Grow in the Work of Christ, part 2

From the believers union with Christ (2.1-10) Paul points his readers toward their unity in the church (2.11ff). Paul’s emphasis is that in the body there is not Jewish and Gentile believers but “one new man in place of two” (v.15).

Access to His Blood (11-13)

Though previously far away from God by the blood of Jesus God has brought us near.

11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—

Therefore: On the ground of your former, fallen state and in light of your current, exalted state…

Remember: present imperative. Remember what you were by nature (v.3) and what you have become by grace (v.5, 8).  Some even contend this therefore reaches back to 1.3; so Paul calls upon the Gentiles to consider all they have experienced from God through Christ.

That at one time…in the flesh: Though dead and made alive by Christ like the Jews, the Gentiles were distinct in the flesh, i.e. in regards to physical circumcision. That is, since they did not bear the mark of covenant (i.e. circumcision), they were excluded from the promises and blessings of covenant with the true and living God (hence, v.12). The present tense indicates this kind of behavior was habitual and ongoing.

Called…by hands:  The phrase ‘the uncircumcision’ was a term of derision by the Jews to speak of everybody who was not a Jew in the flesh. The Israelites were supposed to be a light for the nations (Isaiah 42.6; 49.6), but instead they treated uncovenanted people with contempt.

Who are “the uncircumcised” of our day and time? An updated version might talk about “the unbaptized.” I would hope, though, we would not speak of those unbaptized ones in a derogatory fashion, but rather with a broken heart speak of those who are excluded from the blessings and benefits of being an immersed one.

12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Remember that you were: “Remember” is supplied to continue the thought. You were is the imperfect tense, indicating this was the ongoing situation in their former life before Christ.

Separated from Christ: or “without Christ” indicating that they were totally destitute of the favor and fellowship, the blessings of God. Suggesting perhaps even no interest in Him.

Alienated from…Israel: very strong language; they were shut out from the presence, fellowship of God. They did not have a country nor citizenship in the divinely appointed kingdom.

Strangers to the covenants of promise: that is, they had no share in or knowledge of the covenants of Israel. It was foreign to the Gentiles.

Having no hope: as regards the future, they had nothing to look forward to in the afterlife. How could they? They had no hope of the forgiveness of sin or resurrection unto life.

Without God in the world: Gk. Atheoi, from which we get our word “atheist.” The Gentiles had many gods. But Paul says they were “atheists” for they did not know the true God.

Some of us may have been atheists before coming to Christ. Some may have been hopeless, caught in various vices and addictions. Some may have been Biblically illiterate and “covenant” was not in our vocabulary. But all of us were at one time separated from Christ because of sin.

13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

But now in Christ Jesus: But now is a complete reversal of the preceding portrait. Only in Christ Jesus can the picture be reversed.  This is the gospel—Christ came to reverse our fortunes and rewrite our futures. He died so that the dead might live now.

You who…by the blood of Christ: There had been a wide, impassible chasm fixed between the Gentiles and God—the chasm of sin. But the blood of Jesus filled the chasm, spanning the gulf to bring them near. The aorist tense have been brought answers to the imperfect tense you were in verse 12; their lifestyle was an ongoing mess of sin until all-at-once they came in contact with Christ’s blood and everything changed. Cf. Isaiah 57.19

Our lives were unmanageable messes, just a constant stream of self-gratification and doing whatever we wanted. But then all-at-once and in an instant we came in contact with Christ’s blood at the baptistery and we came near God in Christ. Now our lives have become an ongoing transformation process.

Access to His Peace (14-17)

Jesus offers peace to all through His cross. Note: “One” is the language of peace.

14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

For He Himself is our peace: Christ is not only a Peacemaker, but He is peace; He has removed the enmity, thereby producing an atmosphere free from war wherein Jew & Gentile unite.

Who has us both one: Lit. He has made both elements one element. Christ takes two hostile factions (Jews & Gentiles) and by His blood fashions one body, one people, one church.

And has…wall of hostility: In His flesh Christ offered Himself as a peace offering to God for mankind. It is in that moment on the cross (aorist) that the dividing wall is broken down, the symbol of which was at the temple (dividing the temple from the Court of the Gentiles). When a person is at peace with God, he/she is simultaneously at peace with every other person at peace with God.

15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

By abolishing…in ordinances: This is strong language which is easily misunderstood. Christ “renders ineffective” the Law of commandments in dogmas by His death on the cross. He fulfilled the Law and rendered it ineffective to function as a set of regulations to make Gentiles Jewish. The Law still serves as a moral guide (see 6.2, Paul quotes the 5th commandment), but the enmity causing barriers of regulations and rituals “in the flesh” has been invalidated “in His flesh.”

That He might…in place of the two: Jesus came to unite all men (contextually, Jew & Gentile) into one new man. Not by Greeks conquering the Jews or Jews forcing Greeks to convert; this is a completely new creation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5.17). New in more than just a temporal sense (time), but also in a qualitative sense (kind). This is a creation which did not exist before.

So making peace: primarily between God and man; secondarily between Jew & Gentile. With the removal of the Law came peace.

