2 John 4-13 – 2023 Oct 05

Last week, we spoke more generally about truth and love, or alethia and agape.  We had previously (and on many occasions) defined agape as the love of God, with the characteristics of it being the love that involves the choice of the one giving it, that it placed the interests of all others ahead of its own to the point of self-sacrifice.  God demonstrated this love for us by paying for the wrongdoings of His enemies while we were still enemies and could not pay it for ourselves.  In doing so, He became our perfect atoning sacrifice.

Then we took the time to examine the word alethia, and how it was kind of context-sensitive as the word we use in Greek for the concept of truth.  If it were used objectively, we saw that it defined the reality of what was at the root of or was the basis of a matter.  By way of contrast, if it were used subjectively, it was used rather as a measure of the source of the facts that was more than verbal but relied on sincerity and the integrity of the source of said truth.  We mentioned that because it is used in both ways in Scripture, and in this short book, it is used in the objective sense.  One could say that it could also be translated as the word “reality” in the cases it is used here.

What we didn’t talk about in detail was how the truth has to go with love, or bad things happen, and I’m not talking about just language.  If one spoke the truth about love, one could rightly call me a liar and a thief in reference to my natural man, and then justifiably call me a hypocrite on certain things I admit I struggle with.  It would be the truth, but it would completely tear me apart at the personality level.  I’ve had people do that, incidentally.  There is a difference between telling someone they are a liar and telling them about the solution to their being a liar.  Do you see the difference?  One deals with the offence, but there is no care for the individual.  The other helps them overcome their lying.  This is a part of what I mean.  I will have to explain the rest as the text unfolds for us as the Holy Spirit guides me. 

Love always cares for the other person in such a way as to place their well-being or needs ahead of your own as the Scriptures say in Leviticus 19:18, the command to love your neighbour as you already love yourself, and that is a large portion of our text this evening. 

I broke down the text as follows: 

KV5:  Truth and Love need to go together

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.

4-6:  Walking in the truth in love

7-11:  The mechanics of the truth in love

12-13:  The fellowship of the truth in love.

As you can imagine, there is a lot here in the text, and I am trying to get through it in the most efficient way I can, so let’s get into the text.

KV5:  Truth and Love need to go together

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.

I have already introduced this as the main theme running through our text this evening, and there are some reasons why this kind of information is needed today.  Have you ever considered not telling someone the truth because you would hurt their feelings?  I know I have, and I have even let that sway me until I could figure out how to say it in a way that would help build them up instead of tearing them down as a believer. It turns out that the truth is always the best policy but only when it is guided by your agape love for them.

An example of that would be something like me telling Alex that he’s a lazy person.  He isn’t by the way, it’s an example.  “Alex, you’re a good-for-nothing lazybones that will never amount to anything,” I could say.  Alex, how would that make you feel?  [wait for Alex’s answer]  The reason I pick on Alex is because he’s my partner in this endeavour and he knows I don’t mean a word of it.  My point is that I’m not supposed to tear him to shreds when I reprove, rebuke, or otherwise admonish him as my brother in Christ.  But I still have to find a way to love him enough to tell him the truth in a way that builds him up.  Alex, if I had to confront you on laziness, would it be better if I approached it by saying, “Brother, you’re being lazy in your work with BereanNation.com, but I know Christ can turn that around for you if you let Him.  How can I help you with that?”  Would that be a better way to do that?

Incidentally, Alex is not lazy, he’s a hard worker.  I picked that example because it is untrue, and I didn’t take the time to let him know I was going to do this beforehand.  That’s truth without love, though.  Or can you imagine love without truth in today’s world?  Wait, we don’t have to.  It’s okay, you don’t have to be holy and stop sinning against your neighbours or yourself!  God loves you, and His Son died for you, so it’s all okay.  Beloved, that isn’t correct or orthodox either, is it.  That is not a question. 

