Title: The Truth In Us
Text: II John 1-3
FCF: We often struggle with the surety our faith brings in truth.
Prop: Because the truth that resides in us encompasses all we need to be what God wants us to be, we must take comfort that we reside in truth.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to II John. It is bittersweet to say goodbye to I John. It really is worse than I felt after Matthew. Perhaps because it seemed like I John had just begun and then it was finished. I think John could have written 3 or 4 more waves of teaching for us- and I would have been ok with it.
But in God’s providence, II John and III John are closely related in theme to I John. So in a way I sort of get my wish. II and III John in many ways continue on with what John has said, but also add a few levels of application and detail that I John lacks.
The background for this book is almost identical to I John. Probably written in the early 90s, just before being sent to Patmos as a prisoner. The secessionist crisis was John’s purpose for writing this book as well. Although with a different application. We should review what the secessionists believed just to make sure we are all on the same page.
The secessionists were proto-gnostics, believing that Christ did not actually come in flesh, but rather was a Spirit being who served the real Father which was not Yahweh. They believed that sin was not only impossible for them now but that they had never really sinned at all. They also believed that they were part of a spiritual race traced all the way back to Seth. All that salvation was – was awakening to the truth that they were part of this real spirit heritage.
In I John, John writes to a church that this group had left. In II John the audience is slightly different. It appears that the audience has thus far been spared this doctrinal aberration and is still holding fast. So John writes, what is really, a warning to them to be on guard and defend the faith.
As such, many have reasoned that II John is probably a cover letter sent to a church close to the one written to in I John. Along with this letter, he probably sent I John. We don’t know if this is true or not, but it is plausible. Especially given the shortness of both II and III John. Only 15 verses in II John. And to add more confusion to this, he says at the end – “Though I have many other things to write to you…” You kind of walk away from II John saying – uh yeah John – you could have written A LOT more! But if we read I John with II John as if they came together – we could understand that John has probably reached the limit of what he could communicate with pen and paper.
And so we begin II John today – which continues and builds upon what John has already said in I John.
I am in verse 1 of II John. I’ll be reading from the NET today but follow along in the version you prefer.
Since this is basically just a greeting that we’ll be discussing today, the sermon will probably be a little shorter than usual. I know you won’t complain too much. But don’t mistake its brevity for unimportance. The message here is highly valuable to set the tone for the rest of the letter.
I.) Love for other believers flows from and for the sake of abiding and enduringly present truth, so we must take comfort that this truth resides in us. (1-2)
a. [Slide 2] 1 – From the elder
i. Although John does not name himself in this book, just as he did not in I John – there is sufficient evidence from church history and comparing style and phraseology to the Gospel of John to strongly indicate that this is John speaking.
ii. Calling himself an elder rather than an apostle could potentially have some significance.
iii. As we asserted early in our study of I John, these books were probably written later toward the end of the first century. Most likely in the early 90s.
iv. This being the case, John calling himself the elder, rather than the apostle suggests one or both of the following.
1. John is quite a bit older than those to whom he is writing. Thus, the elder is less a title of authority and rather a reference to his age.
2. The use of the term elder above apostle could be in reference to the shift in eras. There was an apostolic era where the apostles exercised considerable influence over the formation and edification of the church. However, given this late date of the letter, most likely John is the only apostle yet alive. Therefore, the era of the apostle was all but expired. And the Elder leadership of the church had replaced it.
v. Perhaps both are in view.
b. [Slide 3] To an elect lady and her children
i. Debate rages as to whether this is a particular woman and her children or another way to refer to local assemblies as a mother and her children.
ii. Although both “elect” and “lady” are known to be Greek names of women, neither as a name is compelling in the text.
iii. Further complicating this is that at the end of the letter John seems to be with her elect sister’s children… so her nephews and nieces?
iv. The most satisfying interpretation is that John is not speaking of a particular woman or her children but rather a local assembly. The church as a whole would be the elect lady (the bride of Christ) but the children would be those who are part of that assembly.
c. [Slide 4] Whom I love in truth (and not I alone, but also all those who know the truth)
i. The truth is a concept that we will elaborate on in verse 2, but for now we must recognize that the truth is what holds John’s love for this local assembly. It is not just that John truly loves them – but rather he loves them in truth.
