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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic


Unity and Excommunication

Introduction: Unity, Excommunication, and Essentials Only
Excommunication: Historical Context, the Gospels (Part 1)
Excommunication: the Gospels (Part 2)
Excommunication: Acts and Romans
Excommunication: Corinthians
Excommunication: Galatians
Excommun.: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians
Excommunication: Paul’s Letters to Timothy
Excommunication: Titus, Hebrews, James, Peter’s Epistles
Excommunication: John’s Epistles, Jude, and Revelation
Excommunication: Biblical Assessment
Excommunication: Historical, Logical Assessments, Conclusions


Part Two: Biblical Study
John’s Epistles: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
 
John’s epistles contain the last explicit statement about excommunication in the New Testament. (This statement occurs in 2 John.) However, before we get to 2 John’s remarks on excommunication, we should first discuss a major theme that recurs throughout these three epistles regarding the topic of doctrinal unity. In fact, John refers so frequently to the topics we’ve been highlighting that it would be possible to cite almost the entirety of his epistles. However, for the purpose of being concise, we will focus on only the most relevant statements.
 
Throughout all three of John’s epistles there is a constant and firm appeal for Christians to remain in the teachings of Jesus Christ as the apostles had taught them at the beginning of the New Testament period. These appeals are repeatedly tied to the apostolic commission given by Christ as recorded in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1. As we have seen, Christ instructed the apostles to teach all men everywhere all things whatsoever he had taught them. John’s discussion of these issues can be seen in the opening verses of his first epistle.
 
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship (2842) with us: and truly our fellowship (2842) is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
 
In the verses above John refers to the apostolic witness of Christ and their declaring what they had seen and heard unto new converts. Likewise, in verse 3, John connects having Christian fellowship with receiving what the apostles taught. The Greek word translated as “fellowship” twice in verse 3 is “koinonia” (Strong’s number 2842.) It is the general word used for Christian fellowship in the New Testament including the communal meal (1 Corinthians 10:16.) John’s comments here parallel Paul’s words in Philippians 1:5 where Paul used the same Greek word (“koinonia”) to refer to the fellowship Christians have in the good news which the apostles were commissioned by Christ to preach. In 1 John 1:4, John articulates that his purpose in writing was to testify of Jesus in accordance with the apostolic commission recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Acts. These remarks in the opening of his first epistle parallel his closing remarks in his gospel.
 
John 21:24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
 
1 John 1:5-6 connects to earlier statements from the New Testament regarding Christians remaining in a lack of doctrinal understanding. In John 8:12 and 12:46 Jesus states that his followers will not remain in darkness. In Ephesians 1:13 and 18, Paul states that the understanding of those who receive the gospel is enlightened. Ephesians 4:17 and 20 state that Christians don’t walk in a darkened understanding. In Ephesians 5:8-11, Paul states that Christians used to be in darkness, but now we are light in the Lord.
 

John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

 

John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide (3306) in darkness.
 
Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,…18 The eyes of your understanding (1271) being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
 

Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened…20 But ye have not so learned Christ;
 
Ephesians 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship (4790) with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove (1651) them.
 
Here in 1 John 1:5, John is discussing the apostolic witness, which we know included teaching all men all things whatsoever that Christ had taught the apostles.
 
1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
 
John states that because of the apostles’ message, those who have fellowship with God do not walk in darkness. Beginning with Jesus himself, the New Testament authors use “darkness” to refer to a lack of understanding of the truths of biblical teaching. Here John plainly states that those who have fellowship with Christ will not continue to have a “darkened” understanding. Those who remain in darkness and a lack of understanding are those who, according to Jesus and John, don’t abide in the truth of Jesus’ teaching as it was passed on by the apostles.
 
John’s words here are similar to 2 Timothy 3:7 and Ephesians 4, where Paul spoke of Christians who never came to the knowledge of the truth because they had been led astray by false teachings. According to Jesus, Paul, and John, Christians should not and will not remain in doctrinal obscurity or lack understanding regarding the truth of Jesus’ teachings. Since the New Testament teaches that Christians will not remain in darkness regarding their understanding of biblical teaching, the church as a whole should not still be in a state of doctrinal misunderstanding and confusion after 2000 years.
 
As we move forward we will proceed to 1 John 2. Here, John continues to stress that Christians must keep the commandments of Christ that the apostles passed on to the New Testament churches.
 
1 John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth (3306) in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. 7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
 
In 1 John 2:6, John uses the concept of “walking.” Elsewhere Paul has used the idea of “walking” to refer to keeping the things he has ordained in all the churches (1 Corinthians 7:17) and to refer to keeping the apostles’ example and teachings (Philippians 3:17 and Colossians 2:6.) John clearly has these same things in mind here.
 
Starting in verse 6, we want to pay attention to John’s use of the word “abide.” It is the Greek word “meno” (Strong’s number 3306.) It means to “remain, continue, abide.”
 
3306 meno
a root word; TDNT-4:574,581; v
AV-abide 61, remain 16, dwell 15, continue 11, tarry 9, endure 3, misc 5; 120
1) to remain, abide
1a) in reference to place
1a1) to sojourn, tarry
1a2) not to depart
1a2a) to continue to be present
1a2b) to be held, kept, continually
1b) in reference to time
1b1) to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure
1b1a) of persons, to survive, live
1c) in reference to state or condition
1c1) to remain as one, not to become another or different
2) to wait for, await one
 
John will use this same word throughout his letters to instruct Christians to remain in what the apostles had taught from the beginning. He is here simply quoting Jesus’ own teaching on this subject from John 15. Throughout John 15, John uses this same Greek word “meno” (“abide”) to record Jesus’ teaching that his followers must continue in his words.
 
John 15:6 If a man abide (3306) not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide (3306) in me, and my words (4487) abide (3306) in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples (3101.) 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue (3306) ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments (1785), ye shall abide (3306) in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments (1785), and abide (3306) in his love.
 
The reason we are making note of John’s reference to Jesus’ command to remain in his teaching is so that as we continue we will be aware of John’s ongoing appeal to this command.
 
After again relating that Christians should abide in Christ’s word as the apostles had passed it on, John warns Christians about loving the things of this life (1 John 2:14-17.) As we have seen from Paul, James, and Peter, seeking after things in this life (particularly those things that are prohibited) prevents Christians from remaining in or coming to the correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching.
 
1 John 2:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth (3306) for ever.
 
In verses 18-23, John mentions false teachers which he identifies as antichrist. In verse 19, he states that they went out from the Christian community, but that they were not part of the Christian community. According to John the reason that they were not part of the Christian community is because they did not continue with the Christians. The word translated as “continue” in verse 19 is “meno” (3306.) Here John is saying that these false teachers are not Christians because they did not continue in Christ’s teachings as the apostles had taught them. There is little doubt that John is simply mirroring Christ’s words in John 15. In verse 19, John states that the fact that these men went out and did not continue in Christ’s teaching demonstrates that they are not Christians.
 