This is why they have to go together because as we saw last time, John is speaking about the particular subject of how to exercise hospitality to strangers that may want to stay with you.  It isn’t something we do a lot of today, but I have lived in homes that have done it, so I do have some things to say, but John says them better.  Let’s get into the text.

4-6:  Walking in the truth in love

Before I begin this first thought unit, I should say that this is a difficult thing, and it does require constant practice.  It is hard enough for some of us to tell the truth or live in reality, never mind doing that while putting everyone else’s needs and interests ahead of one’s own.  Keep that in mind.

Last study, we spoke about how John did NOT say (anywhere) that we needed to stop offering hospitality to strangers because we risked loss because of false teachers.  Keep that in mind as well.

Hospitality, specifically Christian hospitality, was the taking of a stranger into your home to support him while he did the work of preaching the word of God to the saints.  Such would require a safe and sheltered place (like a room in the house) and meals for the brother God called to preach.  Such a one would eat with you and your family, and you as a Christian family would benefit from his presence in your home.  I lived for a few years in a home that at least tried to practice this for other believers.  I remember visitors from all over the world because of that hospitality.  It is in fact where I learned Christian hospitality and its biblical basis. 

However, this kind of a program had a big downside–it was the avenue of choice that false teachers would choose to infiltrate the church to lead as many astray as possible.  Because people were not necessarily known by face, anyone could show up with a “letter from the brethren” and claim to be sent to preach.  Things were done about that, like sending a letter ahead of the expected preacher, or sending a believer that was known with the brother who was traveling, but such things were not always possible.  Said false teacher, upon successful infiltration, would then attempt to compromise that body of believers and sow seeds of discord or worse.  It is a safe bet that wherever this sister was, this had either happened or was in danger of happening.  With that said, let’s get into the text, and see what may have been happening and maybe even things WE need to know.

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.

  • The very first thing we see is how John values the family of the lady in question.  He wasn’t glad, he was VERY glad to find even some of her children walking in the truth.  This may mean some weren’t walking in the truth, or it may mean he only found some of her children, so we will not go beyond what was written and speculate as to which. 
  • The next thing I noticed was that the children John found were walking in the truth like we are all supposed to walk, as commanded by the Father.  They were practicing hospitality as well, and possibly John experienced this through them, but that is speculation from between the lines, and I don’t want to say what isn’t being said.

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.

  • John is asking the lady of the house for the love that Christ has commanded we show to all other believers.  It isn’t anything new, and especially isn’t some kind of “secret knowledge” that only acolytes may see and experience.  Beloved, that’s what the cults do.  They promise new experiences, new emotions, new knowledge of the so-called-but-isn’t “holy” that only they can give, usually for money, and they mean as much as they can get out of you.  No, God’s love is free for any who wish it.  It is freely offered by grace, and it is for the acceptance of all those who want it.
  • The word here for love is agapomen, a form of agapao, which expresses the mutuality of this love for each other.  It is in fact this kind of love that Christ said would mark all of His disciples so that anyone who wanted only had to watch for a short time.  This kind of love is not the “drop everything to help” that the world thinks it is.  It is the kind of love that is real and will force people to live in reality and face the truth rather than letting them continue in their chosen fantasy.  This has all kinds of easily demonstrable applications that I could mention, but I don’t have a way of censoring from YouTube, so we will euphemize with our normal analogy of the car thief.  This kind of love doesn’t tell the car thief that it’s okay to continue stealing cars once they become a Christian, but rather that is behaviour that Christ would want us to stop because of His commandment, “You shall not steal.”  We would not ban such an individual from attending our services, and we would welcome them in, but we would also force them to face the truth that this will hurt the people from whom he stole cars, as well as ultimately destroy himself, leading to eternal suffering in hell for the crime against God.  This “keeping it real” is a mark of God’s love, saints!  Live in reality, don’t try to continue in a fantasy world.  Your want will come in like an armed man, says Solomon in two different places in Proverbs!  “How long will you lie down, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep? “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest”— Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man.” (Pro. 6:10-11, 24:30-34)  The first offers the reason it happens.  The second describes it, and I’ll leave you to look that up on your own.  But enough of that.

