The short letter of 2 John is written in part to warn believers against the influence of false teachers. John identifies them as those “who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” and describes them as deceivers and antichrists (2 John 1:7). He goes on to say in verse 10 that, if anyone comes teaching a falsehood about Jesus Christ, “do not take them into your house or welcome them.” Does this prohibition refer to those who knock on our doors today, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses? Are we to deny members of these sects access to our homes?
It is important to understand the doctrine that John was defending. In saying, “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh,” John affirms that Jesus is both fully God and truly man. He also addressed this issue in 1 John 4:2, telling his readers how to identify false teachers and the spirits who drive them. The first test of a true teacher/prophet of God is that he proclaims that Jesus is God incarnate (see John 1:14). A godly teacher will teach both the full deity and true humanity of Christ. The Holy Spirit testifies to the true nature of Christ, while Satan and his demonic host deny that true nature. The Gnostics of John’s day denied the true humanity of Christ. Today, there are many who deny the full deity of Christ—such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses—and John identifies them as deceivers and antichrists.
It is also important to understand the context of John’s epistle. John is writing to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1:1). This lady was engaged in a ministry of hospitality. In the name of Christian love (verse 6), this kind-hearted woman was receiving itinerant preachers into her home, providing room and board for them, and sending them on their way with her blessing. John writes this quick note to her to warn her about the many false teachers who would gladly take advantage of her generosity. Her love needed to be tempered by truth. Boundaries had to be drawn. Hospitality should not be extended to charlatans, hucksters, and the devil’s own emissaries. That’s why John tells her, “Do not take them into your house or welcome them” (verse 10). And he tells her why: “Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work” (verse 11).
John gives the hospitable lady a litmus test: what does the traveling preacher teach about Jesus Christ? If he is presenting the full deity and full humanity of Christ, then he can be welcomed into her home as a guest. However, if the teacher mitigates, obscures, or equivocates on the fact that Jesus is fully man and fully God, then the lady is to have nothing to do with him. Such false teachers are not to receive help from believers, not even so much as a greeting. To give material aid or spiritual encouragement to the purveyors of false doctrine is to partake in their wickedness (verse 11).
What should be our response, then, when cultists or false teachers come knocking at the door? It is not wrong to share the truth with them or to relate our testimony. We are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). However, we must be careful not to do anything that would give the appearance that we approve of their message. We should never invite them into our home for an extended stay, donate money to their cause, or allow them to conduct a “Bible study” with us.
Here are some things to remember: First, cultists are master deceivers who are well trained in techniques that will confuse those whose knowledge of Scripture is limited. Well-meaning and compassionate souls (like the elect lady in 2 John) can be coaxed to dialogue with cultists and then be fooled by them. Second, Christians are of Christ; cultists are anti-Christ (2 John 1:7), no matter how kind, sincere, and charming they may appear. Third, believers should not give the cultists or anyone else the impression that the cult has legitimate claims, doctrines, or opinions. Fourth, Jesus tells us to “watch out” for false teachers (Matthew 7:15), and Paul tells us to “avoid them” (Romans 16:17) and declares them to be “accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Therefore, we should build no close associations with those who teach a false gospel. Fifth, John tells the lady in 2 John not to “welcome” a false teacher (or “bid him God speed” in the KJV). This phrase in the Greek means “to cheerfully or joyfully hail someone.” In other words, we are not to bless false teachers or wish them well.
We are to be always ready with an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15), but we must do so in the Holy Spirit’s power, following His lead. When cultists or false teachers knock at the door, it could be an opportunity to relate the truth about Jesus to them, or it could be an opportunity to “leave them; they are blind guides” (Matthew 15:14). In any case, we must rely on the Lord’s wisdom (James 1:5) and be cautious not to cast our pearls before pigs (Matthew 7:6).