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Not in My House: Reminding Ourselves of 2 John 10–11

10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (2 John 10–11 ESV).

Every Christian should occasionally remind himself of this passage and its meaning, especially in light of today’s pervasive pluralism. This passage yields two prohibitions (“do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting”) with an explanation for these prohibitions (“for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works”), and I will try to draw out the meaning of this passage below in a series of observations.

Observe, first of all, the context. The commands concern “anyone” who “comes to you,” and this “anyone” is such a one who “does not bring this teaching,” namely, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (cf. 2 John 7), indicating that this “anyone” is certainly not a Christian (cf. 2 John 9). The “you” is a plural “you” (humas), referring back to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1), likely a figurative expression for a local church and its members, some of whom may have been returning to the rest as sent back from John with this letter (cf. 2 John 4). Understood for 2 John 10–11, then, is that its prohibitions and explanation are from the apostle John to a local church concerning what to do with false teachers.

Second, having the context in hand, we are now in a better position to understand what it means to forbid someone entrance into one’s “house.” Supposing this house were a personal, physical dwelling, to receive someone therein in John’s day would imply a solidarity of sorts between the host and guest. In this instance, the purpose of hospitality would be to facilitate the intentions of the guest. He (or multiple people) is the “anyone” who “comes to you,” apparently with a teaching, but not “this teaching” that confesses Jesus Christ to have come in the flesh (cf. 2 John 7). The host’s shelter, then, would imply an acceptance or at least a tolerance of this guest’s anti-Christian teaching, a heinous sin indeed (more on this point below). It is no wonder that John would command homeowners to “not receive him into your house.” It would communicate to the heretical guest and likely others that his false teaching could be tolerated, accepted, or even promoted, and the end result would be that the teacher and followers do not have God, a perilous result, to be sure (cf. 2 John 9).

But, third, suppose that the “house” referred to a personal, physical dwelling as it was used for the gathering of a local church for worship, as was typically the case in John’s day (cf. Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 2). If so, “house” would be a metonym in which the thing (house) closely associated with another (church) is used instead of the other.  The command to “not receive him into your house” would then assume that he would not be received and recognized by the church that gathered together for worship in this house. Beyond that, he would certainly not be given opportunity to promote his heresy. One way or the other, the net effect seems to be the same. His intention to promote heresy would have made him unwelcome in a Christian’s home and thus the church. Or it could have made him unwelcome in the church and thus whatever assistance a member of such a church would provide.

Fourth, as to the previous point, it would seem that even shelter is denied to these false teachers because John commands to “not…give him a greeting.” The word for “greeting” (chairō) could be used for either a parting (cf. 2 Cor 13:11) or, more frequently, a greeting (cf. Acts 15:23; 23:26; Jas 1:1). If the emphasis is on the false teacher’s departure, John gives a tidy prohibition encompassing both the false teacher’s arrival and departure. The false teacher should receive neither aid when he comes nor blessing when he leaves. Or, if the “greeting” has the false teacher’s arrival in mind, John’s readers were to give him neither shelter nor even a standard greeting. Either way, the goal is to offer no assistance, Christian recognition, or opportunity for the false teacher to promote his heresy.

Fifth and last, the explanation for these prohibitions clearly shows why these prohibitions are so severe: “for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”  As one lexicon explains, to take part “in the deeds of others means to be equally responsible for them.”1 In other words, to shelter and aid a false teacher, or even to wish him well, whether he is coming or going, is to be equally responsible for his heresy and leading others away from the truth. In John’s day, the heresy was to deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (cf. 2 John 7). Whether this heresy or another, applying this command today would mean that we should deny Christian aid or recognition to anyone who denies the life-giving teaching of Christ and thus displays that he does not have God (cf. 2 John 9). Should we do any less, we share in his wicked works.

David Huffstutler

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.



Endnotes:

  1. BDAG, s.v., “κοινωνέω.” []

2 Responses to Not in My House: Reminding Ourselves of 2 John 10–11

  1. Good info, but “greeting” is a very poor, weak translation of the Greek by the ESV. The KJV “God speed” is much closer. It is not a mere greeting. “Hi” is a greeting. The Greek (khah-hee-roe) means, “to be full of cheer” or “to be well”. Thus, it is not merely a greeting of recognition, but one of BLESSING that is forbidden. The best translation would be “well-wish” or “blessing”.

    We use so many words not realizing their actual meaning. “Goodbye” and “Good Morning” etc., have the word “good” in them. That is obvious, what is overlooked is the intention. It is a blessing. The full meaning is, “I wish you a good morning” and “I wish you a good bye (or evening, night, afternoon, journey, etc.)”. Even the parting wish “take care” is a blessing.

    The only verbal interaction one should have with the enemies of Christ is “hi” or “bye” and nothing else, if dealing with them in the marketplace; and clearly they should never be invited into ones home (or business) and certainly not their church. The church is only a place for the converted–and the confirmed converted who live honorably and obediently. The flock is to be guarded. Sickly sheep are not to be invited into the flock with the hope that they will “catch the health” of the good sheep. You don’t put a rotten apple in a bushel of good apples hoping the good apples will have a good influence on the rotten apple. It is a one-way street. The flock, the family of God is to be zealously guarded. Evangelism is to be carried out IN THE MARKET PLACE; but not by inviting the sick sheep, goats, swine, dogs, and pigs into the sheepfold for “fellowship” and instruction. As long as they are the enemies of Christ, unconverted, in sin, they can receive no instruction. Evangelism is to take place outside the church, and even new members or visitors are to be confirmed by questioning by the elders or by letter from their current or former church. If you are a probation officer, you don’t invite the rapist and pedophile home for dinner to meet the wife and kids. The home is to be guarded. The church is the home of God’s people, the sheepfold of the flock. The Good Shepherd guards his flock.

    Furthermore, hospitality was a sacred duty among kinsmen. Thus, by accepting one into your house, you were dutybound to wash his feet, feed him, see that his needs were met–and even protect him if the need arose (thus, we see both Lot and the kinsman of Mount Eprhaim living in Gibeah went to a perverse extreme to protect their guests). God bless, Robert

  2. Robert, thank you for the comment. I agree that “greeting” does not quite capture the idea of “wishing well” or “blessing” a false teacher. Whatever words we might use to communicate that concept in our culture today, we should certainly be careful not to violate 2 John 10-11, as you point out.

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