Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Who Can You Trust

By Dennis Pollock


The apostle John is credited with writing five New Testament Bible books: the Gospel of John, 1, 2, and 3 John, and the Book of Revelation. Of those five, 2 and 3 John get the least press, mostly because they are so small they only contain one chapter, and secondly because there is little in them that seems especially profound or powerful. But in this study, we will look at two concepts found in these two books that almost seem to contradict each other. But when we look a little deeper, we find that they not only do not contradict; they are perfectly complementary.


In 2 John we read these words:


Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds (2 John 1:9-11).


We all recognize that Christians are supposed to be a friendly, hospitable, warm people. But here the great apostle speaks of cases where believers were being too nice and too hospitable. John was concerned about churches that allow visiting ministers to come into their midst and bring a great theological error with them: they do not "abide in the doctrine of Christ." John is so insistent that all preaching must begin and end with Jesus Christ, so convinced that any ministry or minister who can deemphasize Jesus or preach entire sermons or series of sermons and barely include Jesus, His cross, and His resurrection, that he tells the believers to refuse such ministers and send them on their way. Indeed, they must so despise their pathetic lack of Christ that they should show these men the greatest disrespect possible by refusing to even greet them!


All About Abiding


In all his writings, John seems to make a big deal about abiding. In his gospel account he, and he alone, quotes Jesus as saying, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). In 1 John he writes: "Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father" (1 John 2:24). And in the verse from 2 John we saw that we must totally reject any minister who "does not abide in the doctrine of Christ."


To "abide" means to remain, in other words: "to stay put." John was intensely passionate about the idea that we must come to Jesus Christ, believe on Him, focus our lives and ministries on and about Him, and never move from there. We are to stay put! We must get to Jesus, stay with Jesus, and never depart from Him.


John instructs not only this church, but every church from that day until this, that if we ever hear a minister who can preach, teach, and try to minister without focusing on Jesus, we must send him packing! To attempt to befriend him, to support his ministry, to allow him opportunities to minister in our churches is to "share in his evil deeds." So don't try to be "Mr. Nice Guy." You are doing no one a favor by embracing and supporting Christ-less, cross-less ministers and ministries.


Stay Away from Me!


But in his next little book, known as 3 John, we read of a totally different scenario. In this case John is concerned with the church being far too closed to visiting ministers. He compliments some of the church members for accepting some of his friends who came to the church to minister. John was pleased that some of the men he had trained and mentored were being accepted by the church and given opportunities to minister in their assembly. He encouraged them to "send these men on their journey in a manner worthy of God," which was clearly his way of saying, "Give these brothers a nice offering."


But there was a problem in this church. One of their leaders did not like the idea of visiting ministers preaching in their church, preferring the sound of his own preaching rather than surrendering his pulpit to guests. Rather than accepting them as John's representatives, he saw them as threats to his own authority and refused to allow them to minister. Not only that, but any of the church members who welcomed these visiting ministers were being removed from the church.


John is clearly upset with this, and writes:


I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words… (3 John 1:9).


Loving Preeminence


While in the church addressed in 2 John, the problem was being too gullible and too accepting of ministers, in 3 John the issue is the reverse. These folks, particularly Diotrephes, were too closed to any ministry coming from the outside. They wanted home-grown ministry only. John tells us the real problem, however. A man named Diotrephes "loves to have the preeminence." He was the pastor, and no one else was welcome, even if they did come at the request of the apostle John. And John, for his part, was planning to come and give him and the church a stern lecture about all of this.


These two little epistles, 2 and 3 John, share two extremes by which churches can err: being far too open to outside ministers, to the point of gullibility and a lack of discernment, or being far too closed, to the point of cutting off great blessings the Father was sending their way.


This is a great lesson, not only for churches and church leaders, but also for every one of us. Too often individual Christians fall into these same two errors. Some are so closed to any ministry outside their own church or denomination, or perhaps their favorite television pastor or group of Bible teachers that they will never hear or embrace other ministries which present the truth from a slightly different perspective. But other Christians are far too gullible, embracing and accepting ministries that are far off the mark, ministers who not only teach error, but their errors are of the most glaring kind.


