Last week we began looking at the letter of 2 John. We considered the authorship and saw that Lazarus, aka John Eleazar, wrote the Gospel of John, 1, 2, 3 John, and the Revelation. We saw that John is writing a personal letter to a local church. The reason for writing to them was to warn them of false teachers. The immediate problem John is addressing is that of traveling teachers that were circulating among the churches and teaching false doctrine.
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 John 1:1 ESV
Why does John address this letter to "the elect lady and her children"? This is a cryptic reference to a local church and its members. He does this to protect his readers from persecution.
John is combating false doctrine, so he stresses truth. Last week in our study we talked about truth. Five times in the first four verses we find a Greek word alētheia, meaning truth. For John, the concept of truth centers on the person of Yeshua.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17 ESV
"Your word is truth"—that is, "the word that Yeshua gave them through His preaching and teaching and His life. The heretics were deceiving people about the person of Christ. I think we could translate verse 1 as: The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in Yeshua, and not only I, but also all who know Yeshua.
We saw last week that the church exists to represent the truth. That is our mission and that is our purpose. If we fail to uphold the truth, we do not fulfill our purpose. We see this in the case of Israel who failed to uphold and live the truth and ceased to be the witness nation. The main thing that should happen when the church gathers is the teaching of God's Word.
We didn't talk about this last week because we ran out of time, but in verse 1 John also mentions love. "Whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth"—he uses love four times in these six verses. Truth and love cannot be separated. Liberals set aside truth and make loving everyone the basis of unity regardless of what is believed. On the other hand, some fighting Fundamentalists exalt the truth over love even on minor issues and thus cause divisions among those who truly know and follow Yeshua.
Many find it hard to reconcile truth with love. When you stand for truth, people think that you're being unloving. When you say that homosexuality is sin, that abortion is murder, that sex outside of marriage is sin, or even that there are only two genders, many call you unloving. But it's not unloving to speak the truth. Paul told the Ephesians:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Ephesians 4:15 ESV
What does it mean to "speak the truth in love"? Many people assume that it means to speak the truth, but do it nicely. They define "love" according to secular social etiquette, that is, a non-Christian standard of polite speech and conduct. But love is that which seeks the highest good in the one loved. Speaking the truth in love considers the interest of others supremely important.
"Speaking the truth"—this implies, despite what postmodernism says, that there is such a thing as absolute truth in the spiritual realm and that we can know such truth with reasonable certainty. In other words, spiritual truth is not subjective, that is, it is not determined according to individual preference or experience. It is objective and true in every time period and in every culture. This truth is defined in written propositions in God's Word. This means that we can know and judge whether someone holds to the truth or espouses error.
We have been infected with the cultural virus of postmodernism which holds that there is no such thing as absolute truth in the spiritual realm, or if there is, we cannot know it. As a result, if anyone claims to know the truth, we think that he is arrogant or insensitive toward the views of others.
Postmodernism makes "truth" subjective so that what is "true" for one may not be "true" for another. Thus, tolerance and acceptance of any and all views becomes the supreme virtue. The only view that postmodernism cannot tolerate is that of someone who claims to have the exclusive truth.
One of the Gnostics in the second century was a man by the name of Marcian. He once asked Polycarp, who was an overseer in Smyrna, "Do you recognize me"? Discerning Marcian to be a heretic, Polycarp responded: "I recognize you as the firstborn of Satan." So much for open-ended tolerance!
Believers, there needs to be a balance. We must beware that in an effort to love other people, there's a great danger that we lose discernment and discretion, and thereby, we lose the balance between love and truth. I know that some are guilty of being all truth and no love, but there are those who are guilty of all love but no truth.
What we need to see here is that John is showing love by warning against false doctrine! That's how he is loving these believers! If you love someone you will share the truth with him.
because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: 2 John 1:2 ESV
Here it is not objective truth that abides in them. We need to see that the Truth is Yeshua, and He abides in them. "That abides in us"—is a present active participle. "Abide" is one of John's favorite terms to describe the condition of the disciples of Christ. Look at what Yeshua said to his disciples in John 15.
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. John 15:3 ESV
Who is the "you"? It is all the disciples that are in the upper room. What does He mean by "you are clean"? To understand exactly what He means by this, we need to look back at chapter 13.
Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Yeshua answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Yeshua said to him, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you." John 13:8-10 ESV
"Clean" here refers to salvation. Not all of them were clean because Judas was with them. One writer wrongly contends that "Judas was the unfruitful branch that was taken away and whose final end was to be cast into the fires of hell." But in reality, Judas was taken away because he was an unbeliever and not because he didn't bear fruit. In chapter 15, Yeshua simply tells them: "already you are clean." He is talking to His children; they were believers. Now, look at what he tells them in verse 4.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. John 15:4 ESV
Yeshua is telling believers to abide in Him. The verb "abide" is the Greek word meno. It is used 11 times in John 15, 40 times in John's Gospel, and 27 times in John's Epistles. This is a major theological term for Yeshua.
"Abide in me"—is a command to those who are clean, (i.e. believers). To be a Christian and to abide in Christ are two different things. This is a strong word in the original text. It's in a tense that expresses a decisive command. It is the active voice which indicates that it is something we are expected to do. We initiate that. Believers are commanded to abide in Christ. That's clear enough. But what exactly does it mean to abide? Well, the word "abide" is used with the meaning of "dwelling" in other parts in the Fourth Gospel. Yeshua is saying. "Keep close to me." In other places, it is expressed as "Follow me," "do what I say," "obey my commands." Christians are exhorted to abide in Christ because this privilege and duty may be neglected and very often is.
"And I in you"—the implication is, "Let me abide in you." That is passive. It is not something we can initiate, but something we can expect to happen and trust God for. It takes both to be a fruitful, Christlike Christian. One alone is not enough.
To abide is to have fellowship with Christ, to walk closely with Him in obedience to His Word. We do this by spending time in His Word, by spending time in prayer, and by walking in obedience:
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10 ESV
So, John says, "the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever"— Truth abides in and remains with all believers forever. What a powerful statement of assurance!
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10:28-29 ESV
This is one of the clearest promises of the eternal security of the believer that God has given us in His Word. Concerning this text, A. W. Pink says, "No stronger passage in all the Word of God can be found guaranteeing the absolute security of every child of God." [monergism.com]
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Yeshua the Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love. 2 John 1:3 ESV
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us—this threefold opening greeting, "Grace, mercy and peace," occurs elsewhere only in 1 and 2 Timothy. What is grace? It is God's unmerited favor (charis). We don't deserve to be forgiven by God, but this is the starting point of salvation as seen in Ephesians 2:8-9: "By grace are ye saved through faith." Any relationship with God begins not with our seeking God but rather with His sovereign grace reaching down to us.
What is mercy? "Mercy" points to God's compassion towards us in our misery that is due to our sin. Mercy is directed towards relieving the devastating consequences of our sins. Grace is undeserved favor, mercy is pity shown to those who are guilty and wretched. If grace gives us what we don't deserve, mercy is God withholding His hand to give us what we do deserve—wrath, judgment, and eternal punishment. This is the only use of "mercy" (eleeōi) in all of John's writings.
The result of God's grace and mercy imparted to us is peace. "Peace" points to the result of salvation. Romans 5 says,
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Yeshua the Christ. Romans 5:1 ESV
Justified, being declared righteous with God, we have peace on the grounds of God's grace, and the grounds of His mercy. Peace with God is the new status between God and the believer which flows from the reconciliation accomplished in Yeshua.
"Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us"—the emphatic "will be with us" reassures his readers that God will not abandon them, in spite of what the secessionists might say. He uses "us" rather than "you" to "reinforce the sense of their community."
"From God the Father and from Yeshua the Christ—both nouns have the preposition (para) which grammatically puts them on equal footing. This was a grammatical way to assert the deity of Yeshua. This is a very important subject to John. He constantly points his readers to the fact that Yeshua is Yahweh. Notice how he does this in his Gospel.
In John chapter 5 Yeshua heals a man who was by the pool of Bethesda and had been there for thirty-eight years. Our Lord commands him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." And immediately the man is healed and takes up his bed and walks. It is this healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda which draws considerable attention to our Lord. This miracle, which was done on the Sabbath, prompts the Jewish leaders to view Yeshua as a Law breaker. The healing of this lame man and the following Sabbath controversy brought the nature and identity of Yeshua to a climax:
But Yeshua answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." John 5:17 ESV
Yeshua justified His Sabbath healing by reminding the Jews that they admitted Yahweh worked on the Sabbath. They knew the sun came up, they knew the wind blew, they knew the rain fell, they knew the grass grew, and they knew Yahweh continued to do His work of judgment and His work of redemption. Their belief that only Yahweh was permitted to work on the Sabbath, explains the violence of their reaction in verse 18. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to Yahweh, and no one was equal to Yahweh.
In claiming the right to work even as His Father worked, Yeshua was claiming to be Yahweh, the I Am! Now the Jews knew exactly what He was saying. He was saying that as the eternal God does His work all the time, so Yeshua was claiming to do the same thing, that is, to work the same pattern that Yahweh works. This shocked and angered the Jewish leaders, but it shouldn't surprise anyone who is familiar with God's Word.
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:18 ESV
Yeshua's contemporaries clearly saw Him as claiming to be equal with God. JW interpreters, who say that Yeshua never claimed to be God, have a difficult time with this passage. He has clearly claimed to be God! There was never any question in the Jews' minds that He said He was God. They got it. That's what they said was His ultimate blasphemy. They charged that he made Himself equal with God.
Notice something very important that is NOT in this text. Yeshua did not respond by saying, "No, no, no! You guys have me all wrong, I'm not claiming to be God, that would be blasphemy." Instead of disagreeing with them, Yeshua responding by defending His deity. Do you remember what Thomas said to Yeshua after his resurrection?
Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" John 20:28 ESV
What was Yeshua's response to Thomas' calling Him God?
Yeshua said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29 ESV
Yeshua did not correct Him because He is God.
"From God the Father and from Yeshua the Christ—I said earlier that both nouns here have the preposition (para) which grammatically puts them on equal footing. But "from" is also repeated, placing them both on equal ground while not blurring them as unique persons. This is faithful to the Trinity.
Though the word "Trinity" is never found in the pages of Scripture, it is a doctrine that is taught throughout the Scripture. "Trinity" is a word used to express the unity of God subsisting in three distinct persons. It is a word describing the unity of the Godhead as three co-eternal, co-equal Persons, each having the same substance, but distinct persons. It is a word that describes a purely revealed doctrine, indiscoverable by reason, but clearly taught in Scripture.
The Trinity is not just Christian theology. The Tanakh taught this also. Let's look at Isaiah 63:
…the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them…10 But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit…11 Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit…14 the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So, you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name. Isaiah 63:9-14 ESV
Here we see Yahweh, the Angel of Yahweh, who is the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have all three members of the Godhead. Psalm 78 is a recounting of the same event as in Isaiah 63. Notice what it says:
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. Psalms 78:40-41 ESV
The verbs "rebelled and grieved" used in Isaiah 63:10 of the Holy Spirit are used here of Yahweh—the Holy One of Israel. Yahweh and the Holy Spirit are One in essence.
And in the New Testament we learn that the Spirit and Yeshua are one in essence also:
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Yeshua did not allow them. Acts 16:6-7 ESV
The Spirit is Yahweh, the Son is Yahweh, and the Father is Yahweh. Ezekiel gives us the same picture:
In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord GOD fell upon me there. Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem… Ezekiel 8:1-3 ESV
We have Yahweh in verse 1, in verse 2 we see a divine man, then in verse 3 we have the Spirit. These three figures are co-identified as Yahweh. The Jews were monotheistic; they served one God who was Yahweh. But they realized that Yahweh was the Godhead made up of more than one Divine being.
"The Father's Son"—the false teachers claimed a unique and special relationship with God, but theologically depreciated the person and work of the Son.
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Yeshua the Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 2 John 1:7 ESV
We saw in our study of 1 John that one cannot have the Father without having the Son (cf. 1 John 2:23; 4:15; 5:10). John repeats again and again that Yeshua is the full revelation of the Father and the only way (cf. John 14:6) to the Father.
"In truth and love"—again he repeats that truth and love go together.
After the introduction, he starts into the body of his letter in verse 4,
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. 2 John 1:4 ESV
John had somewhere run into some of the people from this church and he was overjoyed to find them walking in the truth. Anyone who loves the truth will rejoice when they see others walking in the truth.
"Walking in the truth"—"walking" here is peripateō which means to walk around, with reference to conduct, behavior, or way of life. The idea is for them to move through life conducting themselves within the framework of the truth. They were literally controlled by the truth. The phrase here refers to the conduct that results when an individual has "truth" abiding within. John put it this way in 1 John.
whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6 ESV
To "abide" means to "remain," "to dwell," to "keep close to Christ," to "follow Christ," to "do what Christ says," to "obey Christ commands" or to "walk in the truth." Yeshua told his disciples,
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10 ESV
What John is saying in 1 John 2:6 is that we cannot claim to abide in Him unless we behave like Him. The behavior and conduct of the historical Yeshua is put forward here as a model for believers to emulate, and this presupposes that the readers of this letter had some information about Yeshua's earthly life and ministry upon which to base their imitation. It is reasonable to assume that the primary source for such knowledge was the Gospels.
"Just as we were commanded by the Father"—this is an aorist active indicative which refers to the giving of the commandment to love one another, even as Yeshua loved them. The following verses (5-6) make clear that this commandment is to love one another.
The abiding Christian walks in the commandments. We cannot really say that we love God if we do not walk in the commandments. Love expresses itself in following the divine guidelines. It is foolish for us to say that we love God but then do not keep his commandments.
Let's talk about "walking in the truth"—the abiding Christian lives his life imitating Christ in all that he does. Believers, this is why we are here. We are to be showing Christ to the world by the way we conduct ourselves. This is why Yahweh created us.
The most fundamental reality of human existence is that we're made by God in His own image to be His representatives in His created world. In the very first chapter of the Bible, we see that Yahweh created us to bear His image:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 ESV
What is with the plurality language here? Who is the "us" and "our"? Whom is God talking to? This is a reference to God's heavenly supernatural family, His divine council. From Philo onward, Jewish commentators generally held that these plurals were used because Yahweh was addressing His divine council. The early post Apostolic Fathers such as Barnabas and Justin Martyr saw the plurals as a reference to the Trinity. I think that is how most Christians see these plurals. But recent scholars tend to agree with ancient Jewish opinion.
F. M. Cross notes: "In both Ugaritic and biblical literature, the use of the first-person plural is characteristic of address in the divine council. The familiar 'we' … has long been recognized as the plural address used by Yahweh in His council" (Cross, Canaanite Myth, 187).
The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary states: The "us" in "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26; cf. 3:22; 11:6-7) refers to the "sons of God" or lesser "gods" mentioned elsewhere (6:1-4; Job 1:6; Ps. 29:1), here viewed as a heavenly council centered around the one God (cf. Ps. 82:1). In later usage these probably would be called "angels." (p. 1019, "Trinity")
The plural language is important. Whom is God talking to? His heavenly family. And with His heavenly family He discusses creating us, His human earthly family. God wanted us to be like His heavenly family. So, what does it mean to be created in His image? Whatever else it might mean, it includes man and woman, and it is equally possessed. We also know that it is not incremental or partial. One either has it or he doesn't. It is passed on generationally. Notice Genesis 9:
"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. Genesis 9:6 ESV
This is many generations after the flood and man is still said to be made in God's image. This is after the fall, so the image includes all people, believers and non-believers. We see here that it is wrong to murder/abort because we, mankind, are made in the image of God.
What does it mean, then, to be created in God's image? The image is not an ability we have; it is a status. God intends us to be His representatives on earth.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 1:28 ESV
The first phrase, "be fruitful and multiply," means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, "subdue the earth," means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures and build civilizations.
What does image mean? Our text might be better read, "Let us make man (as) in our image, after our likeness." As in English, the Hebrew preposition for "in" can be used in different ways. If I say that the spare tire is in the trunk, I'm using "in" for a location. But if I say that I hit a curb and my tire is shredded in pieces, I'm using "in" to indicate a result. If I say that I drove someone somewhere in the car, I'm using "in" for instrumentality. Or I could tell someone that I work in ministry, I'm using "in" to denote function or role. I work as a pastor/teacher. The same is true in Hebrew. So, in this text in Genesis 1, "in" is better translated as "as." "Let us make man as our image." Denoting function or role. We are to be God's agents, His representatives, on earth.
This image was marred in the fall. So now only believers can truly bear the image of Yahweh. And we can only do this as we live godly lives. The representation idea is seen in:
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Exodus 20:7 ESV
The word "take" here is the Hebrew word nasa which means to lift, bear, carry. To bear the name is to be God's representative. We see this in:
But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." 2 Timothy 2:19 ESV
Christians, because we name the name of Yeshua, we are His representatives, and we are to depart from iniquity. We are to live lives of holiness. People are to see Yahweh in us.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 ESV
"Be imitators of God"—"be" is a present imperative and has the idea: "to become." They are to develop continuously into imitators of Yahweh. The Greek word for "imitator" is mimetes. It is the word from which we get our English word "mimic." (to mimic or to copy something). What it denotes is an actor, an actor who spends time and energy in studying a character with the view to reproducing it.
Speaking about the image of God, N.T. Wright states, "It seems to me that God has put humans like an angled mirror in His world so that God can reflect His love and care and stewardship of the world through humans and so that the rest of the world can praise the creator through humans."
Paul knew the importance of example in teaching others. He told the Corinthians that he was their father in the Gospel and then added:
I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 1 Corinthians 4:16 ESV
Why does he want believers to imitate him? It is because he is imitating Christ:
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
Paul was imitating Christ who was the perfect image of Yahweh. Paul tells the Thessalonians:
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV
Paul was living out this command that he is giving believers. He was imitating Christ. Notice what he told the Philippians:
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 ESV
Basically, Paul is saying, "Do what I do." Can you say to others, "Follow me as I follow Christ"? The constant call to the Christian is to be like Yahweh. It is Yahweh's purpose that each of us reflect the image of our Father.
All humans are God's imagers, but since the fall, only believers who have the Spirit can really do this well. Which means that we need to be doing a good job at this because lost man totally bears God's name in vain.
What does this look like practically? As Christians, as children of the heavenly Father, we have a duty to imitate Christ. We are to walk in truth/Christ. If He is compassionate, we as His image bearers, are to be compassionate. If He is loving, we are to be loving. If He is holy, we are to be holy. If He is kind, we are to be kind. If He is forgiving, we are to be forgiving.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV
We are to display Him in all that we say and do. This is what it means to "walk in the Truth."
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. 2 John 1:4 ESV
Are you walking in the truth? Do people see Christ in your actions and responses? Do they see Christ in your marriage? Do they see Him in your work ethic? If you are abiding in Christ, you will walk as He walked.