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.

  • No, Beloved, agape love is walking in a worthy manner according to the standard Christ has given through His Apostles and Prophets.  John is reminding this lady that we must walk in that reality that confronts us every day, not in a fantasy world that we set up for ourselves to maintain our own comfort or whatever.  We need to walk in alethia, which can also be translated “reality” in most NT uses.

How does this all hook into the infiltration of the church to false teachers?  This is setting the stage.  John is saying that Christian hospitality for servants of God is a good thing, and that it is a reality we can be involved in, not just pie-in-the-sky stuff.  He will describe what how that works in the next section.

7-11:  The mechanics of the truth in love

It is this section that makes me wonder if this infiltration had happened and been discovered in the house of this sister.  This kind of language makes sense if this is instruction, and this kind of instruction is usually the result of a response to something that has already happened.  It doesn’t say so, but it’s a thought.  If all that is true, this is a master class on instruction after the fact being put on by none other than the last living Apostle of Jesus Christ.  If not, it still is a master class on instruction.  Let’s see what John is talking about.

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.

  • Right away, John gets onto the topic of “deceivers.”  The Greek word here is planoi, the plural of planos, a word that describes the wandering and leading astray of a person or their seduction through different ideas.  The word is used twice in this verse, and in the second usage has a definite article that precedes its singular masculine version, making it necessary to translate it as THE deceiver. 
  • What do these deceivers teach?  The main heresy flavour of the day, of course.  Jesus Christ did not really come in the flesh.  At this point in history, Gnosticism proper was just beginning to congeal into the mess it became, and it was heavily influenced by Greek dualism.  This philosophy dictates that everything that was spiritual was created by “God” and was good, and everything physical was created by “lesser gods” and was evil in keeping with their natures.  As such, went the theory, Jesus who is God would not have ever condescended to be a physical evil being and have congress with evil flesh.  John was even acquainted with the primary purveyor of this putrid pile of profanity, according to Irenaeus.  His name was Cerinthus.  The story is related by Irenaeus in his work Against Heresies that John was once planning on visiting a bath house in Ephesus with some of the brethren presumably, and upon hearing from people exiting the establishment that Cerinthus was inside, John loudly proclaimed to all that were entering a warning to flee lest God strike the building Cerinthus was in and all of the people in there with him become collateral damage.  This was the level of deception that John was dealing with.  He called these people “THE deceiver” and antichrist.  You should know that the Greek prefix “anti” does not always mean “in opposition to.”  It can mean “substitute.”  According to John, this philosophy was another gospel of the sort that about 45 years earlier, the Apostle Paul had said would lead to being damned (Gk., anathema, the strongest curse possible).  A substitute gospel taught by a substitute Christ.  Damnable indeed. 
  • These were the kinds of vain philosophies that John was up against in the days he wrote this letter.  Why mention this to this sister here?  Because these were the definitive statements these men would make during their infiltration of the church.  She would have to know to be on guard against this.

8:  Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.

  • John continues with a sort of warning to the sister.  Not like a finger-in-your-face warning, but a sort of set of things to watch for in visitors and to watch for in the saints that these kinds of things would cause.  Like many other things, what you believe drives your behaviour.  If you are introduced to a lie that you begin to believe, it will begin to affect your behaviour negatively until you take the repentant steps to turn it around.  In this case, John was warning that examining themselves (note the similarity to the Apostle Paul’s language, they were saying the same thing) so that they would not lose forward progress in sanctification nor lose reward as a result.  Why is this important?  If I have to explain that, please let me know, we can go over the gospel and justification by faith again.

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.

