Hold Fast to the Truth

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We live in a society that places a value on truth, the problem is truth has become subjective. If I believe something to be true, then it has to be true is the mentality. Truth is not subjective. Truth stands strong through all tests and still remains the same regardless of what happens.
Jesus said in , “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus established He was the truth, and the truth of the gospel was unchangeable.
In our text this morning, John writes a very short letter to encourage believers to stay the course and hold fast to the truth in spite of false teachings that were occurring.
The text:
2 John is one of the shortest books of the bible at just thirteen verses long. It has some very profound teachings regarding holding on to the truth believers were given, and how obedience to God’s commands will help us walk in the truth.
The letter opens rather cryptic. Verse one says, “The elder to the elect lady and her children...” Most scholars agree that this is the apostle John and he wrote it somewhere between 90 and 95 AD, so this would make this letter one of the last writings of the be loved apostle. The term elder could have been anyone and was seen as a mark of age (which would justify Johnanine authorship), but the word used for elder (presbuteros) is where we get our word presbetery from, and in spite of the lack of a name, this is obviously someone that was extremely familiar with the recipient.
The recipient is referred to only as “the elect lady and her children.” This has been the subject of much debate as to the identity of this lady, and there are two major points of discussion in regard to the recipient. (1) This was written to the church in general or even a local church, or (2) it is a reference to a specific person whom John chose to leave nameless. Regard of the recipient, the truth of the letter remains the same and does not affect interpretation.
Two thought immediately emerge in this letter that become the driving focus of John’s writing. John focuses on truth and love in the opening verses. This is a very intimate letter, and for John, love appeals to the heart and truth appeals to the mind, so John is going for a holistic approach through this letter, and both of the ideas are essential to his teaching. This is seen not only in this letter and the other two that bear his name, but also the gospel ascribed to him.
John greets his reader with the typical apostolic greeting of grace and peace, but in this case, he adds mercy to the greeting which expands on the concept of grace. God’s grace (the undeserved favor of God toward sinful people) is driven by mercy (which is God’s compassion and pity, and God’s readiness to forgive sin. As one commentator speak to this when he says that grace is God doing for us what we do not deserve, mercy is His not doing to us what we do deserve, and peace is God giving us what we need based upon His grace and mercy, and if we notice the word order, grace is always first and mercy and peace flow from God’s grace.
After the greeting, John begins to set the ground work for proper teaching by equating God and Jesus in the latter part of verse three. The preposition “from” is used twice to show equality between God and Jesus, an as one commentator suggests, “What we enjoy from the Son, we likewise enjoy from the Father. Any theology that would set the Father in opposition to the Son is faulty theology.” John then closes his opening section with the theme of truth and love again, and if we notice, truth is mentioned five times and love is mentioned four times just in the first six verses.
John then gets to the heart of his letter which can be divided into two sections. The first section is in verses four through six, and deals with walking in the truth in love, and the second section is in verses seven through eleven and deals with guarding the truth about the Son. Both of these sections seem almost parallel in an opposing fashion as the first section is more encouraging and the second section contains a warning for the believer.
John opens the heart of his letter in verse four where he says, “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father.” John is rejoicing to know that he has met some people in relation to the recipient that were holding fast to the truth of what they were taught. He says they have been “walking in the truth” and what he is saying here is he was glad to see that not only do they believe the truth of what they have been taught, but those teaching were manifest in their actions outwardly. Vance Havner said, “What we live is what we believe. Everything else is just religious talk.” John had met some people in relation to this lady or this church that not only talked the talk, but walked the walk as well.
In verses five and six we come across the first imperative of the passage where John says, “I ask that we love one another.” This is an implied command from John, and he is reiterating what Jesus had already told them through His teachings. John then says, “I am not writing you a new command but one we have heard from the beginning.” John is basically telling the reader, “I am not telling you anything you didn’t already know.” John begins early on to set himself apart from the false teaching that he will address in a few verses by reiterating that this is nothing new, and this is something that has been taught from the very beginning. This is also very similar to what Paul spoke of when he addressed the Galatians in chapter one where he speaks of people adding to the gospel that had already been established, and John does the same thing here as well.
