We continue with 2 John. John’s greeting to the church has great significance in the words he chooses to use.
Next, John extends his greeting to the church
2 John 3 (NKJV)
3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
John expresses grace, mercy, and peace for all believers in his greeting. Grace, mercy, peace—Those words are pillars of the Christian faith and they rest on a foundation of Christ. John says these 3 things come by the Father by way of the Son in truth and love. Together, they describe a path of reconciliation that brings us to God.
Notice the ordering of the words..grace, mercy and then peace.
First comes grace:
- Grace is the unmerited favor of God that brings us to repentance.
- Grace describes God’s work of drawing us into a relationship with Christ and giving us the gift of faith and that begins the opportunity to walk down the path of reconciliation.
- Absent grace, nothing else happens
Second, comes mercy:
- God’s grace brings us God’s mercy.
- Mercy is compassion through our faith in the atoning work of Christ’s blood, God may be justified in having mercy on us for our sin.
- He cannot have mercy on us without there being some mechanism for Him being just in doing so for sin deserves a penalty.
- In grace, we have an opportunity to receive mercy because grace extends to us the payment of the atoning work of Christ. So He may be justified in bringing us mercy.
Finally, God’s mercy brings us peace:
- Peace is the realization of harmony with God and the relief from God’s wrath for our sin
- We obtain true, lasting, eternal peace with God by His mercy as a result of God’s grace
It has to come in this order. You cannot have peace unless you understand you’ve been granted mercy. You cannot get mercy from a just God Who holds wrath for sin unless that wrath has been appeased in some way. So grace allows for the mercy which then brings peace. Those three qualities are completely unique to the Christian message. They are completely unique to the Gospel. Only the true Gospel comes by the grace. False gospels of any kind, demand works.
Only the true Gospel offers the assurance of mercy; false gospels say we must do penance or we must compensate God in some way to avoid His wrath. The Christian message says you do nothing because it comes as a function of grace. Only the Gospel brings lasting peace; false gospels give no assurance of Heaven, they result in worry and doubt all the way to the end because you don’t know for sure if you have done enough. You cannot be sure if God is still angry with you. You cannot be sure if the sin you did last night is enough to keep you out of heaven. There is no peace under a false gospel.
Now we begin the heart of this short letter after passing the introduction. In verse 4 John sets the tone for what follows:
2 John 4 (NKJV)
Walk in Christ’s Commandments
4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
Notice John is speaking in the past tense, says he was pleased to find some believers in this church walking in truth. Apparently, John had met at some point in the past, he met with some members of this church. Perhaps an earlier point in Ephesus. During that earlier meeting, John apparently had learned there were some in the church that he is writing to now who were walking in the truth. That statement is damning with faint praise. Because what John is also saying is he heard that some were walking in the truth, and some were not.
What does John mean when he says some were walking in the truth? John uses metaphors and pictures perhaps more than any other New Testament author. For example, virtually every chapter in John’s Gospel is centered around a metaphor like birth, blindness, water, bread, vines, etc. He uses metaphors to represent spiritual truths concerning Jesus. And in his letters, he relies heavily on metaphors as well, like light, darkness, day, night, walking, etc. All of these are metaphors for spiritual ideas. Here he uses walking, walking in the truth. Now walking is a metaphor in the scripture for the life we experience in faith. The life we experience as a believer in Christ.
It does not mean simply having faith. Sometimes we talk about people, are they walking with the Lord? We are not asking are they believing, we are asking are they living out their faith properly? It means to live in obedience to the teaching of Christ. Walking in the sense of living out what you believe. So truth in this context is a reference to the true teachings of Christ as delivered through the apostles. The doctrines and precepts of the faith. Therefore, walking in the truth means living a life under the guidance and authority of the word of God.
John commends some in this church for living under the truth, according to the truth they received, while at the same time implying a correction for others failing to do so.
