In recent weeks, I’ve been alarmed to see Francis Chan step out in Ecumenism with those who have no other title than “wolf”. Two rather irenic photos have been shared lately, showing Francis Chan embracing heretical teachers Todd White and Benny Hinn. Both men are known to promote the prosperity gospel, among several other notable errors condemned by the early church. It isn’t a point of knowing if their doctrinal well is poisoned, but why Francis Chan is partnering with these men in any capacity. They do not bring the gospel of the Scriptures; they do not bring the teaching of Christ, therefore, he ought not even greet them.
The reason I bring this to the forefront is due to the short, yet often neglected book of 2 John. While I won’t get into the full details of the text here, I do wish to draw out the final four verses, which are most pertinent to this discussion. This is at the heart of why many are up in arms about Francis Chan embracing these men. The issue with Francis Chan then is not necessarily in the content of his teaching, but in his embrace of false teachers – which is equally as damnable to a person’s soul as the false teaching itself.
The apostle John writes in vv. 10-11, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” Notice how quickly the apostle John instructs them to utterly shun these false teachers. The plain implication is that anyone who comes to this church and does not bring the teachings of Christ is to be rejected. They are not to be received into one’s house and given water, nor are they even to be greeted. More clearly, we are not to show them any means of hospitality or kindness.
Hospitality served two very important functions within this time period:
1.) It provided foreign travelers with the care they needed, through the means of food, lodging, and protection. Hospitality was highly valued and to refuse hospitality brought shame before the community simply because you would be considered responsible for whatever happened to that person. If they died, their blood was upon your hands.
2.) Hospitality also provided a means of protecting one’s own community. Foolishly welcoming another into the community could likewise bring blood upon your hands. Those who had no place to stay and were not welcomed into the community, were those who could not be trusted. In many societies, these types of people would be murderers, thieves, and various other criminals.
Now, the church has long made practice of showing hospitality to those the culture deems inhospitable – so we clearly know John is not advocating the practice of shunning a sinner or an unbeliever. He singles out who is to be shunned: the one who does not bring this teaching, but instead, brings the teaching of the deceiver. He literally identifies the one who brings satanic teaching as opposed to the teaching of Christ mentioned in v. 9.
The apostle John also mentioned this specific teaching of Christ earlier: It is the content of what the Scriptures teach along with the practice that Scripture advocates; it is that we must walk in truth and love. This is what James calls “true religion” or what Paul refers to as “walking in a worthy manner by which you have been called.” It’s the same thing the apostle John refers to here as “the truth we have heard from the beginning”, which is directly stated in vv. 5-6 as loving the brethren and obeying God’s commands.
Instead of bringing this, the person John has in mind here is bringing the teaching of the deceiver and the Antichrist. Really think on this for a minute. Realize that what this means and what John is referring to. The work of these men is truly the work of Satan and the Antichrist. These are not mere men, but vessels. Just as the Lord calls out a people as His chosen vessel, so too does Satan. Just as God empowers genuine converts for the work of the Great Commission, so too does Satan seek to mimic this empowerment. These men are commissioned and sent out as ambassadors of evil, proclaiming news that shall bring neither joy nor life.
Think of the work our adversary does: he is the accuser of the brethren, a lion seeking whom he may devour, the one who blinds this earth in unbelief, an instigator, and a lying, murderous thief who seeks nothing but the destruction of the church and defamation of the reputation of the Lord. That same adversary is the one working in and through these false teachers. That same adversary is the one instructing them in damnable heresies so that they might creep into the church unawares and ravage the flock.
This is precisely why John tells us that we ought not welcome them into our homes or even greet them. This is a stern command. Notice how severe he is here. These false teachers are not to even be greeted. The word in the Greek for “greet” here carries with it a connotation of cheerfulness. Literally expressed, John is saying we are not to welcome them cheerfully, or as if they are welcome in our presence at all, like we would a brother or sister in the faith. There isn’t a hint of pleasantry here at all. But why?
These people are literally shepherding souls to hell. Yet also, notice what he says here: if you do these things, that is, if you welcome them into your home and if you greet them as a brother, you are participating in their evil deeds. John definitively equates welcoming the false teacher to sharing in their deeds and due to this, we share in their guilt. We are equally to blame as that false teacher is. When you don’t warn the brethren of false teachers in their midst, you do not demonstrate any love toward them. If you welcome false teachers, by any means, into your home and give them room – you share in their guilt; just as insipidly as odorless gas fills one room and moves to the next, the undiscerning ingest the same poison you just did. Effectively, John simply says you have the same blood upon your hands as the man plunging the knife of false doctrine.
In addition, consider the closing of John’s letter in vv. 12-13, which bring to mind a few brief, yet important insights. For the apostle John, the rise of these false teachers was a matter worthy of calling to their attention. He has many additional things to say – too much even for a letter, yet nonetheless he writes to them about this dire situation. The hope would be for them to be on guard against these men and to bar them from fellowship, lodging, and a space to teach. It would seem the urgency of the situation called for John to send a letter rapidly, and by the time they got this letter, some of the false teachers may have already been in their midst.
Regardless of what else John had to say to them, we don’t have a record of this. We simply know his hope was to come to them and speak face to face, so that their joy may be made full. It is difficult to pinpoint what John means by their joy being made full, but it is likely expressing a means of genuine fellowship as those who labor together in Christ. Think back to the beginning and the introduction he offers them. Not only do they share the genuine bond of love in truth that he speaks of, but they abide in obedience to the Lord’s commands. Together, they are working toward inheriting their final reward, which is not simply the salvation afforded to them in Christ, but the very work they share in together as they labor for the sake of the Kingdom.
