Reject Apostasy, Cling to the Truth!
“Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son.”—2 JOHN 9.
1, 2. (a) How has Satan at times tried to extinguish the light of truth among Jehovah’s people? (b) Why is it vital that Jehovah’s Witnesses reject apostasy?
JEHOVAH GOD is the Source of spiritual truth. To him, therefore, the psalmist appropriately prayed: “Send out your light and your truth.” (Psalm 43:3) Accordingly, truth is an identifying mark of Jehovah’s worshipers.—John 8:31, 32; 17:17.
2 In an effort to extinguish the light of truth among Jehovah’s people, Satan the Devil has at times sought to corrupt the Christian congregation by means of apostate teachings. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6; Jude 3, 4) But he has failed in these attempts because faithful witnesses of Jehovah reject apostasy and cling to spiritual truth. In fact, doing so is vital if we are to maintain a close relationship with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, for the Christian apostle John was divinely inspired to write: “Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son.”—2 John 9.
3. What questions will be answered as we consider Second and Third John?
3 But what should Jehovah’s Witnesses do to resist apostasy? And how can they promote Christian interests as “fellow workers in the truth”? (3 John 8) For answers, we will consider the apostle John’s second and third inspired letters, written in or near Ephesus, Asia Minor, about 98 C.E.
Truth and Love Essential
4, 5. (a) Why could the apostle John appropriately refer to himself as “the older man”? (b) Who were “the chosen lady” and her “children”?
4 John opened his second letter with these words:
“The older man to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I truly love, and not I alone, but all those also who have come to know the truth, because of the truth that remains in us, and it will be with us forever.”—2 John 1, 2.
5 By the end of the first century C.E. the apostle John was indeed “the older man,” being about 100 years old and also an elder of very ripe spiritual growth or age. (Compare Galatians 2:9.) In addressing “the chosen lady,” he may have been referring to a particular congregation in some undisclosed location, and this wording may have been used to confuse persecutors. In that case, her “children” were spiritual children, members of that congregation and spirit-begotten Christians “chosen” by God for the heavenly calling. (Romans 8:16, 17; Philippians 3:12-14) On the other hand, Kyria (Greek for “Lady”) may have been the name of an individual Christian woman.
6. (a) What is “the truth” to which John made reference? (b) How does “the truth” remain in genuine Christians and stay with them “forever”?
6 In any event, this ‘chosen lady and her children’ were truly loved by John and all other witnesses of Jehovah who had come to know “the truth.” That “truth” was the whole body of teaching that centered on Jesus Christ. Firmly clinging to it was essential for salvation. (John 4:24; Ephesians 1:13, 14; 1 John 3:23) One basic reason why past and present witnesses of Jehovah have love among themselves is that they have a common love for “the truth.” It “remains in” them in that it keeps residing in their hearts. This truth will stay with such genuine Christians “forever,” as a constant companion. It is, indeed, a cherished possession of Jehovah’s Witnesses today, and they thank their heavenly Father for it.
7. How do undeserved kindness, mercy and peace all come from both God and Christ?
7 Divine blessings are assured for those who adhere faithfully to “the truth.” Pointing this out, the apostle added:
“There will be with us undeserved kindness, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father, with truth and love.” (2 John 3)
Undeserved kindness comes from both Jehovah and Jesus in that sinful humans “are being declared righteous by [God’s] undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23, 24) Similarly, the heavenly Father is the Source of mercy, but it comes to imperfect humans through Christ. (Hebrews 4:14-16; Jude 20, 21) Additionally, to have peace with Jehovah, sinners need to have their transgressions atoned for, and this has been made possible through Jesus’ death as a ransom sacrifice.—Colossians 1:18-20.
8. At 2 John 3, what may have been meant by the words “with truth and love”?
8 John added the words “with [or, “in”] truth and love.” (Kingdom Interlinear Translation) He may thus have been saying that ‘along with truth and love’ genuine Christians enjoy undeserved kindness, mercy and peace. Or John could have meant that Jehovah’s servants would experience these blessings if they remained in the truth and continued to display love.
‘Walking in Truth and Love’
9, 10. (a) Why did John have reason to “rejoice very much”? (b) As regards the truth, what were “certain ones” doing?
9 The apostle cited a reason for personal joy and also gave sound admonition when he added:
“I rejoice very much because I have found certain ones of your children walking in the truth, just as we received commandment from the Father. So now I request you, lady, as a person writing you, not a new commandment, but one which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.”—2 John 4, 5.