Some were allowing the truth to guide their thinking. Some were allowing the Bible or what we call the Bible, the word of God, the teaching of the apostles to guide their behavior. When those people wondered how they could please God in a certain
circumstance, they turned to Christ’s teaching and the teaching of the apostles gave them answers on how to live in a holy and pleasing way. Simply put, they were obedient to the word of God.
Then there were those who had received the same truth, but they weren’t allowing it to guide their walk. The word of God wasn’t a lamp to the feet, so they strayed off the
path prescribed by the apostles’ teaching. They were living in the flesh, and they were, therefore, likely to fall for false teaching if they encountered it. Everybody who has ever been a Cristian and every church body that has ever existed knows exactly what this looks like. We always have in every church that group of believers who sincerely
work to conform their lives to what they find in the pages of the Bible and they endeavor to learn as much as they can so they can walk as close to it. Not perfectly, but it is evidently a priority in their lives. And then there are those who do not.
We all share the same faith and therefore we all have the same identity. We all come together regularly, we all greet each other warmly, we all treat each other as equals in the body, we all are looking forward to the same eternity with the same Kingdom and so on. Yet we know we are not all equally pleasing to the Lord now. And though we can’t inspect everyone’s lives well enough to understand exactly who is who in all cases. At a broad level, in sort of a broad landscape of the church, we can certainly start to see patterns and see those who seem to be, as we might say, to be on fire for the Lord. Or those who seem to be really walking with the Lord. We have our euphemisms too, our metaphors as well. We kind of know it when we see it and when we don’t. Some of our brothers and sisters are living with a lesser commitment to doing what Christ commands.
The letters of the New Testament. If you read through them, just skimming across at what you see in the New Testament, the majority of what is written there is directed in one way or another to this fundamental issue: Christians should live according to the word of God. We must walk in the truth. And when we see a specific situation where this is not happening, we should have the courage to speak correction in love to those who aren’t walking in the light and making that a priority in their life. That is what the body is for. That’s why we come together. At least one of the reasons.
If there were any doubt that we are supposed to make obedience a priority, John reminds the church that obedience to God’s word is not optional. He says the Father has commanded from the beginning that men observe His word. He says it’s from the beginning and the first such time God gave an instruction that required men to obey His word was in Garden. And that instruction has never changed. That expectation has never changed. Those who obey God’s word are blessed eternally. Those who fail to obey God’s word suffer loss, one way or another. It should concern us all greatly if individually we know we are not living obediently to the word of God. We should be preoccupied with that, we should be consumed by our disobedience wherever it exists. A sinful walk should be cause for great concern and we should be greatly motivated to make changes in our life to fix that problem. Some might suggest that, well no Christian lives a perfect life, so really how close to perfection can I get anyway?
Just because we cannot eliminate sin entirely doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for greater obedience. Even though men will never find a perfect diamond, it doesn’t stop them from digging. Even though you will never be sinless this side of Heaven, that doesn’t mean you should not try to sin less. And that’s the command of scripture. There is a reward at stake which John will bring up here later in the letter. We are commanded to try to sin less by studying the word and then, hard as it may be, do what it says.
Now John moves to one of his most common and power themes in all three of
2 John 5-6 (NKJV)
5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
Once again, talking to the church, the lady. John says to the church we must love one another. Look at what he does. John connects obedience to the word of God with the fellowship in the church. He says the fellowship of Christian love is a manifestation of obedience to God’s word. When everyone in the body of Christ is walking in obedience to the Lord, then that body will, by necessity, will be walking in unison. Wouldn’t you agree? They are all doing what God said. You are all doing the same thing in the sense of sinlessness of holy living. Of working together in unity. And John says in that unity comes a love for one another. Then truly the Body of Christ is working according to plan. This is not something new in God’s plan. Truly then it is one. This is not something new he says. He says God has always demanded that His people live according to His
word. And when we do so, we will experience love one another. Jesus echoes this teaching when He asked to give the most important law:
Matthew 22:36-40 (NKJV)
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
God’s highest priority for men has always been our complete obedience to God. Notice that Jesus equates complete obedience to God with love for God.
PARTS 3 & 4 COMING MARCH 6th.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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