eluding our idols: twenty questions on 2 John

This coming Sunday (Feb. 8) at 9:00 a.m. some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue in a study entitled Eluding Our Idols. It’s a close look at what’s commonly known as John’s letters (1, 2 & 3 John). To help you get ready for this encounter with Scripture and our discussion of it, you’ll find the following here: (a) the text of 2 John, (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading, and (3) a selection from an ancient Christian writing known as The Didache.

receiving the word

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.

Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

The children of your elect sister send you their greetings. (2 John NRSV)

wrestling with this word

1. Circle every occurrence of these words in the text above (2 John): abide, love, truth and walk.

2. In the text above (2 John NRSV), underline each instance of the phrase “do not.”

3. Where was this letter penned? Who wrote it and to whom? Answer with only 2 John in mind.

4. What is this letter is about? What problem does is it address? What remedy is prescribed?

5. What specifically do the false teachers John has no use for teach (vs. 7-11)?

6. What makes the specific error/problem John is talking about here so evil and dangerous?

7. Read the selection from The Didache (11-13) found below. Cf. 176-178, too.

8. Who is the “lady” and “her children” spoken of  in vs. 1,5? Who are her sister’s children (vs. 13)?

9. What is “the truth” John speaks of in this letter (vs. 1-4)? Make sure your answer fits the context.

10. What specifically are we told in this letter about God the Father (vs. 3,4,9)?

11. What exactly do we see affirmed about Jesus Christ in this letter (vs. 3,7,9)?

12. What is grace, mercy, and peace. Define each these three words with three sentences. Why use these three words in this letter’s greeting? What do they have to do with the rest of this letter?

13. John’s main point is vs. 7-11. How do vs. 4-6 anticipate/preempt a poor solution to the problem?

14. What other issue(s) are worthy of tagging someone as a “deceiver” and “antichrist” (vs. 7)? Why?

15. How does the misapplication of vs. 9 (removing it from its context) actually constitute grave error?

16. Give some specific examples of misunderstanding and problems you’ve seen arise from the misapplication of vs. 9.

17. Wouldn’t the “safe” course be to just refuse to give aid to any and all travelling teachers who seek shelter and support? That way we’d know we’d never accidently help a false one. Engage.

18. Since precious few churches today are challenged with the problem of providing support to people who claim to follow him, but who deny his incarnation, of what use is 2 John to us today?

19. What happens when we try to walk in love, but without “the truth?” What happens when we seek to walk in “the truth” but do so without love?

20. What does vs. 12 say you about how the inspiration of Scripture worked?

a similar word in The Didache

Now, you should welcome anyone who comes your way and teaches you all we have been saying. But if the teacher proves himself a renegade and by teaching otherwise contradicts all this, pay no attention to him. But if his teaching furthers the Lord’s righteousness and knowledge, welcome him as the Lord.

Now about the apostles and prophets: Act in line with the gospel precept. Welcome every apostle on arriving, as if he were the Lord. But he must not stay beyond one day. In case of necessity, however, the next day too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet. On departing, an apostle must not accept anything save sufficient food to carry him till his next lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.

While a prophet is making ecstatic utterances, you must not test or examine him. For “every sin will be forgiven,” but this sin “will not be forgiven.” However, not everybody making ecstatic utterances is a prophet, but only if he behaves like the Lord. It is by their conduct that the false prophet and the [true] prophet can be distinguished. For instance, if a prophet marks out a table in the Spirit, he must not eat from it. If he does, he is a false prophet. Again, every prophet who teaches the truth but fails to practice what he preaches is a false prophet. But every attested and genuine prophet who acts with a view to symbolizing the mystery of the Church, and does not teach you to do all he does, must not be judged by you. His judgment rests with God. For the ancient prophets too acted in this way. But if someone says in the Spirit, “Give me money, or something else,” you must not heed him. However, if he tells you to give for others in need, no one must condemn him.

Everyone “who comes” to you “in the name of the Lord” must be welcomed. Afterward, when you have tested him, you will find out about him, for you have insight into right and wrong. If it is a traveler who arrives, help him all you can. But he must not stay with you more than two days, or, if necessary, three. If he wants to settle with you and is an artisan, he must work for his living. If, however, he has no trade, use your judgment in taking steps for him to live with you as a Christian without being idle. If he refuses to do this, he is trading on Christ. You must be on your guard against such people.

Every genuine prophet who wants to settle with you “has a right to his support.” Similarly, a genuine teacher himself, just like a “workman, has a right to his support.” Hence take all the first fruits of vintage and harvest, and of cattle and sheep, and give these first fruits to the prophets. For they are your high priests.

If, however, you have no prophet, give them to the poor. If you make bread, take the first fruits and give in accordance with the precept. Similarly, when you open a jar of wine or oil, take the first fruits and give them to the prophets. Indeed, of money, clothes, and of all your possessions, take such first fruits as you think right, and give in accordance with the precept. (The Didache, 11-13)