Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 27, 1970

2 John 9 - Doctrine Christ Or Deity Of Christ

Jimmy Tuten, Jr.

"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" (2 Jno. 9). To what does the "doctrine of Christ" refer? Two positions have been taken: (1) that it refers to the teachings of Christ personally taught, as well as the teaching given through the apostles (Jno. 16:13-14; 1 Cor. 2:10-16; Gal. 1:11-12). (2) that it refers to the teaching about Christ, His deity, hence it refers only to those who reject Christ by failing to believe that he is God in the flesh.

If one takes the latter position then the perversion of the gospel would refer only to the denial of the deity of Christ. Hence those who refuse to believe that Jesus is the Christ are the only ones who "hath not God." One's teaching about Christ becomes the basis of fellowship, not his practice. It is the contention of this writer that both teaching (deity of Christ) and practice (doctrinal matters) can disrupt fellowship.

I shall attempt to demonstrate in this article that the "doctrine of Christ" refers to precepts taught, whether by Christ or the apostles, and that this true doctrine includes whatever is taught about Christ (Rom. 6:17, 1-6; Acts 2:22-36). It cannot mean therefore that unbelief is the only basis for not having God.

Modern Day Perversions And Uses

The theory that the passage refers only to the fact that Jesus is the Christ has become the tool whereby some have argued that error in doctrine is never serious or important enough to justify the breaking of fellowship. Loose attitudes toward doctrine (Instrumental Music in worship, premillennialism, etc.) and fellowship is the inevitable result of such theorizers. Mission Messenger (June, 1965) has become the main media seeking denial of the practical application in this age of this passage. It has had its effects on at least one young, theoretical liberal who would like to have brethren believe that he is conservative. His writing in Christian Standard (November 30, 1968), demonstrates definite affinity to Carl Ketcherside's position on 2 John 9. I am certain there are others who have been thus affected. One's understanding of the passage determines the direction one will go in attitude toward doctrinal matters.

A Look At The Passage

1. What Scholars say about it: Marvin R. Vincent says, "not the teaching concerning Christ, but the teaching of Christ Himself and of His apostles." "Doctrine" he says refers to "teaching, is used thus absolutely, Rom. 16:17, Tit. 1:9." R. C. H. Lenski says that "of Christ" is the "subjective genitive: the doctrine of Christ taught and still teaches through his apostles...The doctrine, like 'the Word,' means that the truth is put into words which we hear (V. 6), and so the truth come to be taught, realized and apprehended (V. 1), which means 'believed,' trusted." Thayer defines the word "doctrine" as "that which is taught, one's teaching, i.e., what he teaches, 2 Jno. 9." H. A. W. Meyer's comment is interesting: "the doctrine which, proceeding from Christ, was proclaimed by the apostles. The doctrine of Christ is the truth; he who has not the truth has not God." The one who is perhaps the greatest Greek scholar in America, A. T. Robertson, says, "not the teaching about Christ, but that of Christ which is the standard of Christian teaching as the walk of Christ is the standard for the Christian's walk (1 John 2:6)."

These are respected scholars and are used to demonstrate what they say the passage teaches. They could be wrong, so they do not become our final authority. The use of these quotations demonstrates that men like Carl Ketcherside are in opposition to the great expositors in the biblical field. As much as I love and respect brother Ketcherside, I believe him to be in error.

2. Similar passages in the New Testament: In addition to viewing what Greek scholars say about the passage, the best approach is to observe the use of "doctrine" or teaching in other passages. This will throw some light on how it is used in 2 John 9.

The Greek word DIDAKEE (or English, didachee) is the word used for "doctrine" (i.e., translated such in King James Version, "teaching" in the American Standard Version) in 2 John 9. Notice that the same word appears in the following passages with the same grammatical construction:

Matthew 16:12 — "teaching of the Pharisees."

Acts 2:42 — "teaching of the apostles."

Acts 13:12 — "teaching of the Lord."

These expressions obviously mean the teaching done by the parties mentioned, and therefore do not refer to the nature of the persons mentioned. Since this is so, why does it not mean the same thing in 2 John 9? This helps us to see that 2 John 9 refers to the teaching done by Christ, either personally or through his apostles. It does not refer to the deity of Jesus, making only faith in Christ the essential factor necessary to fellowship. Of course, the teaching of Christ and his apostles include teaching about the deity of Jesus.

In Matthew 7:28 our Lord says, "and it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine..." One would not have to know any Greek to see that the expression "his doctrine" refers to teaching about practical living and not teaching about his deity. Why make the "doctrine of Christ" in 2 John 9 refer to something other than what Jesus taught? When the apostle Paul said, "let the word of Christ dwell in you..." (Col. 3:16), did he mean the word concerning the nature or deity of Christ? Of course not! It refers to the teaching of Jesus and is not limited to teaching concerning the deity of Jesus.

My final point is a parallel between 2 John 9 and 1 Timothy 6:3:

Whosoever — goeth onward — abides not — in doctrine of Christ — hath not God.

If any man — teaches different (doctrine) consents not — to word of Christ — withdraw.

All parts of these two passages are parallel, showing when fellowship is broken. The "wholesome words," "words of our Lord Jesus Christ," and "to the doctrine" has reference to teaching or instruction. So also with 2 Jno. 9. When one goes beyond the instruction of Christ as received in the New Testament he has not God and is to be withdrawn from immediately.


Mission Messenger's editor and others who follow him try to make 2 John 9 refer only to faith in Christ. In this way they can fellowship people regardless of differences in doctrinal practices. They want to make teaching about Christ the essential fellowship. This is exactly what 2 John 9 teaches!