Textual Sermons

AN OVERVIEW OF THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST (2 John 9)
Joe R. Price


Introduction

A disciple is a "learner" or "pupil." The objective of disciple is to so train under the instruction and guidance of His master that he will become as his teacher. A disciple learns so that he may live under the approval of his master. Jesus said, "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher." (Lk. 6:40) The Christian's goal, then, is to learn and live the teachings of Christ so that he may be like Jesus in his thinking and conduct.

Another word for teaching is "doctrine" (didache, "teaching, that which is taught", Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Thayer, 144). To say that the "doctrine of Christ" is secondary and not as important to one's salvation as Christ is to say that the "teaching of Christ" is secondary and not as important to one's salvation as Christ. But, how can we know Christ except through His teachings? (Jno. 8:31-32)

The teachings of Christ are revealed and available to us in His New Testament. If we dare to reject Christ, His words will surely judge us in the last day (Jno. 12:48). Conversely, we if "abide in the doctrine of Christ" we will enjoy fellowship with Him, now and eternally (2 Jno. 9; cf. Jno. 14:21, 23-24).

The teachings of Christ contain the authority of Christ and train Christians to so live that their "life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). Christ will not be in the Christian's life if the Christian does not let the word of Christ richly dwell within him (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:16). When Christ's word dwells in the Christian he is well equipped to obey Colossians 3:17: "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

In this lesson we will examine the meaning of "the doctrine of Christ" within the context of 2 John 9 as well as its broader context (the entire New Testament).

2 JOHN 9 AND "THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST"

"Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.
He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9)

I.  WHAT IS "THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST" IN 2 JOHN 9?
  A. At Least Three Views Of "The Doctrine Of Christ" Are Presently Being Expressed Among Brethren.
    1. The teaching about Christ (His nature).
    2. The teaching which was done by Christ and His apostles, but only that teaching which is fundamental and clear.
      -(This view can be summarily eliminated due to its subjective plea for "clarity" as the basis for determining the doctrine of Christ. Also, in the absence of any scriptural pattern for such a definition this view must be rejected. It is the "core gospel" plea of the new hermeneutics which rejects Biblical patterns as our means of establishing and applying Bible authority.)
    3. The entire body of gospel teaching, the New Testament of Jesus Christ.
    4. The Bible gives abundant evidence that "the doctrine of Christ" is the teaching given by Christ and His apostles.

  B. The "Doctrine Of Christ" In 2 John 9 Is The Entire Body Of What Christ Taught, Personally And Through His Apostles.
    1. Abide - "in reference to state or condition…to remain as one, not to become another or different." (Thayer, 399)
    2. In - "a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state)." (Ibid., 209-212)
    3. Doctrine - "teaching…that which is taught…doctrine, teaching, concerning something." (Ibid., 144)
    4. Of - Conveys possession (genitive case).
    5. Christ - Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16).
      a. By Him God has spoken to us in these last days (Heb. 1:1-2).
      b. By Holy Spirit inspired apostles and prophets we have had Christ's teachings communicated to us (cf. Jno. 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; 1 Cor. 14:37).
    6. The doctrine of Christ is His gospel, the New Testament.

  C. NT Usage Of "The Doctrine Of" Indicates Its Meaning In 2 John 9.
    1. The doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:6, 12) - Jesus was referring to the teaching of these sects, not teaching about those sects.
    2. The apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42) - This is none other than the teaching which the apostles made know (the gospel, Mk. 16:15; Matt. 28:20), not teaching about the apostles.
    3. The doctrines of men (Col. 2:22; Matt. 15:9; Mk. 7:7) - These are the teachings of men, not teachings about man.
    4. The doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1) - Does that mean men would fall away due to giving heed to teachings about demons, or due to giving heed to doctrines taught by demons? (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Jno. 4:1)
    5. The doctrine of Balaam (Rev. 2:14) was what he taught: "who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel…", not teaching about Balaam.
    6. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:15) - Was this the teaching about the Nicolaitans, or the teaching which the Nicolaitans were doing?
    7. The doctrine of Christ in 2 John 9 is a general reference to the doctrine which comes from Christ. It is not limited to teaching about His nature.

