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‘LOOK TO YOURSELVES’ – 2 John 7-11

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on January 17, 2016 under 2016 |

Message preached Sunday, January 17, 2016 from 2 John 7-11

Theme: We must ‘look to ourselves’—lest we be drawn away from faithfulness to the biblical testimony of Jesus, and thus lose eternal reward!

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

I have felt led this morning to take a break from our study in the Gospel of Mark; and to ask instead that we turn to the New Testament letter of 2 John.

Though I call it a ‘letter’, it’s so small that it might just as well called a New Testament ‘postcard’. It was written by the beloved apostle John—who introduces himself as “the elder”. And it was sent to a particular church family—which John refers to as “the elect lady and her children”. It was a letter that John wrote out of deep love for the folks in this church family. He commends them highly for having walked faithfully in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ; and in their love for one another.

And it’s in the midst of this a warm and encouraging letter that we find a very hard but very necessary warning—one that would help protect that church’s ability to continue loving one another in a faithful walk in the truth. In verses 7-11, John writes;

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 (vv. 7-11).

It’s a very short—and very sweet—letter of love! But it’s one with a very large and very serious warning standing out in the middle. And dear brothers and sisters in Christ; I believe we need to pay special attention to it!

* * * * * * * * * *

John wasn’t the only one that issued this kind of warning. This is something that is frequently talked about in the New Testament.

The Lord Jesus Himself once warned that, in the later times, false prophets would rise up and deceive many (Matthew 24:11). The apostle Paul said that, after his time on earth, dangerous false teachers would arise—some from even within the church—that would seek to draw God’s people away from the truth (Acts 20: 28-31). He warned that, in the latter times, some would depart from the faith and give heed to “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). One such word of warning from the apostle Peter stands out—particularly because of the way in which he describes the destructive effects of this kind of false teaching. In 2 Peter 2, he wrote;

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber (2 Peter 2:1-3).

In a culture such as ours—one that prides itself in its ‘pluralism’—many most folks would consider it uncivil to talk about such things. But as the people of God—a people who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and who are to be characterized by a sincere love for one another in the unchanging truth of the gospel—we must talk about such things! It may even be that I am feeling led to share this passage with you today because we—as a church family—are, in some way, about to encounter a situation in which we really need this warning. It may even be that some of us here today, as individual believers, are about to be personally confronted by error and false teaching—and are going to need to be prepared in advance.

So; I ask that we look carefully at this warning together. We must, as John puts it, ‘look to ourselves’—lest we be drawn away from faithfulness to the biblical testimony of Jesus, and thus lose eternal reward.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now; in verse 7, John writes; “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.” So, let’s first consider . . .


The initial word that John uses to describe these false teachers is very interesting. It’s one that’s related to the idea of being a wanderer, or a roamer, or a vagabond. It’s the Greek word planos. In ancient times, when astronomers would look up into the heavens, they would see a star. But when they went to look again some time later, they’d have some trouble finding it. They discovered that the crazy thing had moved! It turned out that they thought was a star really wasn’t a star at all! They had been deceived! And so they called it a “planet”—a star that was a ‘wanderer’. And that describes what a planos is—someone who has wandered from the fixed point of God’s revealed truth, and who is deceiving and misleading people. In fact, the New Testament writer Jude refers to such false teachers in those very terms—very dreadfully referring to them as “wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13).

And it’s interesting that John says that such deceivers “have gone out into the world”. It wasn’t simply that they were out in the world and now try to get into the church. Many false teachers do indeed develop their dangerous ideas and philosophies from the ungodly world system that’s around us, and then try to bring those teachings into the church from the outside. But in the case of what John is writing about, it appears as if they had originated in the other direction—having come from within the body of Christ. That’s not true of all false teachers, of course But it’s very interesting that the apostle Paul had once warned a group of pastors;

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves (Acts 20:29-30).

How will we recognize these ‘wanderers’?—these ‘deceivers’? I believe that John has given us a wonderfully useful ‘rule-of-thumb’ by which to recognize the teaching of such ‘deceivers’. It’s found right in the middle of verse 7; where John writes that they are those “who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.”

Now; to “confess” something, as a matter of doctrine, means ‘to say the same thing’ as should be said—to say the same thing as what God declares to us to be the truth in His word. And there is a basic doctrine about Jesus that we are given in the Scriptures that is summed up very well in the three things that John says. Every destructive ‘cult’, somehow or other, distorts the Bible’s teaching about Jesus in one of these three areas. They ‘do not confess’ these things—or, to put it another way, they deny them. And by contrast, someone who is of the truth will faithfully “confess” these three things as true about Jesus.

First, a true teacher will confess that “Jesus” and “the Christ” are one and the same Person. He is “Jesus Christ”. ‘Jesus’ is His human identity; and ‘the Christ’ is His divine title. And they are not separate entities, but are one and the same Person.

