In 2 John 10–11, John prohibits the readers from receiving a false teacher into one’s house or even giving him a greeting. Does he really mean to say that we cannot be hospitable or even give a decent hello to these false teachers?
Supposing this house were a personal, physical dwelling, to receive someone therein in John’s day would imply a solidarity of sorts between the host and guest. In this instance, the purpose of hospitality would be to facilitate the intentions of the guest. He (or multiple people) is the “anyone” who “comes to you,” apparently with a teaching, but not “this teaching” that confesses Jesus Christ to have come in the flesh (cf. 2 John 7). The host’s shelter, then, would imply an acceptance or at least a tolerance of this guest’s anti-Christian teaching. It would that his false teaching could be tolerated, accepted, or even promoted, and the end result would be that the teacher and followers do not have God, a perilous result, to be sure (cf. 2 John 9).
But, suppose that the “house” referred to a personal, physical dwelling as it was used for the gathering of a local church for worship, as was typically the case in John’s day (cf. Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 2). If so, “house” would be a metonym in which the thing (house) closely associated with another (church) is used instead of the other. The command to “not receive him into your house” would then assume that he would not be received and recognized by the church that gathered together for worship in this house, let alone be given opportunity to promote his heresy. One way or the other, the net effect seems to be the same. His intention to promote heresy makes unwelcome in a Christian’s home and thus the church. Or it makes him unwelcome to the church and thus to whatever assistance a member of such a church would provide.
John also commands to “not…give him a greeting.” The word for “greeting” (chairō) could be used for either a parting (cf. 2 Cor 13:11) or a greeting (cf. Acts 15:23; 23:26; Jas 1:1). If the emphasis is on the false teacher’s departure, John gives a tidy prohibition encompassing both the false teacher’s arrival and departure. The false teacher receives neither aid when he comes nor blessing when he leaves. Or, if the “greeting” has the false teacher’s arrival in mind, John’s readers were to give him neither shelter nor even a standard greeting. Either way, the goal is to offer no assistance, Christian recognition, or opportunity for the false teacher to promote his heresy.
So, yes, because of a false teacher’s diabolical way of life―to promote heresy and lead people away from eternal life―John tells us we are to neither give him aid or wish him blessing in what he does. As John says, to do so is to take part in his wicked works.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.