1 The elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;
An Aged Apostle's Letter
John, Second Epistle. This letter (short and sweet) though apparently addressed to an individual, is without doubt, written to an ecclesia. John by this time was an old man. He was nearly 100 years of age when this was written; and we know that when a man gets up into life, his mind develops with advancing years. He loses the plain, cold, literal style of speech that belongs to the first stage of mental action, and becomes mellow and metaphorical. This is a universal rule, and you find it illustrated here.
John styles his brethren and sisters, his children: he says he had no greater joy than to see his children walk in the truth. Now his children were not boys and girls as the term literally construed, would express; but men and women whom he had brought into Christ, by the preaching of the truth.
The same style of expression is observed in the beginning of this letter: he addresses himself "to the elect lady whom I love in the truth;" not a literal lady, but the ecclesia to whom he was writing. You will find that he sends, in the last verse, the love of the ecclesia with which he was connected, in a similar form. "The children of thine elect sister greet thee." The children were the members of the ecclesia with whom he worshipped.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, May 1868
Whom I love in the truth
Outside the truth, a brother's love is not operative. He loves not the world, neither the things that are in the world, remembering that
"if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).
His friendships are bounded by the truth, as regards both men and things. In Christ, he is a "new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17). After the flesh he knows no man. The friendship of the world is enmity with God (Jas. 4:4). Therefore he cultivates no friendship with those who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. His love is bounded by the truth.
Does he, therefore, shut up his bowels of compassion against those who are without God? By no means. He recognizes the obligation put upon him by the same law, to salute not his brethren only, but to do good unto all men, as he has opportunity, even to his enemies.
But there is a difference between doing good to unbelievers and cultivating friendship with them; and the saint is careful to observe this difference, lest he come under the rebuke that greeted the ears of Jehoshaphat, on his return from friendly co-operation with Ahab:
"Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord" (2 Chron. 19:2).
We can have our conversation towards the world in all courtesy and benevolence, without going on to their ground, and joining affinity in schemes of pleasure, profit or friendship.
Bro Roberts - Love and Doctrine
5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
Love one another
Two things stand out very clearly: One, that this is the most vital aspect of discipleship. And two, it is a matter that is considered to call for a tremendous amount of divine emphasis and repetition. Obviously, it is not something that will develop naturally, or that will take care of itself. It must be reiterated over and over, so that the dull fleshly mind may at last, hopefully, be impressed.
The flesh tends to pettiness and antagonism and criticism and touchiness and pride. But God has called us to spiritual things. Regardless of what anyone else does or does not do, this is the personal responsibility of each one to each one, for which each one will have to answer. What others do will be no excuse for our failure. God has put us in the Body with the weak and the strong, and told us what to do. Our life's task and duty is crystal clear.
Bro Growcott - Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments
7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
The heresies of the Nikolaitane Ebionites and Gnostics were the germ of what Paul terms "THE APOSTASY," and John, "The Deceiver and THE ANTICHRIST." ...And again, "Every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Anointed came in flesh, is not from the Deity; and this is that of the Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it comes, and is now already in the world" (1 John 4:3).
The spirit of a thing precedes the thing itself. First, the idea, and then its embodiment. The ideas of Nikolaitanism were its spirit. These were first conceived in the brains of corrupt and shallow men, who sought a present distinction and position in the world, at all hazards.
Their ideas were perverse and perverting, and were spoken for the purpose of drawing away disciples after them. All who received their dogmata imbibed their spirit, and as they increased in number and influence among the people, became a power which continued to grow, until it was prepared to contend with older powers for the ascendancy, and in the struggle gain the victory. This has been the career of the Nikolaitane heresy.
It began by affirming the insufficiency of the gospel without the law for salvation; affirming, also, the immortality of an inner man; and denying the proper humanity of Jesus; and it prevails as the ANTICHRISTIAN APOSTASY embodied in the Beasts, False Prophet, and appendices thereto belonging...
...If some of them, while admitting that Jesus was flesh, had not affirmed the spotlessness of that flesh, "the immaculate conception of the Virgin" would not have been invented in order to account for it. All these old wives' fables, and lying traditions, are embodied in the ecclesiastical institutions of the world.
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
Out of Christ, sinners cannot come near. They have the goodness of God as creatures, like the sparrows, not one of which can fall to the earth without the Father's knowledge; but they are not in the privilege of children.
They have not the Father's favour and purpose concerning the ages to come. This is only to be enjoyed in Christ; but even here, it must be the Christ of God's appointing. Any other than this is presumption, and a mockery of His wisdom: and they who teach otherwise than the truth concerning Christ, preach another Christ, though it be intended to refer to the Christ of Nazareth.
This is evident from the case of those to whom John is referring. They believed that the person known as Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ; but in their reasonings upon him, they reasoned away the truth about him, and consequently believed and preached another Jesus than the Son of the Father.
There were different sorts of the class, but all their heresies had a common origin in an attempt to bring the mystery of godliness within the rules of human reason, instead of accepting the testimony with humble and childlike simplicity.
One set argued that such a character as Jesus was a moral impossibiliiy in flesh and blood, and that, therefore, his whole life was a mere accommodation on the part of a spiritual being to the senses of mortals.
Another, believing him to be flesh and blood, philosophized in a contrary direction, concluding that as such, he must, from the nature of things, have been a "mere man," and that the idea of his being God in flesh-manifestation, was preposterous.
The Papacy blended the two and taught that though flesh, his flesh was not the corrupt and mortal flesh of men, but a superior, clean, "immaculate" sort. In our own day, as recent painful experience has made us aware, a class of believers are treading the same dangerous ground, in teaching that the flesh of Jesus was destitute of that which, in the flesh of his brethren, constitutes the cause or source of mortality.
In relation to all of them, John's declaration reveals the mind of the Spirit:
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son."
The doctrine of Christ is that he is God made and manifested in the mortal flesh of Abraham's race for the deliverance thereof, on His own principles, from
"that having the power of death."
Those who hold fast to this have both the Father and the Son; for in Jesus, they have the Son, and the Father manifest in him.
As to those who "bring not this doctrine," John's commandment is
"Receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed!"
This command we can no more evade than any other commandment delivered unto us. The obedience of it may cost us something. It is crucifying to the flesh to refuse friends -- some of them excellent people as human nature goes -- who in one way or other have been seduced from their allegiance to the doctrine of Christ; but there is no alternative.
Friends are but for a moment; the truth is for ever; and if we sacrifice our duty to the latter from regard to the former, the latter will sacrifice us in the day of its glory, and hand us over to the destiny of the flesh, which, as the grass, will pass away.
"He that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
This applies to all without distinction, and erects a barrier to fellowship with even some who hold the truth; for though they may hold the doctrine of Christ themselves, yet, if they keep up a "God-speed" connection with those who do not, by John's rule they make themselves partakers with them, and, therefore, cut themselves off from those who stand for the doctrine of Christ.
The epistle, as a whole, is singularly applicable to the situation in which we find ourselves this morning. We have been obliged to stand aside for the doctrine of Christ from some we love. The Epistle of John justifies us in our course, both as regards those who have departed from the doctrine of Christ, and those who, while holding on to it themselves, see not their way to break connection with those who have departed.
It is a painful situation, but we must not falter, nor need we fear or be discouraged. God is with us in the course of obedience, and we shall see His blessing in the increase, in our midst, of zeal and holiness, and love and preparedness for the great day of the Lord, which is at hand.
Bro Roberts - Love and Doctrine
10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
THE INDIVIDUAL ISOLATION CAUSED BY THE TRUTH
W.O. writes "I think I must be drifting surely - if slowly- to Christadelphianism. What still hinders? Some few scripture difficulties, the which if I could see through satisfactorily, the remainder in the way of reducing faith to practice, would probably disappear. To refer to the latter first. If I fully embraced 'the doctrine of the kingdom,' I must relinquish connection with old religious associations entirely, that is, not only as regards myself, which would be a comparatively easy matter, but as regards my family.
Religious life of any sort cannot well be sustained but in assembling together, and it would not, in any case, be the difficulty of two meeting together who were not agreed, but that there would be no second person to meet with. Naturally of a secluded temperament, I quite think the loss to myself in no meeting would be far less than to many; but how could I allow the "offspring" to imbibe sentiments and teaching interwoven with so much error for the small portion of good they would obtain from orthodox teaching? The alternative appears to be to teach them myself at home. This I cannot feel qualified for by a very long way, and were it attempted, I feel it must result in failure, and should feel condemned in depriving them of the modicum of good which they would obtain in the old paths. This is my practical difficulty."
Doubtless our correspondent's difficulty is great, but there is a solution for it in the first principle which must regulate a man in every relation and circumstance of life, viz., find out what is right to be done, and leave the difficulties to take care of themselves.
Assuming our correspondent to have committed himself to the truth, there would be no haziness about duty in the case. Personal dissociation from the apostacy, in all its branches, is the first step devolving upon a man who receives the truth. He cannot please God and remain in fellowship with a system which is a negation of His truth in every particular.
If he elects to listen to the invitation contained in the truth to men and women, to become the servants of Christ, that they may be heirs of the glory he has purchased with his own blood, he must accept the responsibility attached to this position of privilege. He must become a witness for the truth of Christ, and a slave to the interests of Christ, so far as they exist in the world at the present time in the fortunes of the truth and the welfare of his brethren and sisters.
He must "come out" from associations of every kind that are inimical to these interests. He must "have no fellowship" with any whose workings or influence are detrimental to the work of Christ. It becomes sin to him to say "God speed," in any shape or form to men who (unwittingly or not) are enemies of the great gospel that Christ has committed to the hands of all his servants, as a charge to be faithfully kept and defended.
Hence he must give up "old associations;" he must leave the churches and chapels; for there is no greater hindrance to the truth than these refuges of a pretended gospel, and no bitterer enemies to the gospel of Christ than those who preach therein for hire, and those who are zealously affected by their means.
To do this will often land a man in our correspondent's difficulty; he must sometimes stand alone. Never mind; bravely accept the alternative. Perhaps you will not be always alone. Your courage may embolden others. God may give you good company when He has proved you; but, whether or not, be faithful.
Wash your hands of all complicity with a system of fables, which holds itself out to the world as the truth. If need be, stand as a solitary witness to the promises of God, and you will have a sweet recompense in the record written above, against the time when "God will judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus." The present generation will follow its successors to the tomb. Our wisdom is to choose that which will not be taken away.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, Feb 1868. p52