Study #6 (2 John 10-11)
Not Hospitable To All
Great discernment is needed as we dispense encouragement and support to others. There is a good encouragement and support that honors Christ. But there is also a wicked encouraging and supporting which offends him and harms the church.
The Apostle John writes …
10. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,
11. for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
Evidently there were false teachers approaching the believers. This was obviously not just a hypothetical situation. False teachers were present in the church already in those early years of the First Century church. The verses leading up to the text for this study set the context.
7. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
8. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.
9. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
– These teachers denied that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah having come in the flesh. (verse 7)
– They did not abide in the teachings of Christ. (verse 9)
We know from the New Testament historical books and epistles that believers showed hospitality to travelers by housing them and providing for them. This is how God instructed them to behave. It was the custom of that era.
But some who were coming to them expecting hospitality were promoting error. They did not bring “this teaching”. As described in verse 9 these were “going too far” (literally “running ahead”). They ignored Christ’s instruction and were blindly rushing on ahead on their own. They had a reckless concern for the teachings of Jesus, his doctrine. John called them “anti-christ” in verse 7 as he did in 1 John 2:22 and 4:3.
These travelers were not just deluded believers. They were intent on leading other believers astray. They were openly promoting false ideas and trying to get other believers to follow them. Possibly among them were the Cerinthian missionaries who were going to the various communities where there were churches, and promoting a different Jesus and a different gospel than the true one.
Doctrinal error is dangerous and it takes place in every era of the church. Today there are preachers, missionaries, and agencies that beg for our support, but some promote a God who is not unchangeable, and who is not King of kings and Lord of lords. They promote a salvation that is under our control rather than under the exclusive disposal of God. They build churches and missions that rely upon business structures and reject biblical ones. They fund charities that promote things God directly condemns in his word. They mix Christian ideas with modern pagan notions like the Cerinthians did in the time of John.
There are many examples of how false teachers creep in to take the uninformed captive. They beg support and hospitality for their deceptions. But the error is not just one of making small and harmless doctrinal errors. The errors they were promoting are at the root of serious heresies and devastations of the church. Since they replace God’s ways with the ways of men, they hurt vulnerable people.
Matthew Henry commented, “Deniers of the faith are destroyers of souls”
These are not to be received or greeted by believers.
10. … do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,
Ancient hospitality was different than what we think of today. The writer of Hebrews repeats this same principle for the church, Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers …”
Today we might think of inviting someone into our living room for a chat and a cup of coffee. It might mean having them over for dinner or for an evening of visiting. But in biblical times it was the custom to put them up in your home for the night and to provide them with food and all they needed during their stay.
We are told in Scripture to treat even our enemies with kindness. We are even told to give them provisions. Proverbs 25:21, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,” Paul quotes this same verse in Romans 12:20
Obviously the issue John is dealing with is not in conflict with the rest of Scripture. But this general principle must not be extended to where it violates other principles of Scripture. We can be generally hospitable and kind to men of all faiths and stations in life. But our purpose in doing good must always be to promote the truth and glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
When doing good to someone ceases to promote the truth of God, and begins to promote falsehood and confusion as they use our help to further their cause, then we have crossed the line and have violated God’s principles. That kind of hospitality would destroy the church of Christ. To do so would wrongly employ the means God has entrusted to his people to manage wisely for his glory. Those who deny the nature of Christ as promoted in Scripture ought not to be helped in their work.
We are not to even “greet” them. That is, we are not to wish them “chairo” (χαίρω), “favor, goodwill, joy, happiness” while they are engaged in their work of promoting wrong teachings which will confuse the children of God. This does not mean refusing to say “hello” or to shake their hand in our “Western” sense. But our greeting should not be understood as wishing them success and blessing in their work.
Support of false teachers is participation with them.
11. for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
This is the problem: When we help those who spread confusion and untruth, or encourage them in their work, we are guilty of those same evil deeds.
This is the basic principle Paul was concerned about in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.’ Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
Today this can be applied in several ways:
1. In our dealings with cults:
Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, and others often come to our door promoting a very different Christ and a very different gospel. Their distortions of God’s word hurt many people. You ought to be kind to them, and if possible use the opportunity to declare your trust in the Christ of Scripture and explain the way of Grace. However, you should not wish them well in their work, contribute to them, or aid their efforts in any way.
2. In our exposure to heresy:
Many mystical and ecumenical groups promote their false teachings on TV, the Internet, social media, radio, in public rallies, and through publications. We need to remember that they are supported by the size of their listening or reading audience. Its size is what makes stations give them or sell them time, and makes publishers distribute their work. It’s what makes them get heavy viewing in the cyber-world. Your participation, even by being a viewer, is what gives them the appearance of success that exposes others to their teachings and drags some into their movements.
3. In our support of charities:
The idea that giving money to charitable organizations always honors God is not true. Only that which promotes God’s truth and glory is really honorable giving. Biblically the church, its ordained officers, are charged with determining where charitable help is to go. So often believers let their local churches and missionaries struggle shamefully while they give their donations to various community and national charities instead. First, we should not neglect the bringing of our offerings to our church as an act of worship. Second, when our support is in any way used to make the work of false teachers or anti-christs easier we become participants with them in their evil deeds. We need to be good managers of all God entrusts to us.
Matthew Henry also points out that one way we may help false teachers is by our silence. If we see error and fail to correct it humbly and accurately, then we aid them in their work.
There are no excuses here for withholding biblical hospitality. But there are principles here that should make us very discriminatory in our support. If we are not confident that any particular group is working within the boundaries of God’s truth and glory, yet we support or encourage them, then we engage in a most careless and unholy alliance with them in where the glory is directed.
Bob Burridge ©2017
Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted