“Walking in Truth”
(2 John 1-13)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
- Take your Bible and join me in 2 John (page 821; YouVersion).
Several of you have asked about what we’re going to study next and I always appreciate that because many of you enjoy studying ahead and engaging the biblical text on your own before we go through it together. So in a few weeks we will be studying Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians, and that will begin the third week of August. I look forward to preaching through that great letter of the Apostle Paul’s as it contains so much practical information for the church.
In the meantime, we are looking at 2 John this morning and then 3 John next week. Many of you will know that we preached thorough 1 John a few years ago and so we’re coming back now to the last two letters of John’s. And 2 John is a timely study for us given that we have finished 2 Peter, Peter’s letter about knowing the truth and now we are in 2 John, a letter largely about walking in truth.
Like 1 John, 2 John was probably written in the vicinity of Asia Minor, and very likely Ephesus. This is where John lived the remaining years of his life in the latter part of the first century. The letter was probably written to a local church, a local congregation. This seems to be the best understanding of the phrase in verse 1, “the elect lady and her children.” This is likely just a nice way to refer to a local church and her members.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word. Let me invite you to listen for the recurring word, “Truth,” as I read the first four verses.
1 The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth,
2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:
3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
Earlier this year, NPR; National Public Radio, posted on their website an article entitled, “12 Half-Truths We Live With.” The article begins by noting that we often are comfortable living with half-truths, or lies. For example, Facebook friends are not necessarily true friends, and the clerk who gives us our change probably doesn’t really care whether we have a good day.
And then the article lists 12 “misleading notions we accept as true in everyday life.” I’ll share just a few and you can check them out later in your research.
1) A two-by-four at a retail lumberyard is not really 2 inches by 4 inches.
2) Peanuts are not really nuts, but legumes.
3) The American buffalo is not a buffalo, but a bison.
4) A koala bear is not a bear; it’s a marsupial.
5) A palm tree is not a tree, but a form of grass.
6) A penny is worth more than a penny, costing more than two cents to make.
7) “Swollen glands” are not actually glands; they are a series of lymph nodes.
8) A mountain goat is not really a goat.
9) Pink is not exactly a color. (See “12 Half-Truths We Live With,” January 19, 2013.)
So we live with these half-truths–Adrian Rogers used to say, “A half-truth is nothing more than a whole lie!”–But we live with these lies, with these untruths and few of us really get worked up about these or lose any sleep over them because the consequences of believing them to be true are not really that great.
When it comes to the Bible, however, knowing the truth is of paramount importance. We must know the truth and walk in truth, not settling for anything less than the pure, 100% truth of God’s Word. Unlike the seemingly harmless half-truths NPR points out that we live with, the consequences of living with Christian half-truths are disastrous.
This is John’s concern in his letter, 2 John. The key phrase is found in the first part of verse 4, “I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth.” Let’s talk about what it means to “Walk in Truth.” First, the Bible teaches that Christians are to, number one:
I. Live the Truth (1-4)
To “walk in the truth” is to know the truth, believe the truth, and obey the truth. And we’re going to see in a moment that the main truth about which John is concerned is the truth of the incarnation, that God took on flesh in the Person of Christ, so that Jesus Christ is the perfect uniting together of two natures, the uniting together of God and Man, into one person. This is John’s primary concern when he writes about the truth we must embrace.
But not only must we know the truth, we must live the truth. Christian believing affects Christian living. We’re not just to fill our heads with theology, we are to live-out that theology in school, at work, in our families, among our friends, and in our community. We endeavor to conform our lives to the truth of God’s Word. The way we live points people–like a magnet–to Jesus Christ. Live the truth. Look at these first four verses again.
John begins in verse 1 by identifying himself as “The elder.” You’ll note the name “John” does not actually occur here in the letter, but from the very first years this letter was circulated among the churches, there was near universal acceptance that the letter was written by John and that this was the way he identified himself as, “the elder.”
He writes in verse 1 to “the elect lady and her children” and we said earlier that most likely he has in mind a particular church and her members. Grammatically speaking, “the elect lady” is a personification of the church, a nice way to refer to a local church and perhaps the clandestine title was used because of persecution at the end of the first century.
So he writes in verse 1, “The elder, to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth.” That is, “I love you but so does every other truth-loving Christian love you.” And John adds that this truth, verse 2, “abides in us and will be with us forever.” Pretty straight-forward. Verse 3:
“Grace, mercy , and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”
This is both a nice greeting at the beginning of John’s letter and also a foretaste of what John will expand upon a little later, the importance of believing that “the Lord Jesus Christ is,”–last part of verse 3– “the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” More about that in a moment. Verse 4:
“I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.”
So John is delighted to have found some in the congregation walking in truth, living the truth. The verbal phrase, “I have found,” translates the Greek word many of us know, the word, “Eureka!” That may be all the Greek we know, but most of us know it: Eureka, I have found some of your children walking in truth.”
Either John discovered this personally on a previous visit to this church in Asia Minor, or someone else told him about the way these Christians were living. In either case, John says, “I’m just delighted that some of you are living out your Christian faith, living out the truth, walking in truth.”
John adds in verse 4 that the command to “walk in truth” is a command–last part of verse 4–a commandment “received from the Father.” God expects all Christians to walk in truth, to live out the truth they profess, to conform their very lives to the truth of God’s Word.
Living the truth is not popular. Living for Christ is not as popular as living without Christ. Jesus warns in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.14 [But] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
There’s a lot of pressure to live as the world lives. Students face pressure at school to compromise the truth, to live like the world lives in order to feel accepted. Men and women feel the pressure to compromise their convictions to gain acceptance from their supervisor and co-workers.
