Summary: The key word of 2nd John is truth. The message of the thirteen verses is simple: Followers of Jesus have three responsibilities to the truth. We must know the truth. We must walk in the truth. We must protect the truth. These still apply today. Let’s
Through the New Testament 2006
Walking in the Truth
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Some of you will remember the scene from the movie “A Few Good Men.” The 1992 film stared Tom Cruise as a rookie military lawyer who has to defend a squad of marines accused of murder. They claimed they were acting on orders. Jack Nicholson plays a tough guy marine officer. One climactic scene has Nicholson on the stand being interrogated by the Cruise character. Cruise is getting nowhere and finally yells, “I want the truth!” The Jack Nicholson character shouts back. “You can’t handle the truth!" [Herbert Agar Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2.]
2 John is for those who can handle the truth. 2 John, the next book in our on-going series through the Bible. 2 John is of the shortest of the Bible’s sixty-six books. Chuck Swindoll calls 2 John one of the “New Testament postcards.” Clearly, if Romans or 1 Corinthians is a letter, the one chapter books of Philemon, Jude, 2nd and 3rd John are postcards. It is short and to the point.
The author of the little letter is simply identified as “the elder.” However, a quick comparison reveals that the postcard was penned by the same author as 1 John, 3 John, and the Gospel of John. Though none of those, name the author external testimony from early Christian writers and the internal evidence of the Gospel clearly identify John as the writer.
We know a few facts about John:
1. He was the brother of James and the son of Zebedee from Capernaum of Galilee.
2. He was one of the fishermen called by Jesus to become fishers of men.
3. Peter and Andrew worked for his father’s fishing business.
4. He was likely the youngest of the disciples, perhaps merely a teenager at the time.
5. Perhaps because of his youth, he was very close to Jesus. John refers to himself in the Gospel of John simply as the “disciple Jesus loved.”
6. Jesus nicknamed John and his brother James “sons of thunder” because of the eager with which they were wanted to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village that refused to offer Jesus and company hospitality.
7. He was the last surviving apostle. The best information says that he was well into his 80’s when he died at Ephesus. For obvious reasons, he was considered an elder statesman of the church in his later years. Note in 2 John, he is simply referred to as “the elder,” a term that could mean simply an older man. The term came to refer to the respected leaders of the church (and before that the Jewish synagogue).
8. He was also the only apostle to die of natural causes, if you don’t count the rigors that an extended exile and imprisonment may have had on him. All of the other apostles, according to tradition were martyred for their faith.
Barclay, Gospel of John Introduction—
Eusebius (3 : 28) tells another story of John which he got from the works of Irenaeus. We have seen that one of the leaders of the Gnostic heresy was a man called Cerinthus. "The apostle John once entered a bath to bathe; but, when he learned that Cerinthus was within, he sprang from his place and rushed out of the door, for he could not bear to remain under the same roof with him. He advised those who were with him to do the same. `Let us flee,’ he said, `lest the bath fall, for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."’ There we have another glimpse of the temper of John. Boanerges was not quite dead.
Cassian tells another famous story about John. One day he was found playing with a tame partridge. A narrower and more rigid brother rebuked him for thus wasting his time, and John answered: "The bow that is always bent will soon cease to shoot straight."
It is Jerome who tells the story of the last words of John. When he was dying, his disciples asked him if he had any last message to leave them. "Little children," he said, "love one another." Again and again he repeated it; and they asked him if that was all he had to say. "It is enough," he said, "for it is the Lord’s command."
Such then is our information about John; and he emerges a figure of fiery temper, of wide ambition, of undoubted courage, and, in the end, of gentle love.
The letter is addressed “to the elect lady and her children.” Several theories have been proposed to explain this phrase:
1. The term “elect lady” could actually be a name. If so, John would be writing to a specific Christian mother and her children. This takes the phrase literally.