Today’s reading: 2 John – Jude.
The world has been full of itinerant preachers since the earliest days of the church. Back then they were called prophets. Today we call them missionaries or evangelists. Many are spirit-filled men and women who are working hard to enlarge God’s kingdom. Some are con-men out to make an easy living. Some are agents of the devil spreading falsehood. Second and Third John try to strike a balance between our awareness of those who are false and our support of those who are true.
Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 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. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. 2 John:7-11
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. 3 John:5-8
Second John describes the message of the false teachers who were invading the early church. Second Peter and Jude share many of the same verses about the character and message of the false teachers (Second Peter probably used Jude as source material). They deny the doctrines about Jesus Christ. They run ahead into false teachings that deny the deity or humanity of Jesus, or contest his Lordship, or refute his resurrection. They abuse his grace to promote immoral, sensual lifestyles. Believers need to be on guard in order to identify these deceivers so that they do not support them in any way, such as offering them hospitality.
There are also servants of God who are traveling about, speaking the truth of God to the lost and to churches. Some of them are evangelists who concentrate on speaking the gospel to unbelievers. Others are missionaries who work on establishing churches in unreached areas of the world, including America. They deserve our support and hospitality. As John said, the pagan world will not help them; it’s up to believers to do so. To guard against abuses, the early church had teachings (the Didache) which specified how the itinerant messengers should be treated (housing them for no more than two to three days, for instance; turning them out if it became clear they were only seeking money). The possibility of abuses did not stop the practice of supporting the prophets, however, and we should not stop supporting the tested and true missionaries of our own day.
Image by Sean Hickin on Flickr, CC by