A Study of "Doctrine of Christ" in 2 John 9-11
Introduction: There are many key and
pivotal clauses and phrases found in the vocabulary of the Holy Spirit (cp. I Cor. 2: 13).
Whole concepts and truths are often introduced in the scriptures by a word, phrase, or
clause. The expression "doctrine of Christ" in 2 John 9-11 is a case in point.
Read 2 John 9-11.)
I. In the case of the combination of words thus forming the phrase "doctrine of Christ," a study of the original Greek does not produce much fruit.
A. The expression in Greek didache tou christou ("doctrine or teaching of Christ") is ambiguous. The phrase can either be the subjective (the teaching which Christ taught) or objective genitive (doctrine about Christ). It is comparable to the phrase, "the love of God," is God's love for man or man's love for God meant? In the case of "doctrine of Christ," the question is does it mean the teaching about Jesus (his deity, etc.) or the teaching emanating from or being given by Jesus?
B. In the latter case, it would be a situation of and/or, because Jesus' teaching in general is inclusive of not only what Jesus taught, but also what he taught about himself (we must also be aware that the inspired apostles' teaching constitutes Jesus' teaching, as well, I Cor. 14: 37).
C. There is indication, though, that the particular construction "doctrine of Christ" when examined beside comparable expressions, does mean the teaching from Jesus, but the indication is not conclusive (see such expression as, "doctrine of the apostles," "didache ton apostolon," Acts 2: 42).
D. The meaning of the ambiguous phrase "doctrine of Christ," then, must be conclusively determined by other means. Such as, the placement of the phrase within the verse and the contribution immediately connected words provide, the immediate context , and the remote context.
E. The vocabulary of the one using the expression is invaluable in determining the precise usage of a term or phrase, especially the broader conceptual meaning.
II. Many who do not want religious restraint and commandments are heard saying,
"'the doctrine of Christ' only involves matters pertaining to the person and deity of Christ, not commands on how to live and what to believe."
A. I admit that the immediate contextual reference is pertaining to "Christ coming in the flesh" (vs. 7). Does the immediate context, then, mean that "doctrine of Christ" in verse 9 has to be viewed as limited to teaching about Jesus? To be complete in our quest for the precise meaning of the phrase, we must be more investigative.
B. When you examine the Book of Second John, you find that John did not simply present the idea of Jesus' deity being the only required belief (a commandment), but that John stressed "commandments" (plural). Hear John, "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments..." (vs. 6).
C. The immediate reference of verse nine regarding those not abiding in Jesus' doctrine appears to be the Gnostics of John's day. The Gnostics denied that Jesus had come in the flesh (I Jn. 4: 2, 3). The Gnostics understood "Jesus" to signify the man and "Christ" to suggest the deity. Since they believed in the intrinsic evil of the flesh and the material, they could not conceive of Christ ever being in the flesh.
III. It is sometime contented that John does make the deity of Jesus issue the only issue or criterion to determine salvation and fellowship (I Jn. 4: 2, 3).
A. However, such a view is a misunderstanding of John's teaching. The criterion "Jesus is come in the flesh" is obviously used by way of synecdoche (a part for the whole). I know this to be the case, because just three verses later John introduces additional criteria to determine those who are saved (vs. 7, 8, we shall shortly address this more).
B. We are developing a model from which to deduce the meaning of "doctrine of Christ," the model being John and his overall teaching.
IV. I furthermore submit that this religious/philosophic group (the Gnostics) was condemned for more than simply denying the deity of Jesus. Consider John's teaching in I John 2: 3-6.
A. Notice how emphasis is placed on "keeping his commandments," not
simply commandment (believing in Jesus' deity): (Read I John 2: 3-6.)
V. The entire vocabulary of the apostle John's writings is such that leaves the reader with the firm belief that more is involved in serving Christ than simply and only the acceptance of his deity.
A. Let us carefully, but briefly view some of John's specific teaching, all of which is in the general climate of "doctrine of Christ" in Second John 9.
B. Read and consider: I Jn. 1: 5-7; 2: 9-11; 15-17; 3: 3-10; 3: 22 see also 3: 24; 3 Jn. 9-11
C. It is evident, based on these passages, that teaching that walking in the light; love of brethren; abstinence from the love of the world; not practicing sin; doing righteousness; keeping God's commandments; avoidance of sin; walking in the truth; and shunning the example of Diotrephes and emulating the life of Demetrius are all necessary to maintaining a saved relationship with the Father and the Son. Hence, the "doctrine of Christ" (didache tou christou) in 2 John 9 must not be restricted to the meaning of the teaching about Christ (his deity) and exclusive of teaching belonging to or that Jesus issued.
D. Based on the teaching and vocabulary of John, the phrase "doctrine of Christ" in Second John 9 means Jesus' teaching, including the specific teaching relative to his being the Son of God (this conclusion is also the only conclusion that harmonizes with the rest of the New Testament pertaining to the general necessity of purity of doctrine, I Timothy 1: 3, I Corinthians 15: 12, John 4: 24).
E. There are no dispensable or non-essential commandments or laws (see Jas. 2:
10). The "doctrine of Christ" is inclusive of all that John and inspired writers
meant to be included and certainly does not only and simply mean a belief that Jesus was
the Son of God in the flesh (see also I Timothy 6: 3-5, comparable to the teaching of 2
Jn. 9-11). .
VI. The "doctrine of Christ" is presented by John as being a requisite to having "both the Father and the Son."
A. In presenting this concept of the required "doctrine of Christ," John wrote, "he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ" (vs. 9). "Abideth" is from the Greek menon and means to live, have as one's sphere; hence, to persist, walk in, or continue. The "doctrine of Christ" is the sphere and walk of one who has God.
B. To "abide in the doctrine of Christ" is not just an occasional
acquaintance with the "doctrine of Christ," but familiarity and contact. Not
just an impermanent relationship as a tenant, but as one who abides or continues in a
permanent dwelling (idea of the Greek, menon).
VII. The "doctrine of Christ" is also presented by John as the means of testing others, as to their spiritual identity and acceptance (10, 11).
A. The one not bringing the "doctrine of Christ" is characterized by "evil deeds" (the absence of the "doctrine of Christ" and the presence of false teaching). To accept or fellowship one not bringing the "doctrine of Christ" also causes the one to be "partaker of his evil deeds" (vs. 11).
B. Some, though, have wanted to segregate the two consequences. They have wanted belief in Jesus' deity to be the only criterion and requirement to fellowshipping others. Anyone, as a result, who says that they believe in Jesus' deity (doctrine about Christ) is to be received into the fellowship of the local church.
C. However, to be consistent, they must also say that all who simply and only believe in Jesus' deity are saved. Hence, there is no need for repentance or baptism (Acts 2: 38). Such a conclusion is necessary and axiomatic. Churches of Christ that want to do away with God's requirements for fellowship must also do away with God's requirements for salvation.
Conclusion: Understanding "doctrine of Christ" in Second John 9 to mean the doctrine or teaching from Jesus that includes many particulars, such as the teaching about Jesus, is the only tenable conclusion that can be reached . Limiting the phrase to mean teaching about Jesus, creates many contradictions and obviously violates the intended meaning of the writer, the inspired apostle John.