Words From A Good Old Man-3

     We have been thinking about some of the words used by the apostle John in 2 and 3 John. John referred to himself as “the elder” and without doubt he had many years of experience in the cause of Christ. That experience indicates that he was the kind of man who would choose his words wisely. That he was an apostle indicates that the words he chose were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

     One of the interesting words John used in 2 John is “doctrine.” We find it in 2 John 9, “Whosoever transgresses and does not remain in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son.” We understand, based on examination of 1 John, that John was fighting a doctrinal error. Even here in this letter we see that this is the case for in verse 7 he mentions the particular error of denying the Incarnation of the Lord (see John 1:14). This is important because the fact that the Word became flesh is the mechanism by which God provided for us the perfect sacrifice of Christ for our sins (1 John 2:2, Hebrews 9:22, 1 Peter 1:18-19). Indeed the people who denied the humanity of Jesus in the first century also denied His Deity. Without His sacrifice we have no hope.

     But John’s use of the word “doctrine” here is not to be understood as relating to the Deity of Christ alone. The “doctrine of Christ” is not only the doctrine about Christ but everything that Christ taught. In this little letter John reminded the people of the Lord’s words in John 13:34 that we are to love one another. That is not about Christ but it is an important thing that He taught. We are helped in this by remembering that the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and prayer” (Acts 2:42). This is the same grammatical construction as 2 John 9. Consider also John 7:14-18 where the Lord used the word “doctrine” to include all the Father had Him teach in His earthly work.

     The implication of the use of the word “doctrine” here is plain and compelling. The good old man John wanted his people to know that they had to be on guard concerning people who would practice deception. He also wanted them to understand that grace and peace in this life and hope for the next life is firmly tied to remaining faithful to all that Jesus Christ taught. We do well to remember that all the words of the New Testament came from Him through the Holy Spirit leading the apostles and other inspired people.

     There is a dangerous attitude among some who claim Christ to diminish doctrine in favor of feeling. Jesus died for us and gave us salvation. The least we can do out of love, thankfulness and respect for Him is to obey His words. Good old John wanted his readers to prosper physically and spiritually (3 John) and he told them how to do just that with a few good words.