Finally, John closes by saying, “The children of your chosen sister greet you.” This not only brings to mind that John is writing from a church nearby, but his heart for this church as he sends his warning. Not only is he aware of savage wolves coming upon them that they are not aware of – but those at his location know he is writing to them. It is not hard to imagine the saints of this sister-church hearing of his burden for them in this, yet also, praying for them. Yet what may slip by here is the greeting given. Remember, just a few verses earlier John warns against giving such greetings to false teachers.
The greeting here carries a significance we ought not to overlook for a couple of reasons. The first being that it is one between brothers and sisters in Christ. Again, they are co-laborers for the sake of the gospel. They are not simply friends or acquaintances, they have a unique bond due to the unifying grace of Jesus Christ, the Spirit, and the truth in love. Together they form His body and act as ambassadors for Him in opposition to those sent out by Satan. Just as that greeting is intrinsic to that bond, it stands as a testimony against the false teacher who refuses the truth because they do not love Christ. They do not walk in love, but instead, hatred.
Do not welcome false teachers into your home or greet them with a cheerful disposition, for if you do, you share in their guilt. If you do this last one, if you welcome them into your home, you’ve already neglected doing the first two. The one who abides in the teaching of Christ will have both the Father and the Son; the one who goes too far will not. For the apostle John, walking in the love involves much more than feelings. It involves a vested interest in the purity and well-being of the church. Loving God and loving the brethren involves making decisions in your life that will build up the entire covenant community.
Far too often in this type of conversation, there is one of two extreme reactions. The first is that you have the crowd who is eager to label nearly anyone and everyone a heretic, save themselves. They latch on to anyone they can find and decimate them. Sometimes they seek to destroy a man who has been faithful to the gospel, and it is a sad state of affairs because the ones claiming to have the most discernment actually show they have little, if any discernment at all. They deny the teaching of Christ because they deny the call to love the brethren.
The other extreme reaction is from the one who claims we ought not call anyone a heretic so long as they claim to be a Christian. If they can kind-of sorta tell you that Jesus is the Son of God and He died for their sins, they get a free pass. Yet there are numerous examples of men and women who claim to be Christian and get up to teach hordes of people all sorts of refuse that will land them and their hearers in hell, all because they claim to hear from God. I am convinced one of two things, If not both, keeps us from being as firm as we ought to be with false teachers: We don’t really see them for what they are because we simply don’t know our Bibles well enough. We’ve somehow cheapened the ministry of teaching – believing that God really isn’t all that serious about the content of people’s beliefs.
The amount of damage this can do to the church is incalculable. All one must do is look at the veritable body count under these men’s ministries and see how they’ve fleeced thousands upon thousands of people. Not only this, they have given these same people over to a damnable set of doctrinal beliefs. There is to be no such alliance, peace, harmony, fellowship, or whatever else you’d like to call it – with savage wolves. Instead, shepherds are to pick up their crook and deliver the deadly blow. They must strike the wolf clear in the head and cripple it, dying in the process if they must, all for the purpose of protecting Christ’s sheep.
I sincerely doubt Francis Chan would read this post, and I speak to him now if somehow his eyes stumble across it and come to this line. I beg you: stop. Do not fraternize with men who devour widow’s houses and shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces (Mk. 12:40; Matt. 23:13). These men are dogs who return unto their own vomit; they are pigs who wallow in their filth (2 Pet. 2:22; Pro. 26:11). They are ungodly people who pervert the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ, our only Sovereign and Lord (Jude 1:4). They have risen in the ranks of power – all for sordid gain (1 Pet. 5:2). Know this: they will not spare the flock (Acts 20:29).
We are not to even greet them, lest we incur their guilt (2 John 1:10). How does this bode well within the context of the local church? I know one of the reasons you stepped out of the mega church culture was that you saw it difficult to care for the local church. How is this consistent with that worthy goal? I am at a loss in understanding how embracing men like Todd White and Benny Hinn are ever going to help a rural pastor shepherd his people. I am dumfounded. I cannot comprehend how cozying up with false teachers and having a video released on TGC denouncing the Word of Faith movement does not send mixed signals to everyone involved, even if your intentions are benign. At best this is what it does. At worst, greeting them as a brother makes you complicit in their evil deeds.
How is it, when their congregant turns on Todd White, that they will find genuinely life-giving teaching which leads them to an orthodox understanding of God, which then leads them to a proper doxological response? How is it, when their congregant “sows a seed of faith”, that this local church will be blessed by their financial stewardship, so the gospel can go forth in their rural town, or they can simply keep the doors open another month to feed His sheep?
Perhaps I am a simple-minded man, with a simple-minded goal – but I cannot fathom how it is helpful to steer Christ’s sheep toward men who lie in wait, under the surface, to make a shipwreck of people’s faith. I cannot grasp how it is honorable to Christ to take His bride and defile her by the putrescence of men who cast up their own shame like the foam of the sea. No. I am not simple-minded, nor am I naïve. Brother, my aim is to snatch you from the fire. Please, for the love of God and His bride, denounce these men and stand firm. Brother, contend. Exhaust every measurable effort you can muster for the faith – that beautiful, historic faith we know of so well through the testimony of His Scriptures. Strike the wolf and be a shepherd.