And takeÖthe sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 14, Number
In this issue:
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. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (2 Jno. 9-11)
No doubt, 2 John 9-11 is misunderstood and misused by those who do not yield to its warning and abide by its proscription.
Controversy swirls over what constitutes the "doctrine of Christ" in verses 9 and 10. Some vainly attempt to restrict it to one particular doctrine, namely, that Jesus came in the flesh (2 Jno. 7). (This truth is certainly a part of the doctrine of Christ). Others just as futilely assert the "doctrine of Christ" here is the teaching about Christ, not the teaching that is from Christ, approved by Christ and that belongs to Christ. The "doctrine of Christ" is the doctrine that belongs to Christ; that which He taught (whether delivered by His personally or by His chosen vessels, the apostles, Matt. 7:28-29; Lk. 10:16; 1 Jno. 1:1-4).
The "doctrine of Christ" is nothing other than "the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever" (2 Jno. 2). It is the "truth" in which John found some walking, even as the Father had commanded (2 Jno. 4). It describes "His commandments" according to which we must walk (2 Jno. 6). The doctrine of Christ is the teaching that comes from Christ, which He authorizes and according to which we must live.
Restricting the "doctrine of Christ" to something less than the "word of the truth of the gospel" is the work of those who have already gone beyond the teaching of Christ as well as those who extend fellowship to those who have done so. Below is an example of one brother telling us how misunderstood and misused 2 John 9-11 really is. He wrote:
"What would follow if disciples of Christ were to get the idea that if other disciples (individuals and/or local churches) are in error on some particular issue, or even a number of particular issues, they are duty bound to have nothing to do with them? The result would be that disciples would be acting contrary to the prayer of the Lord that his disciples might be one so the world might believe (John 17). How could the Lordís prayer ever become a reality in a scenario in which brethren have nothing to do with one another other than criticize and condemn? Discord and division would abound, and that is exactly what has transpired." (Posted to the Bible Matters email list, Dec. 19, 2011)
In truth, the "error" we must be concerned about "on some particular issue or even a number of particular issues" is the violation of God's word on any and every issue (Jude 3)! You see, the "issue" at stake is truth and our fellowship with God and one another.
Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17 is not violated by understanding that the doctrine of Christ in 2 John 9-10 is the teaching that belongs to Christ (the New Testament). Do not be misled. The correct understanding and application of 2 John 9-11 does not contradict John 17:20-21; it confirms it. (See 1 John 3:24, where the commandments of Christ parallel the doctrine of Christ in 2 John 9: "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.")
Jesus prayed that believers would be one as He and the Father are one. The unity of believers can persuade unbelievers (Jno. 17:21). Christians who abide in the truth are united with each other and therefore with God (Eph. 4:3). On the other hand, the "unity" urged upon us by limiting 2 John 9-10 to teachings about Christ champions unity in moral and doctrinal diversity, not the oneness enjoyed by the Father and the Son.
2 John 9-11 warns us of those who, due to their error, are out of fellowship with the Father and the Son; they have gone beyond the doctrine of Christ. We are taught not to have fellowship with them lest we lose our fellowship with God because of our communion with their evil.
The suggestion that we cannot obey both John 17 and 2 John 9-11 if the "doctrine of Christ" means the New Testament is incorrect. Christ's prayer is realized when disciples are united in truth (the doctrine of Christ). When men go beyond truth (the gospel) they are not in fellowship with God (Eph. 5:8-11). Thus, one who has fellowship with those in error is not in fellowship with God; he is in fellowship with evil (2 Jno. 11). John plainly taught this truth.
Limiting the "doctrine of Christ" in 2 John 9 to the "dangerous doctrine...that Jesus had not come in the flesh" opens the door to moral and doctrinal division. This brother also wrote:
"Consider also verse 10: 'If one comes to you but does not bring this doctrine.' What doctrine? The doctrine of Christ. This means if we believe a brother is mistaken on some issue of much lesser significance, we may not use this passage to support the idea that he is to be treated like an antichrist rather than a bearer of the good news of Christ; context does not support such behavior." (Ibid.)