Why was there hostility between men (Jew and Gentile)? Perhaps the Jew, with the oracles of God, gloried in his position while the Gentile despised the fantastic rites of the Jew, namely circumcision (which was brought up earlier).

“One new man” – New in kind: Christ produces a new kind of person out of both Jews and Gentiles although both remain Jews & Gentiles. Chrysostom says that it is as if one should melt down a statue of silver and a statue of lead and the two come out as gold (Barclay 136).

16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

And might reconcile us…through the cross: Reconcile is friendship language. Previously there was a rupture in the friendly relations (b/c of sin); we became the enemies of God because of the enmity present (cf. Rom 5.10). But Christ has removed the hostility, taking it upon Himself in the cross, and there is a complete restoration of the relationship. Both Jew and Gentile in the one body (church, the new Israel) are reconciled completely back to God. Harmony is restored.

Thereby killing the hostility: When Christ is killed, the hostility is killed. “By His being slain, He slew it” (JFB, emphasis original). This is the hostility first, between God and man, and second, between Jew & Gentile (or among people generally).

Jesus is the answer to animosity among all races, ethnicities, factions, and peoples. The church is the single place on this planet where Jew & Gentile, slave & free, black & white, educated & illiterate, democrat & republican, the haves & the have-nots, American capitalists & Chinese communists are united and “one” (v.14, 15, 16, 18). Double reconciliation: all people to God in one body and all people to his fellow brother in Christ.

17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

And He came and preached peace: cf. Isaiah 57.19. Both verbs are aorist tense (snapshot). The Lord’s coming and preaching is somewhat debated: 1) Some say this is in reference His earthly ministry before the cross (Luke 2.14); 2) Others say what is in view is the event of the cross (mentioned in verse 16) as an act of proclaiming peace; 3) Some see the whole crucifixion-resurrection-exaltation as an act of proclaiming peace; 4) Still others see here the coming of the Holy Spirit since peace could not truly be proclaimed (esp. to Gentiles) until after the ascension.  “Regardless of what view one may take, the important point is that in the Christ event (life-death-resurrection-exaltation), peace was achieved and access to God was made possible” (Patzia 197).

To you who were far off: i.e. Gentiles. Cf. v.13. They were far off because they did not have the patriarchs, the covenants, the Law, etc. whereas Jews did and were thus near (see Romans 9.4-5).

And peace to those who were near: i.e. Jews. It is interesting that the Gentiles are mentioned first and then the Jews (esp. cf. Romans 1.16). Chronologically, the Jews were the first to hear the gospel and hope in the Lord. But the emphasis here seems to be that the gospel is for Gentiles and they were as near as the Jews.

Christ was the best and most balanced preacher to ever live. Let us reserve the title “prince of preachers” solely for Him. Not only was He the one to speak most about hell, but He also preached a message of peace, peace with fellow man (Jew/Gentile) and peace with God.

Access to His Father (18-22)

Christians are part of the Family of God wherein the Father dwells by His Spirit.

18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

For through Him we both have access: Access has to do with the right or opportunity to speak to someone. Formerly, only Jews had access and even that was limited (High Priest once a year into the veil). Now, in Christ and through Christ, all (“both” means Jew & Gentile) have the freedom to come to God.

In one Spirit to the Father: Christ has made it possible that we can address our Father in one Spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit. So we have the Godhead presented in this single statement. Also, the Christian’s access to God is through or by one Spirit since we are united by one Spirit in baptism (see 1 Corinthians 12.13).

19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

So then…strangers and aliens: or “therefore.” Strangers is the same word as found in v.12. Aliens is a new concept which denotes a person who lives in a place without the right of citizenship. While the Gentiles were strangers and aliens (see v.12), there has been a complete reversal and they are no longer excluded from God’s purposes.

But you are fellow citizens with the saints: But (Gk alla) draws a sharp contrast. The Gentiles are now fellow citizens with all the rights and privileges that come with being residents of the holy nation of God. They have citizenship in the divine kingdom; they are residents of a “better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11.16).  With the saints could be an allusion to the Old Testament saints, the historic people of God.

Members of the household of God: Earlier in the epistle Paul said that they were adopted as sons (1.5). “You are not guests or visitors, but permanent dwellers in the house and members of the family” (Pulpit Commentary 67). The idea of the church as family can be traced through the New Testament (1 Timothy 3.15; Hebrews 3.2, 5, 6; 10.21; 1 Peter 4.17).

The drive to identify with someone, some group, some important cause is powerful and strong in each of us. Why do you think people (men especially) are such ravenous sports fans, even getting in fights in the bleachers with fans of the opposing team? These identifications make us feel important. They cause us to feel like we belong. This text (with the following verses) communicate to us and tell us we belong! We have a country and a kingdom; we have a home and family. We belong with God and are involved in what He is doing. This should shape our worship: we do not come as spectators to watch; we come to participate in the family experience, uniting our voices in praise and prayer, addressing and being addressed. We belong and are involved.

