An Evil Work (2 John 6-11)
I have a confession to make: I “love” denominational literature. When I’m at the hospital or a doctor’s office or a restaurant and see denominational literature, I collect all that I can find. It then goes to the place it belongs—the garbage. I have even taught my family well: My wife and my children will go around, collect all that junk, and toss it in the trash.
I have a Bible in the office that I asked a woman for, it was the only Bible she had, and I begged her for it, and she gave it to me. You see, she not only had a version I desperately wanted to add to my library (taking it from her did that very thing), but she had a denominationally translated version. There is a denomination that teaches Jesus Christ is a created being and that he is not divine. This denomination has published their own version of the Bible, which grossly mistranslates the Greek text and says that Jesus is created and not divine. I took that Bible and got her one which much more accurately translated the Hebrew and Greek texts.
What encounters have you had with false doctrine? I know that some of you have come out of denominational backgrounds and that you were taught denominational baggage and you believed it. When you learned the truth, you were honest and sincere and obeyed the words of Jesus, rather than the words of some man. Most all of us have had someone knock on the door in order to teach us error. I’m happy to take all the literature they’ll give me and “deep six” it and thereby keep others from reading it and being led astray. Everyone one of us surely has attended a funeral with instrumental music and perhaps women doing the service and incense and communion and other things.
I have heard all my life that we need to be the church of the first century. That is a wrong concept from beginning to end. You read the New Testament and you find that denominationalism and error are nothing new. We even have names for the denominations in the New Testament. We have the Judiazers who taught that circumcision was necessary for salvation. In Revelation, Jesus talks about the Nicolaitans—we don’t know what they taught, but we know that they taught error. Much of the New Testament is written as a rebuke of false doctrine.
The fact that false doctrine was rampant even in the first century and God inspired men to write forcefully against it should tell us what God thinks about false doctrine!
We should absolutely be members—we must be members—of the church of which we read in the New Testament. The New Testament was written to combat error in order that God, through the Spirit, might outline precisely the church he wanted on this earth. This morning’s text outlines the consequences of false doctrine, and teaches us that: “False doctrine is an evil work.”
Scripture (2 John 6-11)
Love is “that we walk according to his commandments.”
If I really love the Lord, I’m not going to be chasing the commandments of men; I’ll be chasing the commandments of Jesus. Jesus: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
Many deceivers have gone out into the world. In John’s day, deceivers were those who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh. They said that Jesus wasn’t really here—he simply appeared to be here.
John called such a one “the antichrist.” It’s quite obvious that we aren’t talking about some “end time” figure that many envision—John says the deceiver and “the antichrist” was active in his own day. Why was this person “the antichrist?” He was opposing Christ. He literally was anti-Christ.
We have “antichrists” in our own day, too. You flip on the TV and you watch those preachers and tell me whether or not they’re “antichrists.” You know they are! You go in these denominational churches and hear the garbage taught and tell me whether those men and women in the pulpits are “antichrists.” You know they are!
The “elect lady and her children” needed to watch themselves so that they do not fall into the trap of error.
Anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.
“The doctrine of Christ” in this passage more than likely means “the doctrine about Christ.” In other words, those who were teaching that Jesus had not come in the flesh had gone beyond the doctrine of Christ. Jesus taught that we should abide in his doctrine: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn 8:31).
The one going ahead of the doctrine of Christ does not have God. It is a huge understatement to say one puts himself in a “perilous position” if he does not have God; Notice what it means not to have God: The Gentiles in Ephesus had been “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Those who teach and those who believe error are “without Christ”—they are lost—being part of a church which teaches error is not a good thing—believing error makes you “without Christ!”
The one who came to the lady with error was not to be received in her house, for the one who takes part in his efforts takes part in his wicked ways.
In John’s day, missionaries traveled from town to town not knowing where they’d stay. Faithful Christians would take them in and show hospitality and send them where they needed to go; often the missionary was given financial help. The elect lady was not to help heretics in that way.
Why? Because the one who helped him was as guilty as the heretic spreading the doctrine. Ever heard of an accomplice? The one showing hospitality to a heretic was his accomplice.
Think about that for just a moment. If I attend a denominational service and contribute financially, am I not taking part in their evil deeds? If I attend such a service and show support, am I not taking part in their evil deeds? If I commend my family for “at least going to church somewhere,” am I not saying that truth is irrelevant and taking part in the evils of denominationalism?
