How to Treat False Teachers (10-11)
(10-11) If there comes any unto you, and brings not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
If anyone comes to you, and doesn’t bring this doctrine…
The Jews of the first century were extremely hostile towards Christians. As the end of the Jewish system got closer and closer, there were some who declared that the apostles made up the story of Jesus Christ. They said that Jesus was nothing more than a cunningly devised fable (2 Peter 1:16-18). That he wasn’t real! The Jews were doing everything they could to undermine Christianity.
This helps us understand why First John starts off with a defense of the reality of Jesus Christ’s coming to earth. John declares himself an ear-witness (“that which we have heard”), an eye-witness (“which we have seen”), and a hand-witness (“our hands have handled”).
So here in Second John, he is alerting the Christians to the Jews who were going around denying that the Christ had even come. This had the potential to destroy people’s faith, and therefore this threat must be taken seriously.
Don’t take him into house
Most translations have the word your inserted into this sentence, making it read, “Don’t receive him into your house.” However, the word your is not in the original. This is actually significant to understanding this verse.
The typical understanding of this verse is that if a false teacher comers around, don’t even let him into your house! This verse is used by some as justification for not allowing a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness to cross the threshold of their doorway. But that’s not what John is saying.
The early church met in houses, in the home of one of the members. John is telling the Christians not to allow the false teachers to have access to the congregation. Don’t let them into the congregational gatherings. Don’t let them into the house where Christians are meeting.
The application for us today is that we should be aware of what others believe and teach before we welcome them into the congregation. We cannot give false teachers access to the congregation, because they have the potential of destroying the faith of some of the weaker or newer members.
It’s because of things like this that the early church sent letters of recommendation with members who were traveling or moving (I Corinthians 16:3, II Corinthians 3:1). This isn’t such a bad idea.
Don’t say God-speed to them, either
The word translated as God speed in the King James Version is translated as greeting in James 1:1, and as farewell in II Corinthians 13:11. But the vast majority of times, it is translated rejoice (as in Matthew 5:12). John even uses it that way in verse 4 of this letter.
This means don’t wish them well on their journey. Don’t say “good luck” to them as they go out spreading false doctrine. Don’t pray for their efforts. Don’t say anything to them that would make it seem like you approve of what they are doing. Why not?
Because the one who says God-speed to him is a partaker of his evil deeds.
Even if you don’t allow the false teacher access to the congregation, the instant you wish him good luck as he goes along destroying souls, you’ve shown your approval for his actions. And approval of sin is the same as if you had committed the sin (Romans 1:32).
But there is another way that you would become a partaker in their evil deeds. If you wish them well, they will go to other places and bring up your name as well. “Brother So-and-so wished me good luck.” And all of a sudden, your name has become attached to them and their teaching.
Be very careful about who you recommend and who you approve. When you show approval for someone, you are also showing approval for what they teach and what they do. This is most important in showing approval of Christians and recommending them to others.
But this principle also applies in other areas of life. When you vote for someone—especially if you encourage others to vote for him—you are showing approval for that person and the things he stands for. Obviously, you can’t know everything that person thinks, believes, and will do while in office. But if you know ahead of time that candidate supports homosexuality and abortion, and then you vote for him (bidding them God-speed), that makes you just as guilty.
Be very careful who you bid God-speed to.