“2nd and 3rd John: Living with Love”
Today's lesson on "Key to the Kingdom" will be just a little bit different. I will combine the messages of both 2nd John and 3rd John into one lesson. They are both quite short, and very similar; and hopefully you will benefit from this approach. Have you ever heard the phrase, "The truth is hard to hear?" That is true, isn't it? Sometimes we do not like to hear things we need to hear, yet often times, what is said helps us in the long run. No, we do not like to hear the message, but once we think about it, it proves beneficial. The short message found in 2nd John communicates that same idea. Written by the apostle John to Christians everywhere, he warns them to watch out for false teachers. He also urges them to be wise, by not showing support and encouragement to them; and yet, John does this in a way that still inspires these Christians to show love to one another. Throughout his message, John asks these Christians to know the difference between the truth of God's Word and the error of false teaching. That is something we are to recognize as well. As we study these 13 verses, I hope we will apply them to our own lives. I invite you now to open your heart, and your Bible, as we study together.
The letter called 2nd John is the shortest letter in all of the New Testament. The author, John, was an apostle, and also a very close friend to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His message expands on what he wrote in 1st John, as he makes some specific applications of adhere. He writes about the importance of loving one another. He points out that to obey God is to love one another, and to love one another is a demonstration of one's obedience to God's commands. In other words, loving people and obeying God go hand in hand. Something else John emphasizes is the fact that Jesus is not only the Son of God, He is both God and Man. Evidently, there were some false teachers who were not teaching that truth, and as a result, many people were being led astray, and they were being led away from God. John even instructs these believers to separate themselves from these false teachers and have nothing to do with them. With this being such a short letter, perhaps it is best to simply read these 13 verses. After we do, I want to come back and offer some comments on them; and so, let's spend just a moment reading 2nd John. "The elder, to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I, 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. 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. 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 you 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 him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. 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 chosen sister send their greetings." As John begins, he identifies himself as an elder, or an overseer of God's people. We do know that toward the end of his life, he served as an elder, or a shepherd, in the church, we just don't know for sure which one. Some even suggest it was the church in Ephesus, and perhaps that is true. We notice also in his introduction, he writes to the chosen lady and her children. Now that can mean one of two things. Often times outside of the city of Jerusalem, there was no place for a large group of people to come together and fellowship, and to worship God and so sometimes wealthy people would offer up their homes for a meeting place, where everyone could come together and worship and fellowship. And perhaps that was the case here; a wealthy person had offered up her home for that use. On the other hand, this simply might be a figure of speech. John may be identifying a specific church and its members, and he calls them "the lady and her children;" again, we do not know for sure. What we do know however, is John has some very important things to share with his fellow Christians and he wants them to hear it. First of all, he shares the connection between truth and love. Five times the word truth, and five times the word love is found in the first six verses. Oh it was important for these believers to love one another, but they also needed to know that loving one another also meant loving other people, who perhaps did not know the truth, and had never received that Good News message of Jesus. Oh, the underlying truth of God's Word has always been to live a life of love, and to share that love with others, while standing up on the truth of God's Word. In His ministry, Jesus was asked the question one day, "What is the greatest commandment?" His response was, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength." In other words, love Him with everything you have, and then love your neighbor as yourself; and there was no commandment greater than these. Yes, these people were to know the truth, and to love others. The second thing John mentions in this letter is how to properly deal with false teachers. According to verses 7-11, some were saying Jesus did not come in the flesh. They did not believe God had revealed Himself through His Son, while Jesus lived here up on the Earth. That idea revolved around one primary thought, the Spirit is entirely good, while the flesh is entirely evil. In other words, anything that was physical was evil, and everything that was spiritual, concerning God, was good, and those two things could never mix. Obviously that is not true, especially when it comes to Jesus Christ, the holy and good Son of God, living here up on this Earth. These false teachers also believe they had more insight and more wisdom than anybody else, including the apostles. They believed they had gained some special insight from God, that the apostles had not gained. Therefore, they set themselves above the other people. They set themselves above the apostles; and by doing so, they misled the people. These people were not being taught something that was right, they were being confused, and John wanted them to be aware of that false teaching. He further warns them to not welcome these false teachers into their home, nor encourage them or promote their work in any way. Instead, they were simply to love these people, who were made in the image of God, as they themselves stood upon the truth of God's Word. And the solution on how to do that was found there in the first 6 verses: "Stand firmly on God's Word, while living a life of love." As John ends this short letter, he does so by saying something unusual. "I do not want to use any more paper and ink," perhaps it was hard to come by, perhaps it cost too much money, but John simply states, "I want to come and see you. I want to enjoy some fellowship with those fellow believers, and to see you face to face; and when that happens, both your joy and my joy will be made complete." If John was living in the world today, and if he was writing letters to his fellow believers, he might write something like what we have here, in the letter called 2nd John. As we think about a summary statement from John's letter, perhaps the words of Jesus wrap up the message of 2nd John. These words are found in the Gospel of John, chapter 14 verses 23 and 24, "Jesus stated, 'If you love me, you will obey what I command. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me." Once again, love and obedience go hand in hand: That message has been around for a long time, and it still applies today. That is the challenge before all of those who seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, to live a life of love and obedience while standing firm on the truth of God's Word.