20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

Built on…the apostles and prophets: Here is the third image Paul uses to show the Gentiles they are part of the eternal purpose of God: a holy temple (v.21). The Gentiles have been built (aorist tense indicates a completed action in the past) upon the firm foundation of the apostles and prophets. Here the OT prophets as well as NT prophets are those who are in view here (e.g. Agabus, Acts 21.10 for a NT prophet). However, word order coupled with 3.4-5 (the mystery now revealed) seems to emphasize NT prophets.

Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone: He is the cornerstone because “the whole edifice rests on Him” (Coffman). “The idea of chief corner-stone is that of regulation, pattern-hood, producing assimilation” (PC 67). If both Old & New Testament spokesmen (i.e. prophets) are in view, then Christ has been and continues to be the support for the saints of God, shaping and forming the community and her members.

 

Notice: the church is the people. We are the living stones. While our building is conducive to worship and other functions, we are the church. 1) Our assembly should not be viewed as a program in which a privileged few participate. In fact, we are all participate, worshipping our God who is present with us. 2) Ministry is for everyone, not merely the “clergy.” 3) We are all valuable & vital to the ministry and mission of the church.

21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

In Whom…joined together: As the cornerstone of a building holds together two walls, so Christ has joined & holds together both Jews & Gentiles in one church. The word for being joined together (Gk sunarmoloumene) is a double compound that Paul invents; it is exclusive not only to the NT but also to Ephesians (see 4.16). In the present tense, it indicates that this is an ongoing process. An architectural term which points to fitting exactly together and even enhancing in compatibility.

Grows into a holy temple in the Lord: Paul presents the temple as a living being capable of growth. This is similar to Peter’s “living stones” in a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2.5). The temple of God will continue to grow and increase until the day of judgment. The word used for temple here denotes the place in which God dwells, where His holy presence (i.e. glory) resides.

Albert Barnes on “being joined together”:

The word used here means “to joint together,” as a carpenter does the frame-work of a building. The materials are accurately and carefully united by mortises and tenons. so that the building shall be firm. Different materials may be used, and different kinds of timber may be employed, but one part shall be worked into another, so as to constitute a durable and beautiful edifice. So in the church. The different materials of the Jews and Gentiles; the people of various nations, though heretofore separated and discordant, become now united, and form an harmonious society. They believe the same doctrines; worship the same God; practice the same holiness; and look forward to the same heaven.

22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

In Him: That is, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You also are being built together: present passive verb. This indicates that the process is continuous and the building is done by God. You indicates Paul is emphasizing the Gentiles; they along with the Jews as the church are being build together. Every part is of vital importance to the structural integrity of the building.

Into a dwelling place for God: connected with v.21 (a holy temple), these Christians are being continually fashioned into a fit residence for the divine presence. Formerly God dwelt in the temple in Jerusalem; now “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Revelation 21.3; cf. 2 Corinthians 6.16). Simultaneously, “what an awful thought, that the holy God dwells in our unholy hearts, watching us in our secret moments, and reading out very thoughts” (Pulpit Commentary 84).

By the Spirit: Verse 21 ended with in the Lord; now this verse ends by/in the Spirit. This reminds us that only in Christ, only in the Spirit are we said to be God’s place of residence. “None can have any true place in the eternal building of God, unless they have found life in Christ” (Foulkes 96). Also note that once again we find the Godhead all mentioned in a single verse: In the Son we are built into a residence for the Father by the Spirit.

When houses are built it is so that people may live in them. In similar fashion, God’s house (the church) is built so that He might dwell in it. When we abide in Christ, He abides in us (John 15.4). Further, the building is continual and progressive; it is ongoing. Construction never ceases. Consider our building. It started with just the auditorium. Soon classrooms were added. The west & east wings were built. The fellowship hall was renovated. The church offices have been relocated. New flooring was put into the fellowship just last year. Plus, there is general upkeep and projects to maintain it. So with the church, the construction is continual. There is always refining work to be done. New members are being added. The faith of some may need shoring up. When we gather together, we edify the structure.

Advertisement

Dealing with Truth Devotees – 3 John

This commentary is offered with the working presumption that the author of 1, 2, & 3 John is the apostle John who also penned the gospel according to John and the Revelation. Further, while some have sought to reconstruct the occasion for John writing this postcard of an epistle, the frank reality is that there is precious little to truly build a definitive case.

Slightly different from 2 John which dealt with those who oppose the truth, in 3 John the apostle is going to give us the answer to what to do with those who love truth. This epistle is much more pointed as John names the person opposing the truth (Diotrephes) and much more personal as he names members of the church who support the truth (Gaius & Demetrius). 3 John provides us a glimpse of early church practice & faithful brethren. The take away is that Christian is to be an encourager of those devoted to truth not an inhibitor.

