************ Sermon on 2 John 1:1-4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 21, 2020
2 John 1:1-4
I Truth in the World
A "What is truth?" Pilate asked this of Jesus (Jn 18:38). "What is truth?" Pilate was a politician and in the world of politics back then there were different versions of the truth. Fast forward 2000+ years and I'm sure you realize things have not changed. Listen to a news story on CNN. Then listen to it on FOX. So different you have a hard time believing it is the same story. In a world of lies and liars we need truth.
"What is truth?" I've been asking that question as we wade through the coronavirus. One thing we know is that nothing said by China is true. We learned the hard way that the World Health Organization caters to China. Even the CDC has changed its recommendations to emphasize the use of masks. Make the mistake of turning to the internet and you can find an "expert" to support any wacky theory you may have about COVID and how to deal with it. In a world of lies and liars we need truth.
B The author of 2 John identifies himself as "the elder." That's a term of respect and endearment, recognizing age and wisdom. The church has always said the elder is John. John writes his letters around 90-95 A.D. He is the last living apostle. His ministry is centered in Ephesus.
John is concerned with truth. That's why it is his gospel that records Pilate's question. Five times in our Bible reading this morning we hear John using the word "truth." And, seven times John's third letter also mentions truth (3 John 1:1,3,4,8,12). John writes truth, preaches truth, lives in the truth, is controlled by truth, is motivated by truth. He is calling the church to love the truth. In a world of lies and liars truth is important to John.
C "What is truth?" Why is this question even asked? Why is truth even up for discussion? Because of the devil. The devil is a liar and the father of lies. He is the father of the deceivers mentioned by John in verses 7-11. Satan does not hold to the truth, for there is no truth in him (Jn 8:44). That's Satan, dear people. Nothing but a liar -- as we see already in the Garden of Eden.
Now, the Bible tells us Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Eph 2:2). Satan dominates the world. The result? Men do not speak the truth. Listen to what the Bible says about this:
-Ps 58:3 - "Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies."
-Jer 9:5 - "Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie."
-Rom 1:25 - "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie."
-Rom 3:2 - "God is true but every man a liar."
-2 Jn 1:7 - "Many deceivers ... have gone out into the world."
A world of lies, deception, falsehood. That's how people live in the world. If God does not work in us with His Word and Spirit, that's how we live.
John tells us this morning there is also another way to live: in the realm of truth. Everyone lives either in the realm of lies or in the realm of truth.
II Truth in the Church
A In a world of lies and liars the calling of the church is to be "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15). That's what Paul wrote to Timothy: the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. If the church -- maybe I should say when the church -- abandons the truth, then it no longer is the church of the living God.
"The pillar and foundation of the truth." Living and working in Ephesus, both John and Timothy understand this image. In Ephesus there was a massive temple, the Temple of Diana. This temple is one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World, along with the Egyptian pyramids, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the statue of Zeus ... The foremost feature of the Temple of Diana was its pillars -- 127 massive pillars, made of solid marble, covered with gold, inlaid with precious jewels. The pillars held up a roof of stone, a heavy roof of stone. Underneath the pillars was a foundation, a massive stone foundation. Look at the whole: a massive stone foundation, 127 massive pillars of marble, a massive stone roof. All of it a testimony to Satan, the father of lies. The Temple of Diana with its pillars and foundation was nothing but a monument to deception.
B The church, by way of contrast, is "the pillar and foundation of the truth." That is our purpose, our mission, our calling. Just like the pillars and foundation of Diana upheld the roof, so the church upholds the truth.
Back to Pilate's question: "What is truth?" The truth upheld by the church is the truth of the Bible, the truth of the Gospel, the truth revealed by God. This means the church proclaims it, believes it, teaches it, loves it, guards it, submits to it, and holds it aloft for all the world to see. It is the job of the church to uphold the truth without wavering, without wandering, without questioning, without redefining. The church of the living God doesn't tear the truth down. It doesn't deny the truth. It doesn't compromise the truth for the sake of political correctness. It doesn't give up the truth. The church of the living God clings to the truth. The church of the living God teaches the truth. And, one of the jobs of parents is to pass on this truth to their children; in fact, you promise to do that with the help of the church when your children are baptized.
