2 john 7-13
7 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! 8Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. 9Everyone 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. 10Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; 11for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.
12 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.
13 The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.
Those who do not believe in the incarnation, that Christ has really come in the flesh, are identified as deceivers, even as the antichrist. This language is reminiscent of 1 John. The “deceivers” have taken the name of Christ, but have built their own religion around it – the beginnings of the Gnostic and Docetic beliefs were seen in this time. The Docetists never believed that Jesus had been fully human and had really died, but thought that he had been a spirit all along who just appeared to be human. The Gnostics thought that his spirit had been free of a body, and that there was some “secret knowledge” that enabled human spirits to be freed. These people added their own secret knowledge, visions, and “revelations” to the gospel as it was taught. These are the very things that we see in the “lost gospels” we read about in National Geographic or see sensationalized on TV shows. They were writings of the Gnostics and Docetists from the second century that were not included in the Canon for obvious reasons.
The Elder says that his readers must be on their guard against such false teachings, for they can sound convincing; and they can lead them astray, away from true belief. Just think how convincing those TV presentations are when they talk about “a new gospel, hidden away for thousands of years”. By not saying what anyone who has studied the formation of the canon knows, they are convincing in their assertion that there was some sort of conspiracy!
Adding such false teachings is what the Elder means by “going beyond” the teaching of Christ. He warns his readers to abide in the grace of the message they have been taught. In fact, he says, don’t even allow these false teachers to stay with you, or to teach in your church. Missionaries and traveling preachers in the early days relied on the hospitality of the churches they visited; the Elder is saying not to extend such hospitality to those “false” teachers – which is a very harsh judgement in that culture and time. He fears, however, that the sister church will be drawn into their evil.
Finally, he says he has much to write, but hopes to see them face to face, and sends greetings from their sister church.