It's an interesting exercise to compare how society has changed over a number of decades.
As a history teacher I have seen history pass before my eyes
and I have begun to see clearly some of the changes in our society during that time.
It's also interesting to see how Christianity has changed over the years.
If we go back to the 1960s,
both Australia and America had well established denominations
such as the Presbyterians, Methodists, Roman Catholics and Church of England here in Australia;
as well as the Baptists, Lutherans and Episcopalians in the US.
But something changed didn't it?
Sometime in the 1960s people decided to give church away.
All major established denominations in Western countries began shedding members.
Where did all these people go?
Basically they went nowhere. They stopped going to church altogether.
Now it wasn't that everyone suddenly became atheists.
People still believed in some form of supernatural religion
but they increasingly sought this religious experience from outside the mainline church.
Interest in Eastern religions and philosophy increased,
so you had people like The Beatles going to India
and learning how to meditate from some Guru.
Others simply formed their own religions
they broke away from their established churches and formed their own.
Others tried to change their churches from within
people like Liberation theologians in the Roman Catholic church
who embraced a Christianized form of Marxism,
in order to bring about change in the church and in the nations they lived in.
It was during this period
the late 1960s
– that one of the most enduring and important examples of change came about.
It was a movement that was spread across all Protestant denominations,
and even within the Roman Catholic church.
It was an exciting, life changing movement that has forever changes the Christian church in the Western world.
This movement is the Charismatic movement.
The Charismatics certainly had their root in the Pentecostal churches,
which began in America in 1901.
The Pentecostal movement spawned denominations like the Assemblies of God,
the Apostolic church
and the church of the Foursquare Gospel.
But these denominations had been around for over 50 years by the time the Charismatic movement began.
According to one source I have read, the Charismatic movement began in 1960 when an Episcopal Priest named Dennis Bennett began to speak in Tongues while ministering in California.
After being kicked out of his Parish, he went to minister in Seattle
and for the next few years his church experienced considerable growth.
He was essentially providing a Pentecostal worship service in an Anglican church.
This movement spread into the Presbyterian churches, the Baptist churches, the Lutheran churches and the Methodist churches in America.
In 1966 the movement began to influence the Roman Catholic church and in 1971 its presence was being felt in the Greek Orthodox church.
From about 1960 to 1975 the Charismatic movement directly influenced over one million people worldwide.
The traditional Pentecostal church at first was wary of this new movement.
In its early days, Charismatics were called Neo-Pentecostals
– the new Pentecostals.
The Pentecostals were fairly entrenched in their own churches and found relations with the Charismatics difficult.
For starters, the Pentecostals had a well thought out doctrine of the Holy Spirit
– that a Christian needs to be Baptised in the Spirit in order to live an effective life for God.
And of course, speaking in tongues was seen as the external proof of the Spirit's work.
The Charismatics however, did not have such a doctrine.
Yes many Charismatics spoke in tongues,
but they did not see that as important as the Pentecostals did.
Charismatics accepted the fact that Tongue speaking was not essential to the faith.
Now if you know me by now you would realise that I am no fan of either the Pentecostal movement nor the Charismatic movement.
It is my argument that today, both Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have deviated so far from the truth that something needs to be done.
One of the things I believe that should occur is for Evangelical Christians to be well informed of what is going on in these churches
so that they can avoid being misled by the Devil.
Ten years ago I would never have said something like this.
It isn't so much that I am more bitter and twisted now than in 1994 (which I am of course!),
but that, even in ten years, the Charismatic movement has so changed its direction as to be vastly different to the movement that swept the world in the 1970s.
The movement has changed, and it has changed for the worse.
Sadly, without a direct intervention from God, the movement will continue to spiral out of control,
and it will wreck the souls of many who are within it.
I am very wary of preachers who hang their own ideas on Bible verses rather than letting Bible verses speak for themselves.
But I can tell you this now.
This short letter of 2 John speaks directly to us today.
Let me read it to you now:
To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth – and not I only, but also all who know the truth – because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever;
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love.
It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 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 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.
I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.
Let me explain these 13 verses.
