today. My point is, if the number of people claiming to be Christians and in the church, but believing that Jesus Christ ever sinned was 3% across the board, that number should concern us.
If there was any sin in Jesus Christ, then it would not be possible for Him to die for the sins of anyone else. If it was possible for Him to sin, then the Divine Nature could not have existed in Him and Jesus would be only a man in need of a Savior. Do you see what damage is done by the twisting and denying of any point of the precious doctrines that make up our faith?
The fact is, in the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ, there are people who claim to be people of the Christian faith, who if pressed for an answer would deny the indispensable and foundational truths of the Scriptures concerning God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the virgin birth of Christ, His Divine and Human nature, His sinlessness, the efficacy of His shed blood to atone for sin, His death, His resurrection bodily from the dead and His ascension to the Father’s right hand… and I have to wonder, why in the world do they even want to be in church?
Well according to this wise and aged Apostle, for some of them at least, the attraction is the opportunity to deceive and lead astray. And those go out into the world; they go out ahead of the rest to spread their poison because they are agents of Satan who, if he could, would yet destroy the church and bring the name of Christ down to oblivion.
Let’s slow down for just a moment here and clarify this phrase in verse 9, “Anyone who goes too far” and in another translation, “Everyone who goes on ahead”.
What John is saying here is that these are people who have added to the teachings of Christ and of the true church and made them their own.
They’ve either said ‘yes, this is true but you must also believe’, or they’ve said, ‘no that is not what this means but God has given me this special revelation and here is what it means’ or something of this nature.
I have recently heard of an illustration used and I can’t remember the name of the man who used it, so I apologize that I can’t cite my source but it is a simple illustration and I doubt he’d mind that I passed it on.
In a conference before preachers this man took a piece of chalk and starting at one end of a blackboard he began to draw a straight line and he drew it all the way across the board. When he was done he turned to his audience of preachers and asked, ‘What do you see there?’ Someone in the audience said ‘A line’, to which the speaker replied, ‘Yes. It is a line. Preachers, stay on the line in your preaching. Don’t go above it and don’t drop below it. Don’t add to the teaching of the Scriptures and don’t take away from them. Preach the word and stay on the line, and your people will stay on the line.’
This is what these of whom John the Apostle spoke were doing. And the sad and terrible truth he teaches here is that they are without God. They go off on their tangents and leave the teachings of Christ and the fact is they have neither Christ or the Father.
DISALLOWANCE OF DECEIVERS
So what is the Biblical mandate? How are we to deal with this problem and these deceivers?
Well first of all we need to know the truth and hold fast to it.
Know the truth and hold fast to it. I think this strikes upon the fundamental failure of the church in our day.
There is a downward trend in thinking in the world that has infiltrated the church which allows the godless deceivers within the church to go unchecked and unchallenged.
Although I have attempted in the past to put it into words I haven’t ever felt that I truly captured and conveyed the essence of it; but I recently heard part of a speech wherein the speaker put it in a nutshell and it was very effective.
His name was John Quade. You may not know the name; some of you would know his face. He was the actor who played the sheriff in the mini-series “Roots”, and he played the bad guy in several of Clint Eastwood’s movies. Mr Quade passed away August 12th of 2009 and in doing some surfing around on the internet I came across this speech he was giving, and he was addressing the drift away from clarity and conviction in our society toward the vagueness and indecision that is now vogue.
If a person is firm in his beliefs and willing to voice them he is suspect. The way to be acceptable and fit in is to let black and white fade to grey and hold your tongue.
This is how he expressed it:
“On Monday murder is wrong. On Tuesday there are special circumstances. On Wednesday there are psychological factors to consider, eg. a rough childhood. On Thursday it’s the victim’s fault, and on Friday it’s ok to commit murder.” – John Quade
Christ-followers, the deceptions that violate the Word of God and lead people astray are slick and subtle and the only way to defend against them is to know what the Bible says, to believe what the Bible says, to teach what the Bible says, without wavering, without compromise, without apology.