Outline of 3 John:

I.             The Perseverance of Gaius the Exhorter (v.1-8, 13-15)

A.     John’s Prayer for Gaius (v.1-2)

B.     John’s Praise of Gauis (v.3-8)

C.     John’s Plan Concerning Gaius (v.13-15)

II.             The Pride of Diotrephes the Egotist (9-11)

A.     The Wickedness of Diotrephes (v.9-10)

B.     The Warning about Diotrephes (v.11)

III.             The Profession concerning Demetrius the Example (v.12)

A.     His Associates’ Testimony (v.12a)

B.     The Apostle’s Testimony (v.12b)

Farewell (v.13-15)

3 John (ESV)

1The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

The Elder: John. Tradition tells us that he was a bishop (i.e. overseer) of the church in Ephesus. Since he is “the elder” this could suggest that he is the last survivor of the Twelve. However, could simply mean older man.

To the beloved Gaius: called “beloved” or “dear friend” (NET, NIV) in v.2, 5, 11. All that we know about this Gaius to whom John wrote is what is contained in this epistle.

Whom I love in truth: No definite article before “truth.” “[John’s] love is governed by this truth even as his love is that of true comprehension and corresponding purpose” (Lenski).  John loves this brother affirming it repeatedly since Diotrephes didn’t.

2Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

Beloved: Common title of address for those whom John loves (v. 5, 11; 1 John 2.7)

I pray…good health: John’s constant prayer (pres. Tense) for Gaius is that 1) lit. his journey would go well (meta. Success or prosper), even 2) his health would be good (or he would be safe and sound). This is similar language to contemporary letters of general well wishing in all things and/or health.

As it goes well with your soul: John knows that Gaius is spiritually healthy.

3For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.

For: Gk. gar, here is how John knows that Gaius is in spiritual vitality…

I rejoiced…brothers came: a recent visit from some traveling missionaries from Gaius was an occasion for celebration on John’s behalf.

Testified to your truth: lit. witnessed (Gk marturounton) of you in the truth or of your truth. The report about Gaius is an excellent one; he is a spiritual pillar. Coupled with his love (v.6) he is a balanced Christian with the proper mix of truth & love.

As indeed…[the] truth: He has been faithful to the apostolic doctrine of Christ, refusing Gnostic intrusion and heresy.

4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

I have no greater joy: nothing fills John with such cause for rejoicing

Than to hear that my children: “The elder” refers to all of those Christians younger than him as his “children.” This is the fatherly affection John has for his brethren.

Walking in [the] truth: the definite article is found in some mss (eg. Alexandrinus) but is absent is others (eg. Sinaiticus). Given the construction in v.3 as well as 2 John 4, it seems that John did not include a definite article when he wrote this. Members holding fast to the apostolic teaching of Christ in spite of heretical attacks fills John with much joy

5Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are,

Beloved: affectionate term of endearment John regularly uses for his recipient.

It is a faithful…these brothers: “All his conduct towards the brethren, even when they were not previously known to him, was such as became a faithful Christian” (Pulpit Commentary). In Gaius, philadephia and philoxenia are combined; he loves the brethren and strangers. 

Strangers as they are: “he treated brethren who were entire strangers to him, not as strangers, but as brethren” (Pulpit Commentary). He did not pick and choose whom to show hospitality and neglect the rest; every traveling missionary was sure to be received by Gaius.

6who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.

Who testified…before the church: those who had experienced the hospitality of Gaius came back and reported to the assembly of saints about what this Christian man had done on their behalf. (cf. Matt 25.38, 40)

You will do well…worthy of God: It is a faithful & beautiful thing to send forth missionaries with all they would need for the journey. They should be fully supported. Since they are representatives of God, treat them as such (cf. John 13.20). Send them out as if you were sending out Jesus as a missionary.

7For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.

For they have…of the Name: Gk. gar, John explains that since these missionaries went out on their mission on behalf of the one & only Name in John’s mind—Jesus!

Accepting nothing from the Gentiles: these missionaries support was not solicited (as a policy) from non-Christians. If offered, they might accept, but not solicited.

8Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

Therefore…like these: this is the proper deduction. We owe it to them (indebtedness is implied) to help & show hospitality to these missionaries.

That we…[for] the truth: by supporting these missionaries, we work together with them with the Truth (cf. 1 Cor 3.9).

9I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.

I have written something to the church: 2 John or a lost epistle?

But Diotrephes: name means “nourished by Zeus.” Probably a church leader.

Who likes to put himself first: present participle (Gk. philoproteuon); lit. the one loving first [place]. He is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus (Mk 10.43-44). “Not doctrinal heresy but personal ambition was the cause of the trouble” (Morris 229). If Diotrephes is first, where does that put Christ (Col 1.18)?

Does not acknowledge our authority: Lit. does not welcome/obey us. Diotrephes does not welcome, accept, or obey apostolic authority. Is he trying to take their place? If nothing else, he is not in compliance with divine injunction.

10So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

So if I come: John desires to come (v.14) and visit these brethren and also…

I will bring up what he is doing: John will confront Diotrephes’ unholy desires and the challenges to John’s apostleship, perhaps reminding him but certainly remind the church of his apostolic authority. “The root of the problem is sin” (Morris 230).

Talking wicked nonsense against us: “malicious gossip” (NIV) & “wicked words” are the product of this perverted presbyter.  The se were senseless & wicked words.

