Monday, April 10, 2017
2 John 10
2 John 10 has been often used to say that we should not allow Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons into our homes to have discussions with them. But is the proper use of this passage?
The first question is, to who is the letter addressed? Who is the “elect lady [or “chosen lady”] and her children”? For the answer I sought the use of some commentaries:
Holman Bible Dictionary: The recipient of John's second letter sometimes understood to be an individual but the phrase probably is a way of referring to a local church congregation. The members of the church would then be the "children" who are mentioned in the same verse. The "elect sister" of verse 13 would be another congregation whose members were sending greeting.
The Oxford Study Bible (REB): The community addressed is called the Lady, which in Gk. is the feminine equivalent of "Lord." The title may be related to the familiar imagery of the church as the "bride of Christ" (see 2 Cor. 11.2; Eph. 5.26-27; Rev. 19.7). The phrase chosen by God (used here of the church) indicates Jesus in Jn. 1.34.
Ryrie Study Bible (NAS): The destination of this second letter is enigmatic. Some believe that the "chosen lady" is a figurative way of designating a particular church ("chosen sister," v. 13 would then mean a different church). Others hold that the letter was addressed to an individual Christian and her family (in which case the "sister" would be her natural sister).
Henry M. Morris, The Defender's Study Bible (KJV): Commentators have differed over whether the phrase "elect lady and her children" refers to an actual family or is a metaphor for a local church to which John had ministered. Though this is a matter of opinion, the over-all message to the epistle might seem more appropriate for a church than for a family. Perhaps it could apply to either one, and John intentionally left it open so that it could be used for either purpose, as appropriate. The warnings and admonitions of John are important for families to heed, but even more so for churches. The closing greeting from "the children of thy elect sister" would perhaps be more appropriate as coming from a sister church, but again it could be interpreted either way. It is the message that is important. Do not encourage any who would pervert the true doctrine of Christ by allowing them to teach their anti-Christian doctrines and practices either in one's home or church.
R.W. Orr, The Letters of John, The International Bible Commentary: Unto your house on our interpretation of "the elect lady" will mean "into church fellowship". Commentators have been embarrassed by the apparent churlishness of this verse in forbidding the common courtesy of hospitality to heretics. E.g., Plummer: "The greatest care will be necessary before we can venture to act upon the injunction here given to the Elect Lady." C.H. Dodd simply declines to heed the injunction. If however we understand church fellowship to be the matter in question, the difficulty disappears: the welcome will signify church approval or commendation.
Matthew Henry: I. Upon due warning given concerning seducers, the apostle gives direction concerning the treatment of such. They are not to be entertained as the ministers of Christ. The Lord Christ will distinguish them from such, and so would he have his disciples. The direction is negative. 1. "Support them not: If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (concerning Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah and anointed of God for our redemption and salvation), receive him not into your house." Possibly this lady was like Gaius, of whom we read in the next epistle, a generous housekeeper, and hospitable entertainer of travelling ministers and Christians. These deceivers might possibly expect the same reception with others, or with the best who came there (as the blind are often bold enough), but the apostle allows it not: "Do not welcome them into your family." Doubtless such may be relieved in their pressing necessities, but not encouraged for ill service. Deniers of the faith are destroyers of souls; and it is supposed that even ladies themselves should have good understanding in the affairs of religion. 2. "Bless not their enterprises: Neither bid him God speed. Attend not their service with your prayers and good wishes." Bad work should not be consecrated or recommended to the divine benediction. God will be no patron of falsehood, seduction, and sin. We ought to bid God speed to evangelical ministration; but the propagation of fatal error, if we cannot prevent, we must not dare to countenance. Then,
II. Here is the reason of such direction, forbidding the support and patronage of the deceiver: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Favour and affection partake of the sin. We may be sharers in the iniquities of others. How judicious and how cautious should the Christian be! There are many ways of sharing the guilt of other people's transgressions; it may be done by culpable silence, indolence, unconcernedness, private contribution, public countenance and assistance, inward approbation, open apology and defence. The Lord pardon our guilt of other persons' sins!
