2 John 1:11-13 by Robert Dean
Series:2nd John (2002)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 38 secs

The importance of the local church

2 John 1:10 NASB "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into {your} house, and do not give him a greeting; [11] for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds."

What we have here is a clear statement to the local church that the local church is not to accept, take in, or allow anyone with false doctrine to come into their presence. They need to avoid them. This is not anyone, such as someone walking in off the street as a visitor, but someone who claims to have something to teach or to promote. In the ancient world it was not uncommon for a travelling philosopher or religious teacher to come to an area. He would start speaking to a group and would expect to rely on the local believers to financially support him. So this is the idea of someone who claims to have a message from God, claims to be able to teach and wants to communicate something related to the Word and comes into the congregation. In other words, somebody who has a doctrinal agenda and yet as part of their doctrinal baggage they do not have a correct Christology. Therefore the Bible clearly teaches that the local congregation is a closed system. It can allow for visitors but there are certainly rules and regulations for the conduct of the local congregation and this is why it is important for local churches to have clear doctrinal statements. John clearly makes the point that there is a biblical foundation to exclude people from a local congregation, and they are not only not to receive this kind of person but they are not even to say anything like "have a nice day" or "hello," and whenever they do it is a participation. That is a strong statement. The idea there for participation or sharing is the verb form of the noun koinonia [koinwnia], koinoneo [koinwnew] meaning partnership, sharing, participation in, sharing responsibility in. That means that if we ever go so far as to say "have a nice day" then to the degree that this person is influencing people you are going to share in whatever negative consequences resulting in that. This is a clear statement from John that we don't want to have anything to do with someone who has false doctrine because if we do we enter into and share in his false doctrine if we give any hint of approval for this man. This is the idea of the doctrine of separation—it is a doctrinal issue.

            The doctrine of separation

1.  There are two kinds of separation: mental separation and physical separation.

2.  Mental separation is the mental attitude that the growing believer adopts as he realises there is a distinction between human viewpoint and divine viewpoint. It is coming to a realisation in spiritual growth that it is necessary to erect a wall in the thinking (an attitude) that rejects human viewpoint thinking. It is a mental separation that allows the believer to put up this wall so that he protects himself from the influence of cosmic thinking.

3.  Therefore this wall of protection is built through the use of spiritual skills—the faith-rest drill, grace orientation, and doctrinal orientation. Mental separation must come first. It means understanding doctrine, truth, and that must be the basis for decisions.

4.  Physical separation occurs when believers limit contact with others because of false doctrine. It is important to do that because in 1 Corinthians 15:33 we are told that bad company corrupts good morals. So we recognise that at some point we have to distance ourselves corporately from those who come in with false doctrine, but in our personal life it may become necessary to have physical separation from people whose goal or agenda is not to grow to spiritual maturity and whose company is going to be a negative influence.

5.  Physical separation without prior mental separation will cause the believer to walk into cosmic thinking through the back door. A lot of people get involved some sort of reaction to somebody and the next thing they know, because it is not based on doctrine and they are not doing it under the filling of the Holy Spirit, it is not a part of impersonal love, and what happens is that they get into arrogance, mental attitude sins such as reaction, anger, hostility, hatred, vengeance motivation, bitterness, and the next thing we know is they are out of fellowship and in the cosmic system. Mental separation establishes the spiritual categories and spiritual absolutes.

6.  Removing someone from church is an act of love, just as correct, objective application of capital punishment is an act of love, because the focus is on the victim, on the congregation.

7.  Such an act must avoid any kind of revenge motivation, jealously, vindictiveness, bitterness, implacability, or any mental attitude sins.

So John gives a warning from vv. 7-11 on the importance of having a correct Christology and its application in terms of not even accepting any kind of teacher, any person with any voice whatsoever, into the local congregation if they do not have a correct understanding of the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then in vv. 12-13 he gives his closing for the epistle.