1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued (3306) with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
 
John’s words here are no different that Paul’s remarks in Galatians as well as his instructions to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. In Galatians 2:11-13, Paul recounts how certain men travelled from the apostle James in Jerusalem to Galatia where they persuaded Peter and Barnabas to withdraw from the Gentiles, an action which Paul recognized as a contradiction of Jesus’ teaching. Thus, these men came up from Jerusalem but were not remaining in Christian teaching. Similarly, in Acts 20, we saw Paul warn Christians that men of their own number would arise and begin to teach perverse things in order to draw away disciples. Likewise, in 1 John 2, John is talking about false teachers who started out as part of the Christian community. However, these men did not remain in the understanding that the apostles taught. Instead, they diverged from apostolic teaching and began instead to teach their own views.
 
Unlike those who didn’t continue in the apostles’ teachings, Christians who did abide in Christ’s teachings really knew the truth (John 2:20-21.)
 
1 John 2:20 But ye have an unction (5545) from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
 
John’s reference to “an unction from the Holy One” is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to his apostles and disciples in order to enable them to faithfully remember and teach all things that he had taught them. The Greek word translated as “unction” in verse 20 and as “anointing” in verse 27 is the same word. It is the Greek word “chrisma” (Strong’s number 5545) which means “anointing.” This word “chrisma” is closely related to the Greek word for Christ (“christos,” 5547) which means “anointed.”
 
5545 chrisma
from 5548; TDNT-9:493,1322; n n
AV-anointing 2, unction 1; 3
1) anything smeared on, unguent, ointment, usually prepared by the Hebrews from oil and aromatic herbs. Anointing was the inaugural ceremony for priests
 
5547 Christos
from 5548; TDNT-9:493,1322; adj
AV-Christ 569; 569
Christ =" anointed"
1) Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God
2) anointed
 
Both words (“chrisma” and “christos”) come from the same Greek verb “chrio” (5548) meaning “to anoint.”
 
5548 chrio
probably akin to 5530 through the idea of contact; TDNT-9:493,1322; v
AV-anoint 5; 5
1) to anoint
1a) consecrating Jesus to the Messianic office, and furnishing him with the necessary powers for its administration
1b) enduing Christians with the gifts of the Holy Spirit
For Synonyms see entry 5805
 
A survey of the New Testament usage of “chrio” (5548) shows that Jesus Christ was anointed (“chrio”) by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel.
 
Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed (5548) me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
 
Acts 10:38 How God anointed (5548) Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
 
The gospels and Acts all clearly record Jesus’ statements to his disciples that they would receive the Holy Spirit who would enable them to likewise go and preach the gospel (testifying to and teaching all things whatsoever he had taught them.) As John himself records in his gospel, according to Jesus, the major role of the Holy Spirit was to remind Jesus’ followers of his teaching.
 
John 14:24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. 25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
 
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
 
As Jesus explained elsewhere, everything he taught the disciples came from the Father.
 
John 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
 
Likewise, the Holy Spirit would take what Jesus had spoken and remind Christ’s followers of it.
 
John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
 
In the context of this epistle, of John’s gospel, and of the New Testament as a whole, we can see then that 1 John 2:20 and 27 are simply conveying that Christians had received from the apostles (by the power of the Holy Spirit) the correct understanding of all Jesus’ teaching. And, in receiving Jesus’ teaching, Christian converts had also received the Holy Spirit. So long as they chose to remain in the correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching, the Holy Spirit would likewise help them remember and teach Jesus’ words to others.
 
As we move forward we come to 1 John 2:22-23 and 26. Here John identifies as antichrists those who would seduce and deceive Christians away from the truth in Christ. He also specifies that these false teachers, in fact, denied that Jesus was the Christ.
 
1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also…26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
 
The false teachers that John is discussing were a particular group. In fact, John is here referring to the Gnostics, the same men Paul likewise warned Christians about in 1 Timothy 6:20. Here John identifies these men by their particular doctrine that denied Jesus was the Christ.
 
Earlier we noted that, like almost all pantheistic world views, one of the fundamental beliefs of Gnosticism was that material, earthly existence was bad. Material, earthly existence was viewed basically as a prison which humanity needed to escape from.
 
Simon Magus – …Gnostics could conceive of salvation as attainable only by escaping their earthly prison. - Encyclopedia Britannica
 
Gnosticism(Greek : gnōsis, knowledge) refers to diverse, syncretistic religious movements in antiquity consisting of various belief systems  generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls  trapped in a material world . - wikipedia.org
 
Gnosticism - the thought and practice especially of various cults of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis. - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
> 
Gnosticism, Nature The world, produced from evil matter and possessed by evil demons, cannot be a creation of a good God; it is mostly conceived of as an illusion, or an abortion, dominated by Yahweh, the Jewish demiurge, whose creation and history are depreciated. This world is therefore alien to God, who is for the Gnostics depth and silence, beyond any name or predicate, the absolute, the source of good spirits who together form the pleroma, or realm of light. – Britannica.com
 
According to the New Testament, God (the Word) actually became a man and was given the name Jesus. Jesus was therefore, God incarnate, or “God-become-man.” As God incarnate and as the promised Messiah of Israel on whom the Holy Spirit descended (after his baptism by John the Baptist), Jesus was the Christ. So, in Christian theology the words Jesus and Christ both identified only one person. In other words Jesus himself was Christ. He was God incarnate who was anointed by the Holy Spirit as Messiah (Christ.)
 
Because the Gnostics believed that matter is inherently evil, they did not believe that a divine being could become part of earthly creation. To do so would constitute a serious fall on the part of the divine being. So, for the Gnostics, Christ could not actually be or become a man. Consequently, the Gnostics had to devise an understanding of Christ that accommodated this view. And, in order to uphold their teaching that the matter itself was evil, the Gnostics taught that the Christ was a divine spirit distinct from Jesus of Nazareth who merely rested upon the human Jesus. In this way, Jesus and the Christ were distinguished from one another in Gnostic theology. Jesus was a mortal man made of flesh and bone, the child of Mary. The Christ, on the other hand, was a divine spirit sent from the heavenly realm to dwell within Jesus. In a common Gnostic understanding, the Christ spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism and departed from him before the crucifixion. But the Christ was never a man and Jesus himself was never the Christ.
 
In his five volume treatise against the Gnostic heretics, Irenaues describes these Gnostic teachings. We should note that Irenaeus was taught by Polycarp, who in turn had been taught by the Apostle John. We should also note that in the second quote below, Irenaeus identifies the Gnostics using Paul’s phrase “knowledge falsely so called” from 1 Timothy 6. Irenaeus also explains that the Apostle John refuted Gnostic teachings which denied that the Christ had come in the flesh.
 
