Love's Limit: Part 2

WELCOME: Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

We began our study of 2nd John last month and one of the points John has consistently emphasized is Jesus’ love for true believers and how true believers demonstrate that love to others. I basically introduced verses 5-13 in Part 1 of this message on Love’s Limit. Today we are going to highlight the importance of the Truth of God’s Word and how we are to:

  1. love the truth
  2. be loyal to the truth
  3. guard the truth and
  4. learn the truth

Let’s start by reading 2 John 5-13, where John says….

5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 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. 12 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. 13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. (2 John 5-13)

As I previously mentioned in my last message, verse 9 reiterates what John had focused on throughout his first epistle:

“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9)

This is the test of a true Christian. So, the biggest question of this message is, “Are you abiding in Christ and His teaching? Or, are you thinking the gospel is somehow incomplete and you need to integrate some secular materials that just sounds “good.” We are to abide and live each day, resting in, spending time with, and basking in the beauty of the gospel focusing on Jesus’ love for us because that is fundamental to our relationship with Him.

The true church of Jesus Christ has always understood that fact. Through the centuries, even in the church’s darkest hours, there have always been those who were faithful to evangelize the lost with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. People searched the Scriptures and they were diligent to search out the truth. It was extremely important to understand the gospel in preparation for spreading the message of salvation. Tens of thousands of faithful evangelists have been martyred for their unwavering commitment to obey the Lord’s command to proclaim “The Truth” that saves.

John knew that there is no substitute for teaching that the truth is in Jesus Christ and He stressed the importance of it in this very brief letter. John had called his readers to live in the truth of Christ because it will unite, bless, and ultimately control them. So, John is going to exhort us today to

  1. love the truth
  2. remain loyal to the truth
  3. guard the truth and
  4. learn the truth

Let’s discuss John’s first point;

LOVE THE TRUTH

Verses 5 and 6; Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

John did not hesitate to ask this Christian lady to love because that would be perfectly consistent with living in the gospel truth. John says in verse 5,

“not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.”

John is not claiming to have written a new commandment, but is reiterating the one which she had heard at the beginning of her Christian walk. Just like this Christian lady, all believers are called into a fellowship marked by love for one another. It is clear that love is the defining mark of a true believer, and the lack of it characterizes unbelievers. In 1 John 2:9–11 John declared,

“The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11)

As John said, he is not writing a new commandment, nor is this command to love unique to the New Testament. The Old Testament Law provided a summary of how to love. Deuteronomy 6:5 commands,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Leviticus 19:18 says,

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And in Matthew 22:37-40 when asked to name the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied by citing those same two commands:

“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

The Law summarized in the Ten Commandments are divided into two sections. The first five commandments describe how to love God; the last five describe how to love people. That is why Paul could write in Romans 13:10 that “love is the fulfillment of the law.”

But though the commandment to love was not new from one perspective, it is new from another perspective. You may recall back in 1 John 2:8 John wrote,

“On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8)

There are three senses in which the commandment is new. First, love is “true in Him”; that is, it has now been perfectly modeled in a human life by the Lord Jesus Christ. In his gospel John wrote concerning Christ’s love, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Jesus loves perfectly, completely and to the fullest measure. Jesus offered Himself as an example of how to love when He said,

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35)

We are to “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2) So, we now have an example of how to live out what love should look like in our daily lives.

Secondly, as Christians we obtained new understanding of love through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. John pointed out in his first epistle, it is only possible for us to love “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Paul wrote in Romans 5:5 that “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” That kind of supernatural love is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit identified in Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Scripture tells us that believers “are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). So, we have the Holy Spirit guiding and teaching us how to love.

And finally, the commandment to love is new in that it is part of the new age initiated by the coming of Christ. When we received the free gift of eternal life, we became a part of the spiritual kingdom which is growing into the glorious millennial kingdom to be established when Christ returns, and after that the eternal kingdom. As we live in this present spiritual kingdom, John tells us in 1 John 2:8 that

“the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.”

Jesus Christ is the “True Light” who according to Galatians 1:4 has “rescued us from this present evil age” and according to Colossians 1:13 rescued us “from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” We are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), including divine, supernatural love, which is a way of life for those in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. So, love is a part of our eternal kingdom.

