Give No Access/Encouragement to False Teachers

Beware of wolves in sheeps clothing

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
(Matthew 7:15 KJV)

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott

Give No Access to False Teachers

Part four of a five-part series. 

2nd John verse 10 has a dual focus: False teachers must have no access to the church, or to the believer’s home and family – and by clear implication, to our minds anywhere, any time.

In our last article, we focused on three particular elements of the imperative to act decisively against false teachers, as we find it in Second John.

First, when dealing with false teachers, it is vital for Christians to have a complete and well-balanced understanding of agape love. If Christians focus only on certain aspects of the Bible’s teachings concerning love and ignore others, we will develop an unbalanced and harmful view of Christian love that will expose us to spiritual danger.

Secondly, we saw that acting in agape love toward our true fellow Christians requires us to act toward false teachers in a way that some would mistakenly label as “unloving.” This false accusation stems from a myopic, unbalanced view of the Bible’s imperatives.

Thirdly, we saw that agape love, which is always rooted in truth, demands that Christians act decisively to block the deadly influence of false teachers upon themselves, their homes, and their churches. That is the basis of the command we are given in verse ten: “[D]o not receive [the false teacher] into your house nor greet him, for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”

The agape love that is central to genuine Christian unity recognizes the fact that every believer in Christ is precious to God. Therefore, every one of your fellow believers in Christ should be precious to you. The climactic point of John’s second epistle, found in verses nine and ten, is this: Agape love may require that you do the difficult thing by utterly rejecting false teachers, in order to maintain a church unity that is genuine, and not a counterfeit – but a Christian must never hesitate to do it, because God commands it.

The Climactic Point of John’s Second Epistle

And so John gives clear instruction to the lady to whom his epistle is addressed, and to believers throughout all the subsequent history of the church:

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 John 9-11)

Earlier in his epistle, John has made it clear that he is not speaking of people who may disagree over minor matters but are still brethren in Christ. He is speaking of false teachers and their adherents who reject the fundamentals of the faith. Such individuals thus demonstrate that they are not regenerated, not true believers in Christ. They are engaged in an effort to undermine the church’s hold upon essential truth concerning the person and work of Christ. Failure to reject such people has been one of the greatest sins, and one of the greatest perils, of the church over the centuries.

What Is “Your House”?

These considerations bring us back to the question many have asked us: Is John giving instruction concerning false teachers to the local church as a body of believers, or is his focus on an individual or perhaps a family unit? Three factors in the text bear upon the answer.

First, it is significant that John under divine inspiration shifts from the use of “you” in the singular in verses 4-5 to “you” in the plural for the rest of the letter, until the very last sentence in which he once again addresses “the elect lady” specifically. The instruction of verses 9-10 is a general instruction to all believers, not only to a specific individual.

Secondly, John’s inspired use of the word oikia rather than oikos places the emphasis upon the house as a building. The primary consideration in the commandment of verse nine is to prevent the admission of false teachers to a physical place, and thereby giving them access to precious souls.

Thirdly, we understand from other passages in which both oikos and oikia are used, that the early church normally met in someone’s home.

Conclusion: Give False Teachers No Access – Anywhere, Anytime

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What, then, are we to learn from this? John’s use of oikia in verse nine gives this force to the commandment: If a false teacher comes to your church or to your home, do not even let him cross the threshold. The danger of false teachers is so great, and the unity of the body of Christ in love grounded in truth is so urgent, that you must not allow false teachers to have any access to your home or your church.

“Do not receive him,” God commands through John. The word in the original language has the force of “do not admit the false teacher; do not give him access.”

How does this apply to the home? It means give the false teacher no access to your hospitality. Give the false teacher no access to your family – your spouse, your children. Give the false teacher no access to saved individuals in your household who might be led astray, or to unsaved individuals within household that they might prevent from receiving Christ.

The same holds true for the church. Give the false teacher no access to the members of the body of Christ, to their fellowship, to their worship. There is no fellowship between righteousness and lawlessness; no communion between light and darkness; no accord between Christ and Satan; no common spiritual ground between the believer and the unbeliever; no agreement between believers who are the temple of the living God and those who are, in fact, devoted to idols of their own making (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).

