2 John 1:1 by Robert Dean
Series:2nd John (2002)
Duration:57 mins 44 secs



The importance of the local church

  1. God created man for community, for relationship, not to live in isolation. No man is an island. Man is a social creature, he is designed for relationship. Part of what it means to be in the image of God is to have relationship. This is inherent in key concepts in understanding God such as love and truth, both of which are emphasised in the first verse of 2 John. There is no such thing as going it alone in the Christian life. That is abnormal. There are cases when that happens and has to happen, but that is not to be considered normative. In emphasising this it is not that there are not certain exceptions but you never build principle on the basis of exceptions. You build principles on the basis of absolutes and then when you find the normal circumstances then you recognise that there are certain exceptions. But the exceptions are recognised to be abnormal and not what is to be expected.
  2. Just as God called out a corporate body for Himself in the Old Testament in the nation Israel, God called out a corporate body for Himself in the New Testament. He called that a group in the Old Testament, He called out Israel, and there is an emphasis in the Psalms on corporate worship; not on just individual worship but on believers coming together as a corporate body to worship God, and it is that corporate body that is also significant in the angelic conflict. In the New Testament the corporate body is the church. It is the church as a whole, not just the church body as a whole but the individual local church is called out. Even in the context of 2 John where there is an absentee pastor he is addressing a corporate body of believers.
  3. The church is not simply a universal spiritual organism of all believers united in Christ it is comprised of local church assemblies, and God called and authorised local church assemblies not simply as a place to learn doctrine, not simply as a classroom though that is an important and key element of it, but it is a place where believers function in the area of their royal priesthood and spiritual gifts.
  4. The problem of human viewpoint and cultural baggage. While "go-it-alone" and self-sufficiency has many good aspects to it, it is not the approach that we see in the Scriptures to the Christian life. The normal Christian life as approached in the New Testament is never viewed as individual, it is viewed as members of the corporate body of Christ. So isolation in the body of Christ is never viewed as something that is normal or desirable, it is always viewed as a second class, third class situation that needs to be rectified in some way if at all possible.
  5. In isolation there are several elements that are missing. There is no opportunity for the Lord's table, and this is something that is supposed to be regular in the Christian life, and it is a corporate worship time. There is not an opportunity to train children in education. A third element that is missing if we live in isolation is that there is no opportunity for the function of spiritual gifts. We need to remember that the definition of a spiritual gift is that they are special abilities given to every believer for the purpose of ministering, serving, relating to edifying other believers.
  6. Going it alone limits the obedience to one another passages—that we are to pray for one another, we are to admonish one another, we are to teach one another, serve one another. These are all aspects emphasising the mutual ministry within a local church. For these reasons we are to function in a local church.

2 John 1:1 NASB "The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth [a)lhqeia]. aletheia is the basic Greek word for truth but John is not using this with a Greek meaning of truth. The Greek concept of truth was derived on the basis of the philosophical thought that had developed in the Greeks. In Greek thought truth is abstract knowledge, that which exists independently of any God or creator or person. Truth just hangs out there, it is impersonal. But that is not the biblical concept of truth. When John says, "whom I love in truth," en [e)n] plus the dative indicates means, so it should be translated, "whom I love by means of truth." John, like any pastor-teacher, loves his congregation, but he demonstrates that love in the context and by means of truth. This means that the highest expression of love of a pastor-teacher for his congregation is teaching the Word. Notice that when John says, "I love them by means of the truth," we recognise that love here is not some autonomous abstract concept but it is love that is related to truth, revealed truth. For example, 1 John 3:16 NASB "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." In other words, love isn't love isn't some abstract concept, we just don't say this is what love is and then God fits that idea. God is the one who tells us what love is and how we can understand it. He says that we don't know a thing about love unless we start at the cross. That means that we have to let the Bible define what we mean by what right is and what wrong is, and we have to let the Bible define what truth is and what love is.

What is truth? This is what Pilate asked Jesus.

  1. To answer this we have to start with the Scriptures. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word is emet, and it is a noun form that derives from a verb which is translated amen. Amen is the verb normally translated to believe, although it has a wider range of meaning than that. So the noun for truth, emet, is derived from the verb meaning to believe. But underneath this is an even more basic concept and the core meaning of the word that we have both as believe and truth is the idea of stability and certainty, the idea of immovability. For example, a related noun form, amuneh, is used in 2 Kings 18:16 NASB "At that time Hezekiah cut off {the gold from} the doors of the temple of the LORD, and {from} the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria." The word "doorposts" is this word amuneh. This was that which provided stability and anchor for the entire temple building. So the core idea here is that which provides stability, certainty, a solid anchor. So the idea under belief is to believe something that is true, and truth is something which is certain, faithful, and so the noun also has the idea of truth, faithfulness and certainty. What this tells us is that for the Hebrews the idea of truth is the idea of something that is objective and real, and because of that it is certain and dependable. That idea of certainty and dependability leads us to the idea that for them the very notion of truth itself was that of an absolute, something that was related to a universal, something that was true for everybody and every situation in all ages. It never changes.
  2. In the Old Testament truth is always related to the character of God. So the starting point for truth is God, not man.
  3. The way the word is used in compound with other words in the Old Testament. Over 24 times the word is used with another key word in the Old Testament, and that is the Hebrew word chesed which is translated a number of different ways. It is probably translated "lovingkindness" more than any other way, but it is sometimes translated "mercy, grace." It is not the normal Hebrew word for love, it is a much more pregnant concept, and has all of these ideas of faithfulness, loyalty, grace, mercy. It is a love that is not based on the behaviour of other people; it is not a personal love; it is a love that is there whether the object is attractive or unattractive. The concept of chesed—loving kindness, plus truth—suggests by the context it is used in human relationship that the idea may be an idiom for integrity. This is clear from how it is applied to God. The first time the word occurs in Scripture is Genesis 24:27 in the context of finding a wife for Isaac. NASB "He said, 'Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the LORD has guided me in the way to the house of my master's brothers.'" Another example is Exodus 34:6 NASB "Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.'" 2 Samuel 2:6 NASB "Now may the LORD show lovingkindness and truth to you; and I also will show this goodness to you, because you have done this thing." Psalm 40:10 NASB "I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation. [11] You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me." Psalm 85:10 NASB "Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Psalm 86:15 NASB "But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth." Psalm 89:14 NASB "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You." When we take this, along with the fact that it is frequently these two attributes are always frequently associated, we see that these four attributes together form what we call the integrity of God. What we learn from the Old Testament is that truth is related to a person, it is related to grace and love; it is not abstract, it is in a person and it is related to love. That should change our whole view of what truth is. Truth is related to something that is personal and it is related to love. In contrast, in Islam truth is what Allah says, not what Allah is. In Christianity truth is what God is and what Jesus Christ is, and Jesus Christ came to reveal truth because He said, "I am the truth." There is a difference between a god in a religion that has truth separate from that god and God in the Bible who is truth in and of itself. It changes it from an impersonal mechanistic universe, which is what we have in everything ultimately other than Christianity, to a personal universe where truth is something grounded in truth and in a God who loves His creatures.
  4. Chesed brings together a number of ideas. It emphasises grace, undeserved merit, unmerited loyalty or faithfulness of God, undeserved love. It focuses on the fact that it is grounded on God's character. So chesed, while it emphasises God's loyalty, it is a loyalty that is based on His righteousness. A love that is not based on righteousness is a love that is going to lose its foundation.