Good evening and welcome to eBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of 2nd John. Tonight is study number 13, and we will begin our study by turning to 2 John 1:8:
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
I will stop reading there.
The first part of this verse says, “Look to yourselves,” and right away, that reminds us of God’s command that we find in 2 Corinthians 13:5, which says:
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
The command, “Look to yourselves,” is very similar to “Examine yourselves,” because in self examination, we have to look to our self. It is a different Greek word, in these two verses, but still, the idea remains the same.
The word “look” that we have in 2 John 1:8, is actually translated as “beware” in some places, where Philippians says, “Beware of dogs.” That is the word that is translated as “look.” So, it does carry the meaning of “beware of yourself.” When you look to yourself, beware. Beware, that you are not deceived into thinking that you are something, when you are nothing. Beware, that you are not deceived into thinking that you are truly saved, and a child of God, when you are not truly saved or a child of God.
And of course, since we live in a world, where there are about two billion professing Christians. Almost a third of mankind, would say they are a Christian, but give no real evidence of this, as far as their following the commandments of God, in the Bible. They have gone their own way, as the churches have gone their own way. And so, they have failed to beware of them self.
Why should we beware of our self? Because within each person, is a desperately wicked and deceitful heart above all things, and the Bible says, “who can know it?” That is, we have a heart that is capable of deceiving our own self into thinking that we have a right relationship with God, when in fact, we are at enmity with Him. There is hostility and warfare between our self and God. And yet, we think that it is a good relationship, when it is anything but a good relationship.
God tells us to examine ourselves, to inspect our self, in the light of His Word, and we should see evidence, one way or another. Of course, any actual true self examination will come to the point, if a person is being drawn by God and has been given the wisdom of God—that person’s self examination, will reach a point, where he or she concludes, “I cannot know myself perfectly. I just do not know what is going on deep down within me. Only One, is able to complete the self examination, and that is God Himself, who knows my inner being. And so, when faced with the command to examine our self, the child of God or one of God’s elect, who does this earnestly, will turn to God and say, “You, O LORD, search me and know my heart, and try me and see if there be any wicked way within me.” And, we will leave the examination in God’s hands, because it is a command that we are unable to fulfill completely. We are not able to do it in the proper way. But God can. And so, like many things in the Bible, we turn to Him, for Him to complete it.
Let us go back to our verse in 2nd John, and I will read again 2 John 1:8:
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
The English word “wrought,” is a translation of a Greek word that is translated as “worked” or “worketh” in other places. For instance, there is a passage, that also speaks of “reward” and uses this same word, translated as “wrought.” In Romans chapter 4, and I am going to read the first five verses. It says in Romans 4:1-2:
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
That is an important statement that God is making, and we need to comment on it before we proceed. “…if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.”
So God is clearly declaring that Abraham was not justified by works. “Of course,” you say, “no one is justified by works. That is true.” But, look what James chapter 2 says of Abraham, in James 2:21-22:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
Here, the implication, as God asks the question, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works?” is that, yes, he was. But, the implication in Romans 4:2 is that, if he were justified by works, he cannot glory before God, and therefore, he was not justified by works. How are we to understand this? Is this a contradiction?
This is why it is said of one theologian of the past that he refused to accept the Epistle of James as part of the Bible’s canon. He did not think that it belonged, because it had statements that indicated, that Abraham and others were justified by works.
The problem is not the Book of James. The problem, if that is true of that theologian, is that he did not complete his homework. He did not realize that all Scripture is given by God, including James and Romans, and everything is perfectly true and trustworthy, and harmonizes. There will be no actual contradictions, in the Bible. Everything fits together perfectly, like pieces of a puzzle.
How can you fit this together? Abraham, on one hand, is not justified by works, and on the other, it says that he was justified by works. The solution is, that on one hand, God is looking at the work of Abraham, that is, all of his works. And what is a work? A work is an obedient response to the commandment of God. God says, “keep Sunday as my Holy Day,” and that is a work. God tells Abraham, “take Isaac, your only son, and sacrifice him,” and if Abraham obediently responds, that is a good work, and that work never justified Abraham, nor anything else that he did.
But, what work did justify him? The work of Christ. That is the only work that justifies any man, and this work is not done by man. So, the Bible can say, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” And the answer is, absolutely yes. He was justified at that point in time, which means he was saved (he was a true child of God). Christ’s work was applied to him, when that happened.
But, the trap and the snare, is for those who look to the deed of Abraham. They look at the work of Abraham, and they fall into the trap and are caught in the snare, and they end up thinking that a man can do something that is pleasing and acceptable to God, in order to obtain justification, other than faith, other than the faith of Christ. And the answer is, No.
It says in 1 John 3:12, and the previous verse spoke about loving one another:
Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.
This is going back to the first murder, when Cain killed his brother Abel, after God had indicated that He wanted an offering from them. Cain and Abel, both presented offerings, and God accepted Abel’s offering, but he did not accept Cain’s offering. Why not? Because Cain’s offering was evil. Was it the type of offering, that he offered, that was evil? No. What was evil about it? The evil thing was that Cain was trusting in that offering. He was under the assumption (and it was a wrong assumption), that if he obeyed God’s command to present the offering as God indicated, this would be pleasing and acceptable to God, and it was not, because no work of the flesh, no act of obedience to the command of God, can justify anyone. And so, since he was trusting in his work, it was evil in God’s sight.
But, the implication is that Abel’s work was righteous, that is, it was accepted and pleasing to God. Is it because of what Abel offered (the type of offering, the manner in which he offered it)? No; Abel also responded to God’s command, but Abel knew (because God gave him this understanding, by grace) that the offering itself meant nothing. It was a symbol, it was a type and a figure of the great offering of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, all sacrifices and offerings were pictures of the offering of Christ Himself, on behalf of the sins of His people.
Abel trusted in that. He presented the offering, just as Cain, but did not trust in his act, but trusted in that which the offering pointed to, Christ. And therefore, his works were righteous, because his works, were the works of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is the big distinction that the unsaved never understand. They cannot comprehend, that it is not what I do and it is not my obedience, that justifies me before God, but it is what Christ has done.
Going back to Romans 4, it says in Romans 4:3-4:
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh (That is the word “wrought” that we have in 2 John 1:8) is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
That is, anyone who thinks that they can get right with God, based on believing on Christ, or of partaking of the LORD’S supper, or of being baptized, or of giving all of their money, to the work of the Gospel, or of working themselves in getting out the gospel, if they believe and trust in any way, that that even contributes the slightest bit, to salvation, then the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt, because they have placed themselves under the law, since they believe that they must keep a part of the law, to get right with God, and if you place yourself under the littlest law, you are now obligated to keep the whole law, and you are a debtor, because certainly, you have broken the law and the wages of sin is death. That is the debt that you owe. You must die for your sin and pay the penalty for your sin.
It goes on to say in Romans 4:5:
But to him that worketh not (Again, that is the same word that we have in 2 John 1:8), but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
The words “his faith” are referring to the faith of Christ. It is His faith, His work (and His work demonstrates His faith), that is imputed and counted towards each child of God (each one of God’s elect), for their righteousness. And so, here, God is laying out that we are justified by the faith of Christ, and not by our own works in any way. Yes; the Bible speaks of Abraham and Rahab, and perhaps some others, being justified by works (and it implies that Abel was), but the work is that work, which is not their own, but of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, 2 John 1:8 says, “Look to yourselves,” that is, examine yourself and in your self examination, beware of your own ability to deceive yourself, and so turn the introspection (self examination) over to God, that He may complete it. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have worked, which we have wrought, and what can we lose that we have worked? What could be in view? If we have worked for our salvation, then we never had it to lose it. Yet, God does speak of work in salvation, in one place, in Philippians 2, it says in Philippians 2:12:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
The word “work” here, is a slightly different Greek word. It is a related word, but slightly different, but we do see how God speaks of working out our salvation with fear and trembling. How do we accomplish that? Examine yourselves, to see if you are in the faith. Look at yourselves honestly, as the first part of 2 John 1:8 told us to do. We are to look at ourselves in the mirror of the Word of God, and we are to see where we are failing, our sins and our transgressions, and we are to see our need of a Saviour, and so on.
Certainly, the Bible can give us all kinds of evidence that we are not a child of God, when we are not following God’s commands in so many points, and it can give evidence that we are, however, we do not want to be the one to conclude that, “I have examined myself. I have looked at myself, and therefore, I am a child of God. I now, state this and declare this and believe this and will never doubt this.”
