Monday, June 17, 2019

The Letters Of The Apostle John. Day 19, Walking In The Truth

We begin John's second letter today, which is only one chapter long. In this letter he does not name himself or the person (or persons) to whom he is writing. However, authorship has been attributed to the Apostle John since the early days of church history. We will immediately recognize his writing style. There has never been any logical reason to doubt that the Apostle John is the author of this letter.

Why does John appear to have written this letter "in code"? Likely due to the growing persecution against Christians. It's believed he wrote this letter not long before he was banished to the Isle of Patmos for declaring Christ as Lord. There could be only one Lord in the Roman Empire, and that was Caesar, not Jesus Christ. John was banished during the reign of Emperor Domitian who was not known for the type of cruelty such as Emperor Nero perpetrated against the Christians, but whose preferred form of punishment was to exile those whom he considered blasphemers. This may be why John is careful not to mention anyone by name in order not to bring unwelcome attention upon them from the Roman government. He touches on some of the same subjects he addressed in his first letter, but then he states that he prefers to say little with pen and ink but would rather discuss these subjects face to face.

John simply refers to himself as "the elder" in his salutation. He addresses the recipient of his letter as "the lady chosen by God and to her children". Many highly respected Bible scholars throughout the centuries have expressed their opinion that this "lady" is not an actual person but a church. This would make "her children" the members of the church. We know John is addressing fellow believers because he will refer to them as "those who know the truth", meaning the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"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." (2 John 1:1-2) If a Roman citizen found this letter along the roadway, a quick scan of the first line might cause him to conclude that it's a love letter. It's possible he would immediately throw the letter down and go on his way. If he read on to the next line, the mentions of "the truth" might puzzle him, but he could take the same philosophical attitude as Pontius Pilate who asked, "What is truth?" (John 18:38) A person would not immediately guess that "the truth" refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ unless he read further. Anyone who came across this letter might discard it before reading any more of it, and even if he did read further, no one is mentioned by name in it and no one can be reported for blasphemy against Caesar.

"Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love. It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us." (2 John 1:4) John doesn't say that all of the children are walking in the truth, so it could be that some of the church members are struggling or that some have drifted away from the main body of believers. No apostle, teacher, or pastor expects everyone to be converted and transformed by the hearing of the gospel. Not everyone who heard Jesus preach believed in Him, not even after witnessing His miracles. John is happy just to know that some of these people are walking in the truth, which means that they are walking with the Lord Jesus Christ. We can't walk with someone unless we are going in the same direction they are going. In the same way, we can't truthfully say we are walking with Christ unless we are going in the direction He would go and doing the things He would do and saying the things He would say.

Some years back the acronym "WWJD?" became popular. It stood for "What Would Jesus Do?" All sorts of merchandise was sold with this acronym on it, so much so that unbelievers managed to scoff at it almost to the point of turning it into a joke, but the question is valid. In fact, it's a question that anyone who claims to be walking with Christ should be asking himself all day every day. What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do if someone cut Him off in traffic? What would Jesus say if a customer was rude to Him at work? How would Jesus react if someone talked about Him behind His back? Would Jesus turn His eyes away from impure things? Would Jesus resist the temptation to handle money dishonestly? Would Jesus combat the lies of the devil and of this unbelieving world with the truth of the holy Scriptures? Would Jesus love His neighbor as Himself?

We could go on and on, but you see where this is going. If we belong to Christ, we should want it to be said of us that we are walking in the truth. And if we are walking in the truth, we will be doing and saying the things Jesus would do and say. John has heard that there are people in the area to which he is writing who are daily asking themselves, "What would Jesus do?" By this he knows they belong to Christ. This knowledge, he says in verse 4 above, "has given me great joy". Like John, we should experience great joy not only because we ourselves are in Christ, but that others are in Christ as well. Nothing should make us happier than to know that another human being has entrusted his eternal soul to the Lord Jesus.

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