This is part six of the "Foundations for Dominion" series, and last week we began looking at John's interaction with a single parent family in the book of 2 John. In recent years there has been a wonderful resurgence of interest in, and respect for the roles that the family plays in society. In our church we believe the family is really the foundation for a well structured society and that it is the foundation for a well structured church. The church is not just a mass of individuals. The family retains its status within the church, and the church can really be defined as families covenanted together under eldership oversight.
But with this resurgence of interest in the family have come reactions and counter-reactions. There tend to be these pendulum swings from one extreme to another in church history. And last time we spent most of our time trying to sort through what I consider to be extremes and contrasting those pendulum swings with the Biblical text. Most of our focus was on the jurisdictional powers, roles and rights of family and church. How do they relate to each other? Which powers do each have? How do we keep from overstepping the boundaries that the Word of God has set? What are tangible examples of how the modern church has been stripping away the jurisdiction that God has given to the family?
Today I want to get into the nitty gritty of what it means for families to be in covenantal relationship to each other.
2 John illustrates how even less than ideal homes are valued in God's covenant community
It was a less than ideal home (vv. 1,4-6)
I think this book illustrates how even less than ideal homes are valued in God's covenant community. We saw last week that this was a single woman. We are not told why she is single. It may be that her husband died, or it might have been a divorce. 1 Corinthians 7 implies that there were pagans who left their wives when the wife became a Christian. So it could have been a situation like that. But I would think that everybody – single parents especially – would have to say that a single parent home is not the ideal. It's stressful.
We also saw last week that these children were not all acting as they should. Look at verse 4: I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. Now if some of them are walking in the truth, it implies that some of them were not. But the fact that John is greatly rejoicing that finally some of the children have come around implies to me that there is progress that is being made – right? Maybe none of them were walking in the truth before. Perhaps she was a new convert, struggling to raise unruly children. But through the love and ministry of the church and of elder John, and through her own adjusted parenting styles, now some of the children have professed faith and they are beginning to see changes in their behavior. That's encouraging to her and it is definitely encouraging to John. And it ought to be encouraging to you.
Almost every family in this congregation has at least one parent who is a first generation Christian. And some of you are discouraged that there is so much to learn, and so far yet to go. You can identify with this lady who has children growing up fast and she feels discouraged that she was not able to give to each child what, say the apostle John, was able to give to his children. And so John is encouraging her. She's maybe looking on the negative side, and thinking "I can't do anything right." And John is saying, "Look at the positive side. Look at all the progress you have made. Your family is growing in the Lord and when your children grow up, they'll be able to advance beyond where you have been. But advancement is being made.
He does have to still plead with her in verses 5-6 because some of her children are not obeying Scripture and by definition that means that they are not walking in love. So, it was not an ideal home. But what does point number 2 say, It says, "This book illustrates how even less than ideal homes are valued in God's covenant community." And I hope you find encouragement in this book this morning.
Yet this family was valued by the elder (v. 1)
Valued enough for a busy man to write a letter to her and to her children
Point B says, "They are valued by the elder." John is a busy man. He's been wearing several hats. He's not just an elder. He's also an apostle, and that means that he has to make these long trips to oversee other charges. But despite his busyness, John values this dysfunctional home enough to write a letter to the lady. And by the way, using emails to pastor and to shepherd is not without precedent. The busier a pastor becomes, the more he has to think outside the box in how to maintain contact with needy people. I visit homes where that is needed. I counsel in my office when that is needed. But I am thankful for Elder John's example of using mail, because without email, I would not be able to minister nearly as much as I do. Jay Adams says that the phone and the email are ideal means by which to do most shepherding calls. The old way of going to homes means that in most churches, oversight can only be achieved with a family once or twice a year at the most. Well, that's obviously not going to cut it. So please don't see my use of emails as being impersonal. I try to make my schedule open for face to face conversation with anybody in the congregation every Sunday afternoon, and occasionally in your homes, occasionally coming over to our home during the week, and occasionally meeting you you at my office. But email is a fantastic technology, and if you have questions, please feel free to use it.
John values her leadership in the home ("lady" = kuria or feminine for lord) enough to respect her family's unique role in the church (see last week's outline)
A second way that he valued this home was by respecting her position. He addresses her as the lady of the home in verse 1. The Greek word for "lady" is kuria, and has the meaning of lord or master. He was acknowledging her as the queen of her castle. The kind of rebuke and pastoral oversight that is given is much more easily taken when families realize that their authority is intact and is being respected. A pastor must not seek to turn the children (for example) against the parents, or a wife against her husband. Since we dealt with this last week, I don't need to amplify on it today. But it is an important point. If you didn't hear last week's sermon, I would encourage you to get a tape and listen to it.
