Tuesday, September 08, 2009

2 John 1-4

V1-4 – 1The elder, to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth – and not I only, but also all who know the truth – 2because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever: 3Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love. 4It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.

John begins with words of encouragement for these individuals who are undoubtedly under pressure in the midst of this congregational trial. This congregation, despite its turmoil, was “beloved of God, beautiful in God’s sight, blessed by God in His mercy, and obedient to God in some measure.” John addresses his audience with tenderness in v1; and then in v2, he reminds his audience that love is rooted not in feelings that fade but in truth that “lives in us and will be with us forever.” In v3, John issues a threefold blessing to believers in this congregation (and beyond). And finally in v4, he reports “great joy” over the fact that some – not all – of the children are obedient, “walking in the truth.”

John calls himself “the elder.” He was likely the pastor of this church, perhaps away on church business, wanting to encourage his congregation in the midst of great trial. The trials included families torn apart by the Romans – many able-bodied Christians were essentially enslaved for their faith and taken to the salt mines in Asia, leaving elderly and disabled Christians behind to care for children. Others, like Paul, were simply martyred. And then, as if those trials weren’t hard enough, there was division within the church due to some neglecting the truth. Families not torn by persecution were divided by doctrinal disagreements. And the pagans of Ephesus saw this division within and likely mocked the Christians for their seeming hypocrisy, preaching unity and love yet appearing to show none. John writes to encourage the church during all of this turmoil.

John calls his audience the chosen lady. This audience is the elect of God. They certainly didn’t feel like chosen ones in the midst of these trials. But they ought to take heart, for “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). One commentator says, “She is beleaguered. She’s persecuted from without. Heresies are rending her asunder from within. False teachers are troubling her. Division has occurred in the congregation. But in God’s eyes she is the bride that He chose from the foundation of the world. He chose her. He sought her. He bought her.” Throughout the New Testament, the church is referred to with feminine nouns. She is the bride of Christ. Things of beauty are referred to with feminine names, right? Well the persecuted church is a beautiful, chosen lady. And she is loved. She is loved by John, her pastor, and she is loved by all who know the truth. When believers see martyrdom, they may exhibit sorrow, but deep in their heart they love that, you know? To hear a testimony of faithful witness to Christ unto death is truly a lovely thing. So John’s words are encouraging. They encourage Christians to love one another in the truth.

Again in v2, we see why Christians love one another in the truth. Mutual Christian love is not indifferent to truth; it is rooted in truth. One commentator says, “The truth of God’s love in Jesus Christ which he shares with them makes him love them. He doesn’t love them because they’re just naturally more likeable than other people. He doesn’t love them because they look the same as he does, or talk the same as he does, or have the same background and past as he does. He loves them because they share the same truth, the same faith in Jesus Christ… There’s never been a Christian who took a stand for truth that wasn’t accused of being unloving. And John is telling these Christians, ‘Friends, I want to tell you, one reason I love you is because we share the truth.’ Love without truth is not Christian love, and it is precisely that shared truth of the glorious story of God’s grace in salvation in Jesus Christ that brings us together.” This truth lives in us by the Holy Spirit and will never leave us. That’s encouraging!

In v3, John issues a benediction of grace, mercy, and peace. This part is typical of New Testament blessings; but the rest is atypical. John says that these crucial elements from God the Father and God the Son “will be with us.” Usually the New Testament authors proclaim blessing to “you,” that is, their particular audience, and they most often are issued in past or present tense. But here John includes himself and all who share in the love and truth of Christ, and he issues a future tense blessing. During trials and tribulations, we are called to exhibit patience, that most difficult fruit of the Spirit. But the great thing is that we don’t have to wait alone. All believers around the world wait together in the truth and in love for the blessings of grace, mercy, and peace that will come from God and His Son.

Finally in v4, John reports his joy that even in the midst of these trying times, this church is growing. He says that “some of your children are walking in the truth,” and that’s the test of true faith. To exhibit Christian love docked in the truth in midst of persecution gives great joy to pastors. When orthodoxy (right doctrine – truth) leads to orthopraxy (right living – love) in the lives of “some” believers, we ought to rejoice. It’s encouraging for leaders to see “some” of their followers understand the truth and live the truth, to get it and to apply it. John encourages, and John is encouraged. But truthfully, leaders and teachers and pastors want “all,” not just “some.” So when John throws in this word, it’s a call to keep working. Yes, they’re in the midst of hard times. Yes, they’re hurting. But they’re not done yet. “Some” are walking in the truth, and that’s good. But God will not be finished until “all” of His Body is complete.

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