Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.
2 John 1:9
Wow, sure does make you wonder what “going too” far mean back in the first few decades of Christianity to brings such a harsh condemnation from the Apostle John. Today society is all about “tolerance” and this kind of talk itself would be condemned!
But in the verse prior to this John mentions those who deny that Jesus had come in the flesh, and there were those who thought that the spirit of Christ only rested upon the man Jesus and then left him after the crucifixion, so that’s who he was referring to. In the subsequent centuries “going too far” could certainly be applied to many more teachings that are insidious, that undermine the gospel, that Paul says, are another gospel which is really not the gospel (Gal. 1:7), and are to be condemned.
I was brought up in a very devout Roman Catholic family, church on Sunday, Catholic schools, Alter Boy. My parents were the authentic devout kind, not like some I observed who, away from church, drank to excess, abused their spouses and children, spoke with foul mouths in public, exhibiting un Jesus-like behavior. My folks taught us to be kind to all and peaceful. No, my folks were adults I could look up to and emulate. And in the years before my Dad’s death I saw evidence that he had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
They adhered to the Roman Catholic line that is maintained today, that one is saved by grace, a grace that was made “possible” by the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross, but only made “available” through partaking in the sacraments of the Roman Catholic church. Thus when I was visiting my brother and enjoying discussing with him the wonderful things of Christ in Scripture and a stranger walked by and he became aware that my brother was a Catholic and I wasn’t he jovially but seriously chided me that he hoped for me that I’d come back to the church. I knew it would be futile to try to tell him that since I was a born again christian and thus a child of God that I was a bona fide member of the church already. But it is typical of the confusion of many Roman Catholics not familiar with the things of the Scriptures.
It is this great misunderstanding of what makes someone a member of the church that is so heartbreaking. They know that Christ is God’s Son. They know that He died on the cross for the sins of the world. They know that He rose from the grave to bring new life. They just don’t understand how to acquire it! They don’t realize that the free gift is just free. You get it by accepting, taking. You take it once and it is yours. You accept it and keep it and it belongs to you and it’s yours. You don’t keep accepting it over and over and over again. You accept a gift once. You don’t accept a free gift every day, every week. Just once. Someone gives you a birthday gift, you take it from them with thanks, take it home and that is that. They don’t keep giving it to you repeatedly.
Here’s why it is accepted once for all. Because before you accept Christ you are dead, dead in your sins. But after Christ, He makes you alive, you are alive in Christ, as the Holy Spirit then indwells you and gives you life. That is where the term “born again” comes from. “Again” because you were walking around in the world like the walking dead but now your spirit is alive in Christ. So you don’t do this over and over again. In fact Paul expressly says you can’t do this multiple times. It is a one time thing. But the Catholics were celebrating this bloodless sacrifice daily. A virtual death on the cross, where a host and wine became the actual body and blood of Christ. Where you can accept the gift over and over again. This is a major part of taking things too far.
The Roman Church is patterned on the Jewish religion from all the ceremonies and vestments and riches and mysteries and incantations and hierarchies and rules and regulations and holidays. But especially holding the peasantry in check by not telling them how they can really gain entry into the kingdom of heaven. This was a major complaint Jesus had with the rulers and lawyers in His day. But because the Roman Church has been patterned after Judaism everything about Christianity has been taken too far in their system. This is not at all surprising because Judaism itself has taken everything God has given Moses way too far, which, not surprisingly, is a major complaint of the prophets.
And this has continued today, in spite of the fact that the truth is spelled out very clearly in the Scriptures in the book that is used daily in their Masses. But the priest and rulers warn their people that they should be very careful to follow the Scriptural interpretations of the Catholic rulers and not deviate from that or they will get confused and wander from the “faith.” And this is quite possible. As there are those who are Roman Catholics who really are born again Christians who choose to remain inside that church. And they can read their Bibles and understand the work of Christ and the of the Spirit Hopefully the Lord will use them to show others the truth. Just like the prophets indicated that not all Israel were really of Israel but only a remnant would be saved, this shows the concept is not new.
But the scary part is this, just because one understands the gift does not mean one has accepted the gift. It is crucial that you see this gift and reach out and take it. Grasp it with your heart, embrace it with every fiber of your being and don’t let go. It is truly a matter of life and death. Choose life.
As with Israel, the church belongs to God. He is at work to save souls. He is trying to use whatever and whoever is at hand as instruments for His purposes. We all have to be ready, to hear Him and be available. Anything can happen.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]