Lesson Eight – Spirit of Truth

Spirit of Truth

Introduction

This is a study of John’s second and third letter.  He wrote his second letter because the antichrists were active in their wicked work of deceiving God’s children (I John 2:26; 4:2-4; II John 11).  One aim of this lesson is to know how Christians respond to religious philosophers.  Religious philosophy is an effort to teach “what is truth” by the wisdom of men.  Please review Part III, Lesson Two, “The Word of Life.”  A Bible teacher who willfully rejects truth is a liar by John’s calculation (I John 5:6-10).  Liar describes the condition of an individual’s “self.”

Another aim is to appreciate the “truth” we have received from God through Jesus Christ for, and about our individual lives.  It is the only alternate choice to the devil’s lies (John 8:42-47).  A third aim is show how Christians who know love will be engaged in Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost – a study of III John.

God gave Jesus Christ all power in heaven and earth for the specific purpose of bringing “many sons to glory.”  Heb. 2:10.  He came to earth as the Son of man and preached the kingdom of God as the will of God for Christians (Matt. 4:23; 6:10).  He declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  John 14:6.  Then He said to the men He trained to be apostles, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes He will guide you into all truth.”  John 16:13.  John was one of those apostles who received the truth and proclaimed it to the recipients of his three letters.  He related spiritual life topics to truth twenty times in the letters and as many times in his gospel.  We will approach his letters in the form they were written.  We witnessed the first century standard form while reading Peter’s letters.  Please see I & II Peter, Part II, Lessons One and Two.

Lesson

II John 1 a.  John introduced himself as “the elder.”  He did not address himself as an elder; therefore, he may not have made this introduction as one of the presbytery.  The English word elder has been translated from the Greek word presbuterospresbus means old man.  Of course, he may have been one the elders who preached the kingdom to the recipients of this letter.  He also used “the elder” to identify himself to the recipient of his third letter.  Peter, and probably James, also had been ordained to the office of “an elder.”  An elder is one of the plurality of shepherds of God’s sheep on earth with Jesus as the chief shepherd in heaven (Acts 15:13, 22; Gal. 2:9; I Pet. 5:1-4).

This is the truth about church government.  The prevalent willful acceptance of “the preacher” in the role of the leader of a church is a philosophy dreamed up by the wisdom of man.  It is not truth.  It is the first step in leading a church away from the government Jesus ordained.  This becomes obvious when the practice drags on for decades and then becomes a matter of dynasty leadership.  This will sound like nit-picking to those who make it a practice; however, it needs to be addressed because changing the truth about church government is the most dangerous tool Satan possesses.  He tried very hard to disqualify Jesus from being chosen by God as Prince and Savior (Matt. 4:9, 10).  Paul warned the overseers in Ephesus, who had been ordained as elders by the direction of the Holy Spirit, to watch out for Satan’s schemes (Acts 20:28-30).  The desire to satisfy the elders’ innate need for glory was Paul’s concern and Satan’s opportunity.  God offers programs to satisfy the needs He created in us; however; we must abide by truth as we seek to attain satisfaction (John 5:44).

A member of the Lord’s church who preaches the gospel may also be an elder in a specific church; however; it is not an office of the preacher (I Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17).  The Greek word “kerux” translated “preacher” does not mean leader.  It means to proclaim.  A young church may not have elders for some period of time as we can witness in Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey.  In such cases, the members would need to agree on who they wanted to be in charge of various programs.  No one should appoint themselves.  By Paul’s apostleship power they ordained elders in every church.  They made these appointments of qualified men a year or two after the churches had been formed by their proclaiming the kingdom of God (Acts 14:23; 20:25).

II John 1 b.  John addressed his second letter “to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth – and not I only but all who know the truth.”  This may have been a female member of a congregation of God’s people; however, the term “chosen lady” probably meant the church.  One reason for this possibility; John used the same Greek word, eklektos, Peter used to identify the church.  It can be translated chosen or elect.  See Part II, Lesson One, Item Two.

Another more prominent reason for thinking “the elect lady” meant the church is because “many deceivers” were attacking individual members of the church (II John 7).  Some of these philosophers were “running ahead;” that is, not continuing in the teachings of Christ (V. 9).  John identified them as not having God.  They were not the “babes in Christ” Paul wrote to in Corinth.  Some of those members were also “going beyond what was written.”  I Cor. 2:12, 13; 3:1; 4:6.

John’s third letter was addressed to an individual member of the church.  Since John called Gaius by name, he might have called the “chosen lady” by name, if, indeed, he had addressed his second letter to an individual member.  John projected the church as the bride of Jesus in his Revelation – see 19:7, 8.  Rational people who know the truth about what is marriage and what is male and female gender would interpret the church as being portrayed by John as feminine.  He may have used the same portrayal in his second letter.  Of course, modern day philosophy about what is marriage and what is male and female in the Western world might take a different line of thinking for their interpretation.

II John 2.  “Truth in you” is a concept of religion missing from the world religions that have been developed by the wisdom of man and philosophers (I Cor. 1:21).  Jesus Christ presented the kingdom of God as an “inside out” religion (Luke 17:20, 21).  God tolerated the “outside in” quality of life in the old covenant.  He arranged this covenant for Israel after their release from Egyptian bondage at Mt. Sinai.  It was a temporary arrangement with which God was not happy; however, the Israelite did not have the quality of “perfected faith” Abraham possessed.  The time was not right for the Messiah to come (Gal. 4:1-7; Heb. 10:5-10; Jas. 2:22).  John clearly set forth what “inside out” means in his first letter (I John 2:3-6).  Christians are children of God with full rights by grace.  This truth is synonymous with our faith.  This truth is in us.  Truth got in us by hearing God’s word and having faith in what we heard.  We identify as sons of God while living on earth (I John 3:1; Rom. 8:16).  The recipients of John’s second letter had this truth in them.  They had worked hard in their spiritual growth.  John urged them to “watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for.”  II John 8.  They would lose what they had worked for if they accepted an “outside in” religion.

The “inside out” truth was presented to the legalistic Pharisees and teachers of the law when Jesus said, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, these make a man ‘unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts … .”  Matt. 15:17-19.  God’s laws of life are written on Christians’ hearts and minds because we accept the new covenant in the processes of our new births.  “The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.  First He says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their hearts and write them on their minds.’  Then He adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’”  Heb. 10:15-17.  This is why Jesus Christ, a priest who knew no sin, shed His blood on the cross to clean the guilt from our consciences (Heb. 10:12, 13).  This is another truth in Christians.

The Holy Spirit not only testified to these truths, but because Jesus’ atoning sacrifice is a truth Christians have accepted by faith, the Holy Spirit of God, our Father, lives in us (I John 4:13-16).  As Paul told the Colossians saints who had been transferred to the Kingdom of God’s Son; “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Col. 3:3, 4.  John echoed this same truth; “Because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever.”  II John 2.

II John 3.  “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”  Truth and love cannot be separated as John had already explained:  “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”  I John 4:16.  This is why John said the old commandment to love God and mankind can now be accepted as a new commandment (II John 5).  “Its truth is seen in Him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is shining.”  I John 2:8.  “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete.”  I John 4:12.  This is the truth with which John moved the recipients into the body of his second letter.

II John 4-6.  Christians have faith in truth: Truth about the kingdom of God; truth about our role in His eternal kingdom; truth about what is life and the new covenant.  God is true life, “in Him is no darkness at all.”  I John 1:5.  Jesus brought grace and truth to mankind (John 1:17; Heb. 1:3).  He is the light of our lives.  Our faith will grow as we understand more truth in our studies of God’s word.  Because truth is our value system from which our paradigms are formed about situations we encounter, Christians “walk in truth.”  In other words, saints practice righteousness.  We accept God’s command to love our brethren; therefore, Christians become love by doing what God commanded – we grow into and “participate in the divine nature.” II Pet. 1:4. 