Sin in the home does not mean the home cannot be valued and respected in the covenant community. She had a sign on her that said, "Be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet." She showed motivation and a desire for the truth and a desire for growth that showed that despite the fact that she was somewhat messed up, she was in a totally different camp and category than the apostates who were excommunicated in verses 7 and following.
John affirms his love for her and for her children and makes them feel welcome
The third way that John shows that he values this family is that he affirms his love for her and for her children. He is committed to her and to her children. He does not demean her by saying, "You're welcome to come, but get a baby sitter. We don't want your brats." No. He affirms his love for both her and her children. He makes them feel very welcome in these verses. And we want our church to be a church where families feel welcome to be present; where patience is shown when they are training their children.
This less than ideal family was valued by all in the church (v. 1)
But this less than ideal family was valued not just by the pastor, but by all in the church. Verse 1 says, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth. Now that's cool, when a congregation shows maturity enough to bring a messed up family in and to help them through their struggles. Now that assumes that this family is motivated to do something – to love the truth as well and to seek to obey it. There are some people who come into churches simply to suck the church dry and then when their welcome is worn out, they go off to suck another church dry. This is not a flabby love, but a tough love that is defined by the truth of Scripture. And when you define love, when you show that you want what is in the family's best interests, and not just what they want, then the church won't be burned out by bums. They'll be exercising a tough love that moves families to maturity. But John said that their whole church valued her family. And let me assure you that a family struggling with children can tell right off the bat whether they are being valued or simply tolerated; or actually, sometimes not tolerated. They can tell.
A family integrated church is valued because these saints are driven more by truth than they are by feelings, convenience or comfort (v. 2)
And that's why I say in point D, that "a family integrated church is valued because these saints are driven more by truth than they are by feelings, convenience or comfort." Their love is defined not only as "love in truth" in verse 1, but in verse 2 he says, because of the truth… That's why the church loves this family. It's because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever. What a refreshing alternative to the mushy love that's demonstrated in so many churches where everyone is supposed to get up in their pews and tell the total stranger sitting next to them, "I love you." Love has action. Love has commitment. It's not just words. It's defined by the law of God.
And the fact that John and this church valued and integrated this dysfunctional family into their church is a model for how we ought to live as a church. So let's quickly look at the ministry responsibilities that the church has to this family, and then after that, the responsibilities that this family has to the church.
The ministry responsibilities of this family-integrated church toward her family
Communicate (2 John)
The first ministry responsibility has already been alluded to. It's communication. Between fellowship time after the service, opportunities for fellowship on Sunday afternoons in our home and your own homes, and email, I think our church has plenty of opportunities for communication to take place if people want it. There is no reason for people to feel lonely unless they isolate themselves from the church. But communication is important. And by the way, when I say that the church is responsible on these issues, I don't just mean the officers. The officers represent the people. But the church is covenanted families, right? And every father is a leader in the church. And you have leadership responsibilities to promote these things that we are talking about, because you have a defacto leadership role as a man. And so it does my heart good to see you guys loving to fellowship afterwards, and welcoming new people into conversations, and inviting people to your homes. That a marvelous fulfillment of this mandate.
Admit believers and their children into the kingdom (v. 1)
A second responsibility is to admit believers and their children into the kingdom. Verse 1 doesn't just address the lady. It addresses the lady and her children… And throughout the book John shows that his responsibilities extend to the children. We need to be more and more consistent in making the children of our congregation feel important and welcome. And that's not just by admitting them to the covenant by baptism. It's by our ongoing actions through the rest of their lives.
Give oversight (v. 1)
Another one that we hit on last week, is giving oversight. That's why there are elders in churches. The elder to the elect lady…
Love in truth and affirm this love (v. 1)
The next responsibility is to love new families in truth and to affirm this love to them. It's not enough for you to know that you love them. Say it. And there are different ways of affirming this love. If you can't go for holy kisses, at least go for hugs. But verbally affirming your love is very good too.
Maintain a positive and optimistic atmosphere (vv. 3-4)
Experiencing and living God's grace (v. 3)
But point E I think is very, very important. We need to bend over backwards to maintain a positive and optimistic atmosphere. I think that Paul is a genius at this. Even the churches that he chews out in his letters are so filled with positive comments, remarks, encouragement, that it makes the rebukes easier to take. But I think John displays that here as well. Let's read verse 3. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. The first essential for developing a positive atmosphere in a church is that it be focused on grace. And actually, if you look in the margin, you will see a marginal footnote to the "you" in verse 3. The margin says that both the NU and the Majority Text have the word "us." And if that is correct, then what John is saying is that we are all in the same boat – we are all sinners in need of grace, mercy and peace. But either way, John doesn't just hope in it. He promises grace. You can't fall so far that God's grace can't reach you and solve your problems. I have helped people who felt beyond hope to experience the triumph of God's grace in their lives. And it is thrilling for me as a pastor to be able to do so. God's grace gives hope to the hopeless.
Experiencing and living God's mercy (v. 3)
The second word in verse 3 that is essential to a positive atmosphere is "mercy." John is guaranteeing that God's mercy will flow in their lives, implying what??? It implies that there will always be a need for God's mercy. We are all sinners growing together, aren't we? Lamentations says that if it were not for God's mercies we would have been consumed long ago. The more we realize how much each one of us needs God's mercy, the more we will be open to showing mercy to other saints who sin. The church is not designed to be a holy huddle of people excluding sinners. It is designed to be a group of saints who are gradually growing in holiness and who welcome other sinners into the same growth path.
Experiencing and living God's peace (v. 3)
God's peace is the third word, and it is also critical to a healthy atmosphere in a church. The more we experience of God's peace taming our hearts, the more ready we will be to be peace makers ourselves.
Doing so in truth and love (v. 3)
But all of this needs to be given definition by the bookends of love and truth. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. In truth and love. People think they are being gracious when they excuse sin. They think they are being merciful when they become enablers of ungodly behavior. But that is neither mercy nor grace and it certainly doesn't lead to peace. A false peace occasionally, but it doesn't lead to true peace. The truth of God's word needs to define grace and mercy. And of course, God indicates that His grace enables us to grow in holiness; God's mercy forgives our sins and gives us another chance to strive for holiness.
Love is the other bookend. And in all of John's epistles he is careful to link love and truth together. Not a sentimental love that allows people to rush headlong into destruction, but a truthful love that seeks the other person's best welfare even when that might hurt. But of course, the very attempts to love people in the truth this way gives hope and optimism. It shows the sinning saint that everyone in the church is not just for him, but is convinced that he can lick what he thinks is unlickable.
Encouraging people to keep looking up (v. 3)
I summarize that in the phrase "encouraging people to keep looking up." John in verse 3 is not advocating gritting your teeth and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. Man! What a discouraging model that would be! But he points to the Lord. Where is this help coming from. He says in vere 3: from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.
Acknowledging accomplishments (v. 4)
Another way in which a positive and optimistic environment is maintained is by acknowledging accomplishments that members have made. There may be problems, but don't just focus on the negative. Verse 4 says, I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in the truth, That's a much more positive way of wording things than ignoring what has been accomplished and focusing on the children's faults. The fact the John rejoices greatly not only implies the concern that he had previously over those children, but that he is acknowledging improvement; that he is satisfied with progress; that he is happy. He gives credit where credit is due. She has been progressing. And I tell you, parents need this encouragement. Take the issue of children sitting through a Sunday Service. Some people think you children are nothing short of miraculous supersaints. They can't believe you children can sit there, let alone pay attention. But you are demonstrating that it is possible. And as the rest of us encourage the new comers that it may take a little time and practice at home, but it is achievable,, and that we will be patient as they seek to work on the issues, they will be encouraged. And the new children will have role models that they can imitate. I have had several parents tell me that you children have helped their children to make the transition easier.
Showing patience with gradual growth (vv. 5-6)
But subpoint 7 balances this with patience. Patience is not ignoring issues. Some people misinterpret patience as ignoring issues that need to be dealt with. The last half of verse 4 says, as we received commandment from the Father. John continues to hold the standard out in front of them at the same time that he is being encouraging. Some people act as if patience ignores the standard. But patience implies that you are persevering in moving people toward maturity, but recognizing that it may take a lot of time. So John gives a goal, gives hope that the goal can be achieved, acknowledges the progress that has been made, and encourages her by affirming his love. What a neat balance. I love this book!
Exhorting one another from God's Word (vv. 5-11)
Another calling that God has given to the church is to exhort one another from God's Word. And in verses 5-11 there are a number of exhortations. And don't think it is only officers that should exhort. Hebrews 10:25 tells every member, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another… We are all called to encourage and exhort. When a person feels like giving up, an encouraging exhortation (that "you can do it") from a fellow struggler may do far more to encourage than even a word from the pastor. So it needs to be an atmosphere where various forms of exhortation can be given and received in a spirit of humility, meekness and love.