  • Clearly, there is a range of uncertainty in doctrinal studies.  We don’t always agree on certain things in the faith.  Not everyone agrees with the doctrines of grace, for example.  Some don’t like any of them, some don’t like certain ones.  Some hold to all of them.  It is fair to say that not everyone understands everything in Scripture the same way we do, and that is okay with us, as long as they hold to Sola Scriptura.  However, John tells us there is a line that can be crossed.
  • John tells us that anyone who goes “too far” in this, can leave the realm of sound teaching and get into heresy.  We see this all the time today with these demon-slayer types and word-faith freaks that we all know the names of but don’t want to take the time to name.  These individuals take things too far and do not remain in the teachings of Christ found in His word.  If you need an example, anyone who tells you that a born-again and Spirit-filled believer has a demon residing in them is wrong.  God lives in real believers.  Demon’s won’t inhabit anyone filled with God Himself.  Such individuals, says John here, do not have God.
  • On the other hand, there are powerful real preachers that I don’t agree with on everything.  One such fellow is worth telling you about, by the name of Chris Rosebrough, who is a friend and fellow servant of Jesus Christ.  In fact, he was very helpful to me personally at a critical stage of my thinking about my going into ministry.  I won’t recite the story, but we agree on most things, and he is a dear brother in Christ.  Having said that, he is a confessional Lutheran, while I am a particular Baptist.  Our views on Baptism, the Lord’s Table, and certain other things are different and both defendable from Scripture.  However, we are still friends and brothers in Christ.  It can even be smaller differences.  I have another friend who is a Reformed Baptist Pastor in Florida named Steve.  He’s Amillennial while I am either dispensational or dispensational-adjacent (I haven’t quite made up my mind on that).  But we are still friends and brothers in Christ.  These men are great examples of men who both abide in the teachings of Christ and have both the Father and the Son.
  • The basic dividing line here (and that’s another fellow I would call a brother as arrogant as he can be at times, Dr. James White, who I do not know personally) is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just as it was for John.  If people will take the real Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they are real believers.  Sometimes it can take time for people to learn what is real and what is imagined, that is to learn the truth, and we should give allowance for that.  For those that want to interpret the gospel in some other way or touch core doctrines of the faith, we must sadly and necessarily exclude them from the family of God until they repent and believe the real gospel of the real Jesus, the Christ of God.

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;

  • John is making a very serious statement here.  If someone does not give a clear gospel, that Jesus was in fact a real human who died for the sins of all other humans, they are not to be received into the house of hospitality.  They are not even to be given a Christian greeting, like “Blessings of Christ to you.”  This was a test that could be administered in very short order that could determine whether or not a teacher would be given access to the Christian church.  I suppose things were easier then at the beginning of the proliferation of heresies, but this still has implications today.
  • Let’s say a person comes to your door and is nicely dressed, holding up a magazine that says Watchtower across the top.  Those of us in the know will recognize the publication of the Jehovah’s Witness cult.  We know that they do not have a biblical gospel.  They ask if you can talk about your spiritual beliefs.  Don’t.  Instead, ask them if they worship Jesus Christ.  If the answer is no, and it will be, tell them to clear off.  They will.  They have to.  Normally, that’s the last time they will visit.  Don’t let them in and don’t say “God bless you.”  In fact, if anything, tell them to repent after quoting Galatians 1:8-9.  There is no reason you can’t be civil, but don’t engage.  Same if you encounter the dudes with the billboard-sized name tags that say Elder so-and-so that represent the Moronic priesthood.  No, really.  The represent the “angel” Moroni.  You can’t make this stuff up…
  • The point is, we should not engage with ANYONE that distorts the gospel.  If someone does not simply and factually state that God became a man for the express purposes of dying as our penal substitutionary atonement (aka He died for our sins), then we should not engage.  The gospel is the key, and you have heard me explain it in 8 English words:  Jesus died for our sins and rose again.  Anyone that cannot tell you that has big red flags already, and anyone that tells you any other reason for His death and resurrection is outside the Christian faith beloved.  These are the people that John is talking about here.