John closed his first letter with a statement that could appear to be a detached thought.  “Dear Children, keep yourselves from idols.”  Since the Christian religion is an “inside out” truth; his remark may be “in step” with his repeated use of truth – “truth lives in Christians.”  All religious behavior in our worship to God other than in “spirit and truth” is probably idolatrous worship  (John 4:23, 24).  Singing a song or saying a prayer without a spiritual view of Jesus’ priesthood and God, our Father, belongs in the category of “idol worship” since it is not in “spirit and truth.”  Yet it is some form of worship.  It may be the worship service, itself, or perhaps, the room in which people are singing and praying.  Habitual practices may act to set up the moods of their adherents.  They may stand facing skyward with hands outstretched, or they may bow with their faces to the floor.  We are not debunking these acts.  Our question: Is this what John meant by “spirit and truth?”  Does this relate to his closing admonition?

Religious groups pay charismatic speakers big money to set up audiences.  Although they may be using some scriptural quotes in their speech content, the aim is not to proclaim or teach the kingdom of God.  The aim of the program is to get the audience in a quote, “spiritual mood.”  This type of setting can form an idol and it has in many religious circles.  What is called “mega churches” thrive on mood setting programs.  The mood soon wears off and the adherents are left empty of spiritual truth.  Paul was careful not to engage in this type of religion (I Cor. 2:4, 5).  This is not to say, Christians do not need exhortation, we do, but inspirational settings alone may not produce “spirit and truth” worship of God.  Please note we need to include “offering our bodies as living sacrifices” in our definition of “spirit and truth” worship (Romans 12:1, 2; I Pet. 2:4, 5).

Idols do not always come in some type of physical imagery.  Greed is idolatry (Col. 3:5).  All idol types of worship have been established by philosophers.  Their philosophy involves chants, movements, markings, beads, strings and some kind of offerings in the presence of a carved or molded figure.  This type of idol worship is obvious.  Christians want to be careful to avoid being caught up in ritualistic activities and believe they are actually worshiping God.  Whatever activity Christians’ practice, it must be an inside out activity; otherwise, it may be a type of paganism.

God’s program to develop mankind as His children in His eternal kingdom was “put on hold” by God, from the time Adam and Eve broke covenant until Jesus Christ was set up in heaven as High Priest and King for God’s people.  It is through Jesus Christ God offers the new covenant.  The old covenant was written on stone.  The new covenant is written on the heart and mind of a Christian.  It is the truth about why and how God created all people.  It is an “inside out” program from start to finish.  It is the truth about the God/man relationship as Father/children (Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 2:11-13).  Unless the religion we profess works from the “inside out,” the Apostle Paul said, it lacks “any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”  Col. 2:23.  Christians are “in Christ,” but we are also still in Adam, consequently, we need help to restrain our sinful nature (Rom. 13:14).

II John 7-11.  “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.”  This is how Christians deal with philosophers.  Please review the introduction to this lesson.  This appears to be the main purpose John wrote this “follow up” letter.  Since philosophers determine to arrive at truth without God’s help, there is nothing Christians can say to help them.  Jesus said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me.”  John 18:37.  Philosophers cannot entertain truth.  Truth robs philosophy of its power.  Pilate exclaimed, “What is truth?”  Unfortunately, for him, he appeased the Jewish religious philosophers by having the only one who “is truth” to be crucified.

Christians have been instructed to react to different types of sinners according to their needs.  Philosophers need to be told to accept truth or just go away.  Immoral members of the body of Christ need to be given back to Satan; “So that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”  I Cor. 5:5.  A “divisive person” who is a member of the church needs to be warned twice and then excluded from the fellowship until they repent (Tit. 3:10).  The rule for sharing material goods: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”  II Thess. 3:10.  Paul cautions the saints in Rome “to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.  Keep away from them.”  Rom. 16:17.  He urged the Thessalonian brethren to “warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”  I Thess. 5:14.  The church is required to discipline themselves according to the need of the person who is in trouble.  We have the responsibility to try to bring back our brothers “who wander from the truth.”  Jas. 5:19.

III John.  The church, as a unit, also has the responsibility to function on Jesus Christ’s evangelism team.   We proclaim the same kingdom of God message Jesus preached to the people in the world realm (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 8:4; 18:26).  Each member of the church must function in the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-8; I Cor. 12:12-31).  We also have an individual responsibility to share our hope (I Pet. 3:15).

John presented a simple plan for a local congregation of God’s people to cooperate with other congregations to reach out to “all the world.”  This simple plan of evangelism is powered by members of the church in whom truth and love is their value system for viewing the lost people in the world realm.  John had great joy because Gaius was faithful to the truth.  This meant Gaius was walking in truth.  There is very little joy in a church where evangelism has been put on the “back burner” of things to do.

John’s model for evangelism after the age of “spiritual gifts” is “working together for the truth.” Verse 8.  Some brothers went out from the church where John was a member “for the sake of the Name.”  They went out among pagans in places where they were strangers.  The plan called for the members of the churches in the general area of their work “to show hospitality to such men.”  They did not have their own provisions; therefore, God’s people were “to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.”  God’s Holy Spirit was with those who went out for the Name so they should be treated in a “manner worthy of God.”  Since this plan had been put into action where the Apostle John was serving as an apostle, and perhaps an elder in a church, it was validated by Jesus.  It was truth.  John said he had “no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  Gaius and Demetrius were functioning on Jesus’ team.  Diotrephes refused to do what was expected of him.  He had an ego problem.

Jesus is still king.  The evangelism of the world for His Father and ours is still God’s will (II Pet. 3:9).  Shall we imitate the good in the program John described or shall we imitate what is evil (V. 11)?   Shall we identify with Gaius and Demetrius or Diotrephes?  It is our choice to make.  The plan John revealed is of truth.  It is a relevant truth.  This plan worked in the first century.  It will work in every age and in all places and for all people – it has relevancy.  The Christians who have truth and love in their hearts will go out for the Name.  They do not require financial support or a degree in theology, although both could be useful (I Cor. 9:14-19).  It does require faith in the truth and love for the lost people.

This is the final lesson in this study of John’s letters.  It is the last lesson in this book of lessons taken from the letters by James, Peter and John.  What they have set forth is the perfect will of God.  Although Christians accept the will of God, we need to understand we will need to grow up into the perfect will of God.  We are not there yet and in some areas we may never get there; however, making our will the same as God’s will must be all faithful Christians’ goal.  We appreciate God’s grace while we grow up.  May God strengthen our faith in what we have learned.  We ask this prayer so that we can be on a spiritual level where we can know more about our Father in heaven through Jesus Christ and the scriptures.

Questions for Discussion

1.  Why is the truth about the government of God’s church over which Jesus is the head so very critical?  What method should a church use to recognize and appoint leaders, if the church is not mature enough to have and ordain elders?  If a church decided to set aside the truth they understood about church government, even though they had people who were qualified and desired the office; how might that decision be characterized?

2.  What are the three reasons set forth in this lesson for the possibility of interpreting “the chosen lady and her children” as congregations of God’s people?  If the hypothesis that the church is the recipients is not correct, then who were the recipients?  If our hypothesis were to be that John wrote to one family only, how might this clash with why he wrote the letter?  Why did John write his second letter?

3.  Explain the concept of a religion being an “inside out” religion.  What is the significant difference between the “inside out” and an “outside in” religion?  How does the new covenant versus the covenant God made with Israel relate to your answer to the foregoing question?

4.  John added the word “deceiver” to the identification of the antichrist.  How might this influence John’s instructions for the church interacting with the antichrist?

5.  List some categories of truth Christian have in us because of our faith.  How do these different truths determine how Christians view situations we encounter?

 6.  How might the act of worship possibly become idolatry?  If our worship is not in “spirit and truth,” what might have inspired our acts we call worship?   How might a charismatic speaker serve for good or bad?

7.   God’s program to develop His people as sons of God with full rights is the purpose for the grace Christians now enjoy “in Christ.”  Why did God put it “on hold” until the Christ came and completed His earthly mission?

8.   Describe John’s evangelism plan.   List two attributes of Christians who will serve in this plan.

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