Exercise church discipline (v. 7) (This is exercising the "keys of the kingdom" in the reverse way of point B)
Another responsibility of the church is to exercise church discipline. The keys of the kingdom were given to Peter and the other apostles. Later, all officers exercise those same keys. The keys admit people to communion and membership, and the keys close the door to people who have apostatized. Verse 7 says, For many deceivers have gone out into the world [implying that they were at one time in the church. But they have gone out into the world] who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. So excommunication of heretics is one form of discipline.
But another form of discipline is warning. Verse 8 says, Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. A lot of people think of discipline as being only the final stage. But by far the greatest part of discipline is the discipline of the word. The Reformers spoke of preaching as sitting under the discipline of the word. God's Word brings correction, and we exercise self-discipline. It is only when 0% self-discipline is in evidence that the church eventually concludes that there is no grace present, and the last stage of excommunication is achieved. But usually, just hearing from the Word what is wrong is all the discipline that most people need. Occasionally someone will need rebuke. Occasionally someone might need a brother or sister going privately and seeking to reason with a person. Then Matthew 18 speaks of two or three, the elders and final discipline. But those steps should be rare. Most forms of discipline are in the range of mutual encouragement, exhortation, arbitration, etc.
Warn of heresy and preach truth (vv. 7-9,2ff.)
Point H, I've already mentioned. The church has a responsibility to warn of heresy and to preach truth. People think that warning about the bad things that are happening in Protestantism is a negative ministry. But as Francis Schaeffer has said, you aren't truly preaching the truth until you are willing to reject the error. That's why we have warning labels on medicines. It's not enough to know what it is good for. It's also important to know the dangers of the medicine so that we can take quick action when a child swallows a bottle of the pills.
Protect the family from spiritual dangers (vv. 7-11)
There are so many dangers attacking the family these days, and I think a major role of the church must be in exposing those dangers as John does in verses 7-11. Many churches refuse to do that because they want to maintain a positive ministry. They don't want to warn of the destruction being brought into the church through feminism, socialism, evolutionism, and other errors. And those pastors will be in real trouble with the Lord. God told the pastors in Hosea – the priests, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6). We can't just pick the positive laws, or what Polly Anna called the happy verses. Yes, it needs to be in a healthy, positive, optimistic environment, but antithesis is essential to a healthy church.
Maintain antithesis (vv. 6-11)
And John maintained antithesis: a clear demarcation between what is error and truth, good and bad, right and wrong. And I think that this antithesis must be imitated by the church of today.
Fellowship (vv. 12-13)
Finally, there is the fellowship that is hinted at in these verses: the fellowship of elder with parishioner and the fellowship of the saints as a whole. This fellowship produces an atmosphere of joy and optimism. Verse 12 says, Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. Pray that our church as a whole would lay hold of these responsibilities and excel in them.
The ministry responsibilities of this challenged family toward the family integrated church
To be under (and responding to) the ministries mentioned in the previous point. All of us need accountability for our own protection.
But let's move on to the responsibilities of the family toward the church as a whole in a family integrated church. The first responsibility is hinted at in everything that we have said so far. It is that the family should not be independent. The family should be in accountability to and responding to the ministries mentioned in the previous point. It doesn't do much good for the church to provide these things if the family doesn't participate or benefit.
Bring the children into covenant membership (v. 1)
Secondly, the family should bring the children into covenant membership. It is clear that John sees these children as in some sense under his pastoral oversight. The parents are the family shepherds, and the pastor should work through the parents, but the children should be seen as being in membership in the church. Verse 1 says, to the elect lady and her children.
That phrase (and her children) or similar phrases occur almost 300 times in the Bible. God has promised to be a God to us and to our children. And when the head of the household dies, that covenant relationship is not destroyed. Single parents, and even Christians whose spouses do not believe, can rejoice in Paul's encouragement in 1 Corinthians 7 that when a parent believes, his or her whole family is sanctified or set apart to a special work of God. It becomes a covenant household. And the whole family can lay claim to God's covenant promises.
That means you children are important to God and you are important to us elders. You are very important to the church. How you relate to each other is not only a testimony to new children and parents who come in, but can be a ministry to God. And so you are in covenant with God and with the church.
