Here we have a very short letter, written to a church that the apostle John lovingly calls, “the chosen lady,” probably in reference to the church being the bride of Christ.
And I don’t think you have to look very hard to see the two main themes in this very short letter.
The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, 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. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love. (1-3)
In this passage, we see the word truth no less than 4 times.
And you see it in the very next verse as well.
It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded. (4)
As much joy as it gave John to see believers walking in truth, it gives God the Father even more. But what does that mean, “to walk in truth?”
I think first of all it means to believe all that God has said, especially concerning Jesus. That he is the Christ, the one God has sent to save us from our sins. That Jesus actually came down to this earth as a man, died on a cross to pay the price for our sin, and that he rose again.
To deny this is to call God a liar as we saw in John’s first letter (I John 5:10).
And yet many people did deny it, and John called them deceivers and antichrists (7). And he warns,
Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (8-9)
To walk in truth then, is to stay in the teaching we have received from Christ and which he gave to his apostles. If you run ahead of that teaching to embrace another, John says that you do not have God.
That’s especially important in the world today where many people are claiming to speak for God and yet run way beyond anything that Jesus and his apostles taught. As a result, they stray from the truth. So John says, “Don’t do that. Stay with the truth that you have received.”
To walk in truth also means to have nothing to do with those who teach things contrary to what Christ and his apostles have said. John says,
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (10-11)
This is not to say that we are not to welcome unbelievers into our houses. Rather, in those days, traveling preachers often came and taught in home churches. To welcome false teachers into your house in that situation would be to promote false teaching.
Unfortunately, we see numerous false teachers coming into legitimate churches, spreading their false teachings. And that has to stop. Pastors need to be very discerning as to who they let take the pulpit. If they don’t, they will be held responsible by God for supporting those false teachings.
The other main theme in this letter is to walk in love. John says,
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. 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. (5-6)
Many churches hold on to truth, but unfortunately don’t hold on to love. Instead, within the church there is gossip, back-biting, infighting, and worse.
It is not enough to know the truth. We need to live it too. And the one thing we really need to live is a life of love.
How about you? Are you walking in truth and love?