The apostle John lived his later years in the city of Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey. If you visit, you’ll find a church built on the place tradition identifies as his burial site. Named St. John’s Basilica, it was constructed in the fifth century A.D. by Emperor Justinian.
John’s high concern was that the church of his day would identify and resist false teaching. As he mentioned in his first letter, false teachers were denying that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh (v. 7). Gnostics saw physical matter as evil and denied that the Incarnation could have happened (see February 16). John calls them “deceivers” and “antichrists.”
To follow these teachers would be to “lose what we have worked for” (v. 8)—not a reference to salvation but to the advance of the gospel and the earning of spiritual rewards. To follow them would be to “run ahead” and not continue in Christ’s teaching (v. 9). To Americans, running ahead might sound like a good thing, but to John it meant that the Gnostics thought they knew better than regular Christians. Following them would mean leaving the path of truth and righteousness.
John warned his readers not to welcome false teachers into their churches (v. 10). Hospitality— supporting itinerant teachers with food and shelter—enabled their teaching and appeared to be an endorsement of its content. Even though the believers had kind intentions, welcoming deceptive teachers would be to share in their wickedness (v. 11). The “benefit of the doubt” was not to be given in this case. Church leaders have a responsibility to stand firm in the truth of the gospel and to protect their congregations. John closed by promising to say more when he visited in person and sent greetings from a sister church (vv. 12–13).
>> John’s warning is an important reminder for us today. We live in a time when social media circulates many ideas and promotes many false teachers. We need to check everything we read and hear against the truth of God’s Word.
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne with confidence” (Heb. 4:15–16).