Halley's Bible Handbook: False Teachers, 7-11: These already had been referred to in 1 John 2:18-29: going from Church to Church, Teaching, in the Name of Christ, Doctrines that were utterly subversive of the Christian Faith. This Letter seems to have been written to caution the Elect Lady to be on her guard, and refuse Hospitality to such Teachers. The warning is prefaced with an exhortation to Love (5, 6), as if to indicate that the Practice of Christian Love does not mean that we should give encouragement to Enemies of the Truth.
Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask:
The passage in 2 John is not talking about someone who simply comes to visit. Rather, John is talking about false teachers who are deceivers (v.7) and who come to present their doctrines.
First, John is instructing the local church, and the individuals of the local church, not to extend hospitality to these persons, because that would imply that the church accepted or approved of their teaching. The people of the local church were directed not even to give a Christian greeting to them, lest this be misconstrued as an attitude of tolerance of their false doctrines.... By clearly demonstrating an intolerance for false doctrine, it would be possible to communicate to false teachers that they needed to repent. On the contrary, if the church or individual were to extend hospitality to a false teacher, he would be encouraged in his position and take this action as an acceptance of his doctrine, or as a covering of his unrighteousness.
Second, it must be remembered that, in the early church, the evangelistic and pastoral ministry of the church was conducted primarily by individuals who traveled from location to location. These itinerant pastors depended on the hospitality of the people of a local congregation. John is directing the church not to extend this kind of hospitality to teachers of false doctrine.
Ryrie Study Bible (NAS) 10. do not receive him into your house. I.e., do not give a false teacher hospitality.
Henry M. Morris The Defender's Study Bible (KJV): 10. your house. The "house" is the church, probably then meeting in a house. No false teacher is to be allowed to teach in the church.
The NIV Study Bible Occasion and Purpose
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 Gnostic teachers also relied on this practice, 2 John was written to urge discernment in supporting traveling teachers; otherwise, someone might unintentionally contribute to the propagation of heresy rather than truth.
10. take him into your house. A reference to the housing and feeding of traveling teachers. The instruction does not prohibit greeting or even inviting a person into one's home for conversation. John was warning against providing food and shelter, since this would be an investment in the "wicked work" of false teachers and would give public approval (see v.11).
It appears to be inconclusive whether the epistle was written to a specific lady or to a church, but my feeling is that it was probably a church body. This would change the complexion of the argument somewhat, but not much.
My understanding is that you are not to invite people into your congregation or home with the intent of letting them teach false doctrine. For example, when I have opened my door to them, I never once let it appear that Jehovah's Witnesses would have the opportunity to present their doctrine. I brought them into my home for the sole purpose of them learning my doctrine; it was made clear to them that I would not accept their false teaching, and I emphasized that I could disprove their prophets and teaching. I also emphasized the teaching of the Trinity. As for providing hospitality, I don't believe inviting them to sit down is giving hospitality (what if we sat on the porch and not in the "house"?), especially in light of the context of the Scripture, wherein the idea was providing the itinerant heretic sustenance and a place to stay. I certainly didn't send them off with any greeting.
At any rate, I really don't think the context of this passage applies to bringing false teachers into your home for the purpose of evangelism, especially since they are not permitted to teach their false doctrine. My wife pointed out an example wherein this passage could cause a problem if this was to mean not allowing any false teacher into your house or providing hospitality; her father was a staunch secular humanist/evolutionist and advocate of higher criticism/form criticism interpretations of the Scriptures. He was brought into our home, and even stayed a few nights, all the while teaching his theology and explaining how ignorant we were to believe the Bible as the Word of God. Here is a clear case of inviting a heretic into our home and even allowing him to present his doctrine. We of course preached the gospel message and made much use of apologetics in our discussions with him, all to no avail. Were we to turn her own father away at the door due to disagreement on theology? Of course not. That is an example of why I don't think the passage applies to these situations.
Therefore, I believe the intent of the passage is that you are not to invite people into your congregation or home with the intent of letting them teach false doctrine, or allowing them to share in the Remembrance celebration. You are not to provide them food and shelter, which would aid them in propagating their message.