2nd John Conclusion

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings.”
(2 John 12-13 NIV)

As John wraps up his letter to this dear sister in Christ, he closes in similar fashion to his letter to Gaius in 3rd John.  John deeply values both of these friendships, and desires to visit face-to-face, rather than via correspondence.  Also, in both letters, John passes along greetings from other mutual friends.  In this case, the mutual friend is the lady’s sister and her children.

As noted in the opening remarks to 2nd John, this letter was likely written on a single one-sided page.  Can you imagine John, as he nears the end of the page, making his handwriting smaller to squeeze in the last of his personal comments?  We have all done the same thing, whether it be a letter, a card, a sticky note, or a grocery list on the back of a junk mail envelope… we just need to capture that one last thought.

Again, we see the John’s pastoral heart as he closes this letter.  He has so much to say, so much encouragement to give, that he can’t even begin to capture it on a piece of paper.  He longs to be able to share it face-to-face, friend-to-friend.

When John concludes his letter to this lady, what is his emphasis?  Joy – specifically, that their mutual joy would be complete.  Like John, we love to have a phone call or email or even a text from a dear friend, but how much better when we get to see them face-to-face?  It’s like picking up the conversation from the last time you got together, even though months or years have passed since you last saw each other.

So what did John see that was missing in this lady’s life?  I think John saw several points missing in her life:

  • Re-affirmation of God’s Truth.  This lady had been through a lot in dealing with the false teachers that she had unknowingly let into her home.  She was undoubtedly a smart lady, grounded in God’s Truth, having been taught by John himself as well as others.  But she had been through a tough spiritual battle with these deceivers, and needed some encouragement to stick to God’s Word and get some follow-up questions answered.
  • Encouragement.  Again, this lady had been through a huge spiritual battle to get these deceivers kicked out of her house, and to separate herself from them.  This would not only be a spiritual battle, but an emotional one as well.
  • Rest.  After this spiritual battle, John, as a pastor, knows that this lady could use some rest for her soul, some emotional down time with a trusted friend, a friend that would listen and help her grow spiritually.

And through re-affirmation of God’s Truth, encouragement, and rest, this lady’s joy would be restored.  Her tears would be wiped away, the smile would return to her face, the countenance of her heart would be light once again, and the joy of her salvation would once again move her forward.  And John’s heart, the heart of a pastor, would rejoice.

So what can we learn and apply from these concluding thoughts from John’s letter to this lady?

  • Stick with God’s Word – His Truth.  It is our trustworthy guide for life.
  • The spiritual battle is real, and fierce.  Don’t under-estimate it.
  • We are not meant to do life alone.  God designed us to do life in community.
  • Love and encourage others in their walk with Christ – all of us need joy.
  • To accomplish the above, be intentional about spending time together with other believers.  We all need it.

Blessings,
~kevin

Beware of False Teachers

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.”
(2 John 7-11 NIV)

Previously, in verses 4-6, John reminds the lady (and us) that his teaching has been consistent and clear from the first time she heard it – grounded in God’s Truth, and in love for Christ,as evidenced by following His commands.

God’s Truth, our response – our love for Him, and our demonstration of our love – to obey Him and His teachings.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Now John moves on to a tougher subject… addressing the issue of false teachers.

As we learn God’s Truth and are obedient to follow it, one of the things we learn along the way is discernment.  As we learn God’s Truth, God gives us the ability to detect truth from error, to sort out truth from deception.

Jesus talked about the future with His disciples, and warned them about the false teachers and prophets that were to come:

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you ahead of time.”  (Matthew 24:23-25 NIV)

John is saying the same thing to the lady – have discernment! The false teachers are abundant and everywhere.  They may look and sound like those who teach the truth, but they deny Jesus Christ as being God, as being the Messiah.  To the false teacher, Jesus is just another prophet or good guy, the same as them.  They do not acknowledge Jesus as God.

John says that anyone who denies Jesus as God is a false teacher, and a deceiver.  They may use a lot of church words and phrases, and appear to be good, trustworthy people on the outside, but if they deny God’s Truth and Jesus Christ as God, they are deceiving you and should be called out as such.

So why did John write these words to this lady?  Was she denying the truth?  Not at all.  John was clear about her love for God’s Truth and Jesus, and her children’s obedience to the Lord in the first part of the letter.

John’s reason for writing these tough words were to warn and protect her.  Similar to Gaius in 3rd John, this lady loved God’s people, and lovingly opened her home to the short-term missionaries as they passed through her town.  Unfortunately, many of the false teachers had short-term missionaries as well, and they were masquerading as God’s servants and taking advantage of her hospitality and kindness for a free place to stay.  And while they stayed in her home, they tried to convince her to follow their false teachings and lead her away from God’s Truth and Jesus Christ.

So what did John tell her to do?  Have discernment.  John instructs her to not even let these folks in her home until she finds out what they believe about Jesus and what they’re teaching (v. 10).  John says to invite these false teachers into her home was to share in their wicked work (v. 11).

The other thing that John is concerned about is this lady’s spiritual well-being.  John tells her that to let these people into her home invites confusion and chaos, and will undo all the teaching and investment that John and others who are faithful to God’s Truth have invested in her (v. 8).  The false teachers are sincere, and offer heart-felt emotional stories that draw her in.  But John warns that the truth is not in them, and that she must have discernment and not be drawn into their trap.

May you keep God’s Truth close to your heart, and follow Jesus in obedience.  And pray for discernment, that nothing will lead you away from God’s Truth, and your love for Him and obedience to Jesus.

Blessings,
~kevin

God’s Truth and Love – Inseparable

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
(2 John 4-6 NIV)

John continues his letter to the unnamed lady, the lady who is a devoted Christ-follower.

In verse 4, John has crossed paths with some of her children (most likely grown children), and was impressed with their walk with the Lord.  John did not say he was impressed with their knowledge of scripture, or following some rules to look good on the outside.  John says he was rejoicing in how her children were walking around in God’s truth, living out God’s truth and commands day-by-day, just as the Lord commands all of us.

In verse 5, John begins with “And now…”.  John is linking what he just wrote about (truth) to a new subject (love).  John is saying that with truth comes love – the two comes as a matched pair.

John knows that truth without love is legalism, and love without truth is sentimentalism.  Truth and love must be inseparable.  Both are part of God’s message, and both are lived out in Jesus’ life.

As John calls for both truth and love, he tells the lady that this is nothing new to her – it’s a gentle reminder, of what she already knows.  John says that we have had this command “..from the beginning”.

We must ask ourselves, what is the beginning?  When did this start?  Most likely, John is saying that the beginning is marked by when she decided to follow Christ as her Lord and Savior.

John understands, and implies that the coupling of truth and love is, in fact, the very nature of God.  We can start in Genesis and see God’s truth and love in creation, in His promise to restore mankind after the fall.  We see truth and love in the Ten Commandments, by how we are to love and relate to God and to one another.  We see truth and love embodied in Jesus, in how He lived and loved and taught.

In verse 6, John defines love:  by walking in obedience to God’s commands.  John reminds the lady that from the first time she heard the Good News of the Gospel, the message has been consistent – to walk in love.

The Greek word for “love” is “agape”.  This is the highest form of love expressed in both the Greek language, as well as in the Bible.  This kind of love surpasses emotional love, physical love, and even friendship love.  Agape love is unconditional love, undeserving love, the kind of love that God extends to us.  This is not love based on merit, because we deserved love, and it is not love in return for something that we did for God.

Instead, agape love is God loving us where we are, as we are, in our sinful state before we came to Christ, as God’s enemy, as sinners.  God knew the state of our hearts before we came to Christ, and chose to love us anyway.

May you stand for God’s truth today, and do so in love.  The two are inseparable.

“… speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

Introduction to 2nd John

“The elder,

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”
(2 John 1-3 NIV)

We begin our walk through 2nd John today.  Similar to 3rd John, this is a letter to an individual, rather than a church or larger group of Christ-followers.  Unlike 3rd John, the recipient of this letter is unnamed – she is simply referred to as “the lady”.

Some scholars try to generalize John’s letter, saying that since John did not specifically call out the lady’s name, this letter must be written to a group of churches, or the church in general.  These scholars try to say that John is referring to the church like Jesus did, as the bride of Christ, therefore just calling her “the lady”.

However, the text of the letter does not lend itself to that interpretation.  in verse 1, John refers to “the lady”, and to “her children”.  Also, in verse 13, John refers to the lady’s sister, and her children, indicating real people, not just metaphorical groups of people.  Also, John says he wants to visit her and her family face-to-face (verse 12), indicating a real person, not a metaphorical one.

So why would John write to this lady?  While the Bible is silent on the subject, we can guess that either this lady was a widow, or a single parent.  If she was a widow, it might have been because of her husband’s stand for Christ cost him his life.  If she was a single parent, it might have been a case of abandonment due to her stand for Christ.  Again, God’s Word does not say, so it’s all just a guess on our part.

The letter is attributed to the apostle John, who simply identifies himself as “the elder”.  The letter is short, and most likely was written on one page of papyrus (a plant-based fiber that was made into an early version of what we now call paper).

Clearly, the primary theme of this letter is truth.  John uses this word 5 times in the letter, and 4 of the 5 instances occur in the first three verses.  The secondary theme of this letter is love.  This is not emotional love, but obedient love, showing God we love Him by obeying His commands.

John calls this lady “chosen by God”.  What does that mean?  Simply, it refers to her spiritual condition, to her salvation in Christ.

And what does John refer to as his connecting point with this lady?  God’s truth.  John goes on to say that everyone who follows and obeys Christ is connected via the truth of God’s Word.

What does John offer to the lady in his introduction? Grace, mercy, and peace, that are only found in God, through God’s truth and love.

There is so much that we can draw out of John’s introduction, but we’ll simply summarize it by saying that there is an ultimate truth, and that is found in God and His Word.  John says that truth lasts forever, all the way to eternity, and beyond.  I don’t know about you, but that brings me great comfort and hope.

Blessings,
~kevin

3 John Conclusion

I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”
(3 John 13-14 NIV)

As John winds down his letter to Gaius, we see the heart of a pastor coming out again.  John wants to encourage Gaius, but prefers to do so face-to-face, rather than writing him a long letter.  Clearly, John, the great apostle, the one whom Jesus loved, is a people person, not just a church administrator.

If you recall, at the beginning of our study of 3 John, we said that this letter is short, and was likely written on a single sheet of paper, one-sided.  In your mind’s eye, can you imagine the great apostle John writing this letter?  He has written everything that he must say, and now adds a few personal comments at the bottom.  He has likely run out of space, so the last few words are squeezed in at the very bottom of the page.

What is John’s first personal remark to Gaius?  “Peace to you”.

Those words must have been incredibly comforting to Gaius, considering the upheaval and turmoil in the church caused by Diotrephes demanding to control everything and everyone in the congregation.  Gaius had been very kind to the short-term missionaries coming and going through his town, and John had commended Gaius for that.  But from John’s letter, we can guess that this kindness had gotten Gaius in big-time trouble with Diotrephes.  In fact, Gaius may have been one of the people that Diotrephes kicked out of the church because of his kind actions towards these short term missionaries.

When we’re in the midst of upheaval and chaos, what do we want most?  Peace.

Where does peace come from?  Is peace simply the absence of external conflict, the ability to control the circumstances around us?  No, it runs so much deeper than our circumstances.  It comes from within, and is first and foremost governed by our relationship with God.

Paul writes to the Roman believers:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
(Romans 5:1-5 NIV, underlines mine)

Paul goes on to explain in verse 10 of Romans chapter 5 that we were God’s enemies because of our sin, but are now reconciled to God through Christ.

So that’s good for us who are Christ followers, but how does that enter in to our daily lives and circumstances?  We have a choice in how we conduct our relationships.  Paul brings this up a little later in his letter to the Roman believers:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:18 NIV)

Paul is not condoning or promoting peace at any cost.  He is saying that we have a choice whether to pass on peace to others in our relationships.  It’s our call, when we initiate conversations, in our actions, and how we choose to respond to others.

And that was what John was wishing for Gaius, even in the midst of all the chaos at the church.

John concludes by offering greetings from mutual friends (obviously too many to name), as well as offering greetings to everyone whom John knew at Gaius’ church.  John even says to greet them by name – again, these must have been mutual friends whom John had served with, or been close to.

Through this study of 3rd John, may we be encouraged to be faithful to God’s Word and walk in it, support the work of the Gospel through faithful servants, and stand firm in the face of adversity.

Blessings,
~kevin

A Good Example

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.  Anyone who does what is good is from God.  Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.  Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself.  We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.”
(3 John 11-12 NIV)

John has just finished speaking about Diotrephes, and all the havoc he has created by trying to control everything and everyone in the church.

John tells Gaius that Diotrephes is evil, and not to follow in his footsteps, not to imitate him.  Similar to James’ message to the churches he wrote to, John tells Gaius that a person’s words and actions show their heart, either for or against God.  Clearly, John insinuates, Diotrephes has not seen God; Diotrephes was all about Diotrephes.  God was nowhere in his picture.

John switches gears now, and talks about a positive example – a man named Demetrius.

Why would John introduce a new person in his letter to Gaius?  The answer is right here in John’s letter.

Let’s roll back and re-read John’s paragraph before he talked about Diotrephes:

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”
(3 John 5-8 NIV)

When we pull out the paragraph about Diotrephes, and continue with the paragraph about Demetrius, we see John commending Gaius for showing hospitality to brothers and sisters in Christ who are passing through on short-term missions projects, even when Gaius did not know them personally.

