Jottings from John’s Second Epistle (Paper 3)

Dennis Williamson, Belfast

Part 3 of 4 of the series Jottings from John's Second Epistle

'And now I beseech thee, lady', v. 5. The tender tone of the writer's approach in no way lessens the underlying burden of his heart. One cannot fail to detect the deep springs from which he himself has drunk as revealed in his spiritual aspirations for this sister. Nor is it confined to her alone for the same spirit is perceived as he writes to the beloved Gaius in the diird epistle, verse 2. The 'disciple whom Jesus loved' has indeed been 'following', John 21. 20. His occupation, interests, attention have been fully satisfied by the Lord Jesus. Now, full of years, that fragrance of Christ is still fresh to him. He would fain transmit it to others but realizes that this is the Spirit's work. Thus in the good of this experience he entreats. Well might he have sung the lines of a later servant:

The heart is satisfied, can ask no more;
All thought of self is now for ever o'er;
Christ, its unmingled object, fills the heart
In blest adoring love - its endless part.

 

Answering to the commandments, w. 5-8.

Is our heart beating true to Christ? In his request in verse 5 the elder seems to probe to the very kernel knowing that the Father desires 'truth in the inward parts'. He knows also that where divine love has been experienced and enjoyed there will be an evident response to divine commandments. Such a heart holds the Father's pleasure as its own. Gently but firmly the apostle stirs up pure minds by way of remembrance. Heart and hand are united as he deftly weaves together precept and practice. First, he requests, v. 5; then he reveals, v. 6; after that he reasons, v. 7; lastly he reflects, v. 8. All this, to impress upon this lady and her children the incalculable value of answering practically to the commandments. Already we are aware that divine love is established in each heart that has responded to divine grace, v. 1. Another step is now taken as the writer introduces us to its expression. How beautiful to observe the humility of John here. Although entreating, he includes himself within the compass of the truth he teaches, 'that we love one another', v. 6, 'that we walk after his commandments'. Obedience to the word of God in daily life is evidence of our love. A consistent walk which reveals adherence to His commandments, also demonstrates the quality of the love of God in our hearts. 'This is love', v. 6. It consists in this, 'that we walk after his commandments'. A life like this is provided for by the wealth of deity at our disposal, v. 3. Ostentatious living, giving, speaking or praying receive a death blow by the very unpretentious nature of the walk here enjoined. One has said 'we follow Him, but O how unequal are our steps!' Alight it be that this world, carnal reasoning, Satan himself have all caused the gold to become dim, Lam. 4. 1; the vision to be blurred; a true sense of priorities to be almost lost? Shall we not strive to walk after His commandments and so please the Father.

As a true shepherd, John here provides a pasture which will gender to spiritual health in a most unhealthy atmosphere. 'For many deceivers are entered into the world', v. 7. Here we see the reason for the exhortation already given. Those whose calculated purpose it is to mislead are gone forth into the world. Once they had mingled with the saints, 1 John 2. 19, but now their aim has been exposed. To mislead is the force of the deception here, see also the cognate verb 'to lead astray' which John uses in the first epistle, 1. 8; 2. 26; 3. 7. He has not minced words as to the description of the character of these men. They are liars, 1 John 2. 22; seducers, 2. 26; false prophets, 4. 1; deceivers, 2 John 7; and antichrists, 1 John 2. 18, 22; 4. 3; 2 John 7. It is interesting to observe that although he is styled the apostle of love, John here shows that it is not mere emotionalism, but a strong and vigorous love expressed within the firm framework of truth, which loves that which God loves and hates what He hates-see Heb. 1. 9.

With verse 7 the writer has reached the core of the issue with regard to the exposure of these individuals who are determined to mislead. They confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.' The fearful nature of their denial is that, not only do they deny the truth of the incarnation as a fact of history, but they deny its very possibility at any time! This is forcibly underlined by the apostle by the use of the present participle which should read 'Jesus Christ coming in flesh', thus revealing the depth of their rejection. To continue in this state is to seal their own doom and destiny. In this way these men prefigure the one of whom the Lord spoke in John 5. 43, and who would 'come in his own name' and find reception amongst the godless masses. This is the deceiver (against man) and the antichrist (against God). Those who follow him are categorized as those who 'have not the love of God' in them> John 5. 42. This is just what John has been saying here. Note the clear contrast between verse 6 'this is love', and verse 7 'this is the deceiver and the antichrist'!

'Look to yourselves', v. 8. How easy it is to look around! The question of Peter is repeated today perhaps under different guise and maybe also for different motives, 'what shall this man do?', John 21. 21. Paul would say to Timothy 'Take heed unto thyself, 1 Tim 4. 16. In this section the elder has entreated, v. 5; explained, v. 6; exposed, v. 7; and now in verse 8 he exhorts in view of future rewards. In light of the variance in textual readings of verse 8 relative to the first and second persons plural, I would submit for consideration that the context might favour reading the second person plural 'ye' consistently. Thus the watchfulness is theirs, the danger is theirs, the labour is theirs, hence the rewards may be theirs. Whichever view is taken, personal responsibility now in light of future reward is a solemn reality. May we hear again, with anointed ear, those incisive words of the Lord Jesus Himself 'what is that to thee? Follow thou me', John 21. 22.

  1. Preach Christ.
    Acts 8. 5; 9. 20; 1 Cor. 1. 23; 15. 12; 2 Cor. 4. 5; Eph. 3. 8; Phil. 1. 5, 16, 18; Col. 1.28.
  2. Preach the Word.
    Acts 13. 5; 14. 25; 15. 35, 36; 16. 6; 17. 3, 13; Rom. 10. 8; 2 Tim. 4. 2.
  3. Preach Peace.
    Acts 10. 36; 2 Cor. 5. 18-20; Eph. 2. 17.
  4. Preach the Kingdom of God.
    Acts 8. 12; 28. 31.
  5. Preach the Faith. Gal. 1.23; Jude 3.