Living the truth requires continual dependence upon God’s grace, continual feeding upon His Word, and talking to Him in prayer. Live the truth. Secondly, walking in truth means Christians are to, number two:
II. Love One Another in Truth (5-6)
Christians are to love one another. Look at verse 5:
5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.
John says this command to “love one another” is not “a new commandment” but “that which we have had from the beginning.” The command to love one another is as old as the Gospel itself. John adds in verse 6:
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
John had heard Jesus talk about Christian love for one another. He had heard about it “from the beginning” of Christ’s ministry. Some of you may have this verse memorized. Do you know John 13:35? Jesus says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And that command to love, in fact, sums up the entirety of the Old Testament Law. Remember when Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He replied,
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great[est] commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).”
The command to love is as old as the Old Testament, but Jesus gave it a new emphasis when He taught His disciples. That’s why after washing their feet He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).”
If you are a Christian you are to love other Christians the way Christ loves you. How does Christ love you? He loves you continually. He doesn’t stop loving you when you sin against Him. He forgives and goes on loving.
Love is not so much a feeling as it is an action. Let me say that again, “Love is not so much a feeling as an action.” You choose to love because God has chosen to love you. And Jesus says we are to love others just as He loves us.
So when a Christian is hurt by another Christian, he choses to forgive anyway. Why? Because that’s what God does for us. We love others as He loves us. It’s like what Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
That’s the truth: God forgives Christians and continually loves them so–here’s the application–Christians forgive other Christians and continually love them.
By this, says Jesus in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” There is a profound evangelistic element in Christian love for one another. Done correctly and consistently, the lost world takes note. Unbelievers note this crazy kind of Christian love for one another. By this all will know that you are Christ’s disciples, if you have love for one another.
And how specifically are Christians to do that? Jesus says in John 13:34, “As I have loved you…you also love one another.”
So how does that play out in the church? Remember that Christian love is not so much a feeling as an action. God loves us in Christ. No matter how many times we disappoint Him, He continues to love us. Why? Because He sees us “in Christ.” He sees the perfection of Christ applied to us.
That’s how Christians are to love one another. We see each other as “in Christ,” we see the perfection of Christ applied to a brother and to a sister. That’s why we love one another because we are in the same boat. We are each “hidden in Christ.” The perfection of Christ covers each and every one of us.
That’s why our failure to love one another is in many ways a slap in the face of Christ. It is as if we are saying, “I don’t love that person because I don’t regard Your perfection as sufficient to cover that person.” By failing to love another brother or sister in Christ, we are hurting Jesus Christ Himself.
Walking in Truth means that we live the truth, and love one another in truth. Thirdly, walking in truth means that we:
III. Look Out for Untruth (7-13)
Verse 7 and following:
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
John warns agains untruth. Specifically the untruth John has in mind has to do with the doctrine of the incarnation, that God has come in the Person of Jesus Christ. You see that in verse 7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” John adds, this person may be identified as a “deceiver and an antichrist,” a false teacher who is literally “against Christ.”
These false teachers denied the doctrine of the incarnation, that God took on flesh in the Person of Christ. Understand that the Gospel stands or falls on the doctrine of the incarnation. The doctrine of the incarnation is that God takes on flesh so that in Jesus Christ we have the uniting together of two natures–divine and human–two natures joined together in perfect union forever and ever. Jesus Christ is the God-Man. He is 100% God and 100% Man, two natures in one Person, joined together forever.
Why is the incarnation so important? Why is the joining together of two natures so important? Well, if Jesus were only man, then He wouldn’t be able to save us. He wouldn’t be able to live a perfect life for which we receive credit, fulfilling the Law perfectly and completely. And if Jesus were merely human, He wouldn’t be able to rise from the dead that we might be justified–declared righteous. If Jesus were merely human and not divine, He would not be our Savior and we would still be in our sins.
The doctrine of the incarnation is truth. Look out for untruth. That’s what John warns in verses 8-9:
8 Look to yourselves (Beware!), that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
The “doctrine of Christ” is a reference to the doctrine of the incarnation. Look out, says John, look out for untruth, false teachings that deny the doctrine of Christ.
Look out, for example, for the false for teachings of Unitarianism, a teaching that denies the Trinity and denies the deity of the Son.
Look out for the false teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, false teaching that also denies the Trinity and denies the full deity of Jesus Christ.
Look out for the false teachings of Islam, a belief system that also denies the Trinity and denies the deity of Christ.
“Look to yourselves,” warns John! And then he adds this further cautionary statement in verse 10:
10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;
11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
Here is a warning to keep false teachers out of the church. Don’t give them a platform. If they don’t embrace the full Gospel message and don’t believe the Word as true, then don’t allow them to speak in your church. That’s what John’s saying here.
Some have taken verse 10 to mean that you shouldn’t witness to a false teacher who comes and knocks on your door. Don’t “receive him into your house.” But I think that’s a failure to understand John is talking about a local church that is meeting in a house and he’s not saying, “Don’t be hospitable to unbelievers.” Rather he is stressing the importance of keeping false teachers out of the church, those who are committed to the errors they teach. Those are the kind of people you are to keep out of the church. To give them a platform to speak is to–verse 11– “share in [their] evil deeds.” The point is, “Guard the truth; look out for untruth.”
So while we are to be a loving people, this love is not an undiscerning love. To love in truth is to have a love willing to confront untruth.
John has much more he wishes to say. He adds in verse 12:
12 Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
13 The children of your elect sister [your sister church] greet you. Amen.
John has much more to say. He’s like a preacher, isn’t he?! “I’ve got so much more to say,” but since he can’t say so now, he gives the church the most important information they need, all that will fit on one sheet of papyrus. And the most important information is:
Live the Truth
Love One Another in Truth, and
Look Out for Untruth.
- Let’s stand for prayer.
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