For John, truth and love were inseparable, and if believers walked in the truth, then love would be made manifest.
1 John 2:9–11 ESV
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
John makes it very clear here that love and truth are inseparable and that if believers cannot or do not show love toward others, the the truth does not exist in them.
1 John 4:20–21 ESV
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
The object of the believer’s love becomes evident in the last part of verse five and into verse six now. The love of a believer toward God is made manifest in walking in obedience to the commands and expectations that God has set forth which then overflow in a love toward others.
1 John
1 John 5:2–3 ESV
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
It is because of our love for God that believers seek to obey God’s commands, and it is out of that desire to please God that we then love others, and when we show love toward others, we are acting in obedience to God.
Moving into verses seven through eleven bring us to the heart of the letter. There are limits to Christians love toward others and John now begins to explain those limits in this last part of his letter. Verse seven opens with the coordinating conjunction “for” which ties the two sections together. The begins the transition into the warning that John presents in verse eight.
John has said that he has great joy because people are walking in the truth and love, but there is a danger lurking around them and here is where John introduces that danger. John says, “many deceivers have gone int the world” and what he is speaking of here is people that have defected from the truth of Christianity back to the world. The meaning of the word world here means “an organized system in hostile opposition to God.”
What has happened s there has been a group of people that have fallen away from the true teaching of the gospel and are bringing about false teaching among the people. What is at stake here is a group has been denying the teaching that Jesus will return in the flesh. This appears to address the early for of what is called Gnosticism. This was a teaching that Jesus, being God, could not reside in evil, human flesh, therefore Jesus was just an apparition. This ends up affecting how people would see Jesus’ return. If Jesus was simply a spirit, he could never return in the flesh because the two could never co-exist in the same person, and John makes no issue with calling these people deceivers and an antichrist.
John then enters into the warning for the believer in verses eight and nine by saying, “Watch yourselves.” John is calling the believers here to be vigilant and on constant guard for these false teachers. The second part of verse eight will lead us straight into verse verse nine and presents some difficulty for interpreters. John’s concern is “that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” There are some commentators that say this is a grounds for losing one’s salvation. Some also suggest that this is just a loss of the reward in context of Christian service. Basically it could be a tarnished witness to the public for seeming to appear in cohort with a false doctrine. Daniel Akin suggests that it does seem clear that “perseverance is proof of possession.” In others words, when one belongs wholly to Christ, that will give the clearest evidence of belonging to Christ alone.
Verse nine then speaks to those that are teaching this false doctrine. While the false teachers may have called it progressive teaching, the truth was they were moving far ahead of the teaching and leaving the truth of God’s teaching behind in the dust. What they were teaching was a corrupted doctrine and falling away from the key truths of Christianity. John does provide an assurance contrary to what he is speaking for, and the that he says in the last part of verse nine, “whoever abides in this teaching has both the Father and the Son.” A truly grounded believer will rest in the truth of God’s word, and will hold fast to the teaching and this is the perseverance that Paul also speaks of to the Ephesians when he speaks of the job of the spiritual leaders and their purpose for building up the body.
Ephesians 4:14 ESV
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
John then closes out the heart of his letter with some practical advice for believers by giving them instruction on how false teachers should be handled. This verse, according to scholars, has been open to flat our rejection ad misunderstanding. What John is speaking of here is not assisting false teachers. Some would argue this verse plainly tells Christians they should not even entertain a conversation with those that bring false teachings, and openly rejects love for those that are mired in false teaching.
What was happening in the early first century was preachers were itinerant and they went from town to town staying in the houses of church members. They needed a bas of operations, and this is what Paul is referring to here is that believers were not to give them a base of operations in support of their ministry.

By placing our hope in Jesus, we can be assured we will not stray from the truth of God’s word and will walk in obedience.

Truth never changes, and God never changes, therefore, His word endures in truth and love for all mankind, and when we act in obedience to His commands, we become living examples of that truth.

Hold fast to the truth of Scripture

1 Peter 1:24–25 ESV
24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
1 Peter
Life is fleeting, but the word of God endures. The truth of scripture has not changed since the day it was penned. Doctrine is still the same, and the gospel is still as relevant today as it was when Jesus preached the good news. When change happens all around us, we can rest in the fact that God’s word will never change.
When hange happens all around us, we can rest in the fact that God’s word will never change.

Obey the commandments of scripture

John 14:15 ESV
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Our love for God should cause us to keep His commands. We can easily get caught up in the do’s and don’ts of what it means to be a Christian, but everything Jesus taught and all that God is about revolves around two key ideas.

Love to God

Mark 12:29–30 ESV
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6.4-5 when He was asked what the greatest commandment was, and this was a teaching held by the Jews from the giving of the law, and this was nothing most people were not already familiar with at that point.

Love to others

Mark 12:31 ESV
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Jesus follows that up with saying love your neighbor as yourself. This is not a narcissistic love, but a love that is made manifest in a person’s life that comes from loving God. This love is a direct reflection of how we relate to God.
John 13:35 ESV
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This is then how our obedience to God is made manifest. 1. John said that if we do not show love to others, we do not have the love of the Father in us this should be a stark reminder for us to take a step back, evaluate our relationships with other people and see how we truly see other people.

Guard against false teachings

How one views scripture determines how one interprets scripture. 1. There are a couple of basic ways to take scripture. Many call these views a moderate view and a high view of scripture, but how we view scripture personally determines how we interpret scripture, and therefore affects the authority scripture has in our lives.
When we view scripture as simply inspired (meaning some pretty swell guys that knew what they were talking about wrote scripture) it tends to diminish the authority of scripture in the life of a believer. It allows people to pick and choose what they want to believe from scripture. When this view is taken, a looser interpretation can be taken because we feel like humans wrote it and therefore are prone to mistakes, so this or that could mean different things.
When we take the position that scripture is “breathed out by God” through human writers, then we tighten up our interpretation of scripture and scripture bears more authority in the life of the believer. While it is true that we will run across passages that affect us personally, having an inerrant view of scripture does not allow us to say, “we there could be another meaning to this passage.” Especially if something hits close to home.

Do not support those that bear false teachings

Our view of scripture drastically affects the things we believe. If we are not careful, we can quickly fall into false teachings simply because they sound good. While there are some that are easy to determine they are a false teaching, there are some that are a bit more difficult to determine, and this is where we must be vigilant. Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons are perhaps the most mainline false teachings out there today. They claim to be followers of Christ, and they will concede that Jesus was a good person, but ultimately they deny the deity of Jesus and concede that He was simply a good person. There are a couple of mainline denominations that are a bit more difficult to catch if you’re not paying attention. Word of faith and prosperity are the two biggest. Word of faith is basically a “name it and claim it” theology. At its most basic, word of faith says, “If you want it to happen, claim it for God” and “If you don’t accept it, don’t claim it.” I believe that this teaching denies God’s sovereignty in the life of the believer.
Prosperity teaches that the more you give back to God, the more blessed you will be, and this is not always the case. Prosperity teachings also remove the sovereignty of God in the life of the believer, and remove the need for obedience to the commands of God. Both of these teachings rely on the believer to do something in order to have a better life in the here and now, and that is contrary to scripture as well.
When we take a higher view of scripture and scripture hold more authority in the life of the believer, then believers can be confident that their faith will not be shaken. This requires us to know scripture, and not just say, “I’m pretty sure the bible says this…”
When we determine the false teachers that exist, we are called to not support them. We are not called to condemn them, this still gives credence to their work, but we must be careful not to support them. I highly doubt one of the mainline preachers would need to establish a home base at our homes in order to preach, but we can extend that to book sales and quotes by those preachers.
We must understand though, that we are not released from our obligation to pray for them and show them the error of their ways and call them to return to the truth of scripture, but we must be very careful to not support these ministries in any way, because we run the risk of being corrupted just as their teaching is.
Truth is, in fact, not subjective. It withstands all tests of time. Jesus is the foundation for the truth of Christianity. If we walk in His truth, then we will be rooted in truth, and that truth will hold us fast until the time He returns.
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