John was saying here, “Gaius, you have been so faithful in sharing your home and loving on those brothers and sisters who are on their way to serve our great God.  Let me introduce you to another faithful servant of the Lord – his name is Demetrius.”

We don’t know if John wrote this letter ahead of Demetrius’ arrival, or if, in fact, Demetrius showed up on John’s doorstep with John’s letter in hand, as John’s introduction.  Chances are that Demetrius carried John’s letter of introduction with him and gave it to Gaius when he arrived.

So what does John have to say about Demetrius?

  • Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone – no detractors, no negative press.
  • Demetrius is well spoken of by truth itself (he is faithful to God’s Word).
  • Demetrius has John’s blessing and vote of approval as well.

When we insert the paragraph about Diotrephes back in, we see the rest of the story.  John is basically saying, “Gaius, I know the persecution Diotrephes is inflicting on you for hosting these short-term missionaries as they pass through your town.  Keep doing the right thing, brother, even when it’s hard and you want to give up.  And here’s one more person I want you to help out when he comes your way.  His name is Demetrius – he is a man of God, everyone in the church loves him, and he has my stamp of approval as well.  Give him a chance to share from God’s Word when he is with you, and you’ll be blessed as we have been.”

OK, a nice heartwarming story, but what does that have to do with us today?  Several applications jump out:

  • Character still matters, as contrasted in the lives of Diotrephes and Demetrius
  • God’s Word still needs to go forth, through godly folks like Demetrius
  • God’s people still need encouragement and help, through godly folks like Gaius
  • All are used for God’s glory, whether preaching or showing hospitality
  • Don’t give up or quit, even when faced with opposition and bullying

Whether you are more like Gaius or Demetrius, may you be encouraged as you listen in on John’s letter today.

Blessings,
~kevin

Church Bullies

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.”
(3 John 9-10 NIV)

John continues his letter to Gaius, now warning him about a man in the church named Diotrephes.  This man had inserted himself into the church and had basically taken over, calling all the shots.  In today’s words, we would call Diotrephes a bully of the highest order.

So what was Diotrpehes’ issue?  Pride.

John said that Dioptrehes “loves to be first”.  This is actually one Greek compound word, which literally translated, means “friend” and “being first”.  Putting these two words together, it means “doing whatever it takes to be first”, or “to strive to be first”.  This word is a verb, and is an active word, not a passive one.  In other words, Diotrephes was not waiting for others to say good things about him – he was taking action to make sure he was in charge.

So what are John’s evidences against Diotrephes?

  • Diotrephes intercepted a letter that John had written to the church.  John implies that Diotrephes did not read the letter to the church, and may have, in fact, destroyed the letter.
  • Diotrephes would not welcome John into the church.  Diotrephes was a regular guy, and he was refusing to allow John, an apostle who walked with Jesus, to come to the church and speak to the congregation.
  • Diotrephes was also spreading rumors and gossip about John and others, undermining their character and credibility.
  • Diotrephes was not allowing the short-term missionaries who were passing through to join their church gatherings.
  • Diotrephes was blocking other believers in the church from practicing hospitality and helping out the short-term missionaries as they passed through (the very thing Gaius was doing well).
  • Diotrephes would kick people out of the church if he found out that they even suggested showing hospitality to the short-term missionaries as they passed through.

Does this sound familiar?  This story is as old as the struggle between good and evil.  Satan said he would be like God.  In the book of Esther, Haman said he wanted to destroy the Jews and take over.  The list goes on and on.  And now Diotrephes is essentially trying to take over the local church and put himself in charge, and not allow Jesus to be the head of the church.

Unfortunately, this is how many churches are run.  People become thought leaders within the church, and decide how the church will be run, rather than looking to Christ for direction and guidance.  In many cases, these people are not willing to serve in official church leadership positions, but instead, try to take over in the court of congregational opinion.  If  a new pastor comes in and suggests changes, they lead the opposition and start vicious rumors about the pastor.  If not stopped, the church bully turns the congregation against the pastor, and the pastor is forced to leave.

John was neither deterred nor intimidated by Diotrephes.  In fact, John said he would confront Diotrephes when he came to town, calling out his pride and ungodly behavior toward others.

So what are the lessons to be learned here?

  • First, to look at our own lives, and make sure we are not a bully in our family, church, etc.
  • Second, to recognize and stand up to bullies, especially in the church.
  • Third, always make Christ head of our lives, and head of the church.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin