Many Deceivers Have Gone Out
A Study In 2 John
by Sandy Simpson, 11/15/03


Title & Background

During the first two centuries A.D. the gospel was taken from place to place by traveling evangelists and teachers.  Believers customarily took these missionaries into their homes and gave them provisions for their journey when they left.  Since Gnostic teachers also relied on this practice, 2 John was written to urge discernment in supporting traveling teachers.

Author & Date Of Writing

The apostle John is the author if this letter.  According to the NIV Bible, John most likely wrote the book at about the same time as 1 John, about A.D. 90.  The Biblical Studies Foundation makes a very strong argument that 2 & 3 John were probably written much earlier in about 66-67 A.D., so 2 John, 3 John and Jude could have all been written about the same time.  Note these obvious similarities between 1 and 2 John: 2 John 5 and 1 Jon 2:7; 2 John 6 and 1 John 5:3; 2 John 7 and 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 12 and 1 John 1:4.  (NIV Compact Reference Bible, (c) 1989, Zondervan Corporation)

2 John 1:1 The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truthó and not I only, but also all who know the truthó
2 John 1:2  because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

It is interesting that John in his writings, unlike Peter and Paul, never refers to himself as an "apostle" but as an "elder".  He probably uses this not as an official reference, but because he is now old and has survived all the other disciples.  He was, at the time of this writing, probably the only remaining disciple alive as all the others had been martyred.  John was persecuted for his faith and imprisoned on Patmos for preaching the Gospel.  He had even been put in a pot of boiling oil but was taken out of it unharmed, according to the pre-Nicean fathers.  But the other disciples were all martyred for their Faith, except for Judas who hung himself.  Notice how far the Gospel had spread by the time John wrote 2 John in this partial list of the disciples who were martyred.

Likely the name of the lady this epistle was written to was "Kyria" in Greek, which is similar to Martha in Hebrew.  It could also be the feminine form of "Kurios" (Lord), the term applied to Christ.  So this letter could also be said to have been written to the whole Church, the body of Christ.  But it is a stronger and more widely held interpretation to assume that this letter was written to a lady named Kyria.

John expresses his love for this lady through his love of Christ, and because anyone in Christ knows the Truth.  The only way to know the Truth is to be born again, and then allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth.

John 16:13  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
But we are taught to dig deep into the Word of God in order that the Holy Spirit can instruct us and guide us to maturity in Christ.  You cannot grow to maturity in the Lord apart from the written Word.  This is how the Holy Spirit instructs us, rebukes us, convicts us, strengthens us.  The reason we are to goon to maturity is so that we will be able to distinguish good from evil and not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.
Hebrews 5:13-14  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Ephesians 4:14  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
So John was not only writing to Kyria but also to all those who know the truth.  Those who are in Christ know the truth and that truth lives in them.  They are sanctified, made more like Christ and brought to maturity, by the Word of truth.
John 14:16-17  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you foreveróthe Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
John 17:17  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
But we don't just automatically become mature.  We must submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to teach us through His Word.  If we are not in the Word, we cannot be brought to maturity.  We must obey the Lord, or else we prove that the truth is not in us.
1 John 2:3  We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.
2 John 1:3  Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Fatherís Son, will be with us in truth and love.

God's grace, mercy and peace are with those who are born again into the family of God through Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Titus 3:5  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
2 John 1:4  It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.

Great joy is to be found in obedient children who walk in the truth.

Colossians 3:20  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
John 8:32  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
2 John 1:5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.
2 John 1:6  And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

We are commanded to walk in love and to obey Christ's commands.  By the time this letter was written the following command of Jesus Christ was well known among the believers.

