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2 John 1:9 (KJV2000) Whoever goes beyond, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son.

Cf. 1 Tim. 4:16.

Question

According to Protestantism, what do "continue in doctrine" and "go beyond" mean, respectively?

  • Are you just interested in the views of Protestants who believe in "once saved always saved," or also those who believe that those truly saved can commit apostasy? – Nathaniel Mar 13 at 20:59
  • Inasmuch as both can rightly be called Protestants, either, frankly. – Sola Gratia Mar 13 at 21:03
  • Okay, that's fine; answers will just need to provide an overview of Protestant positions on this matter. – Nathaniel Mar 13 at 21:46
  • The DRB is a quite poor representative of the Greek at this point. "revolteth" would be better rendered "goes beyond" as NAB implies. – Mac's Musings Mar 13 at 22:00
  • I think the Latin it's translating is more or less a direct equivalent to the Greek, but the sense in more or less clear in any case: departing from/exceeding/leaving behind the doctrine instead of persisting in it. It's an atypically free translation for the DRB, but not overly so, and not to detriment of understanding the verse's bare gist linguistically speaking. I'll edit the question to avoid repeating this exact conversation, though. – Sola Gratia Mar 13 at 22:13
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First, it might be necessary to establish what doctrine is to be continued in. That very epistle states clearly what doctrine is NOT meant – the Gnostic teaching that Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh. Verse 7 expressly warns all Christians that such a doctrine comes from a deceiver and an antichrist.

There are only 13 verses in this little epistle, and it appears to be simply warning Christians of the first century A.D. not to depart from, or to leave behind, the doctrine that Christ had come in the flesh, by accepting the opposite doctrine. Verse 10 states, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him ‘God speed’.”

The ‘this doctrine’ is the one Christians are to abide in, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Sticking to that truth will protect them from wandering off into another doctrine, a false teaching about Christ. The seriousness of this false doctrine is so clearly stated that any Christian accepting it would be viewed as having so gone beyond it as to have revolted against the truth of God and Christ, and would no longer be received into Christian homes, or given a blessing by them.

The Protestant study notes for the NIV translation of 2nd John make the point that,

“During the first two centuries the gospel was taken from place to place by travelling evangelists and teachers. Believers customarily took these missionaries into their homes and gave them provisions for their journey when they left. Since Gnostic teachers also relied on this practice (see 3 John 5), 2 John was written to urge discernment in supporting travelling teachers; otherwise, someone might unintentionally contribute to the propagation of heresy rather than truth.”

I am a Protestant myself and entirely agree with that explanation. It is also worth pointing out (from a Protestant point of view) that Jude’s little epistle, in verse 3, tells Christians of the first century to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints”. Past tense, note. And Hebrews 1:1-3 shows that, by then, God’s final word had been spoken, through Jesus Christ who had now returned to Heaven. These verses have long served as a warning to Protestants not to heed new doctrine (teachings) beyond what had already been received by the Christian Church by the end of the first century A.D.

Another word for doctrine of the apostles is ‘tradition’, by the way. It was only from the middle of the second century A.D. that the word 'tradition' came to mean something different from its use in the Christian Greek Scriptures (the New Testament). Whereas those scriptures recorded the tradition (teaching) of the apostles, later it began to mean the teachings of the early Church Fathers. At that period tradition gradually changed to mean the interpreting and unravelling of Scripture to stand over against Scripture, as expounded by the writings of the early Church Fathers. Obviously, the apostle John did not have that in mind when he wrote his 2nd epistle.

Summary: To ‘continue in doctrine’ means to believe such teachings, to keep them intact, without adding to or taking from them – preserving them as is. To ‘go beyond’ such doctrine is to either inflate it with additional points, or to leave behind the Christian teaching due to having taken up new, un-Christian teaching.

  • 2 Thess. 2:15 precludes the idea that Tradition was only Scripture, but otherwise great answer. I'm marking yours as the answer +1 – Sola Gratia Mar 15 at 22:49
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I am a Christian of the Protestant persuasion, and present a few extracts from John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible on 2 John 1:9. John Gill (1697-1771), a Baptist minister, held to a firm Calvinistic soteriology. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gill_(theologian)

Extracts from John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible on 2 John 1:9:

Whosoever transgresseth: who passes over the rule and standard of doctrine, the word of God, and will not adhere to that, nor walk according to it, but rejects and despises that rule:

and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ; which he received from his Father, and delivered to his apostles, and of which he is the sum and substance; the doctrine which is concerning his person as the Son of God, and as truly God, and the union of the two natures, divine and human, in his one person; and concerning his office, as the Mediator, surety, and messenger of the covenant, and as the prophet, priest, and King of his church; and concerning his incarnation, obedience, sufferings, death, resurrection from the dead, ascension to heaven, session at God's right hand, intercession for his people, and second coming to judgment; concerning peace and pardon by his blood, atonement by his sacrifice, justification by his righteousness, and complete salvation by him: this is (xyvmh Klm lv wdwmlt) , "the doctrine of the King Messiah", or the Messiah's Talmud F8, to use the Jewish phrase, and which agrees with John's. Now, whoever has embraced and professed this doctrine, but errs concerning it, and rejects it, and abides not in it, as Satan abode not in the truth, appears to be of him:

He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ; as he hath received and professed it; neither can anything remove him from it, not the arguments of false teachers, nor the reproaches and persecutions of men, or the snares and allurements of the world: https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/2-john-1-9.html

The New Living Translation Study Bible expresses 2 John 1:9 this way:

Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1:9 NLT)

The NLT Study Bible makes this comment regarding 2 John 1:9:

Literally, everyone going beyond and not remaining in the teaching. To go beyond is to contradict the apostolic teachings about Jesus Christ and believe things about Jesus that were not taught by the apostles.

At the time the apostle John wrote this second letter, Docetists were infiltrating the early church and denying that Jesus Christ came in a real body. The word Docetism comes from the Greek dokein, which meant “to seem.” According to Docetism, Jesus Christ only seemed to have a human body. Docetism was closely related to Gnosticism, which viewed physical matter as inherently evil and spiritual substance as inherently good. The apostle John warned the early church against the false doctrine of Gnosticism, which embraced Docetism’s error: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.” (1 John 4:1–2 NLT)

Early church fathers fought valiantly against Docetism, especially Ignatius of Antioch (c. AD 35–107). Ignatius rightly taught that, if Jesus had not actually shed His blood on the cross, then His death was meaningless. Ignatius saw that there was no possible way to align the deception of Docetism with the truth of Christianity.

Within the context of this letter, to "continue in doctrine" means to hold fast to “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude verse 3). To "go beyond” would be to reject the truth that Jesus was fully human and fully God and to embrace false teachings that deny who Jesus, the Christ, really is. As John Gill puts it, to “abideth not in the doctrine of Christ” is to reject the truth about the person of Christ and to join ranks with Satan. "To go beyond" is to wander away from and reject the truth about Christ Jesus.

  • +1 Thanks, great answer. As for Ignatius, he also taught that the Docetics and Gnostics "abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again" (To the Smyrnaeans, VI). – Sola Gratia Mar 15 at 22:48

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