And not content…the brothers: those brothers who are with John are unwelcome

And also…the church: Diotrephes says who’s in and out and those who disagree with him, wanting to welcome (support) their brothers are thrown out

11Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

Beloved: favorite affectionate address of John for those to whom he writes, here Gaius.

Do not imitate evil, but imitate good: Gk. mimou, comes mimic. Follow after that which is spiritually & morally beneficial, not what is deficient. Demetrius is an example of the good to imitate; Diotrephes is a bad example to follow. Don’t follow Diotrephes.

Whoever does good is from God: present participle. The one whose habitual practice is to do good is from God (cf. 1 John 3.9-10). Not mere kind acts every so often.

Whoever does evil has not seen God: present participle. The one whose habitual practice is toward what is displeasing & disobedient to God hasn’t experienced God.

12Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Demetrius…everyone: all we know of this man is what is found in this single verse. Nevertheless, he is a member who does what is spiritually & morally beneficial. Probably unknown to Gaius, therefore the three-fold testimony (everyone, truth, us) to let him know that this leader/letter bearer is on the level (not a Diotrephes). He has received in the past and continues to receive even now a good testimony (perf. Tense); remains valid

And from the truth itself: definite article before “truth.” The Word is an objective witness of Demetrius for his life conforms to the Truth, which is Christ.

We also add our testimony: the apostolic college commends Demetrius. That is, John speaking on behalf of those apostles who have already gone to be with the Lord.

And you know…is true: perfect tense, have come to know and continue to know this

13I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink.

I have much…pen and ink: this short volume on a single sheet will suffice for now

14I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

I hope…face to face: John hopes to set the record straight in person (v.10).

15Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

Peace be to you: a Hebrew greeting with new meaning in light of Christ’s resurrection. Peace is much needed with all the strife brought by Diotrephes.

The friends greet you: unique designation for Christians harkening to Jesus – Jn 15.13

Greet the friends, each by name: Sheep should know one another by name.

Let us imitate the example set by these men of truth like Gaius and Demetrius and walk in truth, willing to support those who walk in truth as well.

Dealing with Truth Decay – 2 John

While there are several sensational theories about the authorship of the epistles of John, this commentary is offered with the working presumption that the author of 1, 2, & 3 John is the apostle John who also penned the gospel according to John and the Revelation. Further, while some have sought to reconstruct the occasion for John writing this postcard of an epistle, the frank reality is that there is precious little to truly build a definitive case.

The church of Christ is the pillar & foundation of truth. What does it mean for the church to be pillar & foundation of truth? The apostle John in 2 John explains that as the pillar & foundation of truth, the church promotes, practices, and protects truth. In the opening verses, John Promotes Truth as having been received by and remaining with the church of Christ. The remainder of the epistle is devoted to the practice of Truth among the church and the protection of Truth from the corrupt.

Outline of 2 John:

Greetings, 1-3

I.       The Church is to Practice Truth (v.4-6)

A.     John sees those that walk in truth (v.4)

B.     John seeks these to walk in love (v.5-6)

II.    The Church is to Protect Truth (v.7-11)

A.     John tells Christians in danger to beware (v.7-8)

B.     John teaches Christians the danger of befriending (v.9-11)

Farewell, 12-13

2 John (ESV)

1The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,

The Elder: John. Either Tradition tells us that he was a bishop (i.e. overseer) of the church in Ephesus. Since he is “the elder” this could suggest that he is the last survivor of the Twelve. However, could simply mean older man.

The elect lady: person or personification; individual or institution? lady is Gk. kuria, which is the feminine form of Lord (kurios). Here is the Bride of Christ, reigning with Him in the heavenly realms. (note v.13, an elect sister’s children = sister congregation of the Lord’s church). Children = members

Whom I love in truth: John loves the church. “Christian love rests in Christian truth”

Not only I…all who know the truth: definite article before “truth” seems to indicate that this is the Truth, i.e. Jesus Christ. Knowledge of the Truth sets one free (John 8.32). The possessors of knowledge (gnosis) v. those who know false knowledge.

2because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Because of the truth: again definite article before “truth” indicates this is the Truth, i.e. Jesus Christ. Through the Truth John loves the brethren and knows truth.

That abides in us: present active part, truth is abiding in us (i.e. the church). Some scholars identify the indwelling Holy Spirit here.

And will be with us forever: Truth is never going away. It is permanent, eternal. That is, the Word is eternal

3Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

Grace, mercy, and peace…: Grace covers the sins of men; mercy relieves men of their miseries; peace follows both. Similar greeting to Paul (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; et al) with the insertion of mercy. These “will be with us” (fut. Mid). As truth remains and is never going away, so too grace, mercy, and peace. John is acting as prophet (v.2 also).

From God [the] Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son: the Father and the Son are the single source of these three gifts. John affirms what he has already established about the Son in his gospel, namely He is begotten of God (1.14; 3.16). The miraculous conception of Jesus is in view which the Gnostic would have denied.

In truth and love: to receive these virtues, one must remain in the God’s truth and love God’s people.

4I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

I rejoiced greatly: a recent occasion was cause for happiness and well-being for John

To find [some] of your children: certain members of the church possibly visited John. Or through missionary work he came to find and still finds (perf. Tense).

