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Last week we were introduced to John’s second letter. We saw that the author was John and he was once again, writing to the church. He loved them in truth, and so does everyone who knows the truth. He gives them a nice greeting and now he takes some time to remind them of something they know and sets up his readers for the truth that is to come.
2 John 4-6 says, “I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.”
John starts out on a positive note. Anytime you’re going to tell someone something difficult, you might want to start off with something positive. If you start off negative, the positive tends to get lost. John kicks it off with, “I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth.” Find is in the perfect tense. That means either John has come across some people from the church at some point from the time he wrote the first letter to this letter. Or he has talked to someone that has had interaction with these people. They were walking in truth when he saw them and they’re continuing to do so. He was very glad. He was very pleased. It brought John joy to know that there were people of faith that were actually doing the things he thought they should do. Don’t get hung up on the word some. John did not receive a report about everyone. They were, “Walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.”
Truth is from the Greek word aletheia meaning the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians. This is the same word Jesus used John 14:6 when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but through Me.” This is the same truth that is referred to as the Gospel of salvation in Eph. 1:13 and Col 1:5. The church of the living God is grounded on this same truth in 1 Tim. 3:15. This is the same truth that we are commanded to rightly divide in 2 Tim. 2:15. The children are walking in the truth – present tense. Isn’t that what we want for our children? We want our kids to remember what we teach them and live out what we teach them. Paul was concerned that his instruction and teaching to the Galatians was in vain because they had gone back to the bondage of the law even though they had been saved by grace. In context though, John isn’t talking about kids even though it’s a good application. He’s talking about children of God. How can they walk in truth? The truth, “abides in us, and will be with us forever.” (2 Jo. 2) What is the truth?
Authentic faith has three characteristics as described in 1 John. Belief in the humanity and deity of Jesus the Christ. Love for God and others. A demonstration of the indwelling of the Spirit of God. They’re walking in the truth. This is what they believe and what they do. Vance Havner, the great 20th century preacher said, “What we live is what we believe. Everything else is just religious talk.” When you really think about that, he couldn’t be more correct. There are people who talk a good talk, but that’s the extent of it. I’m not talking about church necessarily, but that’s a good barometer. There are people who profess to be Christians that have time for everything except God. They’ll use their jobs as an excuse. They’ll use their children or grandchildren. They’ll talk about needing to rest and relax. After all, you only live once and you need to be involved with all this stuff. That’s one of Satan’s deceptions: you can have it all now and make time for God later. “What we live is what we believe. Everything else is just religious talk.” If we live like we don’t need God, it doesn’t matter what you say. Walking in truth isn’t something you do one day and not the next. Walking is an action word. It means moving forward at a steady pace. It is doctrine, it is Christian responsibility, it is what we do, it is who we are. You’ve heard it said, “Do as I say not as I do?” That’s the exact opposite from what John is saying. He says, “I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.” He’s walking in the truth too. That was God’s command.
John now gives a gentle request. He is setting up the lady for what is to come. He could have made demands. Giving commands was certainly within his authority as an apostle. But he uses a gentle approach. On the surface, it is a simple request. Verse 5 says, “Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning.” This is nothing new; in fact it’s nearly identical to what he said back in his first letter. In 1 Jo. 2:7 he said, “I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.” This is not a new word. Be careful of the people that are always coming up with a new word, a new revelation, a new way. Some think that old is always bad. It’s got to be new and improved. New formula, new labeling, new packaging all designed to keep it “fresh.” John’s coming at them with a same old same old word that they’ve known about from the beginning. So why say it again? “Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning that we love one another.” I think it’s safe to assume that since he is repeating himself, that this local church may not be living up to the commands of God in the area of love.
John provides a pretty good definition of love. “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” John’s definition is fundamental. It is foundational to Christian character. It is the cornerstone on which everything else rests. We walk according to what God has told us. It’s not just the ten things, but everything that is found in His word. The word of God is consistent, it is constant, it is applicable for every individual. You can develop statements of faith from it, develop vision from it, you can teach from it, preach from it, encourage from it, challenge people from it, correct people from it, counsel people from it, find financial, marriage, and financial guidance from it, and you can lead people to Jesus from it. “This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.” The command is from the beginning. From the beginning of time, from the beginning of Christ, from the beginning of your Christian walk when you decided that Jesus was the way, the truth and the life. The Gospel is rooted in the truth that was demonstrated when God sent His one and only Son to the world because He loved us. We are to walk in it. What is the it? Is it love? Truth? Mercy? Peace? Can we be more specific? No where in John’s writings does he say walk in love. But he does say walk in truth. As we have seen, truth encompasses the entire word of God which would definitely include love.
This is all part of John’s theme of truth. It’s all a demonstration of his great love for this body of believers. But it’s not just talk. It’s action. John is preparing them for something that is going to be hard to hear, hard to do, but that doesn’t stop John from speaking the truth in love. So what’s coming? We’ll see next week.