It is not only important to know the truth, but also important to live it.
Loving And Living The Truth
JOHN’S SECOND LETTER
Two thousand years ago Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, asked this question: “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38). Today there are a lot of people still asking the same question. While many know the truth today, because they have truly responded to God’s salvation call, only the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son could say, “I am … the truth” (Jn. 14:6 nkjv). Only of Him could it be said: “The Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:20).
In his three letters, the apostle John was very concerned about the truth in the lives of Christians. In 1 John he emphasizes the truth at least fifteen times and identifies many characteristics that would prove that the truth is really in Christians. In 3 John he again mentions the truth at least seven times, emphasizing that we walk in it. In 2 John, the subject of this article, the truth is mentioned at least five times and John’s desire is that we love and live by the truth.
In his second letter, John is concerned that believers be balanced in the truth. He reminds them that it is not only important to know the truth, but also important to live it out in a practical way in their lives. John brings love and truth together in balance. Truth without love produces a hard and harsh attitude. However, love without truth leads to an “anything goes” attitude. The balance that is needed in every Christian’s life is to love in truth (2 Jn.1,3). John knew that this might be a struggle for them, and for us today as well, so he gives three challenges to help keep all believers from both extremes: know, walk and abide in the truth. Let’s look at each of these challenges.
Know The Truth
John addresses his second letter to “the elect lady.” The word “lady” is the feminine form of the word “master.” She must have been wealthy and influential in the community. There is no mention of a husband, which might suggest that she was a widow. But it appears that she used her resources to care for her “children” (literal and/or spiritual) and to show hospitality and love to visitors (2 Jn. 4,10).
The first thing John does is commend her and her children for knowing the truth. Notice that he says, “whom I love in the truth” (2 Jn. 1). The truth is personal, not cold and distant. The aged John deeply cared for these believers as a shepherd cares for his sheep. This is the way the real truth of God’s Word should affect us.
John reminds them of their position in Christ when he says, “whom I love in the truth.” We are only “in the truth” because the truth abides in us. When we put our faith and trust in the finished work of Christ, we are told that He abides within us: “If anyone loves Me he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will … make our home with him” (Jn. 14:23).
When we really know the truth, it is not so much that we have the truth, but that the truth has us and is evident in our lives. The thought behind the word “abide” is “to remain active.” Our beliefs should control our lives and be an active reality every day, not just when we “go to church.”
The Lord Jesus is “the truth” (Jn.14:6), and the Bible is called the truth that sanctifies or sets us apart (Jn. 17:17). We have also been given the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14:17) who guides us into all truth concerning the Lord Jesus (Jn. 16:13-15). The truth should have an impact on every facet of our lives. John reminds them of the permanency of this truth – it “will be with us forever” (2 Jn. 2). If Jesus is the truth, and the truth will be with us forever, we can have the assurance that we belong to Him forever (Jn. 10:27-30).
Walk In The Truth
After he commends them for knowing the truth, John challenges them to keep practicing what they know. Truth worth having is truth worth using. John didn’t want this knowledge of the truth to be like a book that sits on a shelf collecting dust. He would rather it be like a book whose pages have been worn, wrinkled and even torn because of so much use. The words of this book should spell out the love of Christ we should have for one another (2 Jn. 5-6).
The emphasis of these verses is on obeying what we know. John reminds us that the commandment “to love one another” is not new, but one that came from the Father. He further reminds us of the relationship we have with God as our Father. Someone once said, “We should always rejoice that God is our Father, but never forget that our Father is God.”
As His children, God expects us to obey this commandment which was “from the beginning: that we love one another” (2 Jn. 5). This takes us back to the Lord’s words when 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” (Jn. 13:34-35). What made this a new commandment? Hadn’t it been around since the Ten Commandments? What made it new is that we now have a perfect example of this love in the Lord Jesus! Every believer can obey it because the indwelling Holy Spirit produces this love in our lives (Gal. 5:22).
This love and obedience work together. The more we obey Him, the more we will demonstrate that we love Him (Jn. 14:21, 15:10-11). Then out of this should flow our love for one another (Eph. 4:31-5:2). All this begins by knowing the truth and walking in it. It is interesting that God’s Word always seems to focus on the areas we need the most. What we know should penetrate from our head to our hearts, and to our feet!
Abide In The Truth
In 2 John 7, John warns us that there are “many deceivers” who do not confess that Jesus Christ became a man. The word for “deceivers” is much more than just someone who teaches false doctrine; it has to do with those who deliberately seduce others to live wrong. These deceivers are those who want to lead others the wrong way concerning the person and work of Christ. They deny His humanity – that He became a man – because to admit that he became a man is to admit His preexistence and deity as the eternal Son of God. John 1:2 says, “He was in the beginning with God.” And John 16:28 quotes Jesus as saying of Himself, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world.”
John gives three warnings. First, he cautions us to “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” (2 Jn. 8). If we don’t look, we might lose. Scripture tells us that we cannot lose our salvation (Jn. 10:27-30, Rom. 8:31-39), but we might lose the reward the Lord has in store for us at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9-10). To lose is to fall back and John encourages us to keep going forward.
Another danger that John warns us about is this: “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.” Transgress means, “to go contrary to, to go ahead of, or to add to.” We need to be very careful of anyone who does this to the Word of God (Rev. 22:18-19). When they come to us and tell us about the “Lord Jesus plus this or that,” we should be on our guard. The Lord Jesus plus anything else is not the gospel. The gospel is the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
The third warning that John gives is not to receive or even greet anyone that doesn’t bring the doctrine of Christ. Why would John be so concerned about this? For three reasons: First, we never want to give anyone the impression that we accept any false teaching. Second, we don’t want to get infected by any teaching that doesn’t set Christ before us. Third, we don’t want these deceivers to cause others to stumble by using us as a reference at the next place they visit.
John warns us not to go along with any deceivers in any way. His desire is that we continue to abide in the doctrine of Christ. The teaching of the person of Christ should be the controlling force at work in our lives. We should learn as much as we can about our Lord; we should never grow weary of Him.
John wrote this letter to commend, challenge and caution the readers he loved and cared for. Now, many years later, this same letter encourages us to know, walk and abide in the truth. May the Lord help us to learn from this letter, so that these words, below, of hymn writer K. B. Wilkinson might be true in each of our lives.
By Tim Hadley
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.