Life-Study of 1, 2, & 3 John, Judeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The subject of this book is the prohibition of participation in heresy. John speaks of heresy in verse 7: “Because many deceivers went out into the world, who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Certain heretics denied that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22), and others denied the Son, not confessing that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 2:23). Cerinthus, who denied that Jesus is the Christ, was a heretic. The Docetists and the Gnostics also taught heresy concerning the Person of Christ.
The Epistle of 2 John prohibits us from participating in any heretical teaching concerning Christ’s Person. In verse 10 the apostle John says, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not say to him, Rejoice!” As in verse 9, the “teaching” here is the teaching concerning the deity of Christ, especially regarding His incarnation by divine conception. In this Epistle John warns us not to receive anyone who denies the truth concerning Christ’s deity and incarnation.
In verse 1 John says, “The elder to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth.” The apostle John, like Peter, was also an elder in the church in Jerusalem before its destruction in A.D. 70 (Gal. 2:9; 1 Pet. 5:1). According to history, after returning from exile, John stayed in Ephesus to care for the churches in Asia. Thus he was probably also an elder in the church at Ephesus, where he wrote this Epistle.
John addresses this Epistle to the “chosen lady and to her children.” The Greek word rendered “lady” is kuria, the feminine form of kurios, lord, master. There are different interpretations of the word here. The most preferable is that it refers to a Christian sister of some prominence in the church, as “co-chosen” in 1 Peter 5:13 does. Kuria may have been her name, since it was a common name at that time. According to some accounts, she lived near Ephesus, and her sister (in v. 13) lived in Ephesus, where the church was under John’s care. There was a church in her locality meeting in her home.
In verse 1 John speaks of loving in truth. According to John’s usage of the word truth, especially in his Gospel, the first instance of “truth” in this verse denotes the revealed divine reality—the Triune God dispensed into man in the Son Jesus Christ—becoming man’s genuineness and sincerity, to live a life that corresponds to the divine light (John 3:19-21) and to worship God, as God seeks, according to what He is (John 4:23-24). This is the virtue of God (Rom. 3:7; 15:8) becoming our virtue, by which we love the believers. This is the genuineness, truthfulness, sincerity, honesty, trustworthiness, and faithfulness of God as a divine virtue and of man as a human virtue (Mark 12:14; 2 Cor. 11:10; Phil. 1:18; 1 John 3:18), and as an issue of the divine reality (3 John 1). In such truth, the apostle John, who lived in the divine reality of the Trinity, loved the one to whom he wrote. This is the denotation of the first usage of “truth” in this verse.
Simply speaking, the first usage of truth in verse 1 denotes sincerity, and John is speaking of loving in sincerity. However, the meaning of sincerity here is not simple. Usually, when we speak of sincerity, we understand sincerity to be merely a human virtue. But here sincerity is more than a human virtue. The human virtue in which the apostle John loved the one who received this Epistle was the issue of the divine reality that he enjoyed.
What is the divine reality enjoyed by John? This reality is the Triune God. The writer of this Epistle enjoyed the Triune God in the Son as his divine reality. Out of the enjoyment of this reality, which is the Triune God in Christ, issued sincerity. This sincerity, or faithfulness, actually is a virtue of God. When we enjoy God as our reality, His divine virtue becomes our human virtue, and this human virtue is sincerity, faithfulness.
This understanding of loving in truth is based upon what is revealed in John’s first Epistle. In that Epistle John indicates that we should love one another by God Himself as love. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). As we enjoy God as love, out of this love issues a love with which we love others. When we love others with the love that issues from our enjoyment of God as love, our love will be in sincerity. This sincerity is not our human virtue; rather, it is the issue of our enjoyment of the divine reality.
As we consider what John means in verse 1 by loving in truth, we are reminded that it is not a superficial matter to know the Bible. In particular, it is not sufficient to know the Epistles of John in a superficial way. Only when we get into the depths of these Epistles can we know the meaning of the writer.
In verse 1 John speaks of “all those who have known the truth.” Here John refers to those who not only have received Christ by believing that He is both God and man, but who also have fully known the truth concerning the Person of Christ.
At the end of verse 1 John again uses the word truth. Here truth denotes the divine reality of the gospel, especially concerning the Person of Christ as revealed in John’s Gospel and first Epistle. (See note 66 in 1 John 1.) The divine reality of the gospel here especially includes the fact that Christ is both God and man, having deity and humanity, possessing both the divine nature and the human nature, to express God in human life and to accomplish redemption with divine power in human flesh for fallen human beings, so that He may impart the divine life into them and bring them into an organic union with God. The second and third Epistles of John stress this truth. The second warns the faithful believers against receiving those who do not abide in this truth—in the teaching concerning Christ. The third encourages the believers to receive and help those who work for this truth.
In verse 2 John goes on to say, “Because of the truth which abides in us and shall be with us forever.” The apostle John, in his Gospel and first Epistle, inoculated the believers with his mending ministry concerning the revelation of the Person of Christ against the heresies regarding Christ’s deity and humanity. Because of such an inoculating truth, he and all those who had known this truth loved those who were faithful to this truth.
In verse 2 John says that the truth abides in us and will be with us forever. In verse 1 he tells us that he and all those who have known the truth love in truth the one to whom this Epistle was written. In verse 2 John uses the word truth with the same meaning as that of the second usage in verse 1, that is, to denote the divine reality of the gospel, especially concerning the Person of Christ. This divine reality, which actually is the Triune God, abides in us now and will be with us for eternity.
In verse 3 John says, “Grace, mercy, peace shall be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” Truth here refers to the divine reality of the gospel, especially concerning the Person of Christ, who expressed God and accomplished His purpose. Love refers to the expression of the believers in loving one another through receiving and knowing the truth. These two matters are the basic structure of this Epistle. In love and truth, grace, mercy, and peace will be with us.
The apostle greets and blesses the believers with grace, mercy, and peace based upon the existence among them of the two crucial matters of truth and love. When we walk in the truth (v. 4) and love one another (v. 5), we enjoy the divine grace, mercy, and peace.
If truth and love do not exist among the believers, there is no way for them to enjoy grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ. Grace, mercy, and peace can be unto us only when the basic factors of truth and love are present. Therefore, this Epistle emphasizes truth and love. All of us need to live a life of truth and love.
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