Walking in [the] truth:  “In the specific context of 2 John the phrase [“walking in truth’] refers to true Christians who are holding fast to an apostolic Christology in the face of the secessionist opponents’ challenge to orthodoxy.” (NET)

Just as we were commanded by the Father: i.e. through the Son (1 Jn 2.6).

5And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.

And now I ask you, dear lady: John has a request of the church to which he writes.

Not as though…from the beginning: this is not new revelation but reminder of what they know. Cf. Jn 13.34-35; 15.12—when Jesus gave it, it was new. Now, approx. 60 yrs later, it is that which is “from the beginning” of the Christian age.

That we love one another: Present active tense. Here is the request John has for the Lord’s church to whom he writes. Love is explained next.

6And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments: living in active obedience to God’s commandments is love (cf. John 14.15, 21, 23, 24; 15.10).

This is the commandment: i.e. love one another with the love of Christ. This is a love not merely in word or talk, but in deed and truth (1 John 3.18).

Just as you have heard from the beginning: they’ve heard once for all (aorist tense) since the first publication of the gospel.

So that you should walk in it: so that it is your present, habitual, continual direction. A walk is a career, lifestyle. Implies direction, progression, separation.

7For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

For: hoti, John begins to explain why walking in love & truth is so vital.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world: deceivers are equated with antichrist at the end of the verse. This is repetition of 1 John 2.18, 19. They left wandered away from the church, roving about as imposters. Their message?

Those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in [the] flesh: Not some shadowy political figure rising up out of a reborn European Union; this is one who assaults the nature of Christ by denying He came in flesh. They do not speak the same word concerning Christ as the apostolic college. When Christ came from heaven to earth, He came (lit.) in flesh. John affirms that Jesus retains His humanity (“coming” present part.), which Docetics would deny. These deceivers deny the incarnation. If Christ did not come in the flesh, He could not have died for sin. If He did not die for sin, there could be no blood atonement. Without blood, there is no forgiveness.

Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist: John uses the strongest language possible to classify these false teachers. They are opposed to Christ.

8Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Watch yourselves: present imperative. Beware! Look out! “When error abounds in the world, our first duty is not to attack it and make war upon it; it is to look to the citadel of our own souls, and see that all is well guarded there.” (Barnes)

So that you may not lose what we have worked for: some debate concerning mss but it seems this is correct reading. Beware of allowing our work in you to be undone.

But may win a full reward: alla is strong contrast. Rather than a grievous loss, there is a full day’s wage (Gk misthon, cf. Mt 20.8). This reward is God Himself (see v.9). Hence, there can be no partial reward; either it is enjoyed in full or lost entirely.

9Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Everyone…teaching of Christ: to “go one ahead” is to go beyond established boundaries of teaching and doctrine. The implication is failure to obey. Specifically, the teaching concerning the humanity of Christ, which Docetics and Dualists would deny in their attempts to progress beyond simple facts and simple moral teaching of the gospel.

Does not have God: present active indicative with negative. “They had advanced so far that they had even left God behind” (Morris). One cannot reject Christ and retain God.

Whoever…and the Son: Remaining in the apostolic teaching keeps one in God & Christ. Cf. 1 John 2.22-23, to acknowledge the Son is to possess the Father (and Son).

10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,

If anyone…this teaching: John is not presenting a hypothetical; indicative mood points to this being a fact—people are coming and bringing this doctrine. When they do…

Do not receive him into [your] house: present imperative (pl.). Understand: 1) John refers to teachers of false doctrine, not merely believers; 2) John refers to “official” visit, not merely private hospitality; 3) John seems to indicate that this is in regards to the church (lit. in house), not merely in-home policy; 4) John refers to teachers of false doctrine of the incarnation, not merely those who disagree with our pet traditions.

Or give him any greeting: seems to indicate an “official” welcome into services.

11for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

For whoever…works: Here is how serious John is about this. This is tantamount to fellowship with the works of darkness. No encouragement is to be given to the propagators and promoters of doctrine which will separate people from God and send them to eternal ruin!

12Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

Though…face to face: John has written what was of urgent importance to prevent fatalities in the body. Seems John has written with his own hand (cf. 3 John 13).

So that our joy may be complete: “Complete joy is the result of fellowship.”

13The children of your elect sister greet you.

The children…greet you: members of another congregation wish these Christians well.

Truth decay can still happen in the Church today. As the body of Christ, the chosen lady, let us practice and protect the eternal truth spoken to us by God through his Word.

Good Gifts from a Good God

Having presented the reality of temptation, the root of temptation, and the results of temptation, James exhorts his brethren further: be not deceived or lead astray. About what, James? About the sin! And about the origin of sin and temptation. In other words, do not believe the lie. This is serious business and to attribute temptation to God is a gross error! God is far from the one who entices to sin. And so verse 16 acts as a type of transitional sentence to move into the next section, especially about the nature of the good God Christians serve. “Far from enticing to evil, God is the source of every good gift (v.17), one of the greatest of which is the new birth (v.18)” (Moo 74).