ii. And it is not his love alone but also the love from all others who know the truth.
iii. So not only does the truth contain John’s love for this local assembly – but any and all who have this truth also love this local assembly.
iv. It leaves us wondering what this truth could be. Let’s keep going.
d. [Slide 5] 2 – because of the truth that resides in us
i. His love for this local assembly is, in fact, because of or for the sake of that truth.
ii. That truth resides, abides, and rests in … us
iii. John’s love in truth is because or for the sake of the truth itself which resides in all who know the truth.
iv. What is abundantly clear is that John is not talking about something that is true, or even a confession of orthodoxy.
v. The full measure of what John means by truth is still quite difficult to pinpoint. So we must press on.
e. [Slide 6] And will be with us forever
i. Certainly, a confession could be with us forever, but this seems relational.
ii. There seems to be more here than merely an expression of orthodoxy or doctrine.
iii. This truth resides in us and will be with us forever.
iv. Is this truth a person? Is it a work? What is this truth?
f. [Slide 7] Passage Truth: Although a simple greeting, John already assures the readers that he loves them. And there can be no greater assurance that he could speak than to tell them that he loves them in truth. Indeed he is not alone. All who know the truth love them. Why? For the sake of abiding and enduringly present truth, they love. This truth seems, then, to be quite important.
g. Passage Application: Indeed, so integral is this truth in this opening greeting, that the application for his readers, although not overt, is fairly easy to guess. It mimics the theme of I John. What a comfort to know that this love produced by truth is for the sake of truth that abides in all of them and will remain with all of them.
h. [Slide 8] Broader Biblical Truth: The phrase “the truth” is used throughout the scriptures. Certainly it is a noble pursuit. In Judaism and even the Greek and Roman culture, the truth was something sought by everyone. And Of course in John’s gospel Jesus calls Himself the truth. In I John, God the Father is called the True One. There is no question that truth means far more than a list of facts, a creed or a confession. Truth is all encompassing of what it means to be God’s child. John loves them in truth. And all who know this truth love them too. And it is for the sake of this abiding and enduringly present truth that they do love. That is truth with… teeth.
i. Broader Biblical Application: And so, as we investigate this truth throughout this text – it should be great joy that this truth resides in us, if it does. Of course, if you have failed I John – II John will not put you at ease.
[Slide 9(blank)] So far we’ve seen that this truth that John speaks of is both the spring that produces love for other believers and this love is for the sake of this abiding truth that will be with us forever. So, if love flows from and for this abiding and enduringly present truth, what else comes from this abiding and enduringly present truth?
II.) In this truth and love God’s gift of salvation will be with us, so we must take comfort that this truth resides in us. (3)
a. [Slide 10] 3 – Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father in truth and love.
i. Again John uses the verb – will be with us.
ii. In Greek, word order in a sentence communicates emphasis of thought. English sentences typically follow the same pattern. Subject, verb, object. Otherwise you end up sounding like Yoda “Ran to the church he did”
iii. In Greek though, the speaker and writer would emphasize thoughts in a sentence by putting them first. John begins this new sentence with “will be with us”
iv. The interesting thing is that John says this in a future tense.
v. He is not saying this as a command or a hope, like most greetings to biblical letters– but rather a guarantee.
vi. Will be with – US.
vii. John includes himself in the guarantee too.
viii. Another interesting thing is that this verb is in the third person singular. It would be (he/she/it) will be with us. Now if we carry on through this text we find John mentions 3 things that come from God in truth and love.
ix. It perplexed me greatly because 3 things cannot be singular. Unless of course, if we are talking about God Himself He can be 3 persons in one.
x. This then, is the secret to the question – what is this truth that John’s love is in? What is this truth that resides in us and will be with us forever? What is this truth in which we love others for its sake?
xi. I’d say that John has just added another clue. Grace, mercy, and peace from God and from Jesus Christ His Son is also IN the truth and IN love. So this truth that resides in us, that will always be with us. This truth that produces love for others. This truth contains God’s grace, God’s Mercy, and God’s Peace to us.