10 John had cause for great joy because “certain ones” were “walking in the truth.” They had faith in the name of Jesus Christ, had love for one another and were striving to conform to the pattern furnished by God’s Son. (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 John 3:23) If John was writing to a woman named Kyria, then some of her natural children were in the truth. But if he was using “children” and “chosen lady” figuratively, he could rejoice that some members of the congregation at that unrevealed location had resisted apostasy and were clinging to the truth and pursuing a life of faithfulness to Jehovah. Indeed, loyal Christian witnesses of Jehovah have always considered adhering to the truth, or “walking in” it, to be their obligation. To them, this is their heavenly Father’s commandment, the keeping of which they do not consider burdensome.—Compare 1 John 5:3.
11. (a) Observing the commandment to “love one another” called for what? (b) Why could John say that this was “not a new commandment”?
11 The apostle asked the “lady” to observe the commandment “that we love one another.” (Compare 1 John 3:11.) Expressing Jehovah’s will for godly persons, Jesus had commanded his disciples to ‘love one another, just as he loved them.’ That commandment required not only neighbor love but also a self-sacrificing love, even to the point of giving one’s life in behalf of another. (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; John 10:14, 15; 13:34; 15:13) It had been binding on Christ’s followers “from the beginning” of their dedicated relationship with God—in fact, since Jesus first gave it and certainly from the inception of the Christian congregation at Pentecost of 33 C.E. In that sense, therefore, it was “not a new commandment,” as John said.
12. What did John mean when saying: “This is the commandment . . . that you should go on walking in it”?
12 Referring to love, John added:
“And this is what love means, that we go on walking according to his commandments. This is the commandment, just as you people have heard from the beginning, that you should go on walking in it.” (2 John 6)
True worshipers gladly obey Jehovah because they love him with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind. (Luke 10:27) “From the beginning,” that is, from the time of Jesus’ ministry or from their dedication to God, the “people” to whom John wrote had had the commandment on love. But what did the apostle mean when he said, “This is the commandment . . . that you should go on walking in it”? While “it” could refer to the “commandment” regarding love (The New English Bible), the probable reference is to “love” itself. Viewed either way, to “go on walking in it” meant to continue displaying love toward one another.—1 John 3:18; compare Romans 13:8-10.
Beware of Apostates
13. (a) Among whom were the “deceivers” trying to gain converts? (b) What false teaching was being spread by the “deceivers”?
13 Effort would be required to continue walking in love and truth. Explaining why, John wrote:
“For many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 7)
Evidently, some false teachers had been traveling about trying to gain converts among true Christians. (Compare Acts 20:30.) Though professing to be Christians themselves, these misleading “deceivers” would not acknowledge that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh as a human. Such false teachings would undercut Jesus’ role as Messiah and ransomer, including his exalted heavenly position.—Mark 1:9-11; John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-11.
14. Why did John call the apostates “the deceiver and the antichrist”?
14 John called these apostates “the deceiver and the antichrist” because their teachings were deceptive and they themselves were opposed to Christ. The apostle’s reference to “many antichrists” indicates that there were numerous individual enemies of Christ, though all together they may form a composite person designated “antichrist.” (1 John 2:18) Denial of Jesus as the Christ and as God’s Son embraces the denying of any or all of the Scriptural teachings concerning him. Faithful witnesses of Jehovah totally reject the views of such false teachers.
15. (a) By ‘looking out’ for themselves, what “full reward” would spirit-anointed Christians obtain? (b) Why should every witness of Jehovah guard against apostate doctrine?
15 Since there was danger of being turned aside from the truth to apostasy, John urged:
“Look out for yourselves, that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward. Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 8, 9)
By such labors as preaching the “good news,” John and others had ‘produced’ fruitage resulting in the conversion of this letter’s original recipients. But only by ‘looking out’ for themselves spiritually would they not “lose” undeserved kindness, mercy and peace from Jehovah and his Son, as well as lasting fellowship with all those bound together in truth and love. If faithful, John’s spirit-anointed fellow believers would continue to enjoy rewarding service to Jehovah. By speaking of a “full reward,” John evidently meant to include the heavenly “crown” received by loyal anointed Christians. (Revelation 2:10; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8; James 1:12) Of course, every witness of Jehovah should reject apostate doctrine because it can rob him of eternal life either in heaven or on earth.
16. (a) How were the apostates ‘pushing ahead’? (b) How is it that faithful witnesses of Jehovah have “both the Father and the Son”?
