Should Christians allow false teachers into their homes?
The letter of 2 John was written by the Apostle John to "the lady chosen by God and to her children" (verse 1 NIV). The woman is not further identified, other than to note she has a sister in verse 13 whom John knows.
The letter is a more personal version of 1 John, as it exhorts the "lady" to continue trusting Christ, obeying Him, and thereby loving Him. It's possible, although this is speculation, that her children (verse 4) or sister (verse 13) are worried that she is listening to false teachers. John, at least, is concerned enough to write and exhort her to not allow false teachers into her home.
Apparently this woman was surrounded by people who had heard about Christianity and even studied it to some extent, but "[ran] ahead" (verse 9), developing their own theology and abandoning the gospel of Christ. Verse 7 says they taught that Jesus did not come in the flesh. This was a common heresy in the early church. Greek Gnosticism taught that the flesh was evil and only the spirit was good. If this was so, God could not have corrupted Himself and come to earth in a human body. There were many philosophies trying to reconcile Gnosticism with the person of Jesus. Docetism taught that Jesus was God but not human—He only appeared to be human. Apollinarianism said Jesus had a human body but not a human spirit. Ebionism said Jesus was human but not deity—He was empowered by God, but He was not God. Eutychianism taught that Jesus was some complicated mixture of human and divine. And Nestorianism held that Jesus had human and divine natures which were separate from each other.
Second John 1:7 goes on to describe these false teachers as deceivers and antichrists. "Deceiver" in Greek is planos. It doesn't necessarily mean someone who intentionally and maliciously tries to fool others into believing a lie. It means wandering, roving, misleading. It's also used to describe a vagabond or imposter. The word is used in 1 Timothy 4:1 where Paul says, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons." "Antichrist" does not specifically refer to the world ruler of the end times. In the Bible, the Greek antichristos is also used to describe anyone who works against the work of Christ. First John 2:22 and 4:3 explain that those who deny that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus is God's Son are antichrists.
The age of the early church was filled with such teachers, and John wants to make sure this lady does not listen to what they have to say. Second John 1:10-11 says, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [the truth about Jesus], do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works." John is telling her she should not allow such teachers into her home or "greet" them, that is, greet them with warmth and enthusiasm.
These verses have flummoxed many Christians who wish to witness to others. There are several modern cults that espouse false beliefs about Jesus. A few of them, as part of their religious worship, evangelize door to door. It's convenient and opportune to invite such false teachers into our homes to discuss religious differences, explain what the Bible really says, and attempt to lead them to the true gospel.
But is it biblical to do so? Do the guidelines in John's letter apply today? Do they apply to every Christian, or just the theologically immature? Does "deceiver" mean teachers of cultic religions, or any cultic follower? Where the text isn't specific, we need to look at other passages. Romans 16:17 says, " appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them." We are to stay away from false teachers. This would certainly preclude us from inviting them into our homes.
Galatians 1:8 says that those who teach a gospel other than what is found in the Bible are accursed, and we are not to listen to them. We are not to consider what they say because we are curious or searching. All questions should be taken to the Bible or to a mature fellow brother or sister in Christ. For those who are more learned in Scriptures and wish to lovingly engage in a theological debate in hopes of rescuing someone from a false religion, there are other options, such as meeting at a public place. Such discussions don't have to take place at home where, perhaps, smaller ears can hear and weaker Christians can get the wrong impression about our beliefs.
If the members of a cult are not teachers and are not trying to convert us, our options are wider. We are certainly not to have a close relationship with them (2 Corinthians 6:14), but we can still take Jesus' example by spending time with them and trying to lead them to the truth.
The issue of allowing false teachers in our home is difficult for those who are naturally loving, feel for the lost souls, and want to care for others. We need to remember, however, that anyone who has taken on the role of teacher has voluntarily accepted the authority of their message. In Matthew 7:15, Jesus says, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." Even if the personality of the teacher is meek like a sheep, the message they teach is ravenous like a wolf. And any gospel that does not teach the truth about Christ does not belong in our homes.
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