3. But, according to these men, neither was the Word made flesh, nor Christ, nor the Saviour (Soter)…For they will have it, that the Word and Christ never came into this world; that the Saviour, too, never became incarnate, nor suffered, but that He descended like a dove upon the dispensational Jesus…others, again, say that Jesus was born from Joseph and Mary, and that the Christ from above descended upon him, being without flesh, and impassible. But according to the opinion of no one of the heretics was the Word of God made flesh. For if any  one carefully examines the systems of them all, he will find that the Word of God is brought in by all of them as not having become incarnate (sine carne) and impassible, as is also the Christ from above. Others consider Him to have been manifested as a transfigured man; but they maintain Him to have been neither born nor to have become incarnate; whilst others [hold] that He did not assume a human form at all, but that, as a dove, He did descend upon that Jesus who was born from Mary. Therefore the Lord's disciple, pointing them all out as false witnesses, says, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." (1) – Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter XI
 
1. John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith, and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that "knowledge" falsely so called…they allege, that…the Christ from above another, who also continued impassible, descending upon Jesus…and flew back again into His Pleroma… – Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter XI
 
2. This Christ…descended upon him in the form of a dove it the time of his baptism, that Saviour who belonged to the Pleroma, and was formed by the combined efforts of all its inhabitants…And for this reason the Spirit of Christ, who had been placed within Him, was taken away when He was brought before Pilate. – Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter VII
 
2. But they are again in error, when saying that the Christ and Saviour from above was not born, but that also, after the baptism of the dispensational Jesus, he, [the Christ of the Pleroma,] descended upon him as a dove. – Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter X
 
This historical data makes it clear that both Paul (in 1 Timothy 6:20-21) and John (in 1 John 2:22) were writing about the Gnostics. Here in 1 John 2, John is using the Gnostic distinction between Christ and Jesus to identify them as false teachers that Christians should not listen to. (We will see further proof that John is referring to the Gnostics in chapter 4 of this epistle and in John’s second epistle.)
 
1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
 
Immediately after identifying the Gnostics as false teachers who did not continue in Christ’s teaching, John once again returns to his main theme. In verse 24, John reiterates that Christians should abide in what they had heard from the apostles from the beginning rather than being led astray by the views of the Gnostics. The Greek word translated “abide” in verse 24 is “meno” (3306.) So, again we see that John is merely restating Jesus’ own command that his followers must remain in his teachings and not depart from them.
 
1 John 2:24 Let that therefore abide (3306) in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain (3306) in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
 
In verse 27, John once again reiterates Jesus’ teaching from John 14:26. In John 14, Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit would remind his disciples of all the things that he had taught. Likewise, according to Matthew 28, Mark 16, Acts 1, and John 15:26, the Holy Spirit would enable the apostles to teach to all nations all of the things whatsoever that Christ had taught them. Because Christians had received the teachings of the apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit, they did not need anyone else to teach them some new or different doctrine. Rather, according to John, the apostles had sufficiently delivered the correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching to the church and so no adjustments or new doctrinal ideas were needed. This fits perfectly with Jesus forbidding his followers from adopting the practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees who developed new and divergent understandings of God’s word. This practice was prohibited for Christians and it was also completely unnecessary. No new or different doctrines could improve the church’s understanding of God’s word. They would only pervert and distort it, risking the salvation of any who believed them.
 
1 John 2:27 But the anointing (5545) which ye have received of him abideth (3306) in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide (3306) in him. 28 And now, little children, abide (3306) in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
 
In 1 John 3:22-4:3 (and 1 John 5:14-15), John makes remarks similar to James’ epistle. We have already seen James discussing Christians’ ability or inability to receive from God. James tied this ability to receive from God to whether Christians remained in Jesus’ teachings or strove to accommodate their sinful desires. Here in 1 John 3:22-24, John likewise connects our receiving from God with our abiding in Jesus’ teachings as the apostles had delivered them to the earliest church.
 
1 John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask (154), we receive of him, because we keep his commandments (1785), and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment (1785), That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment (1785). 24 And he that keepeth his commandments (1785) dwelleth (3306) in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth (3306) in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
 
1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask (154) any thing (5100) according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever (3739) we ask (154), we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
 
In his gospel, John records Jesus teaching that his followers will be able to ask and receive. Like James and John, Jesus’ comments about his followers receiving from God are made in the context of instructions that they must remain in his teachings.
 
John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
 
As John begins the fourth chapter of this epistle, he again instructs Christians against believing something without first testing it. And again, in verse 2, John references the Gnostics who denied that Christ came in the flesh. We can see that John is again giving instructions to Christians to prevent them from being influenced by false religious views, particularly those taught by the Gnostics.
 
1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
 
As chapter four closes and chapter 5 begins, John is still instructing Christians to keep Jesus’ teachings as the apostles had taught them.
 
1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments (1785). 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments (1785): and his commandments (1785) are not grievous.
 
In verse 13 of chapter 5, John explains that the reason he wrote to the early Christians about these things is so that they may believe. In the context of this epistle we know that John is writing to people who have already converted to Christianity. These are not potential, new converts. They are already Christians. Therefore, what John means is that he is writing them about these things so that they will continue to believe the correct understanding of the faith which the apostles had taught rather than being deceived by false religious views.
 
1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God…20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding (1271), that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
 
In verse 20, John states that Jesus Christ has given us understanding. The Greek word translated as “understanding” is “dianoia” (1271.) This is the same word Peter used in 1 Peter 1:13 when he told Christians to guard the understanding which they’d received from the apostles. Likewise, Paul uses this same word in Ephesians 1:18 when he describes how the understanding of Christians as “enlightened.” And in Ephesians 4:18, Paul uses this same word to describe the understanding of those who have not come to faith in Christ as “darkened.” We can see that the understanding John has in mind here is the understanding of Christ’s teachings that were passed on to the church through the ministry of the apostles.
 
1 John 5 contains a few potentially relevant verses that, though obscure, do relate to our study of excommunication. The verses occur in 1 John 5:16-18.
 
1 John 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. 18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
 
As we read these verses several questions come to mind. The most obvious is “what is John talking about here?” More specifically we might ask, what does John mean by “a sin unto death” and a “sin not unto death?” Furthermore, what does he mean by “death” and “life” in this passage? How can one Christian “give life” to another Christian brother?
 
By recalling Jesus’ instruction on excommunication in Matthew 18 we can gain some insight that will help us answer these questions. Throughout our study we have noted that the New Testament practice of excommunication involved persons being cut off from the body of Christ. This idea began with Jesus himself. Matthew 18 records Jesus’ teaching on excommunication amidst comments about cutting off and casting away parts of the body which persisted in sin. Likewise, Matthew places Jesus’ statements about asking and receiving in the context of these instructions on excommunication.
 
Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. 15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. 21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
 
In his own gospel, the Apostle John likewise records statements from Jesus about asking and receiving from God. Like Matthew, John places these statements in the context of Jesus’ instruction about cutting off branches that did not abide in his teaching. (Notice John’s frequent use of the Greek word “meno,” Strong’s number 3306, throughout this passage to refer to “abiding” in Christ and his teachings.)
 
John 15:4 Abide (3306) in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide (3306) in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide (3306) in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth (3306) in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide (3306) not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide (3306) in me, and my words abide (3306) in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue (3306) ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide (3306) in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide (3306) in his love.
 
The parallels between Matthew 18 and John 15 are clear. Both passages connect the disciples asking and receiving to the authority for excommunication to remaining in Christ’s teachings and to being cut off from Christ and his body, the church.
 
Once these connections are recognized, it becomes very reasonable to understand 1 John 5 as a reference to excommunication.
 
Both John and Jesus discuss the idea of “asking” and “receiving” in the context of the authority to excommunicate or cast away (Matthew 18:15-22, 1 John 5:15-17.) Furthermore, as we noted earlier, when Jesus’ gave his instructions for excommunication in Matthew 18, he borrowed the requirement of two or three witnesses from the law of Moses which required two or three witnesses to put a man to death for violating Moses’ teaching (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15). In addition, when discussing excommunication in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul referred to Jesus as our Passover sacrifice and then commanded that the sinning Christian should be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. In the context of Passover, Paul’s comments clearly refer back to the fact that any Israelite who was banned from the communal meal of Passover was subjected to the angel of death that passed through Egypt. It seems more than likely that early Christians understood excommunication to be a replacement for execution under Moses’ law and since they also understood eternal life as available only to those within the fellowship of the church, to be excommunicated was metaphorically associated with a death sentence. With these facts in mind, it becomes obvious that, in 1 John 5:15-17, John is using “death” to refer to the practice of being excommunicated from the life of Christian communal fellowship.
 
Earlier we saw James referring to excommunication. In James 5, he referenced Jesus’ instructions for excommunication. James and Jesus both spoke about going to a brother who was in sin and winning them back so that they repented. Like John, James indicates that a brother who repented from error was “saved from death” (James 5:19-20.)
 
James 5:19 Brethren, if any of you do err (4105) from the truth, and one convert (1994) him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth (1994) the sinner from the error (4106) of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
 
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
 
Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke (2008) him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again (1994) to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
 
Both James and John refer to excommunication as “death” because Jesus’ applied the Old Testament standards for capital punishment (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:5) to excommunication. This makes sense because many of the New Testament lists of excommunicable sins are equivalent to sins for which the Old Testament required capitol punishment. Moreover, in John 17:3, 14, 20-23, Jesus describes eternal life as remaining united with him and the Father which explicitly entailed remaining united with the church as well. In John 15:1-10, Jesus spoke of this unity as dependent upon Christians remaining in his teaching. With this historical backdrop, John and James naturally spoke about excommunication as “death” and fellowship as “life.”
 
In addition, this understanding of 1 John 5:15-17 also fits well with the rest of the New Testament. The New Testament is clear that we have all sinned and that the wages of sin is death. However, the New Testament is equally clear that if we repent of our sin through faith in Christ, we will be forgiven and can receive eternal life.
 
By studying 1 John 5:15-17 in the context of the New Testament teaching on excommunication the meaning of this passage becomes clear. 1 John 5:15-17 is simply stating that a Christian brother who does not repent when approached, but continues in sin is in fact sinning “unto death.” This is equivalent to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18. A Christian who sins “unto death” was sinning “unto excommunication” and was therefore cut off from life and fellowship within the Body of Christ.
 
Conversely, the phrase “not unto death” in 1 John 5:15-17 refers to Christians who repent when approached. Since these Christians repent, they are permitted into Christian fellowship. Through repentance excommunication (death) is averted. Therefore, even though the Christian brother had sinned, they repented. And so their sin was “not unto death” because they didn’t need to be excommunicated.
 
Likewise, “giving life” refers to restoring a Christian brother back into fellowship after they have sinned and repented. As we have seen, Matthew 18 and Luke 17 both show that according to Jesus, a brother who had sinned and repented of that sin should be forgiven. Additionally, Jesus clearly intended to give a Christian brother the opportunity to repent before they were cut off from fellowship. This is why he instituted excommunication as a three step process beginning with a faithful Christian approaching and rebuking the brother who was in sin. The point is to get them to stop sinning and repent. In such circumstances a Christian brother who had sinned and repented during the earlier stages of the process did not need to be excommunicated. Therefore, if a Christian brother was sinning and they repented, then the sin was “not unto death” (not unto excommunication.) And the faithful Christians, who had gone to the sinning brother and “converted” him from his error, had “given him life.”  
 
Lastly, interpreting 1 John 5:15-17 as a reference to excommunication explains why verse 16 says that we should not pray for those who sin unto death. John is simply saying that we should not ask for someone to remain in fellowship if they persist in sin and refuse to repent.
 
We have now finished with John’s first epistle. For a moment we will skip 2 John in order to briefly discuss some relevant comments in 3 John. In his third epistle, John first discusses faithful Christians who walked in the truth and rightly received Christian brethren who traveled about teaching the word.  
 
3 John 1:1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive (618) such, that we might be fellowhelpers (4904) to the truth.
 
In verses 9-10, John mentions a man named Diotrephes who would not receive Christians who faithfully taught the truth. In fact, according to verse 10, this man even cast faithful Christian brothers out of the church.
 
3 John 1:9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth (1926) us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive (1926) the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth (1544) them out of the church. 11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. 12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true. 13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
 
The short series of verses that comprise 3 John simply convey that Christians must receive into fellowship faithful Christians who hold to the correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching as the apostles taught it. John here condemns churches and church leaders who would prohibit those who have the correct understanding of the truth from fellowshipping at their church. However, it must be noted that the key trait here is retaining the correct understanding as the apostles taught it. This is entirely different from allowing Christians of differing opinions and varying understandings into fellowship on the grounds that some doctrines are not important enough to require agreement.
 
Having finished our study of 1 John and 3 John, we can now move on to the more critical statements John makes on excommunication in 2 John. This short epistle has only 13 verses. But in this short series of verses the apostle John instructs Christians not to receive into their home anyone who didn’t bring the doctrines of Christ (verse 10.) According to John, even bidding such a person “God speed” is to partake with them in their evil deeds (verse 11.)
 
We must take note of the fact that the New Testament church met in their homes. (See Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42, Acts 8:3, Acts 12:12, Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Timothy 3:6, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2.) Therefore, John’s instruction for Christians not to “receive someone into their homes” not only prohibits Christians from socializing with these false teachers in general, but it also requires that they be barred from our church gatherings. This is a clear articulation of excommunication, the removal of someone from church fellowship.
 
2 John 1:1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth (225); and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth (225); 2 For the truth’s sake (225), which dwelleth (3306) in us, and shall be with us for ever. 3 Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth (225) and love. 4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth (225), as we have received a commandment (1785) from the Father. 5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment (1785) unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments (1785). This is the commandment (1785), That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth (3306) not in the doctrine (1322) of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth (3306) in the doctrine (1322) of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (1322), receive (2983) him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker (2842) of his evil deeds. 12 Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.
 
As in his first epistle and in chapter 15 of his gospel, the Apostle John is simply reiterating the need for Christians to abide in the teachings of Jesus as the apostles had taught them from the beginning of the New Testament period. This includes verse 2, where John speaks of the truth “dwelling in us.” The Greek word translated as “dwelling” occurs several times in this passage. It is more commonly translated with the English word “abide.” In either case, it is the same Greek verb “meno” (3306) that we have seen John use repeatedly in his writings to speak of remaining in Jesus’ teachings.
 
John begins this epistle with repeated references to the truth. In fact, there are 5 references to “the truth” in the first 4 verses. However, at no point does John qualify or specify what he means by truth. He simply uses the Greek word “aletheia” (Strong’s number 225.) Although this generic Greek word for truth can take on nuanced meanings in specific settings, when it is used in an unqualified sense (as John does here) “aletheia” refers to the truth of the Christian faith. It refers to whatever is true concerning the things of God. It refers to the truth as taught by the Christian religion. In other words it refers to all things whatsoever that Jesus taught.
 
225 aletheia
from 227; TDNT-1:232,37; n f
AV-truth 107, truly + 1909 1, true 1, verity 1; 110
1) objectively
1a) what is true in any matter under consideration
1a1) truly, in truth, according to truth
1a2) of a truth, in reality, in fact, certainly
1b) what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth
1b1) in the greatest latitude
1b2) the true notions of God which are open to human reason without his supernatural intervention
1c) the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians
2) subjectively
2a) truth as a personal excellence
2a1) that candour of mind which is free from affection, pretence, simulation, falsehood, deceit
 
In verse 4, John remarks that Christians should walk in the truth since we have received a commandment from the Father. The word commandment is translated from the Greek noun “entole” (1785.) This word also appears 3 times throughout the middle portion of this letter (verses 4-6.)
 
1785 entole
from 1781; TDNT-2:545,234; n f
AV-commandment 69, precept 2; 71
1) an order, command, charge, precept, injunction
1a) that which is prescribed to one by reason of his office
2) a commandment
2a) a prescribed rule in accordance with which a thing is done
2a1) a precept relating to lineage, of the Mosaic precept concerning the priesthood
2a2) ethically used of the commandments in the Mosaic law or Jewish tradition
 
In verse 5, John states that we have received a commanded to walk in love. Immediately John explains that love is walking after God’s commandments (verse 6.) He states that the commandment is that Christians should walk in what they have heard from the beginning. John is clear regarding what it is that Christians must walk in. We must walk in the truth which John directly identifies as God’s commandments. Note that “commandments” here is plural. John doesn’t just have a single, solitary commandment in mind, but multiple commandments. As with John’s first epistle, John is here simply referencing Jesus’ teachings in John 15:4-10.
 
In 2 John 1:9-11 John uses the same word “meno” which is translated as “abide.” This time, however, John has switched from “abiding in truth” to “abiding in the doctrine of Christ.” He uses this phrase two times in verse 9. In each case (as well as in verse 10) the Greek word translated as “doctrine” is “didache” (1322) which simply means teaching.
 
1322 didache
from 1321; TDNT-2:163,161; n f
AV-doctrine 29, has been taught 1; 30
1) teaching
1a) that which is taught
1b) doctrine, teaching, concerning something
2) the act of teaching, instruction
2a) in religious assemblies of the Christians, to speak in the way of teaching, in distinction from other modes of speaking in public
 
John expects his readers to understand that the phrases “abide in the truth” and “abide in the teaching of Christ” both refer to the same thing. We can see that for John abiding in the truth is equivalent to both “abiding in the doctrine of Christ” and to the related phrase “walking in His commandments.” In all three cases, he is making an intentional reference to all of Christ’s teachings and commands which together comprise the truth of the Christian faith.
 
John’s comments in 2 John 1 have a direct parallel to his first epistle. In 1 John 1-2, John directed the church to abide in the teaching that the apostles taught the church from the beginning. In 1 John 1:3, John states that our Christian fellowship with one another and with God is inherently tied to these things. 
 
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship (2842) with us: and truly our fellowship (2842) is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
 
The Greek word translated as “fellowship” in verse 3 is “koinonia” (Strong’s number 2842.) It is the common New Testament word used to speak of Christian fellowship.
 
2842 koinonia
from 2844; TDNT-3:797,447; n f
AV-fellowship 12, communion 4, communication 1, distribution 1, contribution 1, to communicate 1; 20
1) fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse
1a) the share which one has in anything, participation
1b) intercourse, fellowship, intimacy
1b1) the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office)
1c) a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship
 
So, in 1 John 1, the apostle is discussing how Christians have fellowship with one another as we remain in Christ’s teaching as the apostles had taught it. In 2 John, John states that we are not to receive into our church fellowship those who don’t have these same teachings.
 
Likewise, 1 John 2 uses the same words we find in 2 John 1 for “commandments” and “abiding.”
 
1 John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments (1785). 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments (1785), is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth (3306) in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. 7 Brethren, I write no new commandment (1785) unto you, but an old commandment (1785).which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment (1785) is the word which ye have heard from the beginning…14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth (3306) in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
 
In addition, 1 John 2 mentioned the Gnostic teachers that John said had not continued in Christ’s teaching. In that passage, John used the Gnostic distinction between Christ and Jesus to identify these false teachers. Later in 1 John 4, John referred to the Gnostic denial of Christ’s coming in the flesh. In those passages John warned Christians about these false teachers and told them instead to remain in the teaching that the apostles had taught from the beginning of the New Testament period. 
 
1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued (3306) with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 24 Let that therefore abide (3306) in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain (3306) in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
 
In 2 John 1:7, John employs a similar means of identifying these same false teachers. This time John pinpoints the Gnostic teaching which denied that Christ had come in the flesh.
 
2 John 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
 
By realizing that passages like 1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7, and 1 Timothy 6:20 are referring to Gnosticism we gain some valuable insight into some of the specific false religious views that both John and Paul required Christians to excommunicate over. While John specifically mentions two particular Gnostic teachings (the denial of the incarnation and their distinguishing between Christ and Jesus), this is clearly not all that John was concerned about. The fact that the New Testament (and John) is concerned about the wide scope of Gnostic teachings rather than just a few particular points is demonstrated by several facts.
 