In the early years of Christianity, there were ‘gnostic’ heresies in the church—very destructive distortions of the Christian faith; and one particular version of it taught that Jesus and the Christ were two different things. Jesus, they said, was a very unique man upon whom ‘the Christ’ came. You often see this false teaching in many of the modern New Age philosophies today, or in some Eastern religions. Every once in a while, you’ll read a grand announcement that this ‘Christ’—who came upon Jesus—has reappeared in the world and has come upon some other, new, special person (and that if you hop on a plane, you could fly out to wherever he is, go and sit at his feet, and give him money).

Don’t believe such things! Jesus and the Christ are the same Person—once and forever! Just remember what Peter said when Jesus asked who he thought He was: “You are the Christ,” he said, “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). So; that’s one test of someone who is confessing the truth. They teach that the man who walked the earth named Jesus, and the Christ who is the Son of the living God, are one and the same Person.

Another proof that someone teaches the truth about Jesus is that they confess Him as “coming”. And let’s understand this carefully. This is not to say that He has not yet come, and is ‘coming’ one day. That, of course, is true of Jesus’ ‘second coming’. Rather, this word ‘coming’ is meant to say that the nature of Jesus’ relationship to this world is that of ‘coming’ into it from outside of it—that is, from not having originated in it. Jesus, as we are to confess, is the same Person as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’. And as the second Person of the Trinity, He eternally existed before the world ever was. He Himself is the Creator of this world; and then—later, at a point of time in history—He came into it.

This would mean that Jesus is not as some cults teach Him to be—those who say that He was a mere man who ‘evolved’ into deity, or that He was a unique created being. Whoever denies that Jesus was the eternally pre-existent Son of God—not a product of this world, but ‘coming’ into it at a point of history—is not confessing the truth about Him. They are trying to present Jesus as essentially being something that He is not.

Just remember how clearly the apostle John describes Jesus, at the beginning of the Gospel of John, as ”coming” into this world:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-5, 14).

And here’s a third proof that someone is confessing the truth about Jesus; and that is that they confess Jesus Christ coming “in the flesh”. This means that Jesus Christ was not only fully divine but also fully human. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the human womb of the virgin Mary. He had a real human body that was made from and that grew from Mary’s human substance, and was born into the human family as one of us. He grew into manhood in a human body, was temped in that same human body in the ways that we are tempted (yet without sin), obeyed God perfectly in that human body, and was crucified in that human body as our sinless Sacrifice. In that body, He was also buried, raised, ascended, glorified, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. And in that same body He will return to the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.

This puts the lie to false doctrines of some religious systems that claim that Jesus wasn’t the actual person who died on the cross; or that Jesus’ body was only an illusion and only ‘seemed to be’ human. Just remember what Jesus told the apostles after He rose from the dead:

Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:38-39).

That’s how you can recognize deceivers. They do not confess those basics about Jesus. They deny one, or two, or all three of them. They deny that ‘Jesus Christ is come in the flesh’. I recommend that you just remember a simple formula that I used to teach my children: ‘Jesus Christ is fully God, and fully man, with two natures, in one Person, bodily’. Just read and believe what the four Gospels teach about Him, and interpret what they say in the light of Old Testament prophesies about Him, and what the New Testament writers declared about Him—and you will do the greatest thing you can do to protect yourself from these dangerous deceivers and their false teaching about Jesus.

* * * * * * * * * *

And such deceivers are indeed presented to us as very dangerous! John says about those who deny these basics, “This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” They aren’t the Antichrist; but they are of the antichrist spirit. Like John wrote elsewhere;

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us (1 John 2:18-19).

Such antichrist teachers and deceivers are at war with Christ and His gospel; and are of that diabolical spirit of the devil that seeks to turn people away from a sincere faith in the redeeming work that Jesus came into this world to perform for us.

That leads us to another thing that John tells us. In verse 8, he says, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” This helps us to appreciate . . .


It’s no small thing to be turned away from faithful biblical teaching about Jesus. We aren’t saved simply by believing in God. After all, the devil believes in God with far more conviction than even we do. He has actually seen God! We are saved by believing on God’s Son Jesus Christ! And even then, it’s not simply that we believe in Jesus in whatever vague way we prefer to believe in Him. That’s what can be so deceitful about the cults. They will almost all insist that they ‘believe in Jesus’. But they don’t believe what the Bible clearly calls us to believe about Jesus.

What makes it so dangerous to be turned away from faithfulness to the Bible’s teaching about Jesus, then, is that we are thus turned away from the only true saving faith. We are only saved by believing on Jesus as the Bible declares Him to be; that is, the eternal Son of God, who—without ceasing to be God—came into this world as an act of love; and who took full humanity to Himself and died in our place, for our sins, on the cross; and who has been raised from the dead, in the same body, to show that He has paid for our sins and conquered death on our behalf. It is by faith in that Jesus—and in that Jesus only—that we are saved!