John 13:34  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Again, I want to stress that we are also to obey His commands.  If we do, we prove that we love Him.  If we don't, we prove the opposite.  John is one of my favorite writers because he is so straightforward with the truth and leaves no room for compromise
John 15:10  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Fatherís commands and remain in his love.
1 John 2:3  We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.
1 John 3:24  Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
1 John 5:3  This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,
It is vitally important to love one another.   We show our love for others through mercy, speaking the truth in love, compassion, and pulling them from the fire if they are going the wrong way.  We show our love for the Lord by obeying His commands.  One of those commands is to not be deceived by false prophets and heretics, but to get away from them.  Let's do a quick study on this subject.

We are to test the spirits.

1 Jn. 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
We must discern false teachers and false prophets.  They are distinguished by laying error alongside truth.
2 Pet. 2:1-2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.
"Error is never taught in an obvious way because it might be exposed and found out.  But it is always dressed up in pretty clothes so that it looks good and attractive on the outside so that it can seem truer than truth itself. - Irenaeus (translated to simplified English)
Mt. 7:15  Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
We are to rebuke them.
Titus 1:9-13 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith
Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), in raising funds at the end of 1999, told viewers that if they sent in a donation of $2000. they would be debt free by the year 2000 and their whole household would be saved.  They continue making false promises to raise money, and each year their tactics get even more bold and more disgusting.  TBN, through the TV, is "ruining whole households ... for the sake of dishonest gain."  People like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and many others have been rebuked repeatedly for their false doctrines and false prophesies, but they will not repent,  They have no accountability.  In fact they turn around and curse those Christians who rebuke them.  If they are unrepentant and do not follow the Word of God the Bible says ...
Is. 8:20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.
If they are unrepentant, then we are to mark and avoid them.
Rom. 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
The word "divisions" here is from the word "hairetikos" which means "heretic" or "a divisive follower of false doctrines".  If they do not repent, we are to reject them as heretics after they have been admonished a couple of times.
Titus 3:10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
We should have no fellowship with their works but expose them.
Eph. 5:11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Paul warned the churches about certain heretics, as well as the prophets.  We need to name names so that we can warn others about heretics specifically, just as they did.  The reason is that general principles are not enough.  We have to be specific about who is teaching false doctrines and making false prophecies.  We must separate ourselves from them.
2 Cor. 6:17 "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.
God calls us to be a holy people, separated from the world, separated from the wolves and the goats.  We are to be unleavened bread.

"Neither when we have chosen our way can we keep company with those who go the other way.  There must come with the decision for truth a corresponding protest against error." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

We must keep away from them.

2 Thes. 3:6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
2 Thes. 3:14-15 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
If they do not heed the warnings as a brother, then we are to turn away from them.
2 Tim. 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
2 John 1:7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

One of the marks of a deceiver and antichrist is a person who denies the Hypostatic Union.  Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man for all eternity since His incarnation.  He is the eternal God/man.  Before His birth He existed from eternity past as God in three persons.  Does Jesus Christ possess all the attributes of God from eternity past to eternity future?  Yes.

1. He possesses all of them: John 1:1; Col. 1:15; 2:9; Heb. 1:3
2. He is self existent: John 5:26
3. He is unchangeable: Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8
4. He is eternal: John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:2
5. He is omnipresent: Matt. 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13; Eph.1:23; 4:10: Col. 3:11
6. He is omniscient: John 16:30; 21:17; cf. 2:23-24
7. He is incomprehensible: Matt. 11:25-27

When the Father sent the Son to be born as a human, Jesus Christ added human nature on to His divine nature.  To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you have to believe that (1) He is the Christ (Mesiach) and that (2) He came in the flesh.  The Messiah of God is God Himself.  If you simply believe that Jesus Christ was only a spirit, or was only human, or was an anointed man, or at any point was less than fully God and fully man, then you are a deceiver and antichrist.  This is exactly what Word-Faith teachers teach.  They teach that Jesus Christ was only a man when he was born and at His baptism He was then anointed by the Holy Spirit just like any other Christian who receives the Holy Spirit.  This is how they get to their other false theological positions. You see, if Jesus Christ was only an anointed man, then we can do all the miracles He did and, in fact, we can be exactly like Him.  Kenneth Copeland said that he, Copeland, could have died for our sins.  They teach that men can be as God, that Christians are, in fact, little gods, little messiahs.  This is what they have all taught at one time or another.  We have Benny Hinn and others on video teaching these things.  When men teach anything that degrades the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union, they are deceivers, in fact they are antichrist, have the spirit of antichrist.  This is one of the ways you can discern a deceiver. Let me give you a few more.