The apostle John's 2nd letter to Christians everywhere revolves around the theme of love. It is based on his teaching found in 1st John, and it goes something like this: True love for others, and especially fellow believers, can never be separated from the truth. If we believe the teaching in God's Word is true, then we will obey it, and if we are committed to following the truth, we will show love for others. That is the underlying message, not only of 2nd John, but the message of the entire Bible. Jesus said, "The two greatest commandments of all time are these: Love God, and love people." John wants those who truly follow Jesus to understand that and to put it into practice everyday.
Thank you for tuning in to hear the message from 2nd John. Even though it is the shortest letter found in the New Testament, it is powerful and important. Knowing the truth of God's Word is absolutely necessary in today's world. As we are influenced by so many things around us, we can count on God's Word to lead us in the right direction. We will now continue with another short message on the letter of 3rd John.
Part of the work I do with the "Key to the Kingdom" ministry is to visit individuals and churches all around the country. I do so in order to share the story of what God is doing through this mass media effort, and what others can do to be a part of it. It is good to be with these Christians, who believe in and support this mission effort. A number of years ago, while making such a visit, I spoke at a church where I was not welcomed. There was one man, in particular, who was not interested in hearing my message, and he certainly offered no support or encouragement. Well, the message from 3rd John addresses that very issue. Some traveling evangelists were not being welcomed or received by certain individuals. John is greatly disappointed in one specific man and his lack of hospitality. However, he has high praise for some who did offer kindness and love. He appreciates their willingness to show support for the traveling missionaries. Important qualities such as kindness and love and hospitality are found in faithful believers. In this part of our lesson, we will notice John's teaching about what demonstrating these qualities looks like. I hope you will follow along, as we continue our study here in 3rd John. Like the first 2 letters, 3rd John was also written by the apostle John. Unlike 2nd John, however, in this one, we have the recipient's name. John writes to a man named Gaius, who was one of his converts to Christianity. No, a definite date has never been established for all three of these letters; however, it is safe to say they were written toward the end of John's life, somewhere between the years of 85 and 95 AD. That is also true with the Gospel that bares John's name. Like I did with the letter called 2nd John, I want to allow this second shortest letter in all of the New Testament to speak directly to us, and so I want to read 3rd John, and then I'll come back and offer a few closing comments. And so, let's read together the letter called 3rd John. "The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth: Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health, and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth, and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love, and you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of 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 men, so that we may work together for the truth. I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so, and puts them out of the church. 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. 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 be to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name." John recognizes his friend Gaius, for his faithfulness to the Lord, and also to the truth of God's Word. He is also commended for showing love and hospitality to traveling missionaries and evangelists. Now, that was a big deal. People who were going out in the countryside, the towns and villages, sharing the Good News of Jesus depended upon fellow Christians to help them. As John points out, they don't get help from the pagans or the unbelievers. These traveling evangelists needed someone to provide for them some food, and a place to stay; and evidently, Gaius did just that. He did not ask too many questions. He did not stand in judgment of them. Rather, as they passed through, he offered his support and encouragement. In doing so, Gaius provided a really good example for others to follow. I know some churches, and some Christians, today, who follow that example. They support missionaries and evangelists. They recognize the sacrifices those individuals are making for the cause of Jesus Christ, and they do what they can to assist them. Another man John identifies is there in verse 12, his name is Demetrius. He is doing some of the very same things Gaius is doing, helping and encouraging others who are representing the Lord. Everyone seems to like him. They speak well of him, and his Christian example. These two men stand in direct contrast to a man named Diotrephes, who is identified in verse 9. Diotrephes is not wiling to help anyone; instead, he prefers to gossip. He talks bad about and criticizes people like Gaius and Demetrius. He does not associate with these kind of people, nor does he cooperate in their efforts. He also seems to carry a certain amount of power and influence. He is able to exclude people from the church and to withdraw fellowship from them; and that attitude of superiority comes from his pride problem. He loves to be first, as John identifies in verse 9. He likes drawing attention to himself, believing he is better than everybody else. He even thinks that he knows the truth better than others, especially those like Gaius and Demetrius. I know some churches and some Christians who follow that example, as well. They are not supportive of missionaries or evangelistic efforts. They will not participate with anyone beyond those who are associated with their own fellowship. They have what we might call a "closed community," and they only accept those who practice like they do. They ask lots of questions. They are suspicious of those not like them. And, like Diotrephes, the problem seems to revolve around the issue of pride. That is a problem that all of us have to deal with, I suppose, from time to time, and it is very difficult to overcome. And yet, when we truly understand and appreciate what God has done for us, we will respond, not with pride, but with humility. When we recognize the great sacrifice that God has made for us, by offering His son Jesus Christ to die on our behalf, to cleanse us of our sin, and to bring us into His family, then we will respond with humility. We will want to share that same Good News with other people, and we will encourage and support those who are doing that very thing. As I think about John's message, I think about how I treat those who have been called upon to serve the Lord. Do I support and encourage them in their work? Do I pray on their behalf? Do I do what I can to offer my fellowship and my encouragement? Well, according to 3rd John, that is part of walking in the truth, as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. That is part of what it means to love people. As I have already stated, that is at the heart of these three letters from John that we find at the end of the New Testament. Now, like he did in 2nd John, he quickly closes his letter by stating that he does not want to use anymore pen and ink, or paper and ink, to write anything else to these people. He wants to see them face to face. He looks forward to the time when they came come together, and mutually encourage one another. As we close our study on this short letter, we ask the question, what is the primary message we can take away from 3rd John? What is the point that John would have us to take, and to apply to our lives, as we seek to be an encouragement to others who are out there sharing the Good News with others? Perhaps it is best summed up in some other words written by John, in 1st John chapter 3, verses 16-18: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions, and in truth." My prayer for all of those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ is that we will receive this teaching from this great apostle. Let us be people of the truth, as we put our love into action, and as we bless the people whom God puts before us.
One of the trademarks of true Christianity is showing kindness and hospitality to those in need. Throughout the Bible, we find many teachings to that effect, along with a number of examples of people doing it. The letter of 3rd John commends men named Demetrius and Gaius for showing hospitality to traveling evangelists and missionaries. On the other hand, John scolds a man named Diotrephes for not doing it. This man even withdraws his fellowship from those who show kindness to Christian workers. The message John communicates to us today is obvious, those who follow Jesus put their faith into action. They become a blessing to those who are called on to be representatives of the Lord.
Thank you for being our guest today on "Key to the Kingdom." The Bible's message about practicing hospitality and kindness is clear; Christians are supposed to do it. That is especially true when it comes to helping those who are God's servants. Hopefully 3rd John encouraged us to put our faith into practice. These two short messages, from 2nd John and 3rd John, have been combined into one lesson. The lessons title is "Living with Love," and it is available through our website, keytothekingdom.com. You can download it in several different formats without any cost. We offer a variety of other teaching tools as well. Find us on Roku® Television or Facebook, or even download our free phone app. You might even be interested in some short inspirational videos, or a daily devotional thought, and I trust you will take a look at what is offered. I really hope you will enroll in a free Bible study. You can access it through the website, or you can call the number on the screen. If you make the call, please leave your name and address and we will mail it to you in a few days. The study contains six lessons, and it requires no commitment of any kind. As we get close to the end of our study of the New Testament, remember, all of the lessons are uploaded onto the website. If you missed any of them, or would like to view or listen to a certain message again, please feel free to do so. It has been our pleasure to share this message with you today. Every week, at this same time, we allow God's Word to direct us into a closer walk with Him. I hope you have found that to be true with our study of 2nd and 3rd John. Please consider joining us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."