And it’s by faith in that Jesus only that we grow in our relationship with God the Father! The danger for those of us who have placed a true saving faith in Jesus is that we may become deceived later on—without our paying attention, or without our being discerning, or without our being careful who we listen to—and be drawn away and confused in our understanding of Jesus. We end up losing ground in our Christian faith, cease to grow and serve as we should, and fail to receive the reward from the Lord for faithful service that He wishes to give us.

As John puts it, we don’t want to ‘lose those things we worked for’, but rather, to ‘receive a full reward’. And those who think that they are the most secure are perhaps—in reality—in the greatest danger. There have been plenty of people who started off strong in the doctrines of the faith, but who wandered away after years of having begun to follow the Savior. As someone once said, “Standing is just one step away from falling.”

Dear brothers and sisters; we want to be among those who hear the Lord Jesus say to us “Well done!” when we finally appear before Him. And that means we need to give the fullest attention to our own steadfastness in the faith—both now, and for the rest of our days!

And so; as John urges us, “Look to yourselves!”

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; John goes on to say in verse 9, “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.”

Those are hard words! And this leads us next to consider . . .


Literally, in the original language, John is saying, “whoever runs ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.” That’s an interesting way to put it, isn’t it?—whoever ‘runs ahead’? It’s as if they’re not allowing themselves to be ‘reigned in’ any longer by what God Himself has revealed about His Son. It’s as if they have developed their own “innovative” and “groundbreaking” ideas about Jesus; and are going forth—full speed ahead—to spread their reckless new insights, and to invite others to become as ‘enlightened’ as they believe themselves to have become.

Well; here’s the remarkable thing. There are no new developments in the truth of the gospel of Christ;. There haven’t been for two-thousand years. Progress is not made by coming up with something new, but by going back to the ‘old paths’ God has already established in His word. And God puts it very plainly: Those who have decidedly and deliberately ‘run ahead’ of God—who ‘transgress’ in their doctrine, and who now no longer confess what the Father has said about Jesus and no longer abide in the biblical doctrine of Christ—these do not have a relationship with the Father. They do not “have God”, no matter what they may claim, You shouldn’t listen to them.

However, God promises that whoever “abides in the doctrine of Christ”—that is, who remains true to what God has said about Jesus in His word, and through the testimony of the apostles—“has both the Father and the Son”. They are in fellowship with God.

The apostle John said this elsewhere;

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:11-12).

You can’t get much more straight-forward than that! How important it is, then, that we make sure we abide in the doctrine of Christ—and stay away from those who seek to draw us from it!

* * * * * * * * * *

But then comes a very practical question. How do you deal with those who try to draw you away? How do you deal with people who come to your door with false doctrine? How do we deal with them when they seek to disseminate false teaching in our church?

John gives us an answer to that as well. In verses 10-11, he writes, “ 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.” And I believe this teaches us . . .


Now; I don’t believe this means we should ever be rude to people. When someone comes to your door, don’t do as I’m told that one of my relatives once did—and chase them down the street with a chair! That’s not the kind of representation of our Savior that we want to present to this world. We must always be respectful of the humanity of others, and to even be ready to show them basic human compassion when needed.

But I do believe we should take John’s words seriously and quite literally. When they come to your door, they’re not coming as ‘seekers after the truth’. They are coming as ‘deceivers’ who are offering an alternative to the truth. Do not welcome them into your home to give their spiel. Don’t even allow them to rope you into debates at your doorstep. (Some see John’s warning as being spoken to an ancient local church with reference to the kind of traveling teachers who would come along and ask for support and for a platform; and in that case, I believe it means that we do not allow someone who has departed from the basic doctrine of Christ to be a guest speaker in our pulpit or in any of our Bible study groups, nor allow them to distribute literature or sell books as an ‘alternative viewpoint’.) We definitely must not, in any way, support them financially. In fact—as John puts it—we are not to even say, “Well, I can’t give you the time right now; but God bless you in your work just the same.” Don’t even give them such a greeting! If you give them such a blessing, or support them in their efforts, or in any way help them to further the spread of falsehood, you put yourself in the position of sharing with them in their evil deed of deceiving others—and set yourself at risk of giving an account before God the Father for helping spread untruths about His Son.

I suggest that the very best thing to do is to just have copies of the New Testament handy that you can give away—or copies of the Gospel of John. Keep them near the front door of your home, or in your car. And when a cult member comes to you to give you literature or to engage you in a presentation of their doctrine, simply and kindly say, “I will not give you the time to tell me what you have to say. And I will not accept any of your literature. But because I love you—and because you need to know Jesus as He truly is—I am very glad to offer you this copy of the Scriptures with the hope that you will read it, and with the promise that I will be praying for you.” And then, politely but firmly end the conversation.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; some may reject that as ‘unloving’. But it’s not unloving at all. In fact, there’s nothing more ‘unloving’ than to allow people to be deceived by dangerous false teaching. And there’s nothing more loving than to protect the truth of the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, dear beloved brothers and sisters in Christ; keep on the alert! Beware of deceivers! Abide in the doctrine! Be very careful who you listen to! Protect what you have gained! “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”

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