16 The apostate “deceivers” were ‘pushing ahead’ and did not “remain in the teaching of the Christ” because they did not stick to the truth taught by Jesus and his faithful apostles. Hence, the heretics did not “have God,” for they were not in union with Jehovah and had no relationship with him. (1 John 1:5, 6; 2:22-25) However, faithful witnesses of Jehovah ‘confess that Christ came in the flesh,’ for they exercise faith in his ransom sacrifice and stick to what he and his loyal apostles taught. (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6; 2 John 7) These genuine Christians cling to the truth and therefore have “both the Father and the Son” because of knowing them, appreciating their qualities and continuing to enjoy an intimate relationship with them.
Attitude Toward Apostates
17. According to 2 John 10, 11, how were loyal Christians to treat the “deceivers”?
17 Christians are to be hospitable, but not toward apostates from the true faith. (1 Peter 4:9) John made this clear in saying:
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 10, 11)
The “deceivers” were traveling about and actively spreading false teaching. Of course, it would have been wrong for any dedicated Christian to extend the hand of fellowship to them by allowing these false teachers into his home. It would also have been improper to give the apostates any kind of greeting, whether it was welcome on their arrival or “God speed” at their departure. (Authorized Version) No loyal Christian would wish a deliberate promoter of false doctrine success in his work. Certainly, then, no faithful witness of Jehovah would socialize with such an individual.—1 Corinthians 5:11-13.
18. Why would no loyal witness of Jehovah even greet an apostate?
18 Moreover, if a dedicated servant of Jehovah were to entertain such a deceptive teacher in his home, he would become “an accomplice” in the “wicked deeds” of that person. (The New English Bible) Therefore, no loyal modern-day witness of Jehovah would greet a disfellowshipped or disassociated apostate or allow that one to use his Christian home as a place from which to spread doctrinal error. Surely, there would be grave accountability before God if a believer extended hospitality to an apostate and this resulted in the spiritual death of a fellow worshiper of Jehovah.—Compare Romans 16:17, 18; 2 Timothy 3:6, 7.
19. What stand do loyal witnesses of Jehovah take with regard to modern-day apostates?
19 Some who once served as Jehovah’s Witnesses have rejected various Scriptural views based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles. For instance, they insist that we are not living in the “last days,” despite overwhelming evidence that we are. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) These apostates ‘have gone out from us because they were not of our sort.’ (1 John 2:18, 19) Hence, they no longer have fellowship with loyal anointed witnesses of Jehovah and their companions, and therefore these self-seeking heretics have no “sharing” with the Father and the Son, no matter how much they may boast of having intimacy with God and Christ. Instead, they are in spiritual darkness. (1 John 1:3, 6) Lovers of light and truth must take a firm stand against these promoters of false teaching. In no way do loyal witnesses of Jehovah want to be accomplices in the “wicked deeds” of such unfaithful persons by supporting their ungodly words and activities in any manner. Rather, may we “put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.”—Jude 3, 4, 19.
Cling to the Truth
20. Rather than writing further, what did John hope to do?
20 Having urged fellow believers to reject apostasy and cling to the truth, John concluded his second inspired letter with the words:
“Although I have many things to write you, I do not desire to do so with paper and ink, but I am hoping to come to you and to speak with you face to face, that your joy may be in full measure. The children of your sister, the chosen one, send you their greetings.” (2 John 12, 13)
What the apostle still had in his heart he preferred not to commit to writing. So he put aside the papyrus paper, his reed pen and the ink (likely, a black mixture of gum, soot and water). Despite his advanced age he hoped to visit and talk “face to face,” or, literally, “mouth toward mouth,” thus enjoying intimate communication. (Kingdom Interlinear Translation; compare Numbers 12:6-8.) The aged apostle’s visit surely would result in a spiritually rewarding interchange of encouragement, along with abundant delight.—Compare Romans 1:11, 12.
21. What was evident in the concluding words of Second John?
21 The Christian love that binds Jehovah’s worshipers together was evident in the greetings John conveyed. If he was writing to an individual named Kyria, she apparently had a fleshly sister whose natural children sent their best wishes. But if the apostle was alluding to another congregation (perhaps at Ephesus), the “sister” he mentioned was that congregation as a whole and the “children” were its individual members.
22. (a) John’s second inspired letter helps Jehovah’s Witnesses to do what? (b) What matter still requires discussion?
22 In his second inspired letter, John had been forthright in giving loving counsel that would help fellow believers to reject apostasy and cling to the truth. With God’s help, this is just what Jehovah’s Witnesses of today are determined to do. But we must also promote Christian interests as cooperative “fellow workers in the truth.” (3 John 8) How is this possible?
Can You Answer?
□ What does it mean to ‘walk in the truth’?
□ The “deceivers” were spreading what false teaching?
□ According to 2 John 10, 11, how should Jehovah’s Witnesses view apostates?
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Loyal witnesses of Jehovah have always rejected apostasy