We must (1) test the spirits by testing what a person teaches and does, their doctrines.  We must also (2) test their prophecies for accuracy and biblical basis and (3) we must test them for the fruit of the Spirit.  If they teach or do things against the core doctrines of the Faith, they are heretics.  Five of the most basic core doctrines of the Faith are as follows:

1. The Trinity: God is one "What" and three "Whos" with each "Who" possessing all the attributes of Deity and personality.
2. The Person of Jesus Christ: Jesus is 100% God and 100% man for all eternity.
3. The Second Coming: Jesus Christ is coming bodily to earth to rule and judge.
4. Salvation: It is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
5. The Scripture: It is entirely inerrant and sufficient for all Christian life.

We must also test their prophecies, if they are making them.  Contrary to popular teaching in the Third Wave, a prophet must be 100% accurate according to Duet. 18:22.  If a prophet does not repent of false prophecy, we are to reject them as a liar and heretic as per Titus 3:10. We are to admonish anyone who teaches false teachings or makes false prophecies once or twice.  If they do not repent we are to reject them as the body of Christ.

Many deceivers went out in John's time, but there are exponentially more today.  This is the most deceptive time in all the history of the Church. We literally have thousands of heretics out there IN THE CHURCH today, and millions of cult followers who follow after false teachers.  All you have to do to understand this is to tune into TBN.

2 John 1:8  Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

You mean a person can lose what they worked for in Christ?  Yes, both spiritually and in terms of rewards.  You can throw away the good works that you have done in the Lord, and thus the rewards, by allowing yourself to be deceived by heretics.  Saul did some good works as the anointed King of Israel, but then he blew it all by a life of unrepentant sin in the end.  Solomon even wrote Scripture, but at the end of his life, because of his 700 wives and 300 mistresses, he was pulled away from a pure devotion to God and worshipped idols. There are many more examples.  Just because a person has done good work in the past does not mean their reward is guaranteed.  But loss of rewards is not the only possible loss.  There is loss that is far more serious.  They can even wander so far away from the Faith as to shipwreck their faith and end up destroyed.

1 Timothy 1:18-19 Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.
1 Timothy 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Hebrews 10:39  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
We can shipwreck our faith, we can wander away, we can shrink back and be destroyed. Yes, Paul was confident that he who began a good work in the Philippians would carry it on to completion in Jesus Christ.  But Paul's confidence for the Philippians must also be balanced with the fact that we have free will and can choose to disobey the Lord, wander away, change our belief system, ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit, stiffen our necks, live in rebellion.

So we must always be alert, watching out for heresy.  Are we heresy hunters?  I don't like that term because it implies that I am looking for any excuse to reject people.  I am not looking for every opportunity, but I am being alert to heresy and when I see it I confront it and reject it, if need be.  So in that sense I am a heresy hunter and all Christians are commanded to be heresy hunters.

2 John 1:9  Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

This is a crucial verse.  Here is the further criteria for testing who is in Christ and who is not.  John makes two points:  (1) People who "run ahead" or go beyond the teaching of the Apostles and (2) those who do not continue in the teachings of Christ.

Other translations use other words for "run ahead".  In the KJV it is "transgresses".  In the NASB it is "goes too far".  In the ASV it is "goes onward".  In the Phillips it says:

The man who is so "advanced" that he is not content with what Christ taught, has in fact no God. The man who bases his life on Christís teaching, however, has both the Father and the Son.
Paul told the Church not to go beyond what is written.
1 Corinthians 4:6  Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
The whole reason we see the prideful, boastful stuff on TBN and other so-called Christian TV stations is because the false teachers on those networks have "run ahead", have gone beyond what is written.