Those who uphold unity in moral and doctrinal diversity must, of necessity, classify doctrine as having greater and "lesser" significance (aka the "core gospel" concept of ecumenical denominationalism). Which of the revealed teachings of Christ are less important? If we only knew! Then we could concentrate on the doctrines of greater significance and give up the old worn out, vain and fruitless faith that "the entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever" (Psa. 119:160)! No longer would we need to concern ourselves with "the whole counsel of God" since some of God's counsel is of "lesser significance" than the rest! (I speak as a foolish one!)
Division among Christians is caused and hastened by the false teaching of unity in doctrinal and moral diversity. To their shame, many brethren continue to swallow its false promise of unity. Those who are in fellowship with error are being received, destroying fellowship with God (2 Jno. 9-11). For example, those who teach and practice error on divorce and remarriage are regularly received into fellowship. (It is no surprise that many who teach error on divorce and remarriage also teach and practice error on the subject of fellowship.) Unity in diversity, yes; but not unity in truth (Jno. 17:17, 20-21).
According to the unity in diversity model, if we mutually profess Jesus is the divine Son of God then we should willingly bid each other "God speed" in order to keep unity in the Lord. Those accepting this ecumenical construct say we ought to "love one another" so that "there be no divisions among you" even when doctrinal and moral differences exist. (Translate "love" to mean "tolerate".) Unity in diversity says brethren can violate truth and walk in error yet remain united in Christ.
But, Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Unity is built upon truth (Jno. 17:17, 20-21). John said love is "that we walk according to His commandments" (2 Jno. 6). How does one obey the command that Jesus came in the flesh? He cannot, since it is not a command at all, but a statement of fact upon which faith rests (1 Jno. 4:1-6).
The use of 2 John 9-11 to justify unity in spite of moral and doctrinal differences is thusly summarized:
"Instead of maligning and shunning one another, disciples of Christ, even where there are some significant differences in doctrine and practice, should respect one another and rely on one anotherís resources." (Ibid.)
Exposing error is not maligning a brother (Rom. 16:17-18). Let us apply this stated view of unity and 2 John 9-11 to the Jewish Christians who demanded Gentiles be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1-5). Why did Paul and Barnabas strenuously object? They all agreed Jesus had come in the flesh. All agreed Jesus is the divine Son of God. But if the brethren had yielded to their false doctrine "the truth of the gospel" would not have continued with them (Gal. 2:5). (Even some advocates of unity in diversity will admit the Judaizers should have been "marked" and "avoided" -- but why? You see, they also want to expand 2 John 10-11 beyond the application made in 2 John 7.) According to the unity in diversity model, Paul and Barnabas should have agreed to disagree and relied on the resources of the Judaizers!
Yes, even now those in error (and their resources) are being relied upon by brethren, while men of truth are discounted and rejected. This ought not be. To do so violates 2 John 10-11 and is having fellowship with evil.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
2 John 9 and the "Doctrine of Christ" (Pt 1)
Scripture Reading: 2 John 4-9
1. The NT is
the teaching of Christ.
IS THE "DOCTRINE OF CHRIST" IN 2 JOHN 9?
2 John 9-11 & Our Responsibility to the Doctrine of Christ (Pt 2)
Scripture Reading: 2 John 7-11
Part 1: Multiple views of "doctrine of Christ" in 2 John 9.
I. NOT LIMITED IN OUR USAGE OF 2 JOHN 9-11 TO THE APPLICATION IN VERSE 7.
A. 2 John
9 States the Parameter of Fellowship with God; 2 John 10-11 States the
Parameter of Fellowship with Men.
THE CHRISTIAN'S RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST.
III. PARALLEL THOUGHTS CONFIRM THAT "THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST" IN 2 JOHN 9 IS THE TEACHING THAT COMES FROM CHRIST.
Common Thread of 2 John 9 Runs Throughout the NT.
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 01/09/2012
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA