Truth and Love
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Truth and Love

2 John 1:1–3  (ID: 2637)

In the brief book of 2 John, the apostle John addressed a congregation under his pastoral care, of whom the encouraging report was given that they were walking in truth. Alistair Begg helps us to define biblical truth absolutely and objectively as it is interwoven with the love of God in Christ. When we make the truth of the Gospel our priority, we will conduct our lives with integrity and a compelling, authentic love.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 2 and 3 John

Walking in the Truth 2 John 1:1–13, 3 John 1:1–14 Series ID: 16301

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn in the Bible to the second letter of John, to 2 John, which you’ll find on page 864 if you wish to use one of our church Bibles. And if you’re unfamiliar with your way around your Bible, then if you start at Revelation and work towards the beginning, you’ll come to 2 John pretty quickly. You’ll actually find it in between 1 John and 3 John, so… But some of you will already have figured that out. This is a bright group.

Two John 1:

“The elder,

“To the chosen lady and 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:

“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[’m] not writing you a new command but one we[’ve] 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[’ve] 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.”


Now just a prayer before we look at this brief letter together:

Father, with our Bibles open before us, we implore you that we might have the divine help that we require in order to study the Bible in a way that is authentic and thoughtful and responds properly to its instruction. Help us, then, in both our speaking and in our listening, to please you in every way. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.

Well, our gaze is on these opening verses of this second letter of John. This is the first of a brief series in the two shortest New Testament letters, 2 and 3 John. They both only have about three hundred words each in Greek. They are shorter than Philemon, which we just did, and also Jude, which as yet we have not done. I have taken a title for this brief series from the fourth verse of both 2 and 3 John. It comes in the fourth verse of each of the letters, and it is the phrase, “walking in the truth.” “Walking in the truth.”

The Context of the First Century

We needn’t spend a long time on the context, but we do need to have some sense of where we are. It will suffice us to know that by this stage in life, John was an elderly gentleman. I think that’s why he refers to himself simply as “the elder.” He doesn’t refer to himself as “the apostle.” That would be presumptuous, because he was not the apostle; he was an apostle. But once a man has reached a certain age, if he’s known by dint of other things, he may actually be bold enough just to refer to himself as “the old man” or “the elder.”

He has cared for at least one congregation in the region of Ephesus. By dint of his age, he is not able to make visits to this group as perhaps he was once able to do. And he bemoans this, as you would have noted, at the end of the letter: “I want to come and talk to you face-to-face, but for now, I have to write to you. I don’t want to continue to have to write to you.” But it is by means of pen and ink that he is expressing his affection for, his interest in, and his concern for those who are under his care.

The truth that John is urging his readers to walk in is objective, it is defined, and it is absolute.

He begins by commending them for the way in which their belief is translated into their behavior. And it is this juxtaposition between truth and love which we will focus on in a moment or two from now. Not only do these people love the truth, but they love others who love the truth, and they are doing well in this regard—at least some.

Having commended them for all that is well with them, he also issues a warning to them, because there is a threat that they face. We won’t get to that this morning, but it begins in verse 7—his reference to it: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.” And you will notice that he’s not mincing his words here. This is not some marginal concern; this is a full, frontal attack on Christian faith and truth. And therefore, he refers to the individuals as “deceivers.” Such a person, who opposes the identity of Jesus—his incarnation and his life and ministry—is none other than “the deceiver and the antichrist.” So notice—and we’ll come back to this—that he is not simply alerting his readers to individuals who are opposing peripheral issues but rather those who are challenging the central truth of the gospel: traveling preachers going around and seeking to encourage their listeners to imbibe this kind of stuff. And in the age of hospitality as a necessity, he says, “I want to warn you about these people, and I want to tell you: I don’t want you taking them into your homes.” Very straightforward—that’s something that an elderly man with pastoral care is able to do.

He is concerned to guard the truth. To guard the truth. He’s not about to adapt it to accommodate to the heretical views that are being promulgated amongst these people. The truth that he is urging his readers to walk in is objective, it is defined, and it is absolute. This, of course, is a fascinating notion in our contemporary circumstances, as I will point out in a moment or two. But let’s be very, very clear that when John speaks about walking in “the truth,” he is speaking in definable terms. He is speaking of the truth that has been embodied in Jesus, that has been inscripturated, that has been left to us in the Bible—the truth of the gospel that the Gospel writers have written and the truth which now the apostles are ensuring is transmitted safely into the hands of another generation.

For here they are, towards the end of the first century, and already that which is vague and ill-defined and that which is in direct opposition to the truth of the gospel is beginning to worm its way into the community of faith. We must always remember this when people say, “Oh, it must have been terrific to live in the first century. They never had any of our problems at all, you know.” But in actual fact, in every generation, from the absolute get-go, every time truth as declared definable in Jesus is proclaimed and made much of, the work of the Evil One is to undermine, to pick away, and to sow the seeds of confusion. And that is exactly what was taking place in the context that we find here in 2 John.

The Framework of the Twenty-First Century

Now, the fact that he speaks in such definable terms concerning the truth helps us, then, to set this not only in the context of the first century but also in the framework of the twenty-first century. Because John would never have understood the increasingly vague and ill-defined notions of Christianity which are represented within the framework of Christendom at this point in the twenty-first century, whereby people grow increasingly fearful about speaking in these definable and objective terms. You may have found the pressure on yourself. I know that I have. It is a product, in part, of the increasingly multicultural world in which we live, whereby not only do products and pieces of manufacturing industry cross barriers in a way that they didn’t before, but so ideas and concepts of spirituality and religious notions are far more, in the minds of people, far removed from their origins than ever was true before.

And so you will find yourself, perhaps, in conversation, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, almost catching your breath as you find yourself saying to somebody, “Well, actually, Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.’”[1] And the person says to you, “But for goodness’ sake, you’re not going to tell me for a moment that you actually believe that, do you?” And the temptation is to say, “Well, I mean, I understand that you have a different view, and of course, I want to be tolerant of your view,” and so on. And of course, we do want to be tolerant of the views of others. But John could never have understood a kind of Play-Doh Christianity which, as soon as it runs up against something which challenges it, just simply reaches in and redefines the body of truth, the content of truth, so as to make it adaptable to whatever the climate is that confronts it.

But that’s exactly what’s happening. If you doubt that, then you haven’t been paying attention. It’s far more customary to hear people now talking about “Well, I’d like to tell you about my spiritual journey,” as opposed to “Well, I’d like to tell you about Jesus and his exclusive claims.” Your spiritual journey is no challenge to anybody, really, just as long as it’s your spiritual journey. But don’t, whatever you do, stand on someone’s toes and endeavor to speak about the importance of walking in the definable, objective truth, which is what John is referencing here.

The first century was challenged in relationship to truth; the twenty-first century is challenged in relationship to truth. Now the temptation is to shrink from doctrine and to turn from truth. And the statistics reveal the endemic nature of this. Of course, we can always introduce a fudge factor where statistics are involved, but I think there is reason for alarm in these figures. It is estimated that only 32 percent of those claiming to be born again in the United State of America—only 32 percent of the “born-againers”—believe in absolutes in the realm of either truth or morality. So, again, the person is prepared to say, “Well, I am a follower of Jesus, and I am on a spiritual journey. However, I don’t actually believe in definable truth as it relates to morality or as it relates to theology.”

What does this mean in practical terms? It means that two-thirds of the people claiming to have been made new by the Spirit of God take the uniqueness of Jesus the Messiah as coming in the flesh, the uniqueness of Christ’s death as an atoning sacrifice for sin, and the role of Christ’s work in restoring fellowship between sinful man and a holy God—they take all of that, and they collapse it into a heap.

Now, you see, there’s an obvious knock-on effect in this, isn’t there? Why would there be so much immorality amongst the teenage and unmarried population of professed Christians? Well, if they don’t believe in a definable statement concerning the lordship of Jesus—that we can only believe what Jesus said, that we can only behave as Jesus said to behave, that we have no right to believe anything other than what he taught, and we have no right to believe in any other way other than that which he demands—therefore, that speaks to the issue of morality. It speaks to the issue of integrity. It speaks to the issue of homosexuality and heterosexuality. It speaks to the defining nature of marriage. It speaks to what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. But as soon as everything goes on a sliding scale, as soon as people cease to walk in the truth, then, of course, confusion abounds.

No wonder our society is confused by those who claim to be born again. They have every legitimate right to think that if this “born again” thing means something, if there’s actually been some kind of spiritual metamorphosis that has taken place inside of you, goodness gracious, don’t I have a legitimate right to expect that both in your morality and in your theology, you will be radically different? Answer: yes, you do have that right. Why is that not the case?

Now, if we’re going to respond to this exhortation to walk in the truth—here we are, dwellers in the twenty-first century—if we’re going to take John’s word seriously and we’re going to try and, by the help of God, walk in the truth, let’s just lay it down as foundational that this is going to be an uphill walk; that this is not a stroll in the park; that if we’re going to walk in the truth, it’s not like Tiny Tim, you know: “Tiptoe through the tulips.”[2] Remember that guy? No, it’s not going to be that at all. It’s like the steepest hill you have ever encountered in your entire life, and you’ll be walking up it for the rest of your life—at least in contemporary circumstances. A walk in the truth is an uphill walk. That’s why I think many people are not up for it. “It’s just… This is just too hard. This is just too much like taking up my cross every day and following Jesus Christ.[3] This means that I’m getting hammered from left and from right, from inside and from outside.” But that’s what he calls for.

David Wells says if the evangelical church doesn’t want to lose its voice in this generation, it “must remember two points in particular”: one, “that Christianity is about truth,” and two, “that those who say they are Christians must model this truth by their integrity.”[4] Okay? “That Christianity is about truth” and “that those who say they are Christians must model this truth by their integrity.” Well, isn’t that what John is actually saying here as he ties together the truth and the expression of truth in love?

Now, as daunting a challenge as this is, it’s a very exciting prospect. It’s actually a wonderful opportunity. For a world that is without truth is an empty, dangerous, silly world. And that’s the world in which we live: in an empty, dangerous, silly world. And so, if we are able both to speak about truth and then to live truth, then into that emptiness and into that silliness the Christian has an opportunity to bring something that is compelling. And in a world that is marked by spin and by hype, integrity is attractive. Integrity’s attractive.

Irrespective of what you believe about the present circumstances politically in this country, this has been one fascinating few days, hasn’t it, since Tuesday? As we have all of these people on television explaining to us not only what is being said but what is actually being said in what is being said, and that what is being said is actually nothing to do with what this person actually wants to have happen, but it is a way of saying something that makes this person feel that that may be what they want, although it isn’t what they want, but we should all know so that we can understand exactly what’s going on. And you find yourself shouting at the television, don’t you (at least I do), and just saying, “Could somebody just say what they mean and mean what they say? Just stand up and tell the truth, please!”

You see, in a world of hype and spin… And my first introduction to “spin,” after “going for a spin” on my bicycle, was in Tony Blair’s government in the UK. That’s the first time I encountered “spin doctors.” I would have to check it in terms of the dictionary. I don’t know when “spin doctors” came into common parlance, but I think it was right around the beginning of the commencement of Blair’s government. But in a world of spin, what a compelling thing it is if you can meet someone that will tell the truth and live the truth in integrity, so that when you look this person in the eye, you know that they don’t have seven different ulterior motives in trying to communicate what they’re communicating.

So John says, “I decided to write this letter to you, folks, and I’m really encouraged to discover that some of your children are walking in the truth. And it’s really important that you’re walking in the truth, because there are people around who want to dismantle the very truth that you proclaim and in which you walk.” First-century reality, twenty-first-century reality.

Now, I’ve taken a long time on this, and purposefully so, because I’m trying to make it clear—and I don’t articulate this routinely, but every so often I want to call myself to it, and one of the ways to call myself to it is to call your attention to it, and then you can hold me to it—and that is to make sure that our study of the Bible is set within our understanding of our culture. Because if we don’t do that—if we don’t bridge the gap between the first and the twenty-first century—then it is possible to read the Bible in a way that disengages it from the world to which each of us return tomorrow morning. So this simply becomes an exercise in biblical literacy that is disengaged from the world in which we’re living.

So we need to recognize that to understand what John is saying, when he is saying it, and how he is saying it two thousand years ago, at the end of the first century, needs, then, to be contextualized in the climate in which we are living our lives. And it is in our ability to connect those two worlds that we find ourselves in the realm of authenticity—an authenticity which John here refers to as “walking in the truth.” Okay?

The Identity of the Writer and the Recipients

Now, with all of that, let’s turn to the text, first of all paying attention to the identity of the writer and the recipients. The writer and the recipients.

The writer simply introduces himself, both in 2 and 3 John, as “the elder.” I’ve already alluded to this and betrayed my hand. I’m taking my stand with the late professor Donald Guthrie, who lived the New Testament theology that he taught me. And Guthrie was both a godly man and an intellectual theologian, and this is his summation. I told you last week, I’m always looking for a good sentence that summarizes it. This is Guthrie. He says, “John, the son of Zebedee, known as ‘the elder,’ was the author of the Gospel and the Epistles.”[5] “John, the son of Zebedee, known as ‘the elder,’ was the author of the Gospel and the Epistles.” Now, if you don’t like that, you can spend a very laborious afternoon ferreting out seven hundred reasons why that is not the case. I simply want you to know that I’m taking my stand with that position, and all that I will then say concerning these two letters is directly related to the fact that I believe “the elder” to be none other than the author of the Gospel and the one who has written 1 John and 3 John as well.

When we come to “the chosen lady and her children,” who are the recipients, if you are of the disposition to investigate all the possible identities of “the chosen lady,” then may I wish you well. And I encourage you to spend as long as you like. Let me give you a little flavor of what happens when you come to the phrase “the chosen lady.” We read this at our staff meeting on Monday, and one of the fellows on the pastoral team immediately said, “Who is ‘the chosen lady’?” And I said, “Let me get back to you on that.” So, I knew at least I had to come up with some answer for him if not for everyone else. In actual fact, I had to come up with an answer for myself. I knew what I believed, but I wasn’t sure how accurate it was.

Who is “the chosen lady”? Is he writing to an individual whom he refers to as “the chosen lady”? Does “chosen lady” in Greek actually give us her name, Eklektē? Or is “chosen lady” a metaphor for the church, for a congregation? So, just like at the end of 1 Peter 5, where Peter says, “She who is in Babylon greets you,”[6] which is a reference to the church—which, of course, makes sense; the church is the bride of Christ and so on. Therefore, is it a metaphor—that this is a way of describing, personifying, a local congregation, the children being the members? Or is he writing to a lady?

Well, I went to Leon Morris, whom I respect greatly. Leon Morris says, “It is slightly more likely that it is a letter to an individual.”[7] Well, I said, “Okay. Leon Morris—he’s a clever man; he’s a godly man.” I put that down. One for the lady. Then I go to my good friend John Stott. How about John Stott? John Stott says it is “more likely to be a personification than a person.”[8] “Well,” I said, “now I got Stott over here with a metaphor. I’ve got Leon Morris over here as an individual. What do I do now? Let’s go to Albert Barnes.” I like Albert Barnes. He lived in the early nineteenth century in America. What does Barnes have to say? “There has been great diversity of opinion in regard to the person here referred to, and there are questions respecting it which it is impossible to determine with absolute certainty.”[9] Thank you, Mr. Barnes. You don’t know.

Here is where I’ve fallen: I’m going with John Stott and with the metaphor—not simply because John Stott is still alive and Leon Morris has gone to heaven, but I’m actually inclined to the view that the language in this case is more appropriate to a congregation than to a person. So, for example, when in verse 5 he comes again and he says, “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”—well, you know, I’m not going to write that to any other member of my congregation than my wife, maybe my daughters, if they’re here. But I’m not going to write you a letter: “I ask, dear lady, that we love one another.” And you don’t want me to do that either. But I may write a pastoral letter to the congregation, personifying the whole place in terms of an individual and saying, “I ask that we love one another.”

Enough said. Suffice it to note that I am inclined to view “chosen lady and her children” as a metaphor for a local congregation, and all that I will say subsequently is in concurrence with that view. All right?

The Priority of the Truth

The identity of the writer and the readers. Secondly, notice the priority of the truth. The priority of the truth.

And here we have the first interplay between truth and love. Agapē is the word for “love.” Alētheia is the word for “truth.” Agapē was a word that was virtually coined because no secular word for “love” could sufficiently convey the nature of what was represented in the love of God displayed in Jesus. So, for example, the word erōs, which gives us our word erotic, which is largely a physical expression of love, may be regarded as “all take.” Phileō, which gives us our Philadelphia, our “brotherly love,” could be seen in terms of “give and take.” And agapē, which is the self-sacrificing love displayed in Jesus, might be seen in terms of “all give.” “All give.”

And it is to the congregation he writes and whom he says he loves—that is, he agapēs—in the alētheia; he “love[s] in the truth.” In other words, he doesn’t love them emotively apart from truth, nor does he convey truth apart from the reality of love. And he makes this point again and again going through. His love for the church is a peculiar love. It is an initiative-taking, self-sacrificing love. It is the love of Jesus. And he loves, if you like, in relationship to the revelation that is provided in the truth, so that his love is tempered by truth, and his convictions about truth, if you like, are softened by love.

Love is not here a matter of mere emotion, nor is truth here a matter of intuition. And that is very, very important in our present climate. Because so many expressions of love—contemporary expressions of love—are just about how I’m feeling. They’re just about emotions: “Well, I love you,” or “I don’t feel like I…” and so on. And so we pour that into the biblical text, unless we are able to discriminate. And expressions of truth are, as I’ve suggested to you, like a nose made of Plasticine. It can be shaped any way you choose, because it’s simply a matter of intuition: “Well, I like to think of it in this way.” “Well, my view of truth is this.”

‘Love’ is not simply emotion, and ‘truth’ is not intuition.

It’s very silly. That’s why I say it’s a silly world devoid of truth. The Celtics won the opening game. I don’t know if there was a second game yet, was there? Did the Lakers play again yet? No? So, in the first game, the Celtics won. Now, I could have gone out the next morning and said to people, said, “Hey, isn’t it fantastic how the Lakers won last night?”

The person said, “Well, no, the Lakers didn’t win last night.”

I said, “Oh, I beg your pardon. Yes, they did.”

The person said, “Well, no, the score was this to this.”

I said, “I know it was, but the Celtics still won.”

They say, “Well, you have taken leave of your senses, haven’t you?”

“Well, no. Because as far as I’m concerned, the Lakers won. The Lakers were the winners.”

Well, it’s just stupidity, isn’t it? It’s absolute nonsense.

As I’ve said to you before, if you tune in on United Airlines—which we seldom do now, because they never fly into Cleveland—but if you tune in on channel 9 on United Airlines, then you can listen to air traffic control. And all the way through: “Descend and maintain nine thousand feet.” “Flight 786 descending to nine thousand feet.” You don’t want to have the guy go, “Excuse me, what do you mean by nine thousand feet?” and the reply comes back, “Whatever you want it to mean.” That is not only silly; that is dangerous.

Now, when we look at “walking in the truth,” when we talk about “love in the truth,” remember: “love” is not simply emotion, and “truth” is not intuition. The love is defined in relationship to the revelation of God’s truth, ultimately in Jesus. And until we get ahold of that, we will immediately be at sea. So, love is defined in relationship to truth, and it’s displayed in the relationships with one another and also, as we will come to see in verse 6, in their obedience to God’s commands. But that will have to wait until this evening.

What does it mean? It means at least this: that for us at Parkside Church, the basis of our love for one another is not our shared interests, nor is it our natural instincts. The basis for Parkside family loving each other is not because of our shared interests nor because of our natural instincts, but it is on account of that fact that God has done something in the person of Jesus in which we have come to believe and which actually has totally altered us. We still are sinners. We still have negative thoughts about one another. There are still individuals whom we may naturally be drawn to more than others, There may be some who regard us entirely as a pain in the neck. But since to walk in the truth and to live in love is not about those elemental nature of things, then we can bring the truth of God’s Word to bear upon our lives.

And you will notice that he says, “whom I love in the truth—and not just me, but also all who know the truth” (notice that: “know the truth”; in other words, it is objective and knowable), and “because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever.” Now, for homework, you can go to John 14, and you can read there the words of Jesus concerning all that would be the experience of his followers in the giving of the Holy Spirit.

The Security of Grace

Let’s just come and notice one final thing: the identity of the writer and his readers, the priority of truth, and finally, just a word concerning the security of grace. The security of grace.

You’ll notice that this is a kind of souped-up greeting. The standard greeting is “grace and peace.” The standard greeting in a secular Greek letter was to simply begin with the word chairein, which simply meant “greeting.” So it would start off, “Greeting!” The Christians changed that—changed it to the word charis, which is the word grace, and eirēnē, which is the word for peace. And into this John has added a third—namely, “mercy.” “Mercy.” And with this we conclude, but let me do so as clearly as I can.

Grace is, if you like, that characteristic of God or that expression of God whereby he gives to us what we don’t deserve. It is in his grace that he gives to us what we don’t deserve. By his mercy, he doesn’t give us what we do deserve. All right? Now, this is simplifying it. This is Sunday school terms, but this is the kind of way I can only remember it, so that when I think of God’s grace, it is in his giving to me the freedom from my sin, the freedom from guilt, and all the benefits that he showers upon us ultimately in Jesus. The flip side of that is his mercy, whereby we look at the cross, and we say, “But I should be getting that! I’m the one that sinned! I’m the one that was indifferent to God! I’m the one that had no concern for him!” Yes. So why is he doing what he’s doing to his Son, Jesus? On account of his mercy.

And then what is peace? Peace is simply the blessing that flows from grace and mercy. Peace is that which is the experience of the individual who has been reconciled to God, who is no longer alienated from him, who lives in fellowship with him, who lives in community with the other recipients of God’s favor.

And you will notice that this grace and mercy and peace comes “from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son.” John is constant in underscoring the equality between the Father and the Son. And you will see why this is when we move further on in the letter, because this is what was being challenged by these heretical teachers. And every cult, every deviation from the truth that is represented in a kind of pseudo-Christian expression in our contemporary Western culture, will ultimately be tied to this deviation—to confusion and distortion as it relates to the person of Jesus Christ, his humanity and his divinity. And so John sets up his stall, and he says, “This grace and this mercy and this peace come from God the Father and from Christ Jesus, who is the Father’s Son. And this will be with us”—and here he goes again—“in truth and love.” “In truth and love.” Peace, perfect peace. “Whom God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”[10]

You see how wonderfully compelling this is? In an empty and dangerous world, to be able to speak concerning truth is a challenge but an opportunity. In a world of spin and of hype, to live a life of genuine, authentic love—integrity—is a phenomenal opportunity. In a world that is increasingly fractured and disrupted, to be able to speak of peace is a terrific story to tell.

Love left to itself will very quickly become sentimentalism. And truth unhinged from love will very quickly become harsh and judgmental and refrigerated.

Some of you this morning will have already seen on Fox News or on the internet the story that has just come out of Japan of the young man, just in his early twenties, took a two-ton truck, drove it right into a crowded thoroughfare, killed a number of people with the truck immediately—or at least knocked them down—jumped out of the truck, took a long-bladed knife, and stabbed seven people to death in the midst of a normal, routine day. When they arrested him, he told the police, “I’ve had enough of life. I’m sick of everything. I just wanted to kill some people.”

Do you think he knows anything of peace? No. Do you think he needed another Nintendo game? Do you think he needed a new cell phone? What did he need? What does humanity need in its lostness? It needs the peace which only God provides through Jesus’ work upon the cross. How will men and women encounter that peace? Not when the church seeks to accommodate itself to the ill-defined vagueness of a world that wants to squeeze truth into its own manufactured style but when the church is brave enough to say, “Yes, I know this is like a long walk uphill. I know that this is countercultural, counterintuitive to everything that sounds right in our international, multicultural world. But here I take my stand.” And then the person listening to you will need to watch and see whether this expression of a conviction of truth is then matched by a life of genuine integrity and authenticity. For love left to itself will very quickly become sentimentalism. And truth unhinged from love will very quickly become harsh and judgmental and refrigerated. That’s why John is so concerned to see that those who read his letter are those who are committed to “walking in the truth”—a truth that is interwoven with the love of God in Christ.

Well, that’s the start of our little, brief study, and we’ll pick it up again this evening, all being well, and move forward from here.

Father, we thank you that we have the opportunity to turn to the Bible together. We pray that we might increasingly become students of your Word, not in a way that makes us theological eggheads but makes us able for the challenges of our day, prepared for the long walk uphill, prepared to stand as Daniel stood in his day, as Paul in his, and John now. Though the whole world is against us, like Athanasius, we can say that “Well then, I am against the whole world”—not because we’re bombastic or arrogant or proud but because we have no other place to stand. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then we cannot believe anything other than what he taught, and if Jesus Christ is Lord, then we can’t behave in any other way than he demands. So we’re stuck—wonderfully stuck. Help us, then, as Parkside Church, and those whom we represent, to take seriously the exhortation and encouragement of John to be like some, to whom he refers, who were for him the source of great joy because he found them walking in the truth.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one who believes, now and forevermore. Amen.

[1] John 14:6 (paraphrased).

[2] Al Dubin, “Tiptoe through the Tulips with Me” (1929).

[3] See Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23.

[4] David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 92.

[5] I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 43.

[6] 1 Peter 5:13 (paraphrased).

[7] Leon Morris, “2 John,” in The New Bible Commentary, Revised, ed. Donald Guthrie and J. A. Motyer (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 1271.

[8] John R. W. Stott, The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, rev. ed., The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 203–204.

[9] Albert Barnes, Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the General Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1848), 407.

[10] Mark 10:9; Matthew 19:6 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.