Reciprocate the love and the positive atmosphere mentioned above (cf the "us" in vv. 2-3)
Point C: reciprocate the love and the positive atmosphere mentioned above. I mentioned earlier that the "us" in verses 2-3 involves John and the families. Ephesians 4 denies that elders do all the work of the ministry. They are designed to equip you to do the work of the ministry. You are all ministers before the Lord. So you are key to having a positive atmosphere in the church. If you believe that God is calling you to reprove someone, make sure you do it in the positive way that John did. Consider the exhortation of Galatians 6:1-2. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But we all responsible for maintaining this positive, optimistic atmosphere of grace.
Experience God's grace and presence (v. 3)
Point D: Make sure that you are experiencing God's grace and presence yourself. Verse 3 says that our homes should be places where God's presence is experienced. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. This is not just nice theology about grace, mercy and peace, but it is a guarantee that it will be with us. This ought to be a tremendous encouragement to single mothers who worry about the state of their kids, who have so many pressures and obstacles to a healthy family environment. God is promising that you don't have to go it alone. The grace needed to shepherd your children's hearts will be with you. The mercy needed to overcome the failures of the past and to undo the judgment that we deserve will be there. The peace of God which passes all understanding is poured out by the Lord. Now if that is true in a single parent home like this elect lady had, should not everyone of you mothers claim this when you are having a bad hair day and nothing seems to be going right? Tell the Lord, "Lord, you promised that your grace, mercy and needed peace" will be here for me in my hour of need. I claim it and thank you for it even now. The reason we can bank on these attributes of God is that God is with us and has promised "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Take parenting seriously (vv. 4-6)
Point E: take parenting seriously. Paul pleads with this woman to do so in verses 4-6. If you are pulling your hair out because you don't know what to do, ask for another parenting class to be taught. I will teach it. I will help, give advice and do what I can to assist. But parents must parent. When there are struggles, there are plenty of other parents in this church that will be happy to help out while a parent is trying to cope. But nothing is a substitute for a parent moving forward into a mode of more self-control and better parenting. So John encourages parenting in verse 4, pleads for better parenting in verse 5 and instructs from the Word that parents must parent.
I've had parents call on the phone because they were interested in the church, and they have asked about a nursery. I've said that we have comfortable places in the hallway where parents can take their children when needed, but that we don't have a staffed nursery. And the parents have said, "But I need a nursery because I can't control my children." And my response has been that we would be happy to help them learn to control the children, that we will be patient while they are learning, and that other parents can even be conscripted to assist in this discipleship and training process, but that this really is a good challenge to motivate them to start learning right away. With some parents, that's encouraging, though I'm sure there is a fear factor. With other parents, that is a guarantee they won't come because they have no intention of learning how to take their parental roles seriously. The role of the church is to assist. It's not to parent.
Submit to exhortation, rebuke and correction (vv. 4-11)
Point F: submit to exhortation, rebuke and correction. That may be hard on pride. But you know, it is a privilege to have a church that cares; a church that is willing to do that.
Commit the family to have love for the home (v. 1), within the home (v. 3) and between homes (v. 13, 5,6)
A fifth characteristic of our homes should be love; love not just for each other within the family (though that is important), but love for those in other families; love for neighbors. Love should characterize our homes, yet in many homes there is a tendency to be ingrown, child centered and selfish. Look at verse 5: And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. We are not told why John had to plead with her, but the fact that he has to, indicates that she has become alienated from one or more people. Perhaps she is not on speaking terms with the person who chewed her out for Johnny and Trevor's behavior. We aren't told. But John indicates that she can't wait for other people to take the first step. She needs to love. There are so many families who come to churches only to receive love, and to drain the church of every resource that they can. They feel sorry for themselves and all they can think of is their own needs. And John indicates that this is not healthy. Get outside yourself. Don't be a consumer only. The church is made up of families which means every family has responsibilities to engage in the deeds of love.
Now think of this. If this single parent family was admonished to get outside of itself (and its own needs and concerns) and to minister love even with all of its disadvantages and problems, then every family here needs to have the same focus. It is all too easy to get so absorbed in the all consuming task of raising a family that you fail to extend agape, serving love in the church. And that is not healthy. If you are waiting for more time, it will never happen because there are always more demands at home than you have time to take care of. If you are waiting for more convenient time, there will never be a more convenient time to do that loving thing God is prompting you to do. Your home is your primary focus, but mothers, fathers and children: if you do not model selfless love outside your homes, your children will grow up to be self-absorbed and selfish. Why? Because you are modeling that it is OK to have your whole life revolve just around that which is your own. It's good to involve your children with you even in ministries, whether that is helping a neighbor, serving once a month at the Open Door Mission, or preparing gifts for people. Our homes must model love in as many ways as we can.