Let’s think about how we need to respond to error:
First: You must understand how serious error is.
We sometimes act as though some teaching other than biblical truth isn’t “all that bad.”
Really? In our text, we see that the one who teaches error does not have God, is the deceiver and antichrist, and has evil works—That doesn’t sound like there’s anything commendable there to me!
“You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4). In the context of Galatians 5 who are those who have fallen from grace? They were Judiazers—those teaching and practicing error. In Galatians 5:4, Paul says they are seeking to be justified by the law. In Galatians 5:2-3, Paul says that if you accept circumcision (i.e., the doctrine of the Judiazers), you are obligated to keep the whole law. In the context of Galatians 5:4, it is those who are practicing false doctrine who have fallen from grace.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Col 2:8). We can become entrapped by error—taken “captive by philosophy and empty deceit”—find it difficult to come out of it. How many of you had trouble coming out of denominationalism or have taught people who just couldn’t get rid of the way “Mom and Dad always did it?”
Error leads to division (Jude 17-19). Error has caused more division than you can shake a stick at. In Midway, Kentucky, the melodeon was introduced, and the church has been split over the issue of instrumental music ever since. Drive up the road and notice all the church buildings; churches with which we do not and cannot have fellowship. How many families have been severed over error?
Jesus doesn’t take kindly to false doctrine. He taught against false doctrine during his earthly ministry.
Matthew 15:1-9. Jesus combats the tradition (doctrine) of the Pharisees and scribes. He ends with “In vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines” (Matt 15:9).
In Matthew 19 Jesus combats false doctrine about marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Some said that you could divorce and remarry for just any cause; Jesus teaches proper marriage: One man and one woman for life; one may legitimately put a spouse away for fornication; any divorce for reasons other than fornication forbids remarriage; remarriage is adultery in those circumstances. Aren’t there many in our own day that have taught and who believe and practice error with those words of Jesus?
The Resurrected Christ has harsh words to say about false doctrine in Revelation.
To the Ephesian church, the Resurrected Christ says, “Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Rev 2:6). Who were the Nicolaitans and what were their works? Unfortunately, I do not have all the answers to that question; however, I know the Nicolaitans were teaching error: “So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev 2:15-16).
Notice what Jesus says about error: He hates it, and those who believe and practice error need to repent. If, pray tell me, Jesus hates false doctrine and calls on those who believe and practice it to repent, how can we then act like it’s no big deal?
Jezebel was teaching and seducing Christians to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols (Rev 2:20-24). Notice that Jesus is calling her to repent, and he even gave her time to repent (v 21), yet she refused; Jesus loves those in error and longs for their repentance.
Those who practiced what Jezebel taught needed to “repent of her doings” lest they face great tribulation (v 22). Those who believed and practiced what Jezebel taught would face the judgment of Christ; those today who believe and practice error they are taught by false teachers will face the judgment of Christ. I do not say that with any sense of pride or bravado or arrogance; it’s Bible truth.
Second: You must go to Scripture.
Scripture provides the answers we absolutely must know. “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet 1:3); God has given me everything I need for life and godliness. The prophetic word—aka Scripture/teaching of the apostles and prophets—is like a light shining in a dark place (2 Pet 1:19). We shouldn’t be surprised that Scripture can guide us in the right way, for “men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:21).
If you want to know why we do the things we do, go to Scripture to find the answer. Why don’t we have a piano? Instead of asking someone, look up the verses in the New Testament which talk about singing. Why don’t we hire a woman preacher? Look at what Scripture says concerning the role of women. Why do we say that baptism is essential to salvation? Look at what Scripture teaches concerning baptism.
Because Scripture comes from God, because it shines as a lamp in a dark place, because in Scripture we have all things that pertain to life and godliness, Scripture is the standard. Not the preacher, not the elders, not a Bible class teacher, not Mom and Dad, not some great theologian. Scripture must ALWAYS be our standard!
Third: You must keep the preacher on his toes.
When Paul and Silas were preaching in Berea, they found the Bereans “more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Don’t ever take a man’s word; take God’s word!
What a marvelous world we would have if people really came to understand that False doctrine is an evil work! We wouldn’t have false teachers leading followers to a devil’s hell. We’d have people in Scripture rather than in the dogma in which they were raised. We’d have the unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17.
What a marvelous world if people understood the perils of evil. Anytime we disobey Christ we put ourselves in great peril. Are you in peril this morning? Do you need to come to Jesus this morning?