Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. (2 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV)
Things are not always as they appear. Certainly, we must be careful of our appearance and the influence we leave on others (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 4:12). But, that is not the subject of this passage. This verse warns us not to make judgments based merely on outward appearances. When we do, we are liable to be mistaken, and even deceived (John 7:24). By doing so we have forgotten a fundamental trait of God that ought to inform our discernment: God looks at the heart instead of outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). Here, some Christians were trying to undermine the apostolic authority of Paul. Using carnal tactics, they complained about the strength of his epistles versus his bodily presence (2 Corinthians 10:9-10). They suggested Paul was not fully an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:5-6; 12:11-12). They compared themselves with themselves and boasted in their faithfulness (2 Corinthians 10:12, 7). On the other hand, Paul would only boast in the Lord and the work he was given to accomplish (2 Corinthians 10:13-17). Let us be careful not to use outward appearances to compare ourselves to others. Remember, “not he who commends himself is approved; but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).
20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20–21, NKJV)
Without a doubt, this passage warns Christians against falling away from Christ. The ones described here had escaped sin through knowing Christ; they had been untangled from sin’s snare by the power of the Lord (Romans 6:17-18). They had known the way of righteousness and the holy commandment of God, but now they had returned to sin’s filth and were overcome by it (2 Peter 2:22, 20). The Scriptures reveal the way of righteousness as the pathway of life (Proverbs 12:28). Wisdom travels its byways (Proverbs 8:20). Truth is spoke by its travelers (Matthew 21:32). The Lord knows those who walk its path (Psalm 1:6). He also knows those who turn aside to the right or to the left, leaving its holy commands for the unholy, sinful allurements of the world. Protect yourself against sin. Walk the path of righteousness in faith, guided by truth and strengthened with wisdom, and you will have life. If you have turned from its way, repent and return to the Father. He is ready and able to forgive you (1 John 1:8-9).
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:16–18, NKJV)
Looking back to John 1:14, where the Word is announced as “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John returns to the abundant grace found in the only begotten Son of God. In Jesus Christ (not Moses), a never-ceasing source of grace has appeared and is available to the entire human race. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). God’s grace offers salvation to everyone. God’s truth teaches us what to do to receive grace and to stand in it (Romans 5:1-2). Thus, grace and truth meet in Jesus. By God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9). The gospel of His grace convicts us of our sin and its truth corrects us to obtain an eternal inheritance (Acts 20:24, 32). The Son of God is the only begotten (unique, one of a kind). We have not seen the invisible God (John 5:37; 6:46). But, the Son, who is eternal God, is qualified to do so (John 1:1). He shows us who God is and what God does. That is why He is the Word, and His Light brings life to the world (John 1:4-5, 9). Hear Him and live in His grace and truth.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NKJV)
The Word (eternal deity who created the world) became human and lived on the earth He created (John 1:3). He did not relinquish His deity when He came to earth, but He did empty Himself of its form (its glory) to take upon Himself flesh (Philippians 2:6-7). He became a man and lived among men. But, He was unique, “the only begotten of the Father,” because “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). His divine nature was revealed to the world by His words and by His miracles, then recorded by eyewitnesses who beheld His glory (John 20:30-31; 1 John 1:1-4). The Word brought the fullness of grace and truth to the world. He is our one and only true source of grace and truth. God’s grace is completely available in the truth, the word of God (John 17:17). And, God’s truth is always consistent with His grace (Galatians 1:6-7). What wonderful comfort it is to know God’s grace and truth are available to us in the Word, the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to 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 practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5–7, NKJV)
What does it mean to walk in the light? This verse gives us a definitive definition: “Practice the truth” (v. 6) is equivalent to “walk in the light” (v. 7). Fellowship with God comes to those who “walk in the light” – those who practice His truth (His word, John 17:17). We lie if we say we have fellowship with God, yet “do not practice the truth” (v. 6). The God of light is found in the light of truth, not in the darkness of error. According to verse 7, two things happen when one walks in the light: 1) He has fellowship with God, and 2) The blood of Christ cleanses him from all sin. This verse does not say the Christian does not sin (see v. 10). It says the blessing of cleansing from sin by Christ’s blood occurs when we walk in the light. Because this person practices truth (walks in the light), he does not deny his sin when it happens, he confesses it, with the assurance of God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9; Acts 8:22-24).
16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16–18, NKJV)
False teaching is not benign. It leads to harmful spiritual effects upon its teachers, those who follow them, and those influenced by the followers (2 Pet. 2:1-2). Yet, some will tell us that false doctrine is really a non-issue. They say things like, “everybody is in error on something;” or, “nobody is 100% doctrinally pure.” Their solution is agreeing to disagree on revealed truth. That is not the Bible solution (1 Corinthians 1:10). Today’s passage exposes and explodes this false reasoning about false teaching. First, false teaching is identifiable. Some messages are indeed profane and empty, infecting and destroying souls (v. 16). These stand in contrast with “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Second, error leads to ungodliness (v. 16). False teaching is sin. Third, error leads to more error. It spreads. Someone said, “Error does not stand still. It continues to work.” Unopposed, it spreads like cancer (v. 17). Fourth, false messages leas to overthrowing faith (v. 18). It does matter what you believe. Fifth, false messages lead to strife (2 Timothy 2:23). Avoid error. Do not begin to listen to it, or receive those who teach it (2 John 10-11). It leads you away from the truth, and straight into iniquity (2 Timothy 2:18-19).