God’s command is unequivocal: Do not let false teachers cross the physical threshold of your home or your church. And, by clear implication, Second John verse nine further commands us not to allow false teachers to cross the threshold of our minds, any time or any place - not only through direct personal contact, but also through radio, television, books, magazines, the Internet, and so on.

In our time, many individuals and churches are being led away from the truth because they refuse to hold the line against false teachers. Far too often Christians are giving false teachers access to their homes, their churches, and their minds. The Holy Spirit through John clearly commands us not to grant any manner of access to false teachers, because the one who does so “shares in his evil deeds” (2nd John verse 11). The word translated “shares” is a form of the Greek koinoneo, the primary New Testament word for fellowship and communion.

Those who grant any manner of access to false teachers open themselves to spiritual ruin, because they put friendship or feelings above God’s command to “have no fellowship (koinoneo) with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). The Greek word translated “expose” is elencho, which includes the element of bringing shame, dishonor, and discredit upon the works of darkness.

How are we to implement these imperatives in our homes, churches, and minds day by day? That will be the subject of our final article in this series.

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Give No Encouragement to False Teachers

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2nd John tells us that granting a false teacher access to your church, home, or mind is to become an accessory to his spiritual crimes. The time may come when you as a Christian must do the difficult thing: put your personal reputation on the line by taking a public stand against a false teacher.

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 John 9-11)

In the fourth article of this series, we began to see the full impact of these climactic verses of John’s epistle. The Holy Spirit through John gives Christians an unequivocal command: Do not let the false teacher cross the physical threshold of your home or your church. Give him no access.

We also saw the further clear implication: We are not to allow false teachers to cross the threshold of our minds, any time or any place – not only through direct personal contact, but also through radio, television, books, magazines, the Internet, and other means. Just as we must not give the false teacher physical access, we must not give him mental access.

Unthinkable In Much of Today’s Church

To the postmodern mind that dominates much of the evangelical church today, such an attitude seems unthinkable. In large segments of the church, the only intolerable thing is intolerance itself. But God’s Word marks the false teacher as one who “does not have God” and commands no toleration of the false teacher anywhere, anytime – and God issues this righteous demand on the basis of a proper view of agape love.

We are to give no quarter to the false teacher and his errors because God’s self-sacrificial love in sending His only Son to die our death in atonement for our sins, and to give us newness of life by the Spirit so that we may walk in the truth, demands this. The false teacher must be utterly unwelcome in our homes, our churches, and our minds because we are to love Christ, His truth, and our fellow believers – and seek, in love, to protect His true Church from spiritual calamity.

Because of the muddled thinking that dominates much of the present-day church, obedience to the command of 2nd John 9-11 often comes at a cost. This exercise ofagape love within the body of Christ can often involve the sacrifice of the faithful believer’s reputation in the eyes of men. But it will never involve the sacrifice of your reputation in the eyes of God.

Doing the Difficult Thing

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There may come a time when you have to do a very difficult thing in the body of Christ because of the imperative of agape love. We live in a time when false teaching about the most fundamental, foundational doctrines of the faith is in some places creeping into the church, and in other places rushing in. We live in a time when people within the church – both members and leaders – are decreasingly submitting to the Word of God, increasingly submitting to the word of man, and increasingly driven by their varying feelings rather than Biblical facts.

The time may come when you will need to point out that there is false teaching within your own church – the word of man substituted for the Word of God; a false gospel supplanting the one true Gospel. This is the dangerous situation in growing segments of nominal evangelicalism. The problem may be in a home Bible study, a Sunday school classroom, an educational institution of the church, or the pulpit itself. The problem may be in your home; the time may come when you must tell a friend or relative who insists on bringing false teaching into your home that he is no longer welcome unless he desists.