No; that is not our role. We are not to try and convince our self, that we are a child of God. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Spirit, that testifies to our spirit, that we are one of His children, and His Spirit speaks to us, through His Word. He will convince us, through the Bible, if it is His good pleasure so to do. He can grant us assurance of faith and salvation, if it is His will to do so. We can pray for this, “Oh God, I doubt and I wonder, because I do see my sin and I have looked at myself. Could You speak to my soul and say, ‘I am thy salvation.’ Could you convince me, through your Word only? I do not trust myself. I do not trust anyone else. I would not believe anyone else if they told me I was a child of God. And, how can I believe myself when I know the nature and heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all?”
So, we work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling, and God goes on to say in Philippians 2:13:
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
We ultimately would have to say, if this is going on in our life—if we see that we are carefully, and honestly trying to make sure of our salvation, that it is God doing that as well. He is the one who ultimately, is working in us to perform that.
Going back to 2 John 1:8:
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought (Or, which we have worked),…
That is, the salvation that we have worked out, and God commanded us to work out, that we look to Him for, in all things.
What if we were to lose that salvation? Of course, we cannot lose true salvation. If we have actually become born again, and if you received eternal life, you cannot lose eternal life. But, if we have deceived our self, and if we have never actually, in reality, become saved, then that is the warning here:
…that we lose not those things which we have , but that we receive a full reward.
This “full reward,” is what the Bible has said, about the salvation of God—all the wonderful and beautiful statements found in the Scriptures, that are very numerous, that speak of receiving a new soul (to begin with), and then a new body, that is, a spiritual body and eternal, that will never die, and a new Heaven and a new Earth, and a dwelling with God Himself and all of the wonderful promises of the Bible, of no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death, all of the things that are so familiar and so a part of this world, as we make our way through this life. It is a bowl full of tears, at best. We, of course, will have some good times and some happy moments, but there is often sorrow. There is often, being cast down in soul and that will never happen in the new Heaven and new Earth.
It says in Matthew 5:11 (this is the passage that is known as the Beatitudes):
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
That is, this is a true believer, who has been faithful to the Word of God, and as a result, has suffered for it, in the eyes of the world. And then, it goes on to say in Matthew 5:12:
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
What an encouraging statement this is, for any of us, and for all of us, who are going through trials and tribulation, and that are experiencing affliction, to any degree. If life has seemed difficult, “Rejoice,” God says, and be not a little glad, but “be exceeding glad.” Why? “For great is your reward in heaven.” In Heaven, you will no longer suffer any of these things. You will no longer feel the sorrows of this world at all. There will be no death of your loved ones. There will be no death of any kind. You, yourself, will not die. You will enter into an eternal relationship with God the Father, with the Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, with the body of believers, and there will always be union and fellowship and togetherness, and never again, will one be taken from you. Never again will you wake up one day, and one soul will not be there due to death, and it will never happen again, for that whole company of the elect, that we will live with, in harmony and love with God, will forever live, like yourself. This is an exceeding great reward that we can not even begin to imagine how truly wonderful it is. It is an unspeakable gift, that God has bestowed upon His people.
It says in Revelation 22:12, concerning this reward:
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Again, we see how God has written the Bible, in such a way, that the casual reader (the man who has a natural mind), will come to a wrong conclusion and he will think, “Yes, I must do good works. I must behave myself well, so that when Christ comes, that I will receive a reward, according to the degree and nature of my good works.” And, they would be completely wrong, as wrong as Cain, and as off the mark, as every unsaved individual, who thought that he could get right with God, through the doings of good deeds.
No; our reward that we are given, as a gift of God, is according as His work shall be, as the work of Christ, the work that paid the penalty for our sins, and that penalty was His own death, and that work of Christ, that granted us His spirit and eternal life, that work that will see it through, and complete everything regarding this world, and will create a new Heaven and a new Earth.
That work of the Lord Jesus Christ is how our reward will be reckoned. It will be according to what He has done, and not according to anything that we have done. Thank God, since our work would bring about the condemnation and wrath of God, if we were to look to our work in any way.
Let us just finally conclude, by thinking of the word “full.” The word “full reward” is the same word that is used to describe Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, or Christ who became flesh (the Word that became flesh), and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. It is a word that is expressing a complete and utter fullness, in which there can be no more. This is the fullness of the reward of God’s salvation, for each one that He has chosen to become saved.