Walking and Watching: The Truth about 2 John
My kids love walking to the park. It’s not unusual to see me walking south on John R with 3 or 4 kids heading to the Oakland County soccer complex. As every parent knows, when kids are young, every occurrence in life is an opportunity to train them. So before we get to the park we have to cross the street and at the street there’s a crossing signal. So I ask the kids once again, what does the white sign of the walking person mean? What does the orange sign of the hand mean? Learning the signs is important. They can be the difference between life and death.
When is it important for us to walk? When is it important for us to stop and watch? There are times when it’s appropriate to keep moving foreword, and there are times when we have to watch out for danger. They can be the difference between life and death. This is the message of St. John’s second letter. He writes to encourage the church to continue to walk in truth and love, and to warn them to watch out for lies. You may have noticed as we read through the Scripture that truth and love are the two emphases of this terse epistle. With that in mind, we’re going to spend two weeks plumbing the depths of 2 John. Next week our focus will be Christian love, but first, we must consider John’s exhortation concerning truth. The big idea this morning is that the gospel enables us to walk in truth and watch for lies.
2 John has an obvious outline that’s actually quite similar to the form of modern Western letters. Verses 1-3 make up the introduction, vs 4-11 form the body, and the epistle concludes with vs 12-13. In verse 1, John, who calls himself the elder, writes to the elect lady and her children. As you know, the title “elder” refers to an office of spiritual leadership in the church. The NT also calls this office pastor or bishop. We have 6 elders here at CCC. But John wasn’t merely an elder, but he was the elder. John was an Apostle. John functioned as many bishops do today. He maintained pastoral authority over a number of churches.
And he writes to the elect lady and her children, which is referring to a specific local church. You noticed throughout the letter that John rotates between the 2nd person singular and plural when referring to the elect lady, which is a grammatical signal that he’s speaking not about an actual woman about a congregation of people. And they’re not just any people, they’re God’s elect – his children that have been chosen; predestined before the foundation of the world. Notice also that the letter ends with greetings from the children of their elect sister. This was undoubtedly another church over which John the elder exercised authority. And they’re both the elect. Every true believer in every local church is a member of God’s chosen family. Let the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty in your salvation serve as the sweet pillow you lay your head upon when you go to sleep tonight.
Notice also the prominence the term truth is in this greeting. John loves the church in the truth. All who know the truth love the church, as well. The truth abides in us and will be with us forever. The grace, mercy, and peace that we have flows from the Father and Jesus Christ his son in truth and love. Truth is obviously important in 2 John.
The repetition of the term truth begs the question, to what is the apostle referring? To quote Pontius Pilate, what is truth (John 18.38)? But John’s already answered that question in his other writings. In John 1.17 he writes, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. In John 8.32 the apostle quotes Christ Jesus who said and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. And if there was still any doubt, John quotes Christ again in John 14.6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus Christ is the truth.
The person of Jesus Christ is the truth. Jesus is truly God and truly man. The work of Jesus Christ is the truth. Jesus lived the only sinless life in the history of humanity. Jesus died the substitutionary death on the cross in the place of his people. Jesus resurrected on the third day standing victorious over Satan, sin, and death. Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of God the Father where he rules. Jesus will return to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. This is the truth that we call the gospel. This is the good news offered through the church. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raise him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10.9).
This is what John means when he says I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father (vs 4). Christianity means walking in the truth of the gospel every day. It means believing the Bible’s teaching about Jesus Christ and then living like it’s true. Walking in the truth was summed up in the three tests we saw in 1 John. (1) Do you confess Jesus Christ? (2) Do you love the church? (3) Do you obey the Bible’s commands? Because that’s what it means to walk in the truth – that’s what it means to walk with Christ.
At our kids’ school they have a walking club. In an effort to promote exercise, every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 8-8:30 kids are invited to walk laps around the school. So last year I would take Alex on Tuesdays and B would take him on Thursdays. Over the course of the year I noticed that there were two types of kids at walking club: (1) there were the kids that would do what they’re supposed to do, namely they would walk. They would stay at a steady and consistent pace. They were faithful to their calling, aka they walked. But (2) there were always the kids that wanted to run ahead. Parents and teacher would constantly be yelling at these kids to slow down. “This is not running club, it’s walking club.”
This is what John has in mind when he warns the church for many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son (vs 7-9).
Don’t run ahead of the Biblical doctrine of Christ. John warns that if you run ahead, you don’t have God. We must watch out for the lies of the Devil. He is the deceiver, the opposite of a truth-teller. He is antichrist. Watch out. This is the orange hand at the crosswalk. Do not walk on ahead.
This is why we need Creeds like the Apostles’ Creed that we’re studying in Bible class and flocks this year. This is why we need confessions like the NH & Westminster confessions that will be the topic of our Men’s Bible study this year. It’s not enough to say, “we have no creed but the Bible.” Mormons claim the Bible, JW claim the Bible, Health and wealth preachers claim the Bible. We need proper explanation of the Bible.
We need to walk in truth. When a teacher says that Jesus isn’t truly God, or truly man, when they teach that he didn’t die to pay the penalty for sins. When they say that you don’t need the local church, or that obedience isn’t necessary. If a Christian teacher comes to you teaching anything other than the apostolic witness about Christ, reject them.
John even goes a step further and writes if anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works (vs 10-11). Wow. That’s a bold statement. That’s the kind of thing that sounds unchristian. That’s why we want to make sure we know exactly what John is saying before we put this into practice. First of all, John is commanding us to cut ourselves off from unbelievers or even members of other religions. He is warning against false teachers who claim Christianity. So he’s not telling you to give the silent treatment to the JW who shows up at your door or your Muslim neighbor at work. These are people who claim Christ but teach contrary to the Scripture.
Second, it’s important to remember that the early church met in houses, so when John writes do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, it’s likely that he’s saying don’t give them a platform at the church. That’s why we don’t let just anybody in this pulpit. We don’t allow just anyone to teach a class or lead a small group. If we formally participate with heretics, we take part in their wicked works.
The gospel enables us to walk in truth and watch for lies. CCC, let us be encouraged this morning to walk in the truth. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved. Love the church. Obey God’s commands. Walk faithfully in the truth every day. And when you stumble, trust that Jesus walked perfectly in your place. But we must also be warned to watch for lies. Don’t run ahead of the gospel. Walk and watch. Let the signs of the body and blood serve like cross walk signs for you this morning. They can be the difference between life and death.