The Christian who recognizes false teaching has an obligation, on the authority of the Word of God, to stand up and point out the problem because of the imperative ofagape love. You must do it if Jesus Christ is indeed precious to you. You must do it if your fellow believers are precious to you because they are precious to God. Based on that motivation, you may be called upon to demonstrate your agape love by making the self-sacrifice of putting your reputation on the line by pointing out and rejecting false teachers. You must do that in a respectful, Christ-honoring, Bible-focused way – but never in a way that compromises God’s truth.

Silence Is Acceptance

It is a lie to say that the loving thing to do in such a situation is to keep quiet. That is the unloving thing to do. To keep silent in the presence of error is the opposite of genuine Christian love. It is not an expression of genuine love for Christ or for the brethren. Indeed, it is a counterfeit of agape love. It is disobedience to Christ. Silence puts your fellow brethren – the people who are supposed to be precious to you in Christ in the bonds of love – in grave spiritual danger.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Silence in the face of error is hypocrisy. Accommodation of false teachers is hypocrisy. It is not love for God’s people, it is love for the world. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Let me remind you once again of the admonition we find later in John’s first epistle: “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him” (1 John 3:18-19). Agape love says that God’s truth matters. The truth of God, not persons or personalities, is the issue in confronting false teachers and their errors. We must maintain that focus.

As we conclude this series, let me take up two related practical questions that readers and listeners have asked us.

Dealing With the Cultists

How should a Christian deal with the representatives of cults such as the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to your door? Based on the force of the commandment of 2 John 9-11, I believe that their presence on your threshold is such a serious matter that any interaction you may have with them should take place outside the door of your home.

Do not even admit them across the physical threshold of your house, because once they enter they may soon cross the threshold of an unsuspecting mind – perhaps not yours, but perhaps the mind of someone else within your household. You owe it to the members of your household to protect them from the very physical presence of false teachers. Clearly, they are at your door on a mission to subvert your family from the truth. Dallying with cultists is dangerous business.

Give cultic missionaries the Gospel as an ambassador and herald of Christ, but do not allow them a foot in the door of your home.

Testing the Spirits

Does the commandment of 2nd John 9-11 mean that a Christian should not examine and understand a false teaching for the purpose of refuting it? No, but we must act with great care. When we point out false teaching to our fellow church members or to our household, someone may well ask the question, “What is wrong with it?” Sometimes deadly error is extremely subtle, and it may be couched in seemingly Biblical terms so that it appears sound and harmless. We may need to more fully understand a false teaching in order to properly answer that honest question, and to help others understand that the false teachers are twisting the words of Scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

We must always undertake such a task not with an “open mind” but with an open Bible and a submissive spirit; praying for the protection of the Holy Spirit from falling into error ourselves; praying for the Spirit’s illumination of His truth and the strength to obey it; and, praying for discernment between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Our attitude must ever be, “The Bible is the sole standard by which I will prayerfully and carefully evaluate and expose this falsehood.”

This is the clear implication of the command of 2nd John verse 10 for the believer living in our spiritually confused time: Do not fall into the postmodern, Satanic trap of looking at false teaching with an “open mind” – which is, in fact, an undiscerning mind. Do not even psychologically “receive” the false teacher in that way, or effectively “greet” him in your mind by having an attitude that could give false teaching the slightest credence, and thus even the most subtle foothold.

In his first epistle, John gives this exhortation, which must always govern the Christian’s approach to false teachers and their evil message:

Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [i.e., confesses the truth concerning the full deity and full humanity of Christ and all that this means] is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 3:24-4:6)

Here John reminds us that spirits other than the Holy Spirit exist – demonic spirits, who are the force behind false teachers and their message. As Christians are the heralds of their Lord, false teachers are the spokesmen for Antichrist. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The test that must be applied to all teaching is, in fact, a test of the spirit behind it. Only the truth will conform to Holy Scripture authored by the Spirit of God. Anything else has its origin in the spirit of Antichrist. The word “test” in this passage is the term used for examining and appraising metals to determine their purity and value – whether they are real or counterfeit, whether they are pure or riddled with impurities. Christians must test every teaching by rigorous comparison with our only infallible standard, the Word of God.