  D. The Teaching Of Christ Is Said To Be "His Teaching," Not The Teaching About Him.
    1. Matt. 7:28-29 - The people were astonished at His teaching.
      a. Lk. 4:32 - "And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority." It was His word and its authority which astonished them.
      b. Mk. 11:18 - "…all the people were astonished at His teaching."
    2. So, it was what Jesus taught which astonished the people, and that included much, much more than teaching about who He was -- it encompasses all that He taught!

  E. The Context Of 2 John Supports This Meaning Of "The Doctrine Of Christ."
    1. The doctrine of Christ is "the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever" (2 John 1-2). We must choose to abide in the doctrine of Christ which will be with us forever. a. Do we only abide in teaching about the nature of Christ (who He was, etc.)?  We must abide in all the word of Christ to truly be His disciple (Jno. 8:31).
    2. The doctrine of Christ is the truth in which we are to be "walking" (2 John 4).
    3. The doctrine of Christ is the "commandment" we have received from the Father (2 John 5). (cf. John 12:48-50)
    4. The doctrine of Christ contains the "commandments" in which we are to walk, which is love. (cf. Jno. 13:34-35)

  F. When The Christian Abides (Remains) In "The Doctrine Of Christ," He Abides In:
    1. The word of Christ (Jno. 8:31-32).
    2. Jesus (1 Jno. 2:5-6, 3; Jno. 15:4).
    3. Christ's love, by keeping His commandments (Jno. 15:9-10).
    4. The light (1 Jno. 2:10).
    5. The Son, by letting the gospel abide in him (1 Jno. 2:24, 28).
    6. Christ, by keeping His commandments (1 Jno. 3:24).
    7. The truth (2 Jno. 1-2).
    8. His commandments (2 Jno. 6).

  G. The Gospel Which The Apostles Preached Is "The Doctrine Of Christ."
    1. All truth (the doctrine of Christ) was revealed to the apostles of Christ (Jno. 16:12-13).
    2. The apostles were inspired to preach the doctrine of Christ (1 Cor. 2:10-13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
    3. The apostolic teaching is the doctrine of Christ (1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:13).

II. ARE WE LIMITED IN OUR APPLICATION OF 2 JOHN 9-11 TO THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT?
Since John is addressing the false doctrine that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh (v. 7), some conclude that is the only application of 2 John 9.
Consider these words of W. L. Wharton on this matter:

"2 John 9 is a specific problem. Any specific denial that Christ is come in the flesh is a denial of the Lord's teaching. But not all failing to 'abide in the teaching' is a specific denial that the Lord is come in the flesh. There are many such verses. Revelation 22:18, 19 contains prohibition and penalty against adding to or taking from the words of that prophecy. That is pretty specific! Is it wrong to take those verses and apply them to a tampering with any other book in the scripture?

....Granting the existence of 'general authority' we must keep in mind that 'specifics' are readily governed by the mention of the 'generic' to which they attach. While specifics are governed by generics, the rule does not admit of reversal so that specifics govern generics.

Of course, 'denial that Christ is come in the flesh' (a specific error) is condemned by 2 John 9 because it is not 'abiding in the doctrine of Christ' (generic). But the denial is not the whole; rather the whole encompasses the denial.

While 2 John 9 applies to those who denied the fleshly advent, the error is saying the verse teaches no more than it is applied to. The real issue over 2 John 9 lies not in the field of its grammar or even its context, but rather in an over reaching of its teaching to make what is general (the doctrine of Christ) mean nothing more than 'denial of Christ coming in the flesh.' While 'doctrine of Christ' is not applied in this text to anything else, it does not follow on that account that it therefore means nothing else.

To say that 2 John 9 means nothing more than denial of the fleshly advent is not exegesis but perversion!

To say that it applies to nothing more in the text, adds no knowledge or help to anyone and is, at best, pointless. At worst, it is a sop held out to the rising tide of the 'let's fellowship everybody' element who are saying that its application is limited to the specific of the text. Armed with that, they are ready to join up with 'the mechanical instruments of music in the worship' and 'brethren in prospect' contenders. (The Preceptor Magazine, date, volume unknown; cited by Larry Ray Hafley, Watchman Magazine, July 1998).

Robert Turner succinctly states the truth on this matter:
"It seems to me that both context and N.T. usage require 2 Jn. 9 to refer to that which Christ taught, personally and through His apostles. John warns of a particular error (that Christ had not come in the flesh) but this does not negate a more general application of the principle given. In 1 Jn. 4:2 are we to understand that the only test for determining those 'of God' is the confession that He is come in the flesh? Or is this simply one example (currently needed) of a broad principle? (Note. v. 6). Do all who say Jesus is Lord, have a 'spiritual gift'? (1 Cor. 12:3). See Deut. 13:2 for O.T. example of citing a specific error to teach a general principle." (Original citation unknown, cited by Larry Ray Hafley, Watchman Magazine, July 1998)


III. THE CHRISTIAN'S RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST.
  A. The Christian Must Not Go Beyond The Teaching Of Christ - 2 John 9.
    1. We sin when we transgress the doctrine of Christ (2 Jno. 9).
    2. Sin separates us from God. Therefore, when one goes beyond the doctrine of Christ his sin causes him to not have fellowship with God (cf. Gal. 1:6-9).
    3. If we sin against the doctrine of Christ by adding to it or take away from it we incur divine wrath and punishment (Rev. 22:18-19; 1 Cor. 4:6).

  B. The Christian Is To Abide In The Doctrine Of Christ - 2 John 9.
    1. We abide in the doctrine of Christ by keeping the word of Christ (Jno. 14:23). Jesus said if we do not keep His words (His teachings) we do not love Him (Jno. 14:24).
    2. By practicing the truth, one walks in the light and has fellowship with God (1 Jno. 1:6-7).
    3. By keeping His commandments the truth is in us, we are in Christ, and we have real assurance of fellowship with God (1 Jno. 2:3-6; 3:24)

  C. The Christian Is Not To Extend Fellowship To One Who Does Not Abide In The Doctrine Of Christ - 2 Jno. 10-11 (cf. Eph. 5:3-11; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
    1. To extend and maintain fellowship with one who teaches and/or practices error and sin is a clear violation of 2 John 10-11. It causes one to have fellowship with evil.
    2. We are to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Eph. 5:11).
    3. We are to remain separate and distinct from the sin and error of the world (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).

  D. The Christian Should Extend Fellowship To Everyone Who Teaches And Abides In The Gospel - Gal. 2:7-9; cf. 3 Jno. 5-8.

IV. PARALLEL THOUGHTS CONFIRM THAT "THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST" IN 2 JOHN 9 IS THE TEACHING WHICH COMES FROM CHRIST.

-2 John 9 says "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." Now, see the common thread of thought in these additional NT passages:

"If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. (1 Tim. 6:3-5)

"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." (Jno. 14:21, 23)

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you…If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (Jno. 15:7, 10)

"He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak." (Jno. 12:48-50)

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Rev. 3:20)

"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them." (Rom. 16:17)

Conclusion

We can be united in our understanding, teaching and application of 2 John 9. Diligent study of God's word, proper attitudes of heart and an unwavering commitment to obey the word of Christ in all things will bring us to the unity for which Jesus prayed (Jno. 17:20-21; cf. 2 Tim. 2:15; Eph. 4:1-3; Jno. 8:31-32). The following words of brother Hafley appropriately challenge us to choose to remain in "the doctrine of Christ" and truly be disciples of Christ.

Those who cringe and apologize for the truth when it is preached and who disclaim and despise those who teach the doctrine of the Lord are not friends of Christ (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:14-16). They who defend the integrity of those who teach error while they use every veiled and hidden slur against those who oppose error are not loyal to the Lord. "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:8). Choose now, as Moses did, to suffer affliction with the people of God, for the gospel's sake. It is not human loyalty, the friendship of the world, but it is love for the doctrine of the Lord and the support of faithful saints that will be rewarded in that last, great day (Phil. 1:5-7; Heb. 6:10-12). So give our God your hearts and your hands, O, ye of Israel who love his law and delight in his doctrine! (Watchman Magazine, July 1998)