“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.”~ 2 John 9
Explanation of the Text: Concerned about deceivers who may lead the brethren away, John gives yet another exhortation, not only to be aware (verse 8) but also to not remain in Christ’s teaching. It is certain that the falsehood taught by the deceivers is not the teachings of Christ. In fact, many were teaching of extra revelation (in a distinct form) through extra knowledge not given directly to all of the apostles. So not only are John’s readers to be aware that a false teaching has sprung forth, but that they are not to abide in it.
The verb phrase ‘goes on ahead’ comes from the Greek root proagon meaning progress. It is a reference to one who ventures outside the boundaries of established doctrine (1). John is distinctly counteracting the Gnostics claim of progress by telling them that they are not to run ahead of Christ’s own teachings, but to remain in them. It is not that John is against progress. Instead he is concerned in this case about their willingness to expand doctrine. “The kind of progress he is opposed to is the professed progress which ‘abideth not in the doctrine of Christ.’ He is condemning ‘an advancement which involves desertion of first principles,’ and such an advancement is not progress but apostasy” (2).
This is such a dire concern because there a disconnect with the teachings means a disconnect from God. Initially John’s logic here seems flawed. When in university classes, adding to the teachings of the professor does not mean he is not a professor or that the student doesn’t have one. However, John is correct in his teaching here (which we of course know since this is the Word of God). His logic actually makes sense. First the teaching of Christ can be equated to the teaching of God, because Jesus Christ is God. Second, abiding in the teaching is evidence of God’s work in a person’s lives, as he previously outlines in 1 John. Therefore, to not abide in the teaching of either the Father or the Son indicates the lack of a relationship with both the Father and the Son. To not know Christ is to not know God. As one commentator notes, “No doubt they claimed that they did have God, but the elder’s point is that anybody who fails to have a proper understanding of Jesus Christ cannot have a true relationship with God” (3).
Examination & Application of the Text: There is a great need to be vigilant of the teachings around us. That has become apparent both by the teaching found within the Scriptures, but also by the experience we have. As false teaching continues to infiltrate the church it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between the truth, especially when the differences can be so slight. It is a great work of Satan to be able to deceive and distract those who claim to be part of the body of Christ.
Not only are we called to be aware, but to persist in the teachings of Christ as John writes. Persevere in the truth in order to be found faithful. I would suggest to you though that the more you persist in the truth the more easily it is to recognize untruth. Therefore, it is not only a reactive but a proactive activity for every believer as they seek to be on guard. Stand firm my friends, and know that God has already prevailed.
(1) Simon Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of James and the Epistles of John, Baker New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 382.
(2) D. Edmond Hiebert, The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1991), 306.
(3) I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans’ Publishing Company, 1978), 73.