Next, in our disallowance of the deceivers, we are to reject them as well as their message. Does that go against the popular notions bombarding our brains by way of every media the Devil can devise or control? Oh, you bet it does!
It’s just not acceptable to reject anyone for anything anymore! No matter what they’ve done or are doing, no matter what kind of a person they are, tolerance and understanding are the order of the day, and if you confront the wrong or decry the injustice you are branded intolerant, prejudiced, rude, even crazy.
The Bible says, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching” (and here John is referring to the teaching that Jesus Christ came in flesh, meaning that He was of two perfect natures, the Divine Nature and the Human Nature in one Person) “…do not receive him into your house”, (and in our century and our time I would say do not receive him into your house via television, radio, the internet or the books he writes). “…and do not give him a greeting” (are you listening?) “…for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds”.
My friends and family, this is written to you and to me if we are believers in Christ Jesus our Lord, and this means that when we give these deceivers a listening ear, when we purchase their books or consider their doctrine, OR fail to confront and expose them, we participate in their evil.
And this takes us all the way back up to verse 4 in the very text we are studying today we are admonished and reminded that we have a commandment to walk in the truth, and that commandment comes from God the Father.
The spirit of Antichrist is in the world, believers. He is not shy. He is not quiet. He is not inactive. He goes about in the godless, spewing his garbage and injecting his poison into people’s hearts and minds, and we who know the truth have a Biblical mandate to hold fast the truth of who Jesus is and what His coming means to all who will repent and believe, to reject the deceivers in no uncertain terms, and to protect the purity of the Christian doctrines within the church.
Lastly, we need to be self-examining.
John said, ‘Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.’
The Apostle by this is exhorting believers to be careful what they receive by way of teaching and guard against the slow drift into error; I believe he was also addressing the church in general, saying that we who are of the church collectively should be watching and guarding against false teaching so that as a body of believers we do not drift away and lose progress in terms of spiritual growth and effectiveness as a church.
Christians, we live in perilous times, and by that I mean for our nation and for the church, and I think that very many people both in the church and in unchurched society do not recognize how very near we are to the brink of disaster.
We are in the last hour, as John the Apostle said it, and the evidence before us is the increasing activity of the spirit of antichrist in the world. We are not going to stem that tide, but as believers of God’s Word we’re supposed to recognize the signs, and we do, don’t we?
Perhaps never before in history has there been such an urgent need as now, when we sense the end of all things worldly drawing near, to know what the Bible says, to hold fast to the truth and in rejection of the deceivers and their evil, hold forth the truth of who Jesus Christ is to an unbelieving society.
There is a message they don’t want to hear and is the one fact that must be told clearly; that God became flesh and dwelt among us, that all the fullness of deity was in the Person of the Man Jesus Christ, and no one will come into the presence of the Father but by Him, through faith in His atoning work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
I ask you, who in all the world knows these things to be true? Is it you and me? Then on whom does the duty fall to protect and proclaim them?
Let me put one last thought before you in closing, and it will not be pleasant to consider but I feel I must present it for your consideration.
Christ-followers, we have all been doing a lot of talking of late, about the Rapture of the church and how we all feel it will happen soon. Haven’t you? I certainly have. I think in times of general stress and trouble as well as in out and out persecution the church has always been more inclined to say ‘Amen, come Lord Jesus’ than in times of relative ease.
But I want you to consider today the possibility that if the Lord does not call His church to Him in what we consider to be the near future, but waits longer, decades longer, perhaps hundreds of years longer, what then is in our future?
What if the time comes when our precious nation falls? It can, you know. What if the time comes when we who make up the United States of America, as a people, lose our civil liberties, lose our material wealth and possessions, lose our freedom to move about and make our own choices?
What if the time comes when all we have is Christ? Will we then find that we have known Him well? Will we feel we have served Him well? Will we discover that we have been faithful in proclaiming Him with our words and with our lives?
Is that really the time we want to find and face the answers to these questions?
God’s grace and blessing be on you and on His church.
“I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father”