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One thought on “Give No Access/Encouragement to False Teachers

  1. During the early days of the church, many false teachers went about denying the humanity of Jesus. Even among the brethren at Corinth, some did not believe in the resurrection of the dead and thereby annulling the resurrection of Christ. (1 Corinthians 15)

    The New Testament church had problems as evident by the writings of the epistles. John’s epistles describe the challenges faced by the children of God. The second and third epistle of John specifically deal with false teachers and men such as Diotrephes.

    Through the Holy Spirit, John gives direction and exhortation concerning those deceivers. 2 John 7-11 reads: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. 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.”

    John exhorts “the elect lady and her children,” to take care of how they fellowship these people and not to give any credence to their false doctrine. He seeks to help them maintain their faith in the face of opposition as the Hebrew writer exhorts in Hebrews 10:35 – “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.”

    The nature of the deceivers is they are willing to “go beyond” or “go ahead” of the doctrine of Christ. To be a disciple of Christ, one must “abide” – “tarry” – “continue to be present” – in the teaching of the Father. Those who are false teachers will not continue in the teachings of the Father but make for themselves their own law. Jesus made mention of this in Mark 7:7 – “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

    John writes to admonish these saints to be careful of the association and fellowship given to those who are unwilling to abide in the doctrine of Christ. He further instructs them that if any come to them and refuse to follow the doctrine of Christ, they are not to be received nor welcomed with greetings normally extended to one another.

    This same instruction is given of Paul in Romans 16:18,18 – “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.”

    With the knowledge that “many deceivers have gone out into the world,” (2 John 7) and the saints must “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God,” (1 John 4:1) care must be taken with their reception of these false teachers. When John admonishes them to not allow them into their homes, he is directing them to not allow an association with them that would weaken their faith or resolve.

    The understanding of verse ten is coupled with receiving them into their homes and giving them greetings. The Psalmist describes the essence of this matter of greeting in Psalm 129:8 – “Neither let those who pass by them say, ‘The blessing of the LORD be upon you; we bless you in the name of the LORD’!”

    John instructs the saints not to give such blessings to those who are not willing to abide in the doctrine of Christ. The receiving them into their home is a relationship of abiding with them. This verse has been used for many years to mean that if someone came to the door desiring to teach whatever doctrine they believe – that it is wrong to allow them “inside the house” to talk with them. This is not the import of John’s message.

    There is nothing wrong with allowing a person to come into the house to discuss the Bible. John (through the Holy Spirit) was not forbidding the specific act of talking with someone about the Bible in our homes but allowing them to be accepted in the false doctrine as part of our fellowship.

    He explains in verse eleven that if we condone by our fellowship the deceivers and give them these types of greetings, we share in their evil deeds. Why? Because we are not willing to stand for Christ and defend the Truth.

    If a Mormon came to my door and wanted to talk with me about the Bible (and the Bible only), I would let him come into my house, sit on my couch and open the Bible to talk with him about his false teaching. This would not contradict scripture as I seek to defend the Truth before him.

    Letting a person in the door to study with them is not the reason John wrote instructions to the saints of 2 John. If this were true, this would prohibit anyone from talking to anyone who does not believe in Truth — in their house. This verse has been used incorrectly to define a pattern unknown in the New Testament. It has been applied to a modern custom of religious groups going door-to-door peddling their false doctrines.

    However, John (as with Paul) warns that abiding with these deceivers will cause them to “lose those things we worked for.” (2 John 8)

    To “receive him into your house” shows a willingness to associate with a desire to be a companion with them and share in their false doctrine – this God forbids lest we approve of what they teach.

    A warning must be given to any who are unprepared to talk with those who come to our doors to discuss the Bible. It would be best to ask them to come back another time and invite a strong Christian to assist them in talking with them about the Truth.

    A greeting of fellowship cannot be given to those who “go ahead” of the doctrine of Christ as some would suppose that all are children of God in Christ. I cannot greet a person as a Christian who is not a Christian nor should I condone their false doctrine. Whether it is in my front living-room, office, front porch or back yard or wherever – we should “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks” concerning our hope and our trust in Jesus Christ.

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