Good morning, everyone! It is good to come back to church this Sunday after the parental leave. And give thanks to God for his blessing to my family with a new member. Whenever there is a newborn, I see it as a miracle because all good things are from God. And all lives come from God the Life-Giver.
Today, we are starting a new series on from the Letter of 2 John of the New Testament. 2 John is one of the shortest books in the Bible. But still, it is filled with some of the best teachings about the truth in the Bible. John wrote this letter to a congregation in his time, from John’s letters we find out that at that time, John’s church was filled with heresies. The false teachers had provoked some people to depart from the truth of the Scripture.
And in today’s message, John focuses on Christian love and obedience in the truth of Christ. So let’s us begin:
1) Paul’s love for God’s elect
In this letter, John addresses himself as the “elder”, that is, “Prebyteros” in Greek. The term “elder” was used among the Jews to indicate religious leaders, and this practice was adopted by the early Christians (1 Timothy 5:17). John was an overseer with pastoral oversight inside and outside the congregation. And John writes the letter “To the lady chosen by God and to her children” (2 John 1a). This lady might refer to a particular church or Christian community elected by God and to the congregation, which is referred to as her children. The New Testament often thinks of the church with feminine metaphors. The believers who believe in Jesus Christ as their saviour are chosen by God, as God’s children, born and raised by the bride of Christ, the church his “lady”. (Ephesians 5:22-32)
John’s deep love for this Christian community is expressed in the first line of his letter. He wrote, “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:” (2 John 1b-2)
And what is the truth? The truth is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is incarnated on earth, born as a human, to reveal to us who God his Father is.
As it is written in John 1:17-18, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
Jesus came down to earth to show us the truth about his Father. Apostle John loves his church, those who are in the truth, that is, in Jesus Christ, our Lord. We who know Christ know the truth in Him, and the God lives in us, and Jesus, who is the Truth has promised to be with us forever.
As John wrote in his gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17)
How do we know that God is living with us? It is by seeing how much we love Jesus and the people around us. Those who love Jesus will keep his commands. Therefore, if we see our brothers and sisters in the church community loving Jesus and obeying God’s words in their words and deeds, then we know for sure, that the Holy Spirit is with them.
2) God’s blessings are upon his people in truth and love
And the Christians whom John loves, he blesses them, let’s have a look at verse 3, John wrote, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” (2 John 3) John wished them grace, mercy and peace, which are common words in ancient Christian greetings.
These three-fold blessings are together: Grace means the free, unmerited favour of God to the world, and especially to those who belong to Christ.
Mercy, means God’s forgiving goodness and kindness toward the believers.
And peace is the condition of believers, who have received God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ; they are pardoned of their former sins and judgment from God. So they are at peace with God through Jesus Christ, who has overcome the world. All of you here who have put your faith in Jesus has received these eternal blessings from God.
If the truth is with us forever, and Jesus is the truth, then the gifts of Jesus, the three-fold blessings of grace, mercy and peace are likewise certainly with us.
Then at the end of verse 3, John also blessed us with two important terms, “truth and love”, which are two themes that form the foundation for this letter to follow. So if you want to know the major subject of the entire letter of 2 John, it is summarised in these two keywords, “truth” and “love”.
Jesus is with us in truth, because the fundamental truth about Jesus Christ that he is fully human. Some of the heretic beliefs in the first century claims that Jesus is a semi-divine projection, or like an angel, not fully human. No, the truth is that Jesus is the Word of God who has become truly human in flesh and blood in order to die for our sins on the Cross. As it is written in the Gospel of John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
For John, the truth is not just sincerity, but really is belonging to God. And people who know the truth of Christ love each other.
Secondly, Jesus is with us in love, which means not part of the withdrawal from the church. At that time when Apostle John wrote this letter, his church in Ephesus was in a spiritual crisis with false teachers who departs from the church. Those false teachers were Docetic, who denied the full incarnation of Jesus and the need for his bodily death for salvation. This false teaching has fractured the church’s unity and brought division in the church. Those who have left John’s Christian community has broken the love command, so it demonstrated that they were not really Jesus’ disciples who love for one another. The fellowship of God’s people are characterised in truth and love of Christ because both truth and love are at the core of what it means to be Christians.
So many times, I have seen many professed Christians who are so keen on the truth of Christ and evangelising the gospel fervently, but they have forgotten love one another. To be in Christ, and let Christ dwell in us, we need to love others and seek other’s good before ourselves. This Christian love goes hand-in-hand with our gospel sharing in the truth of Christ, and they are both blessings and a sign to show that Christ is really living in us. The main concern for a pastor for his congregation is not how many programs that we run at church, or the worship music style, or the look of our church building, or how many people turn up at the front door on Sundays. The concern for a pastor is that God’s people will love each other and remain unified in the gospel and that they will stand for the truth about Jesus Christ no matter what the cost. Apostle John has written the heart of Christianity in his letter. His formula is simple, that we love one another as an act of obedience to Jesus Christ, and that we live in the truth. Our love for one another defends true belief about Jesus Christ. That is the most important thing. Everything else is secondary.
3) We must walk in the truth
Then John wrote in verse 4, “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.”
If the people in our church are walking in the truth as God has commanded, we are filled with joy and pleasure, knowing that they are living with God and out of the darkness. Obedience to God and living the truth and light of Christ are together. And what is God’s command? John continues in verse 5, “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.”
John was delighted when the followers of Christ walk in the truth and obey God’s command. And God’s command to his people is love. It is an ancient law in the book of Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”
In Jesus’ ministry, Jesus, the Word of God, incarnate also told his disciples the same thing when John was learning from him at the beginning of the Kingdom of God, arrived here on earth. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
When we love God and love one another, we are, in fact, following God’s command and belong to the truth of Christ. Because Jesus lives in us, so we behave and love as Christ does. Imitating the love of our Creator and Saviour to people around us is the key to bring the gospel to the world, and attracting people to Jesus.
In John’s time, there were false teachers among the church and bring schism to the Christian community. Many people have departed the church according to John’s writings. In this crisis, what John’s church needed was love, the commitment to work together sacrificially for each other’s highest good.
Love is the vital power to keep us, the Christians, together amid controversy and conflict. It can heal old wounds and keep new ones from opening. Love is vital within the Christian community; in every healthy church, each church member must love one another as Jesus’ disciples.
I remember I used to go to a local church in Western Sydney near Eastwood; it is a large church with over 200 members. During my time as a student minister there, from time to time, I saw some newcomers coming to that church who are not new converts. They were Christian families who initially went to other churches. I ask one of the new family’s father, “How did your family find to this church? Did your family just moved here from another suburb?” And the Christian man answered me, “No, we have been living in the neighbour for over 15 years. I used to go to so-and-so church, but early this year we have decided to move to this church.” So I asked him, “Was there issues in that church?”, and then, he explained me about the fights and quarrels in his old church, that many people were hurt, that was why he has decided to move the church. He said to me, “People in this church are different. People here love people. We are attracted to their Christian love. We feel very welcomed, and we love to join this church family.” You know, True love in Christ can bring healing the wounded and bring peace and comfort to people.
In this case, both of the churches are located in the same local area. Although they are in different denominations, both preach the same gospel of Christ, with similar doctrine and theology. But what makes one church more extinctively attractive than the other is that how people of the church loves people and walking with Christ under God’s command.
When we share our love of Christ and welcome everyone who walks into the church door or anyone who joins our Zoom online worship, actively loving them and talk with them and share our lives with them and serving them, the church will grow abundantly. But if we have quarrels and conflicts or only love some people exclusively. In contrast, not associate with others or love the other people who are not close to us at church. The church will break down, and we are not obeying Jesus’ commandment.
As I read today’s passage in 2 John, I was taking a moment to reflect what I do in life. Did I walk in love?
And I would like you all to take home this message too, and ask yourself the same question that I have asked myself in the past week.
Did we genuinely love people in our church? What did we do in serving or loving people in the last few weeks? How did we treat my brothers and sisters in Christ and show them that we love them? Did we follow Jesus’ command to love one another?
As John wrote in verse 6, “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.” (2 John 6)
Apostle John’s message is worthier than gold and silver. So let us bring this treasure home today. And start practice loving one another, if we haven’t done it. Let us rebuild this church together after the physical gathering resume. Let us learn how to love others, and Christ has loved us. Let us pour out our hearts to serve each other in the church, no matter if we are close to them or not, but treat everyone in this church as our siblings in the household. If we do that, Jesus says we are truly his disciples, because we walk in obedience to his commands.
Let us pray and give thanks to God for today’s message.