The letter of 2 John was written around the same time as 1 John.
It addresses the same issues
– namely that strange teachers had turned up and were leading God's people astray.
It uses the same sorts of phrases as 1 John,
so it is pretty clear that the Apostle John wrote it.
However, while 1 John was a circular letter to all the churches,
2 John is a personal letter to one particular church.
In verse 1 we see that John is addressing the letter to “the chosen lady and her children”.
Now this is a strange way to start a letter.
He could have said “Dear Doris” or “Dear Betty”.
Who was this woman he was writing to?
Well we should all know by now that John was a word smith and often used flowery language to make his point.
John was not writing to a woman,
he was actually writing to a church.
But rather than call the church a church, he calls that church “the chosen lady”.
Moreover, he also speaks of her children.
Who are these people?
They are the members of the church.
If we were to apply it to our own situation here,
the Apostle John would call us here as “the chosen lady”,
while he would address us individually as “children”.
Now this might seem a jump in logic,
but if you look at verse 13 you see that John writes “The children of your chosen sister send their greetings”
- all he is saying there is that another church is saying g'day to them.
This idea of the Church being identified as a woman can also be found in 1 Peter 5.13 which says “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings”.
This is just a flowery way of talking about the church that was in Rome at the time of Peter's writing.
Additionally, throughout 2 John, John uses the plural form of “you” rather than the singular.
Take verse 5 for example
“And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command...”.
Literally in the Greek, this phrase says
“And now, dear lady, I am not writing you all a new command”.
Or if we had a Geoff Fenech translation, he would say
“Dear lady, I am not writing youse a new command”.
All this indicates that he was writing to a group of people and not a single person.
As verse 1 of 2 John continues, we see that John says “whom I love in the truth – and not I only, but also all who know the truth.”
What we see here is a love that is based upon truth
– in other words, the unity of the belief is what brings them together in fellowship and love.
It's a love that has its foundation in truth.
And, according to verse 2, it is truth that lives in us and will be with us for ever.
This “truth” that John talks about here is something that is unchangeable.
It is a truth that lives within each Christian,
and it is a truth that remains for ever.
In verse 3 John says “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love”.
This is a little bit different from normal opening lines in the epistles because John says that Grace mercy and peace WILL be with us.
Rather than saying “Hi, how are you I hope you are well”, John is saying “You will be well”.
In verse 4 John begins to talk about the chosen lady's children
– that is, the individual members of the church that the letter is being written to.
John is impressed that these church members are “walking in the truth”
- that they are holding onto the faith.
In verse 5 he gives the church a command – not a new one but an old one.
The command is to love one another.
This has its parallels back in 1 John 2.7 which essentially says the same thing
and brings to mind what Christ said in the Gospel of John 13.34,
which says “A new command I give to you that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
In verse 6 John says that love is to walk in obedience to God's commands.
In the Gospel of John 15.10 Jesus says
“If you obey my commands you will remain in my love”.
What this shows us is that if we love God,
if we love Christ,
then we will be obedient to his commands.
In terms of our salvation, Mark 1.15 has Christ saying
“The time has come, the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news”.
Christ commands us to repent of our sins and to trust in his death and resurrection for our forgiveness and salvation.
If we do that then we are walking in obedience to his commands and showing that we love God.
What we see here is a link between the substance of the Christian faith
and the emotions and actions that come from it.
We cannot love without being obedient to Christ's commands;
We cannot be obedient to Christ's commands without loving God.
In verses 7-11, John speaks about the false teachers.
In verse 7 he calls these people deceivers.
They do not acknowledge that Jesus has come in the flesh.
He also calls them Antichrist.
This is a word that he uses back in 1 John 2.18.
An Antichrist is anyone who exists to destroy the church.
In this case, Satan is always behind any attempt to destroy the Christian faith
and these false teachers are no exception.
They had infiltrated the church and were teaching destructive heresies.
John sees Satan working behind them.
In verse 8 John warns the church to resist this teaching so that they may not lose their faith.
In verse 9 John makes it plain that these people who “run ahead” of the truth are not actually Christians
– they do not have God.
Instead, he says “whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son”
- that those who have not gone on ahead and embraced all these weird ideas are the true believers.
Now in verses 10-11, John spends a short bit of time telling this church how to treat these people.
He says that if any of these false teachers should turn up on your doorstep,
then slam the door on them.
Don't have anything to do with them.
Moreover, he says, if they do welcome such a false teacher then they are actually sharing in his evil work
– they are condoning false teaching,
they are encouraging false teaching and they actively involving themselves in it.
It's at this point that we need to understand a little bit more about what John is saying.
In the ancient world, travellers depended upon hospitality to survive.
People could stay in the ancient equivalents of pubs and hotels but they were always risky.
It was always better to stay in someone's place.
As a result, there was a whole culture of hospitality that existed in the ancient world that allowed people to willingly open their doors and houses to guests that they hardly ever knew.
We have to understand, though, that such hospitality was not so much reciprocated between individuals, but communities.
When a person in the ancient world was looking for hospitality,
they usually had a letter of recommendation with them from another community.
If the community the individual came from was a respectable one,
then there was a greater chance of them being accepted into someone's place for the night
(and any subsequent nights).
Now let's be a bit more specific.
Think about the various Christian communities around the ancient world at the time.
People from various churches would travel from city to city carrying letters of recommendation from their home churches,
hoping to rely upon the hospitality of the Christians in each city.
This was not as strange as it might seem
because the early church had many travelling preachers and teachers who went from place to place.
As they did this the travellers would eventually return home
and notify their home churches about how they were treated,
and so anyone from these hospitable churches would find a bed,
a hot meal and a fire in their homes if they so desire.
It was an economy of hospitality
based upon mutual respect and word of mouth.
What John is saying here in verses 10-11 is what you should do if one of these false teachers should come to your door.
John essentially says close it and don't be hospitable to them.
You see, if a Christian allows one of these false teachers into their home
and puts them up for a time,
then they are publically identifying themselves with these false teachers
and stating that they are respectable and worthy.
John is saying that they are not.
And so by refusing these false teachers hospitality,
they are publically stating their opposition to them.
John then finishes off in verses 12-13 with the usual stuff.
Verse 13, which of course refers to the church that John was with at the time,
was a greeting which indicated unity of faith.
It was one of these expressions of respect.
So what do these verse mean for us today?
How should we apply them?
It doesn't take a PhD in English literature to analyse everything that I've said to you already.
There have been two distinct parts of my delivery.
The first part was a discussion of the history of the Charismatic movement.
The second part was a analysis of the 13 verses of 2 John
which focused upon how Christians should treat false teachers.
Now is part three – the application,
and these two things obviously go together.
I am of the firm belief that the teaching of the Charismatic movement today is one of the greatest dangers to the Christian faith in centuries.
I believe that the teaching is so bad and so false
that the letter of 2 John can be applied directly to our situation.
The Evangelical church as a whole must expose the false teachings of this movement
in order to protect the souls of its members,
as well as to inform all those Christians within the Charismatic movement
that they are heading the wrong way.
Now these are fighting words.
They are controversial statements.
By saying them I am opening myself up to being labelled unloving,
to being divisive,
to being judgemental and arrogant.
For many from a Charismatic viewpoint I might even be called “unspiritual”
and guilty of quenching the work of the Holy Spirit.
Well let me just make my position clearer.
Within the protestant arm of the Charismatic church at least I believe that the majority of Charismatics are Christians.
In other words, I believe that they have a saving faith and they will share eternity with us.
Yet I would also state that many of the movement's leaders and teachers are at best teaching unhelpful things,
or at worst leading people away from the truth and are antichrists.
As far as the Charismatic leaders in Newcastle are concerned,
I can't label any as an antichrist.
But I will say that every single Charismatic preacher in Newcastle that I have heard
has said things that I believe are unbiblical and are destructive to the Christian faith.
Now these preachers may be Christians,
but they are so warped in their understanding of the Christian faith
that they are hurting the church.
Let me just explain to you what has happened to the Charismatic church since 1975.
We have to remember that the Charismatic movement made inroads
into denominations that had been heavily influenced by secular philosophy and modernist theology.