James 1.16-18 (ESV)

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

You will note that James addresses his readers as “my beloved brethren” (v.16). As mentioned in the introductory material, it is maintained that the James who wrote the epistle of James was the half-brother of Jesus. He was converted when he had a post-resurrection appearance from Jesus (see 1 Cor 15.7). Following his conversion, he became a leader in the Jerusalem church of Christ (Acts 15.13-21). In fact, because of the close similarities in language between the letter sent forth from the Jerusalem council and the epistle of James, in all likelihood the author of each of these is one and the same. Further, according to tradition, this same James went on to become one of the bishops (elders) of the Jerusalem church. This language used here in James 1.16 indicates that James had a shepherds heart with a deep concern and care for the flock of God. He loved them and desired for them to have a proper understanding about the true nature of God. So what is God like?

God is good

If God were not good, then there could be no good giving which is what the Greek indicates “good gift” means. Two different words are used for the same English word (“gift”) – dosis and dorema. The former is used with the adjective “good” to describe the act of giving which God engages in. Everything God gives is good or beautiful. Hence, there is no evil or bad in it. By the way, even in situations that we classify as “bad,” if they are given by God, they are good for man does not dictate and define what is good; God does.

God is perfect

Next, the gifts (Gk. dorema) from God are perfect. If God were not perfect there could be no perfect gifts. James has already used this same word (v.4) to describe a Christian who is steadfast in trials: they come out “perfect” when perseverance runs its course. As mentioned there, more than maturity is meant with this word and that is especially highlighted here with its connection with God’s gifts – they’re perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

It is interesting to note that in the original language the phrase “every good gift and every perfect gift” is in perfect hexameter. What this may indicate is that this is some kind of poetic line James is using to communicate what should be a well known principle to his readers, perhaps even using a line from a well known hymn sang regularly by the church to remind them about who God is. At best, it is possible.

Another point of interest: these Jewish Christians probably would have recognized and distinguished between these two words used for “gift” and also known from their Bible (the Septuagint, LXX) that these words appear together in Proverbs 21.14. That helps to identify that these are different words and therefore different concepts of giving which are being communicated, yet nevertheless, when they come from God they are good and perfect.

God is above

These gifts which are given by God come “from above.” This is a common phrase used to describe the location of God: He is in heaven. So these gifts come from the realm not only above but also beyond our finite, material universe. It points us to the spiritual nature of God. Indeed, “God is spirit” as Jesus taught (John 4.24). And since He is above, the giving and gifts flow from on high and are “coming down” from Him who sits on the throne. This present tense participle indicates that it is the regular habit and career of God to bestow good and perfect gifts and cause them to flow from the spiritual realm into the physical realm.

God is unchanging

James uses the “lights” of this physical universe of which God is the Father inasmuch as He created them to contrast the unchangeable nature of God. The sun seems to change when during the year its course is changed as the earth tilts on its axis; the shadows cast by the sun change as the day draws out; sometimes the sun is eclipsed for a time; the moon during the month seems to change as it rotates in its course, even apparently disappearing; the stars and constellations from night to night shift; stars and planets can sometimes not be seen. James uses the constant shifting and changing of creation to show God as unchanging. God is different since He is the Father (Creator) of these lights. There is no variation or change in God. He is constant, indeed the only constant in a universe of change. There is no shadow, “no darkness” whatsoever in God. As God has stated about Himself: “I, YHWH, do not change” (Mal 3.6). He is not a capricious being who one day is one way and the next He’s completely different.

God is Father

James calls Him the “Father of [the] lights.” Indeed, as Creator of sun, moon, and stars, He is Author or Father of the physical lights that we see in the sky. More than that, “God is light” (1 John 1.5) and if there would be any light whatsoever it must find its origin in God, the source of light.

But the definite article “the” can be inserted (Gk. ton photon). Hence, God is Father of the lights. Given the context in which we find this, this rendering is harmonious. God is pictured as the Father who brings forth or begets “us” (Christians) by the true word. Inasmuch as we are “the light of the world” (Matt 5.14) who reflect “the Light of the world” (John 8.12), God is our Father who brought us forth as His children. This is accord with the purpose and plan of God – He willed that this would be so. And it is!

As His children, we are “a kind of firstfruits.” For Christians today 2,000 years removed from this writing, the concept of firstfruits is primary lost on us. However, to a Jewish Christian to whom James is writing, firstfruits is loaded with significance. The Jews under the Law had a feast of firstfruits in which the first and best of the harvest were offered to God (see Lev 23.9-14). So a saved Christian who has been begotten by the true word has become a kind of firstfruit to God, set apart and holy, consecrated for offering to God. Paul would call us “living sacrifices” (Rom 12.1).

You sync all this up and James seems to be driving toward identifying Christian immersion as the good and perfect gift from the good and perfect God. These Jewish Christians to whom the gospel was first to go have, by obedience to the word of truth (the gospel), become a kind of firstfruits among the creatures of God. The harvest of God began on Pentecost and continues to today, but these Jewish converts who were the first to hope in Christ were the firstfruits of that harvest.