First, John is not here intending to limit excommunication solely to denying the incarnation. There are many things that the rest of the New Testament has already mentioned as excommunicable doctrinal issues. For instance, in his first epistle John was concerned about the Gnostic distinction of Christ from Jesus. However, 2 John does not mention that particular Gnostic teaching as excommunicable. Therefore, it is clear that John intended for Christians to excommunicate over other Gnostic teachings even though he does not mention them here directly in his second epistle.
 
Second, Paul instructed Christians to shun Gnostics and avoid their teachings in 1 Timothy 6. Paul’s instructions were broad and general. Nowhere did Paul specify that there was only one particular Gnostic teaching that was the problem.
 
Third, it is clear from the rest of John’s writings that John was concerned about a wide scope of Christian teaching. In both 1 John and 2 John, the apostle is merely quoting Jesus’ own words as he himself recorded them in chapter 15 of his Gospel.
 
John 15:6 If a man abide (3306) not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide (3306) in me, and my words (4487) abide (3306) in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples (3101.) 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue (3306) ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments (1785), ye shall abide (3306) in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments (1785), and abide (3306) in his love.
 
Both John 15:6-10 and 2 John 1:1-13 speak of “abiding” in Christ’s commandments and continuing in the truth and in love. Both John and Jesus are talking about how we can remain in fellowship with both the Father and the Son. John is discussing the exact same things using the same words in both books. The Greek word translated 5 times as “abide” in John 15:6, 7, 9, and 10 is “meno” (Strong’s number 3306.) Likewise, the same Greek word (“entole,” 1785) is used for “commandments” in verses 9-10. As in 2 John, the Greek word “entole” (commandments) is plural. And in both chapters, John references what Jesus had taught the disciples since the very beginning of his ministry.
 
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
 
2 John 1:5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
 
In John 15:26-27, Jesus explains that the apostles will be witnesses of him since they had been with him from the beginning. We have already seen that Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1 all discuss this same concept: Jesus sending his apostles out as witnesses to teach others all of the things that he had taught them. 2 John 1 is just an instance of John reiterating and fulfilling Christ’s commands to him as an apostle.
 
We can see that 2 John 1:1-13 is simply a reiteration (by John) of Jesus’ own comments in John 15 as well as in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1. In John 15:6, Christ states that anyone who doesn’t abide in his teachings will be cast forth. The concept of casting forth a branch from the vine is conceptually identical to the cutting off and casting away of a body part from the body. In both cases that which is separated and cast away was first a part of the body or vine.
 
Christ used these types of metaphors in Matthew 18 to teach his followers about separating from Christian brothers. The apostles understood these things to refer to excommunicating a Christian brother from the body of Christ, which they understood to be the church. The apostles were commissioned by Jesus as his witnesses to teach all things whatsoever that he had taught them to all nations. Whoever believed those things and continued in them would be saved. Those who did not continue in what the apostles taught would be cut off and cast away (excommunicated from fellowship.) If an excommunicated Christian did not repent, they would ultimately be damned along with those who never believed in the first place.
 
As we continue to study 2 John in comparison with John’s other writings, we must note an additional connection to John 15 and the apostolic mission recorded in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1.
 
In John 15, Jesus qualifies whether someone is his disciple or not based on whether they keep his commandments. Again, “commandments” is a plural. It is a general reference to all the things that Jesus taught.
 
John 15:6 If a man abide (3306) not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide (3306) in me, and my words (4487) abide (3306) in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples (3101.) 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue (3306) ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments (1785), ye shall abide (3306) in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments (1785), and abide (3306) in his love.
 
In addition, the Greek word translated as “disciples” in John 15:8 is “mathetes” (Strong’s number 3101.)
 
3101 mathetes
from 3129; TDNT-4:415,552; n m
AV-disciple 268, vr disciple 1; 269
1) a learner, pupil, disciple
 
In short, Jesus is saying that to actually be his disciples we must abide in his commandments. We can compare these remarks from 2 John 1 and John 15 with Matthew 28.
 
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs the apostles to “teach all nations.” Other translations render this as “make disciples of all nations.”
 
Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach (3100) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching (1321) them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded (1781) you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
 
The Greek verb that Matthew uses here is “matheteuo” (Strong’s number 3100.) It actually comes from the noun “mathetes” (3101) that Christ uses in John 15:8.
 
3100 matheteuo
from 3101; TDNT-4:461,552; v
AV-teach 2, instruct 1, be disciple 1; 4
1) to be a disciple of one
1a) to follow his precepts and instructions
2) to make a disciple
2a) to teach, instruct
 
We can see that both John 15:8 and Matthew 28:19 have the same thing in mind. Both verses are talking about being Jesus’ disciple. In John 15, Jesus states that to be his disciple and remain in him, we must abide in his words (verse 7) and commandments (verse 10.) In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus similarly states that the apostles are to make disciples of all nations by teaching them to keep all things whatsoever he had commanded them. In 2 John, John is simply stating that in order to remain part of the Christian communal fellowship, we must likewise remain in Jesus’ teaching as the apostles had taught the church from the beginning. Those who did not, such as the Gnostics, must be refused fellowship.
 
Two additional comparisons can be made between 2 John 1, John 15, and Matthew 28.
 
First, the Greek verb translated as “commanded” in Matthew 28:20 is “entellomai” (Strong’s number 1781.) As we saw earlier, the word translated as “commandments” in John 15:10 and 2 John 1:4-6 was the Greek noun “entole” (1785.) The noun “entole” actually comes from the verb “entellomai.”
 
1781 entellomai
from 1722 and the base of 5056; TDNT-2:544,234; v
AV-command 10, give commandment 3, give charge 2, enjoin 1, charge 1; 17
1) to order, command to be done, enjoin
 
1785 entole
from 1781; TDNT-2:545,234; n f
AV-commandment 69, precept 2; 71
1) an order, command, charge, precept, injunction
1a) that which is prescribed to one by reason of his office
2) a commandment
2a) a prescribed rule in accordance with which a thing is done
2a1) a precept relating to lineage, of the Mosaic precept concerning the priesthood
2a2) ethically used of the commandments in the Mosaic law or Jewish tradition
 
So, both Jesus (in Matthew 28 and John 15) and John (in 2 John 1) are again talking generally about all the things whatsoever that Christ had commanded his followers.
 
Furthermore, Matthew 28:20 translates the Greek verb “didasko” (1321) as “teaching” where Jesus instructs the apostles to “teach all men to observe all things whatsoever he commanded them.” The Greek noun “didache” (1322) which John uses three times in 2 John 1:9-10 is actually the noun that comes from the verb “didasko.”
 
1321 didasko
a prolonged (causative) form of a primary verb dao (to learn); TDNT-2:135,161; v
AV-teach 93, taught + 2258 4; 97
1) to teach
1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses
1b) to be a teacher
1c) to discharge the office of a teacher, conduct one’s self as a teacher
2) to teach one
2a) to impart instruction
2b) instill doctrine into one
2c) the thing taught or enjoined
2d) to explain or expound a thing
2f) to teach one something
 
1322 didache
from 1321; TDNT-2:163,161; n f
AV-doctrine 29, has been taught 1; 30
1) teaching
1a) that which is taught
1b) doctrine, teaching, concerning something
2) the act of teaching, instruction
2a) in religious assemblies of the Christians, to speak in the way of teaching, in distinction from other modes of speaking in public
 
So, in John 15:6-10, we have Jesus stating that to be his disciple and not be cast forth from him we must abide in his words and commandments. In Matthew 28:19-20, we have Jesus instructing the apostles to teach all men all things whatsoever that he had commanded them. And in 2 John 1:1-11, we have John saying that to abide in Christ we have to remain in the truth, his commandments, and the teaching of Christ. He then states that anyone who doesn’t remain in the teaching of Christ cannot be allowed into our homes (churches) or even be bid farewell. The restriction against allowing someone in their homes (churches) coupled with a prohibition against even bidding someone farewell shows that John forbid Christians from all social contact with those who didn’t abide in Christ’s teachings.
 
Clearly, John and Christ have the same thing in mind. We must cast forth and not allow into our homes (churches) those who do not abide in all teachings and commandments whatsoever that Jesus gave the apostles.
 
Having finished our study of John’s epistles, we will now summarize John’s teaching in regard to our main study points.
 
Our study of John’s writings brings us to the conclusion that John is instructing Christians about excommunicating those who didn’t hold to correct understanding of all the doctrines that Jesus and the apostles taught about and which are recorded in the New Testament. Like Paul, John prohibits those espousing Gnostic views from being allowed into Christian church fellowship.
 
Like Paul, John’s statements require that we include important tenets of the Gnostic faith as excommunicable. In order to follow John and Paul’s instructions we must become familiar with Gnosticism and how it differed from what the apostles taught in the earliest church. Major teachings of Gnosticism involved the nature and mode of salvation such as a heavenly (non-earthly) salvation and divine determinism based on faith that is obtained by means of a divine enlightenment without regard for man’s will to freely choose to believe through rational contemplation of evidence. Therefore, both John and Paul provide clear instruction that false teachings related to the doctrinal areas of soteriology and eschatology are excommunicable offenses. This New Testament teaching is in direct contrast with an Essentials Only View which prohibits Christians from breaking fellowship over a great deal of significant soteriological and eschatological doctrinal matters.
 
 
 
Jude: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
 
We will begin our study of unity and excommunication in the book of Jude with verse 3 of this epistle.
 
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend (1864) for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
 
The Greek word translated as “contend” is “epagonizomai” (Strong’s number 1864.) It is only used once in the New Testament and it simply means “to contend.” It comes from the Greek preposition “epi” (1909) and the Greek noun “agonizomai” (75.)
 
1864 epagonizomai
from 1909 and 75; TDNT-1:134,20; v
AV-earnestly contend for 1; 1
1) to contend
 
The Greek word “agonizomai” (75) is used in several other New Testament passages. In 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul instructs Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul says that he has “fought a good fight” and “kept the faith.”
 
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight (75) the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
 
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought (75) a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
 
Both verses are similar to Jude 1:3 where Jude likewise tells Christians to “contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.”
 
It is important to note that Jude refers to the Christian faith as having been “once delivered unto the saints.” The Greek word translated as “once” is “hapax” (530.) It means “one time, once for all” and it therefore speaks of a single event that is sufficient for all time. In Hebrews 9:26-28 and 1 Peter 3:18 “hapax” is used to refer to the one-time sufficiency of Christ’s death to atone for our sins. Here Jude says that the Christian faith was once and for all time delivered to the saints. The word translated as faith is “pistis” (4102) which when used in an unqualified sense as Jude does here, refers to the religious beliefs of the Christian faith.
 
4102 pistis
from 3982; TDNT-6:174,849; n f
AV-faith 239, assurance 1, believe + 1537 1, belief 1, them that believe 1, fidelity 1; 244
1) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it
1a) relating to God
1a1) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ
1b) relating to Christ
1b1) a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God
1c) the religious beliefs of Christians
1d) belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same
2) fidelity, faithfulness
2a) the character of one who can be relied on
 
According to Jude then, the Christian faith was once and for all delivered to the saints in the first century. This, of course, is a reference to the apostles teaching new converts all things whatsoever that Jesus taught (Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1.) Earlier we saw Hebrews similarly instruct Christians not to be carried about by new and different doctrinal views because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:7-9.)
 
In Jude 1:4-12, Jude warns Christians about men who creep into the church and are blemishes at Christian communal gatherings. According to verse 12, these men are “carried about of winds.”
 
Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ…12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
 
As we saw, Peter uses similar phrases in 2 Peter 2:13-17 to describe those who are spots as communal gatherings and who seek to deceive unstable souls. Both Peter and Jude describe such false teachers as “without water, carried about” by the winds of a storm.
 
2 Peter 2:13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
 
Jude 1 and 2 Peter 2 are similar to Acts 20:29-30, where Paul warned the elders in Ephesus about men who would seek to enter the church (and even arise from among its members) but would speak perverse things and lead Christians astray.
 
Jude’s phrasing here is also similar to that of Paul in Ephesians 4:14, to James in James 1:6, and to Peter in 2 Peter 2:17. Three of these passages use related Greek words for “being carried about by the wind.” The Greek words used in Ephesians 4:14, James 1:6, and Jude 1:12 are “anemizo” (416) and “anemos” (417.) 2 Peter 2:17 uses a different word which means the same thing.
 
In Ephesians 4, Paul was discussing those who are swayed by false doctrinal views and are out of harmony with the faith taught by the apostles. In 2 Peter 2:17, Peter wrote about those who would deceive unstable Christians. Here Jude is commenting on the inappropriateness of these men being present at church gatherings. Although Jude makes no direct statement about it, the implication of Jude’s remarks (coupled with the rest of the New Testament teaching on this subject) implies the need to remove these people from church fellowship.
 
In verse 17, Jude points Christians towards the words of Jesus Christ that were spoken by the apostles. And Jude reminds them that the apostles warned of these types of people who separate themselves and are sensual.
 
Jude 1:17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. 20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
 
The Greek word translated as “sensual” in verse 19 is “psuchikos” (5591.) It is used in 1 Corinthians 2:14. In that passage Paul is referring to immature Christians who seek after the things of this life and therefore cannot understand the things of God which the apostles taught.
 
1 Corinthians 2:2 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural (5591) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions (1370), are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
 
Jude 1 and 1 Corinthians 2-3 are very similar in content. Both discuss those who are “sensual” or “natural.” And both state that such persons make divisions. In 1 Corinthians 3:3, Paul says that these immature, carnal people bring divisions. Likewise, Jude 1:19 says that these people “separate themselves.” We have already seen that the word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 3:3 is used in Romans 16:17 to refer to those who teach views which differ from what the apostles taught. Similarly, Jude is referring to people who cause division in the church by introducing doctrinal views that diverge from what the apostles taught. The Greek word translated as “separate themselves” in Jude 1:19 is “apodiorizo” (592.) It simply refers to “disjoining,” “separating,” and “making divisions.”
 
592 apodiorizo
from 575 and a compound of 1223 and 3724; TDNT-5:455,728; v
AV-separate (one’s) self 1; 1
1) to disjoin, part, separate from another
2) making divisions or separations
 
It is worth noting that according to both 1 Corinthians 2-3 and Jude 1:19, people who divide from apostolic teaching do not have the Holy Spirit. This is important because doctrinal changes in the history of the church are often attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit among successive generations of church leaders. Paul and Jude reject that idea. Both firmly state that those who deviate from what the apostles taught to the earliest church were not authorized to do so by the Holy Spirit. According to the apostles, diverging from what the apostles taught isn’t the work of the Holy Spirit. It is contrary to the Holy Spirit.
 
This is similar to what we have seen John state in 1 John 2:18-27. There John parallels Jesus’ instructions by saying that what the apostles had taught from the beginning should remain in us. Like Jude, John warns Christians about false teachers. And he reminds them that the same anointing of the Holy Spirit had already taught them the truth through the apostles. They already knew the truth, so they didn’t need new teachers to teach them something different than what the apostles had taught. In fact, Jude and John both state that through the teaching of the apostles, the truth of the Christian faith had already been completely and sufficiently delivered to the church once and for all.
 
John 1:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. 27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
 
Jude 1:20 concludes by saying that, unlike those who divide from the truth, Christians should build ourselves up in the Christian faith. Of course, Jude is saying we should build ourselves up in the correct understanding of the Christian faith and not the ideas introduced by these false teachers.
 
Jude 1:17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. 20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
 
The word translated as “building up” in Jude 1:20 is the same word that Paul uses in Acts 20:32. In both passages the Greek word is “epoikodomeo” (2026.) In both passages, the authors are telling Christians to avoid false teachings by remaining in what the apostles had taught. In fact, Acts 20 infers that being built up in the correct, apostolic understanding of the faith is a requirement for inheriting the kingdom. This implies that all deviations from the apostolic teaching are not sufficient for inheriting the kingdom.
 
Having finished our review of Jude’s epistle we will now summarize its relevant teachings on unity and excommunication.
 
Jude does not have much to say directly on the subject of excommunication although he does infer that false teachers do not belong in the communal feasts of the church. He does however affirm the concept of doctrinal unity that we have seen elsewhere throughout the New Testament. Jude states that the Christian faith was once and for all time given to the church in the first century. This leaves no room for new and different doctrinal understandings to emerge later in church history. Rather, Christians of later generations are bound to doctrinal agreement with the understanding of Christ’s teaching that the apostles passed on to the earliest Christians in the first century. The Holy Spirit’s work is to remind us and keep us in those truths that the apostles taught. Those who teach new ideas that differ from apostolic teaching do not have the Holy Spirit.
 
 
 
Revelation: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
 
Having finished our look at Jude’s epistle we will proceed to the Book of Revelation. There are only two particular passages in Revelation that relate to our study. The first is Revelation 18. For the purposes of this study, we need be aware that Revelation 17 and 18 portray spiritual adultery through the metaphor of a harlot. In Revelation 18:4, God calls His people to come out from the mass of mankind that is engaged in such spiritual adultery and to not partake of their sins. It is amazing how much these remarks from Revelation 17 and 18 parallel Paul’s own words in 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 and 2 Corinthians 10. In those chapters Paul discusses excommunication, joining Christ to a harlot, and being in fellowship with people Christians shouldn’t be in fellowship with.
 
Revelation 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers (4790) of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
 
Revelation 18:4 is similar to Ephesians 5:11 in that both passages instruct Christians not to be partakers with the sins of those who aren’t following Christ. Both passages use the same Greek word “sugkoinoneo” (Strong’s number 4790) translated as “be not partakers” in Revelation 18:4 and as “have no fellowship with” in Ephesians 5:11. In addition to telling Christians not to fellowship with such persons, Ephesians 5:11 also instructed Christians to rebuke them using the same Greek word “elegcho” (1651) that is elsewhere used to refer to the process of excommunication.
 
Likewise, Revelation 18:4 resembles 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, which also instructed God’s people not to have fellowship with those who weren’t followers of Christ. A similar statement is made in verse 17 of 2 Corinthians 6 which instructs Christians to “come out” and “separate” from the sinful practices of the world.
 
2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship (3352) hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion (2842) hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part (3310) hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement (4783) hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate (843), saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
 
While Revelation 18:4 does not mention excommunication specifically it certain is consistent with other New Testament passages on that topic. The passage uses similar language and instructions that are elsewhere used to instruct Christians on separating from and not fellowshipping with those who don’t follow Christ’s teachings as taught by the apostles.
 
The other passage we will examine from Revelation is Revelation 21:27 through 22:14-15. In this passage, an angel explains to John that people involved in sin will not be allowed into the New Jerusalem. The list of sins mentioned here in the second to last chapter of the final book of the bible is very similar to lists of excommunicable behaviors we have seen in earlier books (1 Corinthians 5:11, Ephesians 5:1-11, Galatians 5:19-21, and Colossians 3:5-10.)
 
Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers (4205), and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
 
From these passages we can again see the consistency of New Testament teaching on excommunicable offenses which disqualify people from church fellowship and therefore also signify that those who engage in such things will not be allowed into the kingdom of God.
 
In conclusion, the Book of Revelation does not comment directly on excommunication or doctrinal unity. However, it is clear that Revelation upholds the New Testament expectation that Christians were restricted from fellowshipping with those who did not follow Christ’s teachings. Likewise, Revelation communicates a list of similar items which other New Testament passages have clearly identified as excommunicable. Revelation identifies these items as grounds for which a person will not be allowed to enter into the New Jerusalem and eternal fellowship with God. Therefore, the connection between excommunicable issues and things that exclude a person from eternal salvation is confirmed in the Book of Revelation. Revelation includes the following issues as preventing one from entering into the New Jerusalem and eternal fellowship with God: sorcery, murder, fornication, idolatry, and lying.