Saturday, March 2, 2013
2nd John Part 10
1:12-13 Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.
It appears that John restrained himself from writing further to advance his conversation with his audience. He didn’t stop on account of having nothing more to say, but rather that he would finish saying these things face to face rather than through a letter. His intention was that their (mutual) joy may be full. Paul the apostle wrote much the same thing to the Christians at Rome when he said “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me,” Romans 1:11-12.
John subjects himself to the most stringent of acid tests: personal experience. It is simple for me, or for anyone, to pretend at godliness and right loft things from behind the safety of my computer screen where my words are polished and organized. What does my actual walk look like? Am I a man whose faith is consistent with his confession? Do I practice what I preach, and would those who know me only through my writing be disappointed in what they found?
We are told that we ought always to be constant in our conduct, whether alone, with the saints, or amidst the unsaved world, 2nd Corinthians 10:11; Galatians 4:18; 2nd Timothy 4:2. Constancy of character is a hallmark of a saint whose life is coming into conformity with the God whose nature is unchanging, Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8. John was so many words written on a page, and while high minded and spiritual, were void of authority if the character of the man did not agree with the doctrine he brought to this house church’s doorstep. Granted, the matron of the house clearly had known John from times prior and therefore knew his character and constancy. John Foxe, in his infamous book Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, writes how John in his very old age would be carried into the congregation so he could bless the saints and remind them they ought to love one another. The message he heard from his Master that so transformed his life in his youth was one he bore with him to the grave, and stamped the apostle with a consistency of character that lent reliability to the nature of his message.
Some have said that there are five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the believer. Some will never read the first four, especially if the fifth gospel—us—rubs them the wrong way. The offense of the disciple couples with the stigma of the cross and turns seekers away from the gospel that saves. Sadly, it is Jesus and His message of salvation that is charged with error or inadequacy when it is in fact His disciples failing to appropriate the life lived by faith that casts our Lord in such a poor light. The Christian needs to understand that before we say a word we must be conducting ourselves in such a way that our actions and lifestyle do not instantly disqualify everything we might say, even if what we tell them is the stark doctrinal truth. We are twice told that we “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil,” and “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside (unsaved), redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one,” Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5. What “answer” is Paul alluding to? Peter tells us: “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear,” 1st Peter 3:15. But the answer (apologia, the Greek word we derive apology from) is only part of the equation Peter reveals. The next verse is more vital. “Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed,” 1st Peter 3:16.
We are to walk wisely at all times; not in convenient seasons or on Sundays between 10 AM to noon. Every hour of every day is lost without redemption if we squander it with carnal living when it could be redeemed (saved) by choosing instead to live in a manner compatible with the revelation of God’s character as Scripture reveals Him. The Holy Spirit within the believer will enable us to live in such a manner, and naturally produce in us the fruit of the Spirit as we consent to walk after God rather than please ourselves. Our very lives and actions can then be testimony about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the unsaved will have nothing to dismiss our testimony with regarding our conduct in Christ. Many still will, but it will be because they do not want to believe the truth; a more palatable alternative to me than knowing that my slovenly conduct turned someone away from my Lord and shamed His message.
John was a man of constant character who Paul defined as an apparent pillar, Galatians 2:9. He was foundational in the organization of the infant church. Christ describes His glorified saints in Heaven as “a pillar in the temple of My God…he shall come in and go out no more,” Revelation 3:12. We want to be unmoving in our faith, being built up and unshaken by doctrinal deviation and heresy. Nor do we want the turbulent ocean of lust to constantly stir us to act in ways contrary to the gospel message. Both can be achieved by the believer abiding in Christ, Mark 11:22-24; John 15:4-8.
Mention is made of the elect sister, which could either mean a sister church planted by the apostle or simply another saved woman related by the Spirit (perhaps also by blood) who wished to send greetings, as many people did in Paul’s letters. The fact that John fails to use names lends some credence to the “women” being churches rather than individuals; but whether or not they are people or groups of people the message John conveys is clear: we must stand fast in the faith and test the messages of would-be evangelists by Scripture. Holding fast to the doctrine preserves the Christian, letting it go is a sure way to immediately shipwreck one’s faith, 1st Timothy 1:19-20; 6:20-21. The apostle concludes his message with a simple Amen, meaning “may it be so.” Amen is essentially like saying what has been stated is truth. How much of our own life is compatible with the New Testament? Do we stand in the faith of the doctrine once for all delivered to the saints? We cannot perceive error when we are steeped in it, Matthew 7:3-5. Faithful adherence to the doctrine cleanses us from such sins as the Holy Spirit works in us. Then He will work through us to reconcile the world to Christ. Are we God’s fellow workers, 1st Corinthians 3:9? Or do we contribute to the apostasy rampant in our church that opens the doors to the spirit of the antichrist? John is reaffirming this matron’s marching orders, and vicariously through her, our own. We would do well to listen.