In one sense, this perhaps can reach even to today. When we hear the word of truth, the gospel, “which is able to save your souls” (1.21) and are obedient to that word, we are “born again,” “born of the water and spirit” in baptism. In this action, God begets us. Indeed, when Christians are pictured as being born of God (1 John 3.9) the verb is passive; here, with God pictured as the one doing the begetting, it is active. In other words, this is the work of God performed on those seeking Him out through obedience to the true word. These kinds of people (“we,” plural pronoun) become a kind of firstfruits of the creation, redeemed from the brokenness and lost-ness of creation (cf. Rom 8.18-25).

The Paradox of Poverty

James 1.9-11

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,
10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.
11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

The American Dream has become the accumulation of stuff – cars, houses, and accompanying accoutrements the goes with a lifestyle of luxury. To be rich is to be coveted. This same mentality has crept into the church. Christians horde up for themselves treasures on earth, justifying themselves by saying things like, “God wants me to be happy.” But as Jesus explained while on earth: “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10.23) While this problem may seem new, it is far from it. In fact, James echoes what Jesus taught by asking, “has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom…?” (James 2.5) James writes quite a bit about the relationship between the rich and poor. In 1.9-11, we find yet a third paradox in the Christianity: the poor are exalted, the rich humiliated.

The Paradox of Poverty (1.9-11)

(Several) Someone(s) has said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better!” Contrary to this conventional wisdom, the New Testament presents several warnings concerning the dangers of riches in connection with the Christian faith. Riches can be a snare and destroy one’s faith (cf. 1 Tim 6.9-10, 17). In short, rich is not always better! Building on the context of trials and asking for wisdom concerning those trials, James presents a trial that was all to familiar for the poor saints of the early church: poverty. And the paradox of poverty is seen in James’ positive presentation of pride in poverty.

The Exaltation of the Poor (v.9). James presents the positive case of poverty. The “lowly brother” is the Christian who is low on the socio-economic ladder. He is a poor Christian, destitute perhaps. James presents the paradox: this poor brother is actually in a lofty position. Indeed, when we consider that God has seated us in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph 2.6) we are very exalted! This brother is to “boast” or “glory” in his exaltation. While boasting and bragging concerning oneself are condemned elsewhere in Scripture (even in James, 4.16), to boast in the Lord is an altogether different thing. This is what James is calling for – we are exalted in Christ because of Christ. While the poor Christian brother may not have money, he is “rich in faith.” “True wealth is measured not in money but in faith” (Holloway 37).

So there is actually a blessing which comes with being poor. One who is impoverished is predisposed to faith in Christ. Indeed, it was Jesus who said in the sermon on the plain, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6.20). And while we may want to spiritualize that or link it immediately to Matthew 5.3 (“poor in spirit”), it is undeniable that in the context of that sermon on the plain and the greater context of the gospel of Luke, Jesus says what He means and means what He says. Couple this with what He says in Luke 6.24 where He pronounces a woe on the rich and the picture is complete.

The Humiliation of the Plutocrat (v.10). Contrast this poor brother with the rich man in the world. While the poor Christian should boast in his lofty position in Christ, the rich of the world glory in their humiliation. Though rich in the world, they are not rich toward God (see Luke 12.21). And like the enemies of the cross who “glory in their shame” (Phil 3.19), so the rich glory in their humiliated station before God. They are destitute of the favor and fellowship of heaven which is a very low place. “He will pass away.” Not might or may, but will. It is inevitable that the rich man will perish even as the flower dies.

Another way of seeing this rich man in light of the context is as a Christian brother. Here is a rich Christian brother and his trial is that he is rich. And what a trial in light all that Scripture teaches about the dangers of riches. The temptation is to allow his wealth to be a cause for boasting. James says that he ought to glory his humiliation. Boast as one who is a spiritual pauper in need of the riches only Christ can supply. “Let him exult in the grace of Christ which has enabled him to pass through ‘the needle’s eye.’”

The Illustration of the Proposition (v.11). Here’s what it’s like: grass that is scorched by the heat of the sun. Think about a patch of grass under a desert sun. It will wither and die. Here’s what it’s like: a beautiful flower whose beauty fades away. Think about a rose in a vase for several days. These are illustrations taken from the Old Testament (Isa 40.8; cf. 1 Peter 2.24) to show what it’s like for a rich person who’s life is tied up in riches and/or the pursuit of riches and not in God and His word. No matter how vigorous his pursuit of riches more may be, it is ultimately frustrated because he is not in pursuit of God. What a miserable end! Truly the humiliation is evident: all that effort was in vain; his pursuits will be snuffed out as a flame.

If you are a child of God, you are wealthy beyond your wildest dreams with the riches that are unlike the flower that fades or the grass which withers. The riches in Christ are eternal riches. This is a lesson lost on American Christians who are self-sufficient in our abundance. We don’t need God to give us our daily bread; we have several days’ worth of bread laid up in store at the house. When compared to the rest of the world, we must realize that just by living in America puts in the upper echelon of the wealthy in the world. Therefore, the warning from James is for us.