The second point is what we have to "continue", to "abide" in Christ and His teachings.  This is important.  We don't just believe one day and then put our lives on cruise control.  We must abide in the teachings of Christ.

Hebrews 4:12-14 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from Godís sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
The NASB adds "till the end" to this verse, which is in the original manuscripts.  We must hold on, abide in Christ and the teachings of the Apostles, till the end.
Hebrews 3:14  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
2 Timothy 1:13  Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 2:15  So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
1 Thessalonians 5:21  Test everything. Hold on to the good.
2 John 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.
2 John 1:11  Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.

Now we come to the crux of this study and the warning of this letter that was obviously on John's mind.  There are two things John tells Christians to do.  We are not to (1) take heretics into our homes and (2) welcome them.  We are not to allow false teachers in our house nor are we to give them a friendly greeting.

The Church consisted of house churches in the first century.  There were not big fancy church buildings, mega churches, TV networks, radio programs, etc.  The early Christians were warned by John not to allow heretics into their homes.  When Brownsville came to Guam a very close friend of mine, a former Calvary Chapel pastor (who was subsequently thrown out by Chuck Smith for his involvement with Brownsville) completely changed when he went to Brownsville and got the false anointing.  He became a different person, and not in a good way.  After he started promoting Brownsville he kept coming over to my house to try to convince me, prophesy over me, try to slay me in the spirit.  He wanted me to see that what he was doing was a good thing.  But I remembered what John said and decided to no longer let him in my house.  This was a hard decision since he had been my friend for many years.  We stood outside because I did not want my children to be influenced by what he said.  This same thing is true for allowing influences from TBN into our homes through TV.  Turn that heretical network and any others like it off for good!  Don't let them imprison your family.

The same goes for our churches.  We must not allow false teachers to teach or have any kind of influence in our churches.  This includes access to the pulpit, the bookstores, the worship music, the radio programs, events, etc.

But the most serious admonition to me is something that many Christian leaders are not obeying today.  We are told by John that we are not to even greet false teachers and false prophets.  The application today would be that we should not to go to ministerial associations and have lunch and schmooze with heretics, unless we are able to rebuke them.  We are not to speak in conferences where they are also featured speakers.  We are not to dignify their TV networks with our presence.  Why?  Because they know if they can get us to give them a friendly greeting and be on the stage with them, they will have accomplished two things.  (1) Leaders will no longer be inclined to speak out against what they are doing because they are now "friends" with them and (2) they can now use good leader's influence and integrity to their advantage by association.  This is what is happening with the few good preachers left on TBN.

I have been a supporter of Greg Laurie in the past, but he is now taking money raised by the TBN Praise-A-Thon to finance his programs.  He allows TBN to advertise for people like Benny Hinn on his program, and often heretics are shown back to back with the few good teachers like Laurie.  This is a direct disobedience to what John tells us to do.  We must not even get involved with heretics.  We have to make our stand clear until they repent and return to orthodoxy.  This starts with getting away from them so that we will not be forced, by polite society and by political correctness, to give them a kindly greeting.  I have seen good men give their greetings and even blessings to heretics over and over again.  This is a sin.  We must avoid even the appearance of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:22  Avoid every kind of evil. (NIV)
1 Thessalonians 5:22  Abstain from all appearance of evil. (KJV)
2 John 1:12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
2 John 1:13  The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.

There is much more John would have written on this subject, but paper and ink were just insufficient to the subject.  They are not as powerful as talking these important issues over face to face.  That is what we need to do also.  We need to discuss these issues with the churches face to face, and we need to be explicit.  The possibility of deception today is overwhelming and we will be sucked under in this maelstrom unless we learn how to tread the waters of God's Word.