Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (2 John 9–11—NKJV)

We are all familiar with the pairs of people going through neighborhoods representing various cults (religious systems requiring a mediator other than Christ to interpret for you the way to God). How is a “born from above” believer supposed to interact with these people on a mission? And, does this passage only apply to this limited circumstance?

Our text seems to endorse a behavior that would appear to the modern day mind as quite unloving, prejudicial, and abrupt. Yet there it is and in plain English. Such discernment was a necessary guide for John’s day and it is a guide for our day as well.

Biblically speaking, God gave the Bible to aid all genuine believers to distinguish divisions that occur among men due to doctrinal distinctions. All believers need to hone their ability to discern spiritually between 1) close family, 2) extended family, 3) the mission field, and 4) the enemy.

“Close family” are those believers who have signed the same doctrinal statement you do, they have the same view of the requirement to live holy lives, and, for each of you, doctrine is more preeminent than blood. “Extended family” are like your relatives you see at Thanksgiving and Christmas who bear the same name and common ancestry, but that may be all. They are authentically born again but you can have no organized unity, because the basis of your partnership is more of a window dressing than a foundation. “The mission field” are those who are not saved, need to be confronted with their sin along with their jeopardy under God’s wrath, and need to be given the Gospel. You have nothing in common with them other than the fact that you are a sinner and were once like them. “The enemy” are those who actively work against the interests of Christ in people’s lives. They subvert the simplicity of the Gospel, are not themselves born again, and not only have a different view of Christ, but seek to impose that view on others.

John’s admonition is directed toward the believer’s response to the enemy. A quick reading of 1 and 2 John paints a clear picture of the enemy. The enemy often comes from a “church” background: “They went out from us, but they were not of us, if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:19). They have become false prophets: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Their doctrine is in error: “every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:2–3). 2 John 7 reads, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ is come in flesh. This is deceiver and antichrist. Look to yourselves that you do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”

“The enemy” peddles his error. His error is to fail to ascribe to the Son of God His full divine nature and His full human nature. Jesus is God come in the flesh. This is the very redemptive heart of the Gospel. If one comes to your door peddling a subversive message, do not invite him to bring his teaching in your door. Do not place your blessing upon him (express “Godspeed,” or benefit, or aid him in any way) lest you be a partaker (“koinonia” partnering, organic fellowship) of his deeds. Feel free to give him the true gospel, but do not give him a greater hearing. In 2 John the “Elect Lady” may have hosted a church in her home and certainly should not give any errorist an audience.

Guard against evil by knowing well the Word of God. Be a discerner of men and of the times. Trust and obey.