1 The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. 4 I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. 5 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. 6 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. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 12 Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full. 13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. (2 John NASB)
In the course of our studies of the Bible, sometimes we neglect certain whole bodies of Scripture. For example, when was last time you heard a sermon on the Old Testament books of Nahum, Habakkuk, or Obadiah? Probably never, right? That’s likely also true about some books in the New Testament. Have you studied Philemon lately? What about Jude, or 3 John? Those texts often get short shrift in our reading of the Bible. We do believe they are inspired Scripture, right? So why do we pay so little attention to what they say?
Another short book that tends to get overlooked is 2 John. (Note: What you read above is the entire book of 2 John). It’s author, according to the letter itself is “The Elder.” Some modern critics deny that this was the same person who was a disciple of Jesus and wrote the Gospel of John and Revelation. However, early church tradition ascribes it to the Apostle John late in the First Century (A.D. 80s or 90s). Its style and content are certainly consistent with John’s other writings.
John addressed his epistle to “the chosen lady and her children.” The chosen lady” was probably a local church in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) where John lived and ministered. John spent most of his later life in and around Ephesus on the east coast of Asia until his exile to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote Revelation (and possibly this letter also). “Her children” is John’s affectionate way of addressing the church’s members.
So, you might ask, what does this little letter have to do with the subject of worldview? Actually, John speaks directly to that issue. He wrote to counter the growing threat of doctrinal and spiritual error that was creeping into some of the fellowships in that time and place. We usually think cults and heresies are phenomena of the 19th and 20th centuries. Not at all: false teachings were a problem even in the earliest times of the Christian movement. One need only do a quick survey of the New Testament to see that Jesus Himself warned of false prophets, and many of the writings in the New Testament were written specifically to counter doctrinal deviations. Consider these examples: Jesus warned of false Christs, teachers, and prophets (Matt. 7:15; 24:4-5, 23-26; Mark 13:5-23; Luke 17:23-27). He said the test of “good fruit” demonstrates true faith (Matt. 7:16-20). He warned that not all calling Him “Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21).
Luke, in the book of Acts, records several confrontations of the Apostles with false teachers and pagan religionists. For instance, Peter rebuked Simon the magician who wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit for his own personal gain (Acts 8:9-24). Saul (Paul) denounced the false magician/prophet Bar-Jesus who was struck temporarily blind (Acts 13:6-12). Paul also boldly confronted the pagan philosophers in the Areopagus (Mars Hill) in Athens with the truth of the “Unknown God” (Acts 17:16-34).
In several of his letters, Paul wrote to counter those seeking to corrupt the true Gospel. He warned his Roman readers not to be deceived by those proclaiming and doing things “contrary to the teaching which you learned…” (Rom. 16:17-18). He warned the Corinthians of those preaching “another Jesus,” a “different spirit,” or “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4-15). Paul strongly warned the Galatians about following a “different gospel” even if he himself or an angel preached it to them. He said anyone who did so was “accursed.” (Gal. 1:6-9). He wrote his letter to the Colossians as a polemic against incipient Greek Gnostic philosophy (Col. 1:21-23; 2:8-15). He instructed Timothy to silence those teaching “strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3-4; 3:9) and warned him of those who would apostatize (turn against the faith) (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
The Apostle Peter warned of false prophets and teachers among his readers in Asia Minor who introduce “destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1-4). In John’s first letter, he called apostates “liars” and “antichrist” because they denied that Christ came in the flesh (1 John 2:18-23; 4:1-5; see also 2 John 7-11 – more about this below).
James encouraged his readers to help those who have strayed to turn back to the truth (James 5:19-20). And Jude encouraged his readers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered” and warned them against those who distorted the doctrine of grace and denied “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).
In the short letter of 2 John, the Apostle writes about this same problem. But in doing so he addresses two separate, but inextricably related, concepts: Love and Truth. In essence, he says Christians are uncompromisingly to proclaim the timeless TRUTH of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but must do so in LOVE.
Johnny Cash used to sing, “What is Truth?” Well, let’s define “truth.” Notice, in verses 1-4, five times John uses the term “truth” (aletheia). He says the truth abides or lives in them. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/truth) truth is defined as: (1) sincerity in action, character, and utterance; (2) the state of being the case; (3) the body of real things, events, and facts; (4) a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality; (5) a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true; (6) the body of true statements and propositions; and (7) the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality. So, truth, as we know, is simply what is real. It is what actually exists in the real world – or what actually happened in past.
Sadly, most people, rather than seriously seeking true answers, choose to ignore the questions. As Jack Nicholson famously stated when challenged to tell the truth, “You can’t handle the truth!” I recall I once got into a heavy discussion with a secular college professor about the nature of truth. A student sitting nearby overheard us and cried out, “I never think about it! It hurts my head!” As Christians, we state that there is such a thing as truth. What we believe does matter. And its not just a set of precepts, propositions or cold facts. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” We believe that truth is embodied in Christ. He is the essence of truth!
But John makes it clear that just knowing and believing the truth is not enough, it must be held in “love.” In verse five, John reminds the church of a “new” commandment: Love one another. Actually it was not so new. Jesus Himself had commanded it (John 13:34-35). In verses 1-6, John uses the word “love” (agape) four times. In verse six he says how this is shown practically when he wrote, “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.”
So love and truth are intertwined, and Christians are to love one another in the truth. Jesus breaks down walls of division, and unsaved people will judge Christ by how we love one another and others. Let’s face it, most people who come to Christ and into the church do not do so because they objectively studied Christian doctrine and intellectually accepted it as truth. In almost every case, it is because someone showed them the love of Christ which led them to examine and accept the truth of the Gospel.
Now, that being said, John gives one more word of wisdom. He says we should take a stand for the truth in love. In verse seven John warns his readers of deceivers in their midst. Apparently these were teachers who denied the full divinity and the full humanity of Christ. He says they are “antichrist.” He warns not to give them any level of support, or even to welcome them into their home (vs. 10-11).
Some have asked me on occasion if this means we should never talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons who knock on our doors? I don’t believe this prohibits us from reaching out to those in other faiths or cults with the truth. It simply means we should never contribute to their errors. I have spent many hours courteously interacting with cultists about biblical issues, but I would never offer them financial or moral support.
John’s point is that there are counterfeiters of truth who seek to deceive unwitting people. For more than 40 years I have studied and taught about cults and world religions. I am convinced today more than ever that there is in the church a great need for spiritual discernment. Unfortunately, most churches and denominations take little or no time to examine what other faiths and cults believe, leaving their people wide open to deception.
In conclusion, as Christians we must proclaim the truth of Christ in love. What we believe does matter. Jesus is our only Lord and Savior, and salvation is through Him alone. He is the embodiment of love and truth. There is no greater love than to tell others about the truth of Christ.
© 2016 Tal Davis