Discipline: Those without faith in Jesus

by Jay Guin

This is one of the most abused verses in all of scripture (which says a lot!):

(2 John 1:7, 9-11) Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. … Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.

The “doctrine of Christ” is plainly the doctrine of his incarnation.

Short argument

(2 John 1:1-3) The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth – and not I only, but also all who know the truth – 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

“Truth” in vv. 1-3 is a reference to the gospel, that is, the truth about Jesus. Some teach that this means “all doctrines taught by Jesus” or “all truth found in the Bible” And so they demand that we disfellowship all who have a wrong opinion on any Biblical issue at all.

But if this is true, only those with perfect doctrine may remain in fellowship! And it would be supremely arrogant to imagine that you possess all doctrine exactly right, wouldn’t it?

The context is all about the divinity of Jesus and the gospel (which is what we must believe and confess to be saved). Anyone who denies faith in Jesus is certainly to be treated as a non-Christian. If he is at church as a seeker, welcome him as an honored guest. If he seeks to spread his error, expel him.

It astonishes me that some denominations allow men studying for the ministry to be taught by the faithless. Indeed, a number of seminaries are filled with professors who deny that Jesus even claimed to be the Son of God. A denomination with any genuine respect for Jesus and his word would expel such people – not just because they are wrong, but because they aren’t even Christians.

This is not an institutional problem in the Churches of Christ. The accusation is often made, but it’s utterly without support. Rather, we are guilty of other sins.

The interpretation of this passage and the use of “truth” in the New Testament is discussed in greater detail in these posts —

The “Teaching of Christ” in 2 John

John’s Gospel

“Truth” in Paul, Part 1

“Truth” in Paul, Part 2

“Truth” in Hebrews, James, and 1 & 2 Peter

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8 Comments on “Discipline: Those without faith in Jesus”

  1. Royce Says:

    Jay, your teaching on this passage is correct.

    I was stunned when I learned that there are coC preachers who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus and members who agressively deny his deity, and are treated as brothers.

    I believe I have the moral duty to say a wolf is not a sheep.

    Royce

  2. Randall Says:

    Royce,
    I am surprised that you make reference to cofc preachers that deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I know there are some in the cofc that do do believe we will experience a bodily resurrection, but I assume that is simply b/c they have not studied the issue. Perhaps they grew up on a belief that after death we go off to a spiritual never never land and exist as disembodied spirits. But to deny that Jesus experienced a bodily resurrection is to say that the tomb was not empty and that is directly contrary to scripture. Could you provide and additional information on this teaching – where did it originate, is it limited to one geographical area, what is the historical development of the view in the cofc etc?

    That some deny the deity of Jesus has existed in the Stone-Campbell movement from the beginning as Stone himself was heterodox on this issue. However, Stone would affirm any particular verse of the scripture as being true. He simply did not believe that the scripture was plain that Jesus was true God of true God (coexisting eternally with the Father) as the creed stated. I suppose he was something of an Aryan on this issue. Of course he necessarily had problems with the doctrine of the Trinity as well. I have met at least a few in the cofc that deny the divinity of Jesus – at least one was unaware that it was the orthodox position in all Christianity – including the cofc. These folks did know that IM was wrong though! Simply evidence that the cofc has majored in the minors and minored in the majors.
    Peace,
    Randall

  3. Royce Says:

    Randall,

    I am not going to be more specific as to the identity of the individuals. I have confronted them man to man and was soundly rejected.

    The resurrection of Jesus is the absolute bed rock of Christianity. If it is not so there is no Christianity and our “faith is vain” to quote Paul.

    I know that our brotherhood is resistant to creeds but isn’t there some things one must believe to a Christian? Why is it wrong to put them in print and say we believe them? Curious huh?

    Our folk have no problem listing the dozens of ways you can supposedly be kicked out of God’s family but are not in favor of stating any absolutes regarding saving faith and it’s objects with few exceptions.

    I have difficulty believing that coC men who deny Christ’s deity and his resurrection do so in innocence.

    Royce


  4. There is no other gospel than that of saved by grace through faith. Fisher Christ

  5. Randall Says:

    Royce,
    I did not intend for my comments and questions to be taken as prying into the identity of some living person that advocates an idiosyncratic view of Jesus’ resurrection (or lack thereof). I apologize for not being more clear.

    I took your initial comment to suggest this was a somewhat widespread view among the cofc that had some history behind it – OK, maybe not widespread but at least a minority view held by more than a handful of people). It sounds like it is limited to just a few and does not have any history in the Stone Campbell Movement (SCM) older than our contemporary times.

    Regarding creeds: The SCM has opposed creeds – initially not so much as for what they were but for how they were used. Creeds were used to draw lines of fellowship. In the Presbyterian Church of the Campbells day you had to toe the creedal (is that a word?) line or be excluded from the Lord’s Supper when it was offered once a year. One did not regard those who affirmed a different creed as a brother in Christ.

    The Campbells and Stone were about as open as anyone could possibly be as evidenced by their ability to unite. You asked if there might be some things one must believe in order to be a Christian. Apparently they had a very short list that consisted of confessing that Jesus is the Christ and showing evidence of it by a pious lifestyle. Stone did not believe Jesus was an eternally existent being (indeed God) co-equal with the Father; he did not believe in the Trinity; and his view of the atonement was perhaps closer to the moral influence theory than any other – it certainly was not penal substitution. He spoke disparagingly of all that (and more) as “speculative theology.” So it seems to me that the first generation had those that believed what a person had to believe to be a Christian was simply that Jesus is the Christ.

    In reality a creed is a statement of belief. Some are longer and detailed, but they can be quite short. For example, “no creed but Christ” is a statement of belief and could be regarded as a creed, even if it was not intended to be one.

    And of course you know so well that creeds can be written or unwritten and precise or not so much. Our own history is as good a place as any to study imprecise and unwritten creeds. And we effectively used those very things to draw lines of fellowship. I think Jay has been making a point of that for some time now.

    Peace,
    Randall

  6. Royce Says:

    Yes Randall, a creed is a creed even if unwritten isn’t it?

    As for the Campbells, Stone and others, while I find what they did and taught interesting, their beliefs and practices in no way influence what I believe. They, like me, were flawed men, uninspired and searching for truth.

    Not one of us can claim we have a monoply on the truth either as an individual or as a church. I do believe though that we must be right about Jesus and the story of his perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection once we learn what the Bible says.

    One does not need a doctorate in theology to be saved but when confronted with the truth about Jesus and his work for sinners I have doubts about those who reject that truth.

    In his discourse in Matthew 7 it might be that Jesus had in mind the “few” that would be finally saved are of those who profess to be Christians, not the whole population at large. I think there are always tares growing with the wheat, believers and make believers in the same congregations.

    Royce

  7. Michael Ray Says:

    There was a book published by ACU 10 or 15 years ago (and reported in the Christian Chronicle as well), that was a survey of ministers in the churches of Christ. According to that study, and I’m going from memory here, something like five percent of ministers in the church denied things most of us wouldn’t believe they could deny, such as the deity of Jesus.

    I don’t think it’s widespread, but there is some of that out there. Most who hold such unorthodox views know, I suspect, that actually verbalizing them to anybody in their congregation would not be good for their job security.

  8. Jay Guin Says:

    It’s astonishing to me that anyone who denies the resurrection would work in the ministry. I would certainly want any minister of that persuasion fired, if he refuses to repent after proper counseling and warning. The same goes for a professor at a Christian school. Why give an enemy of the faith a platform?


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