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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Truth in Love: A Study of 2 John (Part 4)

We must love in truth because deception abounds.  This is the message John was wanting to deposit to this local church, and one which through the ages remains essential to the people of God.  This balance is something that evangelicalism struggles to strike.  Some value truth, but do so with cold hearts (think of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2).  Others love, with a loosey-goosey grip on the central truths of the gospel.  Once one is lost, so is the other.

John had just finished warning the church to watch out for false teaching, and continues in this vain. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  Obviously new teachings had entered into these churches.  Christianity has never been about adapting to the new or to fads.  He calls them back to Christ's teaching.  Teaching that has authority.  To reject these teachings was to reject God himself.

These teaches may have started out as orthodox, but one of things we see in the ministry of the apostles, if we look, is that many of their best and brightest wandered. Demas left Paul, in love with the world (2 Timothy 4:10).  These men left John for a fad- and by doing so had forsaken Christ himself.  So many in our culture have chosen popularity over the gospel- may we not do the same. John is clear with this heavy warning.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

To our 21st century eyes, this makes us sit up straight in our seat.  "Wait, we're not supposed to welcome them in?"  A few things need to be said in way of background.  First, the church or churches John is writing to most likely met in houses.  So, to welcome someone into your house was not saying not to have them over for dinner, but to welcome to them into the body as a brother.  IT assumed them to be a true Christian. Second, the first century gathering was not a place to reach unbelievers but a place to equip believers.  In the first century, death would await the Christians who gathered, so these Christian worship gatherings were not a place to invite their Pagans neighbors who would have had them arrested and/or killed.

So, to invite someone into your house was to welcome them fully as a trusted member of the body.  But, those who do not abide the teaching of Christ should not be given that welcome.  They are not brothers, they are enemies of the teaching of Christ, and could possibly sell these First Century Christians into the hands of the Romans.  Also, to fully embrace them as a brother or sister would mean to fully embrace their false teachings about Jesus which is dangerous for them, but false teaching is also to the congregation.  As Paul writes, sound doctrine saves both the believer and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).  It was for the sake of love and the sake of the truth that they did not welcome false teachers into the body.

John loved these people, as is clear as he closes his letter to them.  He has so much he would like to say, but he can't.  His joy would not be complete until they see each other face to face.  As the last two verses read,
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you.

Love and truth bind us together and create joy-filled community.  Of all John could have said in his epistle, their are certain things he just desired to say to their face!  Nothing can replace the local church in John's heart.  Even if he could have live-streamed the gathering, it would not be a proper replacement for being bodily present in the gathering!  His love for the truth was a desire for their joy.  Deception abounds which seeks to kill our joy, but the local church exists that we our hearts may be on fire with love for God, and our minds might be captivated with the wonderful truth of Himself.  The local church is not an option for the Christian, it was not seen as an option for John, but it existed that we may love and treasure God more- for our joy and His glory.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Anthony Hoekema on the Optimism of Amillenialism

"Yet, since we know that the victory of Christ over evil was decisive and that Christ is now on the throne, the dominant mood of amillennial eschatology is optimism — Christian optimism. This means that we view no world crisis as totally beyond help and no social trend as absolutely irreversible. It means that we live in hope — a hope that is built on faith and that expresses itself in love.

Amillennial eschatology, therefore, gives us a realistic, yet basically optimistic world-and-life view. It is an eschatology which is exciting, exhilarating and challenging. It is an eschatology which gives us an inspiring vision of the lordship of Christ over history and of the ultimate triumph of his kingdom."

You read the whole piece, much of which I would endorse fully, here and read his whole book entitled "Amillenialism" here

Monday, May 2, 2016

Truth in Love: A Study of 2 John (Part 3)

John is writing this letter to spur the church on toward loving others in truth.  He takes a sharp turn in verse 7 to tell us why this is such a necessity for believers.  “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…”  We are to love in truth because deception aboundsWe need to notice that John’s warning is not a new warning.  The Spirit has been issuing this warning from the very beginning.  In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth without sin.  He created man and woman in His image to live and propagate His glory in all the earth.  God gave one command- do not eat from the tree of the in the center of the garden.  Many find this to be a silly command, but if we think from Adam and Eve’s perspective, disobedience in actually the stupid action.  Adam and Eve could have everything in all of God’s creation except the fruit from one tree.  He even issued that there were consequences for their actions, if they eat of it, they will die.  If you had a nut allergy, why would you give up a steak for a cashew?  Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent and fell to choose cashews over stake.

Why is this significant?  Because just as the deceiver tempted the lady in the Garden, so the deceiver tempts the “elect lady” (the church) to choose cashews over stake.  The devil’s promises are always cashews compared to the four course meal of God’s promises.  The story remains the same for the church today.  What is one of the deceiver’s primary deceptions?  It isn’t found in eating a fruit, but in  forsaking the identity of Jesus Christ.

“…those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”  One of the primary deceptions of the devil is doctrinal, specifically Christological.  The person of God is always under the direct attack by the serpent.  His question to Eve, “Did God really say…?” echoes today, saying, “Did Jesus really say…?”  First, this shows the supremacy of Jesus.  Why would Satan go after something that wasn’t supreme?  Second, this shows us the necessity of doctrine.  We must feed our people on the meat of the Word- because that is the food Satan wants to swap out for salty snacks!  Notice what is being denied in this letter by John- the humanity of Jesus.  Not just His past humanity, but the Greek denotes the action continuing to take place.  Jesus Christ has come and lingers in the flesh.  Satan takes joy in taking split hairs if splitting hairs involved splitting salvation from man, and God’s glory from Himself.  Jesus Christ is human, and His humanity is central to the gospel, because if Christ is not fully human, He cannot be our perfect substitute.  Christ must also remain human to be able to sympathize with us as a high priest (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:16-18).  By splitting this hair, our salvation is lost.

We need Bible teachers who will split the hairs and deeply love the tiniest truths about the person of Christ because the deepest truths of Christ are what Satan and his false teachers hate the most.  We are commanded then to “Watch ourselves” against such “deceivers and antichrists.”  The former describes the false teacher’s relationship to us, the second their relationship to God (opposed to Christ).  To be opposed to the teaching of Christ is to oppose himself, and this we must stand on truth.  Truth matters.  Love must also not be forgotten for love is what drives us to watch ourselves.

The central point of 2 John begins to form- we must love in truth because deception abounds.  There is much on the line in John’s command.  We must watch the doctrine of ourselves and those around us because our reward is on the line.  “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.”  The glories of our reward in Christ are on the line, and thus if we love people we will speak to them in their deception.  Eternity is on the line, and thus we must love those around us who are caught in deception and with the truth point them to eternal reward.  The reward which our Savior defines as the joy of the Master- the eternal joy God has had within Himself for all eternity.  How can we not open our mouths and in love speak the truth when deception is holding back these treasures and offering false promises?  False promises which, I remind you, lead to eternal destruction and not eternal life (Jude 5-8, 23).  Let us love people because deception abounds- and eternity is on the line.

We will conclude our study through 2 John in the next post.