Saturday, November 28, 2020

Getting Ahead of the Gospel (2 John)

"Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9)

During the first two centuries, the Gospel was taken from place to place by traveling evangelists and teachers. Believers customarily took these missionaries into their homes and gave them provisions for their journey when they left. Since heretics also relied on this practice, John wrote the little letter we call 2 John in order to urge discernment in supporting traveling teachers.

John begins by saying that his message is not new at all. It is the standard Christian message, which focuses on true love. He reiterates what we studied yesterday, that love means obeying the commands of God contained in the Bible and not following anything made by men (2 John 5–6).

The problem is that there are teachers who are adding new revelations to the Bible. They are “running ahead” of the Bible. They are “going beyond” the “mere letter” of the Word. They are coming up with “new truths.” Such people, says John, are antichrists (2 John 7–9). In this category we should include the Judaizers, who were adding the Jewish oral law tradition to the Bible. We can also put the “gnostics” of the second century, who claimed to have special revelations from “the Spirit?” These same people rejected the Old Testament Scriptures and much of the New Testament as well.

It is dangerous to accept “prophecies” coming from supposed “prophets” in the church today. Some groups use the word prophet to designate someone who has wisdom, and his or her counsel is considered “prophetic,” but is not regarded as revelation from God. Too often, however, modern “prophets” claim to be getting information directly from God. In case after case, these “prophets” wind up leading people into error, and creating new sects that focus not on the Bible but on the new “revelations” received by these “prophets.” Additionally, they embarrass the church when their “revelations” and “words of knowledge” prove false or don’t come to pass. This has been a problem throughout church history, and it is still a problem today. John says that those who are faithful will avoid such fancies and stick with the Bible.

We don’t wish to be too harsh on other Christians who may be using words differently from the way we use them. At the same time, we don’t want to be naive either. There are many today claiming to be prophets. Exercise caution and discernment whenever you encounter such things as “prophecies,” “words of knowledge,” and “revelations.”