God, please help us love all Your true children simply because they, too, are in Christ. And help us be wise as we test all teaching and teachers by their faithfulness to Christ and His revealed Word. By this, may our love for You and Your children be made evident to all. In Christ’s name, amen.
Read 2 John
What role does discernment play in the open-hearted desire of Christians to cooperate with and encourage others engaged in missions? In John’s second letter, he reminded his readers how our unswerving devotion to the truth about Christ and His teaching should guide us in our missionary cooperation and support.
In this brief letter, the apostle John reminded a friend or local church—“the elect lady”—how to wisely evaluate itinerate missionaries. As you read, consider what John encouraged, what he warned about, and how he advised that missionaries be tested. Through it all, one theme stands out as our guide and goal: the truth.
- Truth: the basis for gospel cooperation (v. 1–3)
- Truth: the source of loving obedience (v. 4–6)
- Truth: worth defending from falsehood (v. 7–11)
- Concluding greetings (v. 12–13)
John is clear that regardless of what Christians may or may not have in common, our unity is built not on worldly commonalities but on the truth we share. John wrote with evident love—he and his readers were all “in the truth,” and they all “know the truth” which “remains with us forever.” In fact, without shared Christian truth, there’s no such thing as distinctly Christian love.
Moreover, that truth isn’t merely in our minds; it impacts the way we walk and live. Notice how John teaches that a right concern for truth leads not to legalism but obedient love. Like two dancers who clasp hands and joyfully spin faster and faster, truth and love together in the lives of God’s “children” produce a synergy of godliness that warms the heart of the old apostle. Notice how serious attention to truth, obedience, and love work together as friends, not enemies.
But in a fallen world, only “some” who claim the name of Christian actually walk in the truth. So, John warned next about the “deceivers” who deny the nature of Christ and who innovate, going “beyond” Christ’s teaching, finally declaring that such a teacher “does not have God.”
Consider what a warning this is to us to stick closely to the Scriptures in all we do and say. Also, note John’s instruction not to welcome or support any teachers who are guilty of such things, saying that anyone who does “shares in his evil work.” These are words of warning to all who would wander “beyond” what God has written. But they’re also words of comfort to all who cling tightly to the truth revealed by Christ through His apostles in His Word.
Finally, note the genuine warmth of John’s conclusion. All his talk of “truth” and “commands” and “obedience” doesn’t blunt the sweetness of John’s love for his “children.” In fact, only when he sees them face-to-face will his “joy be complete.” May the same affectionate harmony between truth and love be evident in us all.
2 John 6
6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
- John’s love for other Christians is fundamentally rooted in shared truth, about and through Christ. Are there ways you are tempted to try to build unity and love among Christians on anything less than shared love for gospel truth?
- John seems convinced that keeping God’s commands must involve loving others and that love motivates us to walk according to His commands. Are there ways you are tempted to think of obedience and love as somehow at odds in your life? How might reflecting on the gospel help you think better in this regard?
- The false teachers in John’s letter seemed to have denied the incarnation of Christ and developed teaching that literally “ran ahead” of Christ’s teaching. What test does he give us to determine if a teacher falls into this category of falsehood? How would you apply that test?
- In 2 John 10, John sternly commands the elect lady not to welcome false teachers, give them a platform for teaching in the assembly of Christians, nor support them. Do you think this means we should never welcome a non-Christian (who holds to false teaching) into our home? (Hint: The answer seems clearly to be “no.”) How else, then, might we err by welcoming and assisting false teachers, especially in our churches and ministry relationships?
- Resolve this week to spend time talking to someone in your church with whom you don’t have much in common other than a shared love for Christ and what He’s done for you in the gospel.