The defining characteristic of love is that “we walk according to His commandments.” Love and obedience are inseparably linked, as Jesus made clear in John 14:15 when He declared, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Believers manifest their love for God by their obedience to Him; by following the truth. In his first epistle, John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). Moses commanded Israel in Deuteronomy 11:1,

“You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 11:1)

Moses’ successor, Joshua, gave Israel a similar charge:

“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).

Obedience to God is the ultimate expression of love for Him.

Repeating himself to stress the importance of this truth, John wrote,

“This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.”

Those who truly love will walk in obedience to biblical truth and vice versa.

John’s second point is that believers are to….

BE LOYAL TO THE TRUTH

Verses 7 and 8; For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.

True biblical love has never been naïve, undiscerning acceptance of anyone who claims to represent Jesus Christ. John has stressed the importance of love, but now he is going to set limits on it. Believers cannot, in the name of love, embrace any of the many deceivers who have gone out into the world. If that were the case, that would be similar to saying that believers should love antichrists. Followers of the true Christ cannot love antichrists! Believers are committed to biblical truth therefore they cannot have fellowship with those who pervert it. 2 Corinthians 6:14–15 says

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14–15)

The word “deceivers” literally means “a wanderer.” As it is used here, it refers to those who wander from the truth of Scripture. They are the ones who corrupt truth, lead others away from it and are themselves impostors. They are not loyal to the truth. Paul called such people “false brethren” in 2 Corinthians 11:26 and Galatians 2:4. These wolves in sheep’s clothing are especially dangerous when they infiltrate the church. That is why the New Testament is full of warnings about them. In Jesus’ Olivet Discourse He predicted that in the end times

“false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24).

Paul had many descriptive names for them. He called them “savage wolves” (Acts 20:29); “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). He called them “servants of Satan” who, like their wicked master, “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). In 1 John 4:1-3, the apostle pleaded,

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from 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 is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3)

This world is filled with many who are this very day deceiving people; leading them away from the truth. They are doing everything within their power to suppress and/or pervert the truth of the gospel to millions of people every day.

Satan’s representatives preach a false, satanic gospel and therefore pervert the true gospel message thus polluting the church. In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul strongly warned the Galatians against them;

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-9)

Now that is some strong language but, it emphasizes the need to stand firm and remove these deceivers from the body.

John defined these particular false teachers as those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. There are many ways to undermine the gospel but, these heretics denied the true humanity of Jesus Christ, refusing to acknowledge that He was God who had become fully human; both 100% God and 100% man. These false teachers were forerunners of the dangerous heresy known as Gnosticism, which posed a serious threat to the early church.

John countered this diverse attack on the person of Jesus Christ by stressing the truth about Him in his epistles but specifically in 1 John 1:3 he identified Jesus Christ as God the Son; in 1 John 2:1 he presented Him as the believers’ Advocate with the Father, whose death propitiated God’s wrath against their sin; in 2:22–23 he declared that those who deny that Jesus is the Christ do not know God; in 4:14 he affirmed that the Father sent the Son into the world as Savior, and reiterated in verse 15 that only those who confess Jesus as the Son of God know the Father; and in 5:9–13 John wrote that only those who believe the divine revelation about Jesus Christ have eternal life.

Knowing the serious threat the false teachers posed, John warned his readers, “Watch yourselves.” The church must be vigilant and discerning because what is at stake is so vital. Having labored in the lives of this lady and her children, John wanted to see the full fruit of that effort; he did not want them to “lose what” they together had “accomplished.”

John is encouraging us to be loyal to the truth so that we can “receive a full reward.” The Bible teaches in numerous passages that believers will be rewarded in heaven for their service in this life. While a true believer cannot lose their salvation, unfaithful believers may forfeit some of the reward that faithfulness to the truth would have gained them. John did not want to see that happen to those whom he loved and labored among. None of the Elders here at Grace Bible Fellowship want that to happen to any of you as well. Our desire is to see you progressively being sanctified in your walk with Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur says,

“Believers must be discerning and decisively reject deceiving false teachers, no matter how loudly they clamor for love and tolerance. Loyalty to the truth, written and incarnate, demands it, and the consequences of not doing so—both now and in eternity—are sufficient reasons to be faithful.”

I could not agree more.