xii. Grace is God’s action to provide to us regeneration, salvation, sanctification and glorification. Where the grace of God ends and the Spirit of God begins is difficult to pinpoint.
xiii. Mercy is God’s action to forgive us of Sin and expiate it from us.
xiv. Peace is God’s action to end all hostility with us as He punishes His Son for our sin in propitiation.
xv. In these three – the very atonement – our very salvation is summarized. In backward order the Son suffered our fate and expiated our sin, paving the way for the New Covenant. In forward order the way we experience salvation, by the grace work of God to raise us from death to life and to give us mercy from God through the blood and Peace with God.
xvi. Grace, Mercy and Peace from God and His dear son, fits into truth and into love.
xvii. And as John says, he loves them in truth.
xviii. So love fits into truth.
xix. In other words – this truth that John speaks of is far beyond simple doctrinal confession or orthodoxy itself. Rather – it is the sum total of the gifts of God to us whereby we are not only saved, but also able to do all that He asks.
xx. The truth – is everything. And it resides in us and will be with us forever.
b. [Slide 11] Passage Truth: So John guarantees his readers that they reside in this truth. That they will always have this truth. And that in this truth they find love for one another – the love of God. And within this truth and this love, they find the very core of our ongoing salvation. Grace, Mercy and Peace. This truth resides in them. Wow!
c. Passage Application: So they can only leave this greeting feeling encouraged and assured that they are part of the this blessed community of those who have this abiding and enduringly present truth and love. This great salvation.
d. [Slide 12] Broader Biblical Truth: Even just from our past discussion of I John we have seen how great our salvation that God has given us truly is. And II John starts off the same way – exalting the truth that we have been given in Christ. He is the truth and He is in us and we are in Him.
e. Broader Biblical Application: And so we draw great comfort from this. Comfort in this truth that resides in us.
So how then shall we live?
[Slide 13(end)] John’s letter is once again given to those whose identity he is sure of. He knows that they are children of an elect lady. He knows that the truth resides in them and will be with them forever. He knows that God’s gift in salvation in every aspect will be with them in truth and love.
What a way to start a letter!
What a way to set the tone!
John has some words of instruction that he is about to get to very soon. But before all that – what words of encouragement it is to know that those to whom he is speaking, have the truth in them.
The message of II John dovetails so nicely with that of I John, that we really can move from one to the other as if they were the same letter.
Yet even here we have caution laced under the surface. In John’s guarantee, he says very clearly that this truth resides in his readers and will continue to do so. That God’s grace, mercy, and peace will continue to be with them in that truth. And that their love will continue in this truth.
If you wanted to turn all this into a conditional sentence you could say – If you love other believers and continue in grace, mercy, and peace from God and His Son, then the truth resides in you.
How can we be so sure?
Truth is the spring from which our love for other believers flows
Love for other believers flows for the sake of this abiding and enduringly present truth.
And both truth and love are the source from which God’s grace, mercy, and peace continue to be with us through our lives now and forever and ever.
Therefore, truth and love are twin graces given to all God’s children, encapsulating all that God has done for them, and enabling them to be all that He asks them to be.
So for those who passed I John’s tests – this is great comfort to know that they too will see God’s love continue to pour out of them. They will continue to see God’s grace, mercy, and peace in their lives because they are His true children in His Son.
But for those to whom love does not endure. For those to whom God’s grace, mercy, and peace seem to cease – to these there is no assurance that this truth is in them.
And so – are is the truth in you? How would you know? Do you love others who follow Christ? Do you see God’s grace, mercy and peace on your life?
John has much more to say in this little letter – but we have to start here. Are you the ones that John is writing to or not?
If not, you cannot try harder to produce love or somehow force God to give you grace, mercy and peace. You can only seek God and keep seeking Him.
If you are a true child of God – then take comfort. The truth resides in you and will always be with you. And in that truth, love and the ongoing gift of salvation will continue to be with you too.
But remember… after this wonderful intro to the letter, John will call to action this church – to stand firm against the onslaught. Be comforted in who you are – but don’t think for a moment that that means you are now allowed to be passive. No Christian – John’s call to arms is coming. We’ll get into it next week.