Not All That Glitters…


Some Christians have the idea that if any minister speaks with authority, and looks and sounds impressive, he or she must come straight from God. They must be an emissary direct from heaven. Everything they say must surely be the truth. After all, look at the way they say it! Some Christians turn to their Christian television channel, watching one minister after another, never even considering that not every minister who can afford to be on television is divinely appointed. In their minds, if a pastor is on television, he must surely be one of God's favorites. No need to carefully analyze what is being said!


But the truth is that there have been large ministries, "successful" ministries with a huge television presence, and sometimes with a Bible college as well, which are teaching not only slight falsehoods, but glaring, blatant, flagrant deceptions, which the Biblically illiterate swallow whole, without any thought that they are embracing monstrous doctrinal errors.


It is not that we must reject every minister when we find a single point with which we disagree. Of course ministers are imperfect and their knowledge is imperfect. I never expect that if I listen to a pastor, Bible teacher, or evangelist for very long, there will be nothing I will hear where I cannot find a single fault. But the big stuff cannot be overlooked. When ministers do not focus on Christ, when they never address the new birth, when they can preach sermon after sermon and neglect to mention heaven or hell or sin or righteousness, when they focus on personal stories and jokes and say little about the Bible, when they imply that the goal of Christianity is to make us all wealthy, when they teach that believing in Christ does not need to be accompanied by godly living and embracing the cross – that's when I am done with them. As John stated I must not "share in their evil deeds."


But we must also remember 3 John as well. We must not allow ourselves to become so close-minded that we refuse to ever hear any minister except our own pastor or our favorite group of preachers who all say the same things, think the same things, and tell the same jokes. There are many fine pastors and Bible teachers in the world today. And we can learn a great deal from them and be blessed by their ministries. They will surely say a few things here and there which may be a bit off, but on the whole, they teach the Bible, lift up Jesus, and encourage God's people toward godly living. They come in different flavors, styles, and denominations. And wise and blessed is the man or woman who can learn from and be blessed by these servants of Christ.


Two Opposites Who Blessed Me


I have been taught and blessed by many different ministers in my life, especially in my early days when God was training me for my own ministry. I could give a long list, but allow me to share two who seem about as opposite as any two ministers could ever be: Dr. James Kennedy and Kathryn Kuhlman. Dr. Kennedy was a scholarly man. He never raised his voice and gave brilliant and thoughtful messages in a relatively slow and methodical manner of delivery. I learned much from him. I have listened to his messages, read his writings, and sometimes preached his sermons (after "Dennisizing" them). He has passed away, but something of his ministry lives on in my own ministry and life.


Another minister whom God used to train me was a female evangelist named Kathryn Kuhlman. Kathryn could not have been more different from James Kennedy. James was dignified and intellectual. Kathryn was certainly not dumb, but she was no scholar. She was corny, stretched out her words in a strange manner for dramatic effect, and hardly knew what it was to prepare a "proper" sermon. James Kennedy always strove to stay abreast of American current events, Kathryn seemed to know only the culture of the Bible, and might have had a difficult time distinguishing a political liberal from a conservative. Yet God used both in mighty ways.


He used James Kennedy to alert believers of America's gross apostasy and the need to hold to Biblical truth. He used Kathryn Kuhlman to minister healing to the sick and salvation to the lost. And I learned from both. Kennedy's love for scholarly apologetics and Kathryn's love and respect for the Holy Spirit and compassion for the sick both left a deep impression on me while I was still in my twenties attempting to navigate my ministry into the channels God had ordained for me.


Wisdom to Discern


No, we cannot freely embrace every minister and every sermon we run across. Turning our television to a Christian station and listening to teacher after teacher all day long without any discernment or critical analysis is unwise. There are many popular pastors, teachers, and evangelists on television who are way off-base and not worth listening to. But there are also more than a few solid Bible teachers on television and in the churches whom God will use to establish truth in our lives, and to equip us for His service.


We must follow the pattern laid down by the great apostle John, in recognizing the ministers whom we can receive "that we may become fellow workers for the truth." But we must avoid those ministers who stray far from Biblical truth and do not focus on Jesus, and we must "Look to ourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward."




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