11:  for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

  • John even gives us his reasoning.  If we were to engage for any other purpose than for evangelism, we would be allowing them to do the very false teaching they have as their aim, whether THEY realize that or not.  Not all false teachers know their teaching is false.  But the last thing any of us who love Christ would want to do is to lead a soul further away from Him.

The bottom line I’m getting at here is that despite how much some of us hate it, our theology MATTERS.  It is a living statement of what it is we believe and as a result practice.  If our theology is wrong, our practice, that is our behaviour will also be wrong.  I encounter all kinds of people that tell me that they want to stay away from all that theology stuff.  I can’t say I blame them if they mean all the vitriol that guys from say the “reformed pub” want to write about their deep misunderstandings of “Calvinism” or its’ opposite number that they still don’t doctrinally understand as the position of the Remonstrants in the Netherlands in the early 1600s.  They call it Arminianism, and don’t seem to understand that these Remonstrants were outside the line of Christian theology.  They were at least semi-Pelagian (some full Pelagian).  You will recall we looked at that in some detail some weeks ago, and you can find those details on BereanNation.com if you need. 

Mostly, I think we are trying to flee conflict.  I understand that no one likes conflict, and many times we should flee it.  But we should make a difference when someone is trying to drag souls away from Christ.  That isn’t about us anymore, it’s about the salvation of people and about Christ.  He has called us to serve Him like this.  There are entire organizations that are dedicated to polemics if you want.  Talk to me after, and I can put you onto a couple.  Just for the sake of definition, polemics is taking what people SAY the Word of God say and comparing that to what the Word of God ACTUALLY says.  I know some guys that do that very well.  But enough about that.

12-13:  The fellowship of the truth in love.

All of this dealing with false teachers and the heresy they teach sets up a necessary us versus them dialectic, and most of us do not enjoy it, though the more mature will see the necessity and in fear and trembling participate when called upon.  When we run from heresy, we run toward the truth, and on the journey, we meet others of like precious faith that share our core beliefs in the gospel and in Christ.  We become companions on the journey for at least a time, and those friendships in the faith are as necessary to us as the air we breathe.  I think John had a relationship like that with this family.  See what the text says.

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.

  • In my opinion, John is saying that letter-writing is all well and good, but I would rather come and speak with you face to face.  I know that feeling.  I look forward to our bible studies where we can look at each other and encourage each other in Christ.  John is clearly speaking of filling them with the joy of Christ, and that means fellowship in Him.  John is promising to come for a visit, so get the house ready!

13:  The children of your chosen sister greet you.

  • Whether you take the letter as to a church or to a family with a church meeting in their house, it doesn’t matter.  There are always greetings to be passed back and forth, and John takes the opportunity to forward those greetings along.  I think of this as a small service to the people of God, and am always happy to do it.  I think you are too, because all of you have on occasion. 

Overall, this is a letter that deals with how to walk in the truth in love using as an example the area of Christian hospitality.  We can and have made some specific applications as we went through the text, and I think that if we will take John’s advice, we will be better real believers for it, living in reality and not the fantasy we set up for our own comfort or to satisfy our needs. 

Beloved, if you find yourself in that place of fantasy and you are waking up to that, then let me encourage you strongly to repent.  Change your mind about the fantasy you are insulating yourself from reality with.  Admit to God that you have been living in a state of unreality, and believe that Christ’s atoning sacrifice was enough for all of your sin and guilt for all time, because it is.  Isn’t that what we’ve been reading in Paul Washer’s The Gospel’s Power & Message? We have, for those that make our Friday Night book studies.  Christ meets ALL of our needs, even if it isn’t in the way we expect, or rather demand.  For this we need also to repent and believe in the real Jesus, in reality, knowing that He alone is the real God and can really meet our very real needs if we will really let him.

That’s what I saw in the text!

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