2 John 1:12 NASB "Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to {do so} with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full." He puts the subordinate clause up front because he is emphasising the fact that he has many other doctrines to teach them. It begins with a present active participle that does not have the article, therefore it is considered an adverbial participle, and it should be translated as a concessive: "Although I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink." This emphasises the fact that John is the pastor to this congregation. We know that he pastored in Ephesus and in the early church there were not always enough pastors to go around. The word here translated "paper" is the Greek word chartou [xartou] which is where we get our English word "chart," so it has to do with a scroll. The word for ink is the word "black," i.e. the black ink that they used, and it indicates there is much doctrine that he needs to communicate to them but he can't do it with paper and ink, so he says: "but I hope to come to you and speak face to face." So John recognises that face to face ministry is superior to a non-face to face ministry. He recognises that because of the circumstances that many people find themselves in they may not be able to avail themselves of a face to face ministry, therefore in his day they had to rely on written information. Today we have all kinds of electronic means.

The importance of the local church

1.  God created man for community. Genesis 1:26, 27—God creates man in His image and likeness. God as a triune God is eternally social; there is a society in the Trinity. There is eternal relationship with each person in the Trinity. From the very beginning was the institution of marriage and family, and this is society. So there is the importance of a corporate involvement. People are not to live their lives in isolation but there is a corporate relationship in the social dimension.

2.  Just as God called out a corporate body for Himself in the Old Testament and there was the corporate worship in the Old Testament around the ritual of the tabernacle and the temple, God also called out a corporate body for Himself in the New Testament and there is to be corporate worship in the local church. That is part of the function of the priesthood and ambassadorship of each believer. If we isolate the believer from the local church we are isolating them from part of their priesthood and their ambassadorship.

3.  The church, then, is not simply an organism of individual believers that are united to Christ but is a corporate unity. We are one in Christ and members of one another, the Scripture says. God authorised and instituted the local church as the meeting place of believers.

4.  The purpose of the local church is to equip believers to function in their priesthood and their ambassadorship. It is also to teach them how to grow and mature as believers, and to utilise their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ. Spiritual gifts were not given for purely self-edification; in fact Paul condemns the Corinthians because that is their idea. Spiritual gifts are given so that believers can benefit others in the body of Christ.

5.  It is the believers in a local church through whom God supplies the logistical support for missionaries and evangelists.

6.  The problem we have from our own culture is that the US has produced a lot of can-do individuals. That is great for a lot of areas but when it comes to the church that is not the attitude we see in the New Testament where there is an emphasis on the local body of believers working together. To be sure there is an emphasis on the individual, individual responsibility, individual growth, and how a believer lives his life is between him and the Lord; but on the other hand there is an emphasis on the church, the local body of believers working together. We have to realise that this idea that I can make it on my own as a believer with just my tape recorder or computer is contrary to the Word of God because it limits and prevents participating in key elements of a local church.  

7.  What are those key elements that are missing? There is no opportunity for the Lord's table. The Lord's table for an isolated family is legitimate but it is not considered the normative pattern by the New Testament; it is a group of believers that meet together. Second, there is no opportunity for children's education in a local church. Then, there is no opportunity for the function of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts by definition are to function in and for the body of Christ. Fourth, if a believer is isolated it limits the function of his priesthood in relationship to other believers. Fifth, isolation limits the application of all those "one another" passages of Scripture where we are to pray for one another, encourage one another, admonish one another, teach one another, which indicates this mutual function of the priesthood in relationship to other believers. By being in isolation the believer short changes himself and short changes his own opportunities to fulfil the divine mandates in relationship to the body of Christ.

8.  While a believer can get the information necessary to grow spiritually through non-face to face teaching this is not viewed as the best or the normative situation in the New Testament. Face to face teaching is a superior way of communication.

9.  In the early church they did not always have trained pastors and so training occurred through non-face to face teaching. But we always watch out that we don't fall into the trap of thinking that we can just go it alone.

2 John 1:13 NASB "The children of your chosen sister greet you." "Chosen sister" would be the home church in Ephesus. Remember, ekklesia [e)kklhsia] is a feminine noun in the Greek, so church would be referred to as feminine.