Pursue holiness (v. 6)
And obviously, the kind of love he is talking about is characterized by holiness. Verse 6 says, This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. Obedience is defined as including moral precepts from the beginning: Genesis through Revelation.
Training: Our homes should be trained in orthodox doctrine (vv. 7-10)
Doctrinal Confession (v. 7)
A fourth characteristic that is essential for homes is that they be orthodox in doctrine. And in verse 7-10 I have four subpoints which show what I mean by orthodoxy. First of all, there will be doctrinal confession of orthodoxy. Verse 7 says, For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. He takes one point of doctrine: the nature of Christ, and insists that this woman be straight on her doctrine and not be taken in. It's not just important that church leadership understands doctrine. It is also important that families understand doctrine. And that is why we have creeds and confessions. And that's why we strongly recommend that your children memorize the shorter catechism. Doctrinal confession helps to maintain orthodoxy. And both mothers and fathers need to be involved in this. Mothers can reinforce during the day, and fathers can oversee at night. But John grieves over those who don't confess doctrinal orthodoxy. Confession is important.
Sincere Confession (v. 8)
Second subpoint: sincere confession is also important. Verse 8 says, Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. John had been working at teaching this family, but he points out that if this is to be a sincere confession that is not lost, it is going to take more than the church to be involved. He says, "Look to yourselves."
These verses indicate that nurturing children in the Lord is not just a work of the family - John was involved; and it is not just a work of the church - they needed to look to themselves. If you go to either extreme, you can have your children miss out. If you think that one hour a week of teaching in church can replace parental education in the Word, then you are fooling yourself. One hour a week in no way fulfills the command to parents of Deuteronomy 6 to saturate their children in the Word. Even single mothers must make sure that they work with their children to promote and nurture a sincere confession of faith so that they don't lose their families.
Experienced Confession (v. 9)
Third subpoint: It needs to be an experienced confession. Verse 9 says, Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. It is not just the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ that families need to hold, but the very presence of God; the very presence of Christ in our homes. But notice that while this is an experienced religion; an experienced confession, it is always grounded in doctrine. You can't claim to have God in your home if doctrine is not rich in your home. It says Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. The only way to have the experience is to have the doctrine. But having the doctrine, we must pray that God would help our children know the very Person that the doctrine points to and describes. So it is an experienced confession - both needed.
Loyal Confession (vv. 10-11)
Fourth subpoint: it is a loyal confession. Many times we profess to believe one thing, but our actions indicate that we believe something different. And that was what was happening in verses 10-11. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. John is saying that her confession of Christ was not a loyal confession if she provided hospitality to a false teacher. Perhaps she had put up itinerant preachers for room and board because of her generous nature, but John warned that if she did that with heretics, she was not being loyal to Christ. She was not so much as to give the standard greeting of "God be with you" or "peace to you" since that would be seeking blessing on a ministry which should not be blessed.
And we too need to be very careful not to send money to, encourage or in other ways to support causes that have become heretical. One of the mothers was telling me this past week that JW's came to the door and wanted to talk, and she took this admonition very seriously. She didn't even open the door for them. She told them through the door that she was not interested in supporting heretics or dialoguing with them.
Influence: Discernment, hospitality, communication (v. 10-12)
Finally, our homes should be hospitable. That may seem like it is a contradiction of the previous point. Verse 10 makes clear that this woman was already hospitable and did not need to be reminded of this; she only needed to be cautioned about who she was hospitable to. But even widows, with their limited resources should demonstrate and model to their children the grace of hospitality that she showed to other teachers, to John and that her elect sister showed to her. Hospitality should flow from our Christian homes.
So we have seen that the church values this dysfunctional family and welcomed and ministered to the whole family. We have seen that the family entered wholeheartedly into the church and ministered to the church. This is a book that illustrates the pervasive doctrine of the family integrated church. And I pray that God would prosper the efforts of Vision Forum Ministries and other ministries that are seeking to elevate the family to its God given roles and to promote both church and family in their God-given roles. Pray for me that I would improve in my responsibilities, and I will pray for you, and we can pray for each other that we would all lay hold of the vital role that families play in God's kingdom. And to God be the glory. Amen
Children of God, I charge you to strive for the ideal set forth in this book for a family-integrated church. Amen.