October 2011


To Love and Cherish

Doing Apologetics

Christianity: The Basics

What is Wrong with Social Justice

Christianity and Secularism

Evidence for the Bible

Archive for October 29th, 2011

The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 2 John 4-7a

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week Eight:  Oct 30, 2011

This week we began the body of the letter.  As is common, John starts with some positive statements aimed at framing the discussion of the problem, which begins in verse 7.


II. Body

a.      Living In Truth and Love (4-6)

4 – I was overjoyed to find some of your[1] children living truthfully, just as the Father has commanded us.

I was overjoyed to find

–          The Greek word for find is the word εὕρηκα – eurēka.  This is what Archimedes supposedly said when he discovered buoyancy in a public bath and ran home naked crying Eureka.  It means “I have found it.”  It is in the Perfect tense which suggests that John’s joy was  based on a personal experience.  Thus it is probably referring to something that happened during a recent visit to this church.

some of your children living truthfully

–          There was a question in the class as to why the word “Some” was italicized is some versions. Does this mean that the translators added the word?  The answer is yes, but the meaning is pretty clearly implied which is why some other translators don’t.   The Greek text of the key phrase reads,  ἐκ τῶν τέκνων σου (ek ton teknon sou) – or in a literal translation: “out of the children of you.” Thus word translated “out of”  (ἐκ)  is pretty clearly indicating that out of a whole there were some.  Thus translators render this as “some of your children.”

–          While it is clear that John was referring to some, the meaning is disputed.  One option is that he found “some” were and other that were not.  In other words John was happy to find that there were still some who were following the truth (lit walking in truth ), that not all had fallen away.  Note again the emphasis on the truth.  A second option, however, is that while John is happy about the “some”  he is saying nothing about the others. Since his comments appeared to be based on personal experience, he may have met with some during his visit, and those were the ones he is talking about.   He is saying nothing about those he did not meet with.  Given the positive tone in this section I would think that the second option is more likely.

just as the Father has commanded us

–          While the word translated commanded refers to a singular commandment, John is referring here not to any particular command but to the commandments of God in a general sense.   All of the commandments, taken as a whole, are a commandment that we live in the Truth.  That is what God asks of us.

5 – Dear lady, I am now requesting of you[2] that we all continue to love one another. It is not as though I am writing to give you[3] a new commandment, but one that we have had from the beginning.

Dear lady, I am now requesting of you

–          John now makes a direct request, which serves to emphasize his request.

that we all continue love one another

–          Notice how verse 4 and 5 link the concepts of living truthfully, and loving one another.  Both are at the core of the Christian experience.  For many this view of love, a view where love is something we have control over such that we can be commanded to love, does not make a lot of sense.  In the modern view, love is something that just happens.  We may fall in or out of love and it is really beyond our control, it just happens.  While this is a common view, this is not a biblical one.  Biblical love is something we have a choice in. We are commanded to love:

John 13:34 I am giving you a new commandment to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

Eph 5:25   Husbands, love your wives as the Messiah loved the church and gave himself for it,

Not…a new commandment

–          A minor issue arises with John’s claim that this is not a new command.  How does this square with John 13:34 just quoted?   This is really not hard to reconcile.  While for us, 2000 years later, the New Testament is take as a whole, it must be remember that the period it covers was nearly 70 years.  Thus while Jesus told his disciple this was a “new” commandment,  2 John was probably written over 50 years later to second or or even third generation Christians who had heard this from the time of their conversion. Thus for them it was not new.  This will be in contrast to the new teachings spread by the false teachers.

6 – And this is what demonstrates[4] love: that we live according to God’s[5] commandments. Just as you[6] have heard from the beginning what he commanded, you[7] must live by it.

And this is what demonstrates love:

–          This is Lit:  and this is love (καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ` ἀγάπη / kai autē estin ē agapē)   John now goes on to describe exactly what he is requesting.

we live according to God’s commandments.

–          Note the change from The commandment (v5) to commandments (v6). The commandment is  that we love one another.  The Commandments  are how we love another.   To love God is to obey God.

John 14:21  The person who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I, too, will love him and reveal myself to him.

–          Obeying God shows love for God. But how does it show love to “one another?”  God laws are not arbitrary rules, given so that he can punish us,  but are given by God to make our lives better.  The simple fact is that sin damages relationships and damages lives.   While Christians are often portrayed as killjoys who irrationally follow blindly old rules that no longer apply, the simple fact is that the evidence is on our side.  Many studies have shown that on average those who regularly attend church live happier and longer lives than those who don’t.

b.      Reject False Teachers (7-11)

7* – For many deceivers have gone out into the world. They refuse to acknowledge Jesus the Messiah[8] is coming in flesh[9]. Any such person is a deceiver and an antichrist.

For (ὅτι)

–          While this verse marks a change in the letter from positive exhortation to warnings, it is connect to the previous verse.  In context,  John was glad that they were living in the truth because…

many deceivers have gone out into the world.

–          Just as Christians missionaries that 3 John 5-6 says we should welcome have gone out so had their counterparts. And it is these counter parts that John is now going to warn about.

Questions and Discussion.

This week’s discussion picked up on the themes of living in truth and love, and in particular old versus new commandments.  The modern technological society has a built in bias towards the new,  and against the old.  While it is primarily driven by the rapid change in technology, cultural development is rarely so nicely compartmentalized.  For example,  after Einstein’s theory of relativity came to be accepted in physics, relativity as a concept spread throughout the culture and soon many things, including morals were seen as relative.  Likewise, modern cultures love of the the new, and devaluing of  the old is not restricted to technology. This has affected the church as well.

One of the members brought up the issue of the lack of contemplation and meditation on God’s word.  In the fast pace world there is little time for such things.  In fact, many kids (and even some adults) are virtually addicted to their own adrenaline, as life becomes a search for excitement and the next big rush of adrenaline. Little wonder that they do not have time to just sit and pray, contemplate study and meditate on God’s word.  And yet, if we do not stop to listen, how will we ever hear the Holy Spirit?  If we do not stop to study, contemplate and meditate on God’s word, how will we ever know what it says for our lives?  Are you powered by adrenaline, or by the Holy Spirit?

Next week we will continue in 2 John 7

If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

See here for references and more background on the class.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.

[1] 4 Lit. your (singular)
[2] 5 Lit. you (singular)
[3] 5 Lit. you (singular)
[4] 6 The Gk. lacks what demonstrates
[5] 6 Lit. his
[6] 6 Lit. you (plural)
[7] 6 Lit. you (plural)
[8] 7 Or Christ
[9] ISV: having become human