John’s third point is that believers are to …

GUARD THE TRUTH

9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 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.Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 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; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 9-11)

It goes without saying that those who are loyal to Scripture will naturally seek to guard and protect it. No matter what someone claims, “anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God.” Going too far means “to go beyond established bounds of teaching or instruction, with the implication of failure to obey properly.” In 1 Corinthians 4:6 Paul tells us the established bounds of teaching or instruction are revealed in Scripture;

“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.”

Any teaching that is inconsistent with Scripture is to be rejected.

As I have previously mentioned, the word “abide” means “to remain,” “continue,” or “persist in.” The phrase “teaching of Christ” can refer either to His teaching, or to the biblical teaching about Him, since both are in total agreement. False teachers are never content with the bounds of Scripture, but invariably add erroneous interpretations, revelations, visions, words as if from the Lord, or esoteric distortions of the biblical text. Many times these false teacher claim to have advanced knowledge, new truth, or hidden wisdom available only to them and their followers.

These claims of special revelation are false. John plainly states that anyone who alters, adds to, denies, or misrepresents what the Bible says about Jesus Christ does not have God. On the other hand, the one who abides in the truth of Scripture, he has both the Father and the Son. As Jesus declared in John 14:23,

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

There is no way to know God apart from faith in the Christ of Scripture.

John continues in verse 10 as he sets out one practical application of how to defend the truth:

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”

Hospitality for traveling teachers was common in the culture during John’s time. This restriction is not to turn away the ignorant or unbelievers. That would make giving the truth to them difficult, if not impossible. What John is saying is that believers are not to welcome and provide care for false teachers because it would give the appearance of affirming what they teach and give them credibility.

Apparently, the lady to whom John wrote this letter had for whatever reason, already welcomed false teachers into her home. It was just such compassionate, well-meaning people that the false teachers sought out. By working their way into various homes, the false teachers hoped eventually to manipulate their way into the churches. It is much the same today, as false teaching insidiously invades Christian homes through television, radio, the Internet, and literature.

So threatening are these agents of Satan that John went on to forbid even giving them a greeting. John says those who do give them a greeting “participates in his evil deeds.” The word greeting means to rejoice. It was common for a Christian greeting to convey the joy believers had in one another’s presence. But it is an affirmation of solidarity that is totally inappropriate for false teachers, who have no part in the truth or genuine Christian fellowship. Such agents of Satan must be exposed and shunned instead of affirmed and welcomed.

False teachers like to decry such treatment as harsh, intolerant, and unloving. But love forbids allowing dangerous spiritual deception to find a foothold among Christians. John’s admonition is perfectly consistent with Jesus’ denunciation of false teachers as ravenous wolves, thieves and robbers whose only purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. The church cannot aid such spiritual deceivers by doing anything that would acknowledge them as Christians. Anyone who does so—even by doing something as seemingly innocuous as greeting them—participates in their evil deeds by helping them further their deception.

Lastly, John says believers are to …

LEARN THE TRUTH

12 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. 13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. (2 John 12-13)

The conclusion of this marvelous epistle reveals one last responsibility believers have toward the truth. If they are to live in it, love consistent with it, be loyal to it, and guard it, they must learn it. Despite all that this women had learned from John and other pastors and teachers, there were still many things that John needed to write to her. The apostle still had much to teach her, but he did not want to do so with paper and ink. It was his hope to come to her and speak face to face. This passage reveals John’s pastoral heart; he longed to have a personal conversation with this Christian lady to further her instruction in the truth.

The result of her learning the truth would be that her joy would be made full. That’s because the greater the knowledge of the truth, the greater the believer’s joy. In Jeremiah 15:16, he said,

“Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16)

Jesus also connected knowing and obeying the truth with experiencing joy when he said,

“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).

John’s concluding statement, “The children of your chosen sister greet you,” was a personal greeting he passed along from this lady’s nieces and nephews. The bottom line is that John is calling this dear lady, and by implication all Christians, to love the truth.

In an age of relativism and skepticism, the church must absolutely remain firmly anchored to the solid foundation of divine truth found only in Scripture. There is no place for bland, shallow, theologically content free preaching. There is no place for worship based on emotion devoid of truth. And finally, there is absolutely no place for tolerating false teaching. There is no virtue in ignorance and no substitute for learning, loving, and guarding the truth. Only by so doing will the church be able to fulfill its divine calling to be the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), shining the light of God’s truth in the world of darkness.

John says….

5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 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. 12 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. 13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. (2 John 5-13)

Let’s pray.