So when all these people became Charismatics in the 1960s and 1970s,
they did so in denominations that had generally departed from the Bible.
Now the result of this was not a return to the Bible,
but it meant that many Charismatics were very Biblically illiterate.
Moreover, by focusing upon personal experience and direct guidance from God,
many Charismatics did not really see the need to understand God's written word.
For them, the Bible was merely “knowledge”
and not always useful for the Christian life.
What we are seeing now is the result of that attitude.
Since 1975, the Charismatic movement has shifted its direction.
In the early days of the movement, Charismatics stayed within their own denominations.
Since 1975, however, Charismatics have begun to form their own independent churches
and even denominations.
In Australia during the 1980s we had the rise of The Christian Revival Crusade
and Christian Outreach Centres
– CRC and COC.
And these churches attracted other Charismatics,
especially those from mainstream denominations
who were getting frustrated with all the disagreements
and divisions that they were experiencing.
And at some point since 1975, the Pentecostal churches begun to gain Charismatic members as well.
The Pentecostals were happy because they were taking disgruntled Anglicans and Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists into their midst.
Unfortunately this was bad for the Pentecostal movement.
As a result, the Pentecostal movement has essentially been taken over by these Charismatics,
to the point where these days there is almost no difference between them in both belief and practice.
An example of this is the Australian Assemblies of God,
a Pentecostal denomination that has increasingly become Charismatic.
So what is it about them that is so bad?
Over the years that I have been preaching here you would have actually been exposed to my developing thinking about what should occur when Christians get together for worship.
When Christians gather together for worship,
there should be three things going on.
There should be an explanation of God's word,
a proclamation of the Gospel
and the invisible work of the Holy Spirit in people lives.
When Christians get together,
the Bible should be opened.
It should be read publically
and it should be taught by whoever the preacher is.
When this occurs, God's Word is being explained.
But God's word, which is the Bible,
when it is examined,
will always point towards Christ and his death and resurrection.
So when God's people gather,
the message of the Gospel is proclaimed.
Now what about the Holy Spirit?
Well, when God's word is read and taught,
and when the Gospel is proclaimed,
we will always have the work of the Holy Spirit in people's lives.
The other day I came up with this saying:
When the Word of God is explained,
and the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed,
the Holy Spirit is not constrained.
Now let's look at this in the light of the Charismatic movement.
During a Charismatic service, will be Bible be read?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
When the preacher preaches, will he be explaining what the Bible says?
In all those times that I have visited Charismatic churches,
the answer to that one is no.
Charismatic preachers almost never preach from Bible texts,
and when they do they usually get it totally wrong.
And what about the Gospel?
Is the preacher preaching the Gospel?
Is he preaching the message of Christ crucified and risen again?
Of all the Charismatic preachers I have heard,
not one, not one, has preached the gospel.
In fact, one sermon I heard, from the pastor of a very large Charismatic church in Newcastle,
did not even mention Jesus.
Now one thing the Charismatics are heavy on is the work of the Holy Spirit.
They honestly believe that their churches are very spiritual,
and that the Holy Spirit is doing mighty things in their lives.
But what have I said?
When the Word of God is explained,
and the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed,
the Holy Spirit is not constrained.
Is the Word of God being taught in Charismatic churches? No.
Is the Gospel proclaimed in Charismatic churches? No.
And if that is the case, then the Holy Spirit's work is almost non-existent in these churches.
You might argue that I'm tarring them all with one brush.
I concede that not all Charismatic churches are like this.
But I think a conservative estimate would be around 90-95% of them would.
Go visit one and see.
Listen to the preaching and make your own mind up –
and you will find that I am right.
Here in 2 John, God reminds us that our unity is based on truth.
Our unity as the body of Christ is dependent upon the faith we share.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Charismatics shared a great deal with Biblical faith,
but in the years since then they have gradually gotten worse.
And here in 2 John we are told that we should reject false teachers.
As I pointed out, in the ancient world, hospitality was an important thing.
By letting someone into your house you are publically identifying yourself with them.
The same should be said for us today.
We should not publically identify ourselves with the Charismatic movement –
we may have in the past,
but we should do so no longer.
We have to take a stand for the truth.
We're not trying to please man here, but God.
So how should we love Charismatics?
After all, although I have stated that the movement itself is spiralling out of control,
there is a very large amount of Christians who go to these churches –
Christians who are unaware that their faith is being destroyed or neutered.
My belief is that we should engage in some form of loving confrontation with our Charismatic brothers and sisters.
We should encourage them to read the Scriptures properly.
We should explain to them the indissoluble link between the work of the Holy Spirit
and the work of the Word
and the work of the Gospel.
We should openly declare our concerns for them –
that we believe that they are being deceived and that they should question the teachings of their leaders.
We should willingly engage in loving and patient debate with them over the things that differ between us,
and to be humble enough to admit any ignorance on our part.
We should also pray for those Charismatic churches in Newcastle.
We should pray for Victory Christian Centre in Charlestown,
for the Grainery in Tighes Hill,
for Newcastle City Church over in Honeysuckle,
for Cardiff Contemporary.
We should pray that God works a miracle in them
and gets his Word and his Gospel preached in these places.
And we should also plant churches in Newcastle
to ensure that Christians have a better chance of going to churches
where the Word is explained,
where the Gospel is proclaimed
and where the Holy Spirit is not constrained.
You may not think that this issue is urgent. I think otherwise.
Early on this year a friend of mine told me story about a couple in a Charismatic church in Newcastle.
Two Years ago the woman was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
I have been reliably informed by a Doctor that most cervical cancers can be cured if they are treated early enough
– there is a high rate of success.
The couple prayed,
and believed in their hearts that God would miraculously heal her.
More than that, however,
because they had such great faith
they then decided that she would forgo any medical treatment at all.
Instead, they would go onto something called “The Hallelujah diet” -
some Charismatic fad diet that promised them health and healing.
Well, the couple prayed.
They believed in their hearts that God would heal her –
they had no doubt whatsoever.
And they also committed themselves to following this Hallelujah diet.
Last night I received a phone call from the friend who told me this story.
The woman with cancer was being admitted to a hospice
and was unlikely to live through the night.
As I stand here before you this morning I do not know if she is alive or dead.
I would estimate that this woman was in her late 30s.
Now I have never met this woman
but I have met the husband.
He is a teacher and I worked with him a few years ago in a Christian school.
He was a man who was totally committed to God and serving his church –
but even then he was coming up with all sorts of weird and strange ideas.
One day we had a discussion that led me to believe that he didn't even understand the Gospel properly.
Why is this happening?
This sort of story is not unique.
It is happening because the Charismatic church as a whole has ignored God's word
and has ignored the Gospel.
Instead they focus on health, healing and happiness.
And look what has happened.
I am hoping that this woman survives and is healed.
But God is not to be mocked.
In Proverbs 30.5-6 it says
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”
So what should we learn from 2 John?
We learn that our unity is based upon our faith,
and that when the substance of that faith is altered by false teaching
then we are no longer united.
We also learn that we should stand up for the truth and reject any false teaching –
in fact, we shouldn't even formally associate ourselves with them.
Thank you for your Word. Thank you that through it we hear your mighty voice. Thank you that when your word goes out it does not come back to you empty, and will accomplish all that you purpose. Thank you for the Gospel. Thank you for sending us Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us. Thank you for his death for our sins. Thank you that you raised him from the dead and defeated death. Thank you that this message is the power of salvation for everyone who believes. Thank you for your Holy Spirit, who is the breath of your Word and the giver of life. Thank you that whenever your Word is explained, and when your Gospel is proclaimed, that your Holy Spirit is working mightily within all who hear.
We pray, Lord, for our Brothers and sisters in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. We ask that they may stop listening to false spirits and instead listen to your Holy Spirit. We ask that you work a direct miracle in these churches, that you rebuke and correct their leaders so that they may turn back to you and preach the truth instead. Help us to love our Charismatic brethren, but help us to be tough in our love and refuse to compromise. Amen.
From the Kerygmatic Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.