It was critical that the elect lady and her children abide in love, and in the doctrine of Christ, because many deceivers were out and about who would overthrow the faith of God’s children if at all possible.  Having reminded them of the duty of Christian love, the faithful apostle would also warn them against the heretics who sought to creep into the churches, and diminish the person and glory of Christ.  Satan wasted no time when the Gospel first began to go forth with power, but immediately began to insinuate his servants into the churches, to sow the seeds of division, and to begin to disseminate false doctrine.  Many and varied were his tactics.  In the Galatian churches and in others, he sought to dissuade the people from simple faith in Christ by urging them to look to circumcision and personal obedience as a part of their justification.  In other places, as we learn from all the apostolic writings, he sent in ungodly men who sought to turn the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ into an excuse for lasciviousness.  These were damning and dangerous tactics, but perhaps the most abominable and destructive of all was the one mentioned here by John, those who would attack the very person of our glorious Saviour.  So adamantly opposed to these heretics was the apostle John, that he denounces them in this place as “a deceiver and an antichrist.”

Their lie was that Jesus Christ was not come in the flesh.  This could refer to one of two heresies, or perhaps could encompass both.  There were Gnostics and certain mystical heretics floating about (as there still are today) who denied the true humanity of Christ.  They held that His was not a real human body, but only the spiritual appearance of a body.  Probably it is for this reason that John laid such great stress in his gospel upon the human characteristics of Christ.  He addressed his human emotion and zeal for the glory of God in driving the moneychangers out of the temple (chapter 2).  He observed Jesus as a man weary with a long journey (chapter 4).  He was a man beset with the unbelief of those around Him, even His own brethren (chapter 7).  He could kneel down and doodle in the dirt, like any other man (chapter 8).  He wept with much sorrow for the grief and unbelief of others (chapter 11).  And then we have John’s vivid account of the sufferings of Christ, where we see Him scourged, nailed to a cross, and then even after His death, blood and water flowing from His pierced side (chapters 18 and 19).  Even after His resurrection, John notices the humanity of Christ, in that He could sit and eat with His disciples, even in His glorified state.  To deny the humanity of Christ, then, is to be a deceiver and an antichrist.

But it may be also that John is attacking those who denied the pre-existence of the Son of God.  There have always been heretics who would argue that Christ had no personal existence before His conception in the womb of Mary.  This is an utter denial of the doctrine of the apostles, who always laid great stress upon the wonder of God “sending His Son,” a plain intimation that the Son was with the Father, but was sent by the Father into the world upon a mission of salvation.  It also refutes the words heard by John from the very lips of the Saviour Himself, Who prayed to His Father that He might be restored to that glory which He possessed with the Father before the world began (John 17:5).  In verse 24 of the same chapter, in the same prayer, Jesus spoke of the love of the Father which He enjoyed before the foundation of the world.  To deny, then, that the Son of God existed in glory and power with the Father from the days of old eternity, is to be a deceiver and an antichrist.  John would have the elect lady and her children, and in fact all true Christians, to be on guard against such heretics who would pervert the Gospel by assaulting the very person of our dear Saviour.

We tend to take all the gifts and pleasures and happiness and the joy without saying much to God.  We take our health and strength, our food and clothing and our loved ones, all for granted;
but the moment anything goes wrong we start grumbling and complaining and we say ‘Why should God do this to me, why should this happen to me?’ How slow we are to thank and swift to grumble!

Psalm 119:1, 2

This was a hastily prepared Wednesday sermon, prepared for an evening upon which I did not expect to need to preach.  Nevertheless, the word was enlightening and instructive for me personally.  The first two verses of Psalm 119 are quite simple, but contain profound truths for the Christian life.  They describe God’s people as “the undefiled in the way,” and those that “keep His testimonies.”  They also “walk in the law of the Lord,” and are commanded to “keep His precepts diligently.”  Needless to say, God’s word is at the center of everything in the Christian’s life, and it must be so for us if we would enjoy the favor of His countenance.

There is no better description of love than that found here in 2 John 6: “And this is love, that we walk after His commandments.”  Does this not entirely agree with Paul, who wrote, “Love is the fulfilling of the law”?  James also is in harmony with this thought, for he wrote, “If ye fulfill the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well.”  We love our brethren, not by simply feeling tender sentiments towards them within our own selves, but by behaving towards them in such a fashion as directed by the Word of God.   We sacrifice our own interests, time, pleasures, and goods for their well-being.  We gird up the loins of our minds to even rebuke them when it is becoming, and to accept rebuke from them when we ourselves are overtaken in a fault.  Christian love is based upon the duties encoded in the law of God.  Without a knowledge of the moral duties required by that law, we truly have no accurate conception of the kind of love God requires of us.  We must take care that our conceptions of love are informed by holy Scripture, rather than by Hollywood and the surrounding culture.

Love was the commandment which John always stressed to his hearers.  He reminded them that love to God and love for one another is the very thing they had heard from the beginning.  Here, by “from the beginning” it is almost certain that he refers to the beginning of the Gospel ministry among them.  Doubtless the apostles were faithful to repeat to their hearers what they had heard from Christ, that the greatest commandment is that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and that the second is like unto it, that we love our neighbors as ourselves.  And, of course, as has already been pointed out, they would have preached that new commandment, that we love one another even as Christ loved us.  Thus, we see that it was no new doctrine which John was writing to the elect lady and her children, but one dating back to the ministry of Jesus, and in some sense all the way back to the giving of the Mosaic law.

Love, kindness, compassion, forbearance towards all believers, all the saints of God, however differenced among themselves, are made indispensably necessary unto us, and pressed on us from the same consideration.  To this purpose is the exhortation of the apostle before mentioned, Colossians 3:12, 13; for if God have chosen them from all eternity, and made them the objects of His love and grace, do we not think it necessary, doth not God require of us, that we should love them also?  How dare any of us entertain unkind, severe thoughts?  How dare we maintain animosities and enmities against any of them whom God hath eternally chosen to grace and glory?  Such things, it may be, have fallen out, and will fall out amongst us; but they are all opposite and contrary unto that influence which the consideration of God’s electing love ought to have upon us.  The apostle’s rule is, that, as unto our communion in love, we ought to receive him whom God hath received, and because God hath received him; against which no other thing can be laid in bar, Romans 14:1, 3.  And the rule is no less certain, yea, is subject to less exceptions, that we ought to choose, embrace, and love all those, whoever they be, whom God hath chosen and loved from eternity.  There is no greater evidence of low, weak, selfish Christians, than to prescribe any other rules or bounds unto their spiritual, evangelical affections than the decree of God’s election, as manifesting itself in its effects.  “I endure all things,” saith our apostle, not for the Jews or Gentiles, not for the weak or strong in the faith, not for those of this or that way, but, “for the elect’s sake.”  This should regulate our love, and mightily stir it up unto all actings of kindness, mercy, compassion, forbearance, and forgiveness.

Very much unlike the condescending arrogance of the Roman popes, but entirely in line with the behavior of Christ’s apostles, John deals very meekly with his fellow believers.  Who ever heard of a pope or a cult leader who humbly besought his brethren in any fashion?  But the apostles, though they possessed authority derived from Christ Himself, thought it fit to beseech their brethren by spiritual arguments to walk in the way of life.

That way here is the way of love.  John says that he is not writing a new commandment to the elect lady, but the commandment to love one another, which they had from the beginning.  It is possible that he is pointing her to the commandment in the law of Moses, that we love our neighbors as ourselves.  However, I rather think, since John’s mind was so filled up with the command of Christ that we love one another as He loved us, that he is pointing to that heavenly maxim.  The argument against this interpretation would be that he insists it is not a new commandment, but one which we had from the beginning.  While I grant that this was called by Christ “a new commandment,” and is sometimes referred to as such by John, that we may safely understand the apostle here not to refer to antiquity, but rather to something that was preached from the beginning of the apostolic age.  The beginning of the Christian era was when Christ began to go forth and preach that men should repent and believe the gospel.  It was at the very dawn of the apostolic age when Christ uttered this command to love one another as He loved us.  There can be little doubt that it was a theme of the teaching of the apostolic church.  Therefore, wherever John and his fellow apostles went, they would have related this command to the new believers in Christ.  By the time the aged apostle penned this letter to the elect lady and her children, he could rightly refer to that commandment as one “which we had from the beginning”; meaning, thereby, from the very beginning of our introduction to the Gospel, we had this commandment of love from Christ our Saviour.

Love with John is not some airy, ethereal thing, felt in the emotions and revealed only by a star-struck look in the eyes.  Genuine love is not even necessarily accompanied by deep movement of the affections.  In fact, those sort of emotions may accompany base and lewd actions.  There can be no doubt that those who fall into fornication are often possessed by powerful emotions which they call “love.”  Hollywood has made its fortune trading upon this concept of love.  But it has nothing to do with the vibrant spiritual affection to which John is pointing us.  And here, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, John would instruct us in what true love really is.  It is not that porneo love which was so admired by the Greeks, but was entirely restricted to sensual affections.  Rather, John points us higher, to the phileo brotherly love which characterizes the feelings of Christians for one another; yea, even to the spiritual agape love, the very essence of which is contained in Christ’s new commandment.

What this commandment is which John mentions, and whether it refers to a specific commandment or in general to the directives contained in the Word of God, is difficult to say.  It could be thought to refer to Christ’s new commandment, but I find this doubtful since John will introduce that in the following verse, and he almost certainly would have called it a command of Christ, rather than of the Father.  I suspect it would be better to presume the commandment from the Father to be that which is issued in general to all creation, to believe on the Son of God.  This is the very first act of the obedience of faith, the very first step on the road to heaven.  We can never walk in the truth, except we embrace that first and greatest of truths, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  This would be an entirely acceptable interpretation of the commandment received from the Father; but I rather prefer to give it a more general application, and refer it to the entire framework of God’s commandments, which embrace faith, love, and all the duties attendant upon these first graces.  John uses the indefinite article a, rather than the definite the, which seems to lend credence to my argument.  Had it been a specific commandment he was referencing, it stands to reason he would have used the definite article.  Therefore, we may refer the words back to the phrase “walking in the truth,” and conclude that the commandment received from the Father embraces every law and ordinance of God which a believer must follow, if he would remain steadfast in the truth of his Lord.


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