"The pillar and foundation of the truth." That's why we have Creeds and Confessions. That's why we preach them and teach them to our children.
"The pillar and foundation of the truth." That's why we make our ministers go through solid seminaries and submit to rigorous exams before Classis. That's why, with Paul, we charge our ministers to "Preach the Word" and to be concerned with "sound doctrine" (2 Tim 4:2-3). Being true to the Word is the biggest burden and weight of my office.
The church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. And, yet, you know as well as I do that many churches are anything but. The Episcopalian Church, for instance, fully supports the LGBTQ agenda. Same with the PCUSA. The United Methodists are expected to split over the issue this year. The Reformed Church of America is expecting to lose over 300 congregations on the issue of submission to the authority of Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church denies the doctrines of grace and misunderstands the place of works and makes an idol out of the Pope and Mary. And, don't forget the JWs, Mormons, and other heretics. Can any of the churches I have mentioned, any of them, rightfully call themselves the pillar and foundation of the truth? I feel so bad for the children whose parents bring them to these kinds of churches.
C The church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of the truth even in the face of mockery, persecution, rejection, indifference, and attacks. Throughout the history of the church countless members have been willingly killed for the truth. Think of the apostles, Stephen, Paul, Huss, Guido de Bres, and others. Why? Why have they submitted to death? Because they know it is worse -- far worse -- to abandon the truth of Scripture than to be killed for the truth of Scripture.
III Truth in the Home
A Did you notice John's audience? Who does John write to? "To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth ..." John writes to a lady. Who is this lady? We don't know. And it is not important. What is important is that she represents the church of Ephesus. That's why she is called the "chosen" lady. Chosen by God. One of His elect. A woman of faith. Part of the church. John is not just writing to her but also to the church of which she is a part.
B John is warning the lady about false teachers. This is nothing new on John's part. He issued the same warnings in his first letter. He warned about antichrists (1 Jn 2:18,22,23). He warned about many false prophets and testing the spirits (1 Jn 4:1).
False teachers were present in Ephesus. They were teaching a false gospel. Some denied Jesus is fully God. Others denied Jesus is fully man. Some claimed perfection is possible in this life. Others said it is not important for Christians to obey the Law of God. All sorts of false teachers. None of them teaching the truth. Listen to the warning in verse 7:
(2 Jn 1:7) Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.Deceivers. Liars. Teachers who are like their father, the devil.
C What does this have to do with the lady? In the Ancient World, preachers and teachers traveled from place to place. Where did they stay? Where did they eat and sleep and rest and washup? Preachers and missionaries did not stay in inns and hotels. Because inns were places of prostitution, places of disease, places that were totally unacceptable, places that Christians would use only in times of desperate need.
Where did they stay? In people's homes. Think of Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and Luke on their missionary journeys. They traveled from place to place and stayed in homes. So, where did Paul stay in Philippi? He stayed in the home of Lydia (Acts 16:15). In the Ancient World, preachers and missionaries depended upon the gift of hospitality. In fact, do you remember the instruction Jesus gave to the Twelve when He sent them out in pairs throughout Galilee?
(Lk 9:3-4) "Take nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. (4) Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town."Do you hear what Jesus was saying? "Depend on hospitality. Find a home to stay in." Similar instruction was given to the seventy-two (Lk 10).
False preachers and teachers saw this as an opportunity for a free lunch. They would come into town, find the church, and claim to be true teachers of the gospel. They would claim to speak the words of God. They would ask for a place to stay. And once there they would teach their lies, seek converts, and destroy the church.
The chosen lady fell for such an attack. A false teacher, or two, came to town. She believed their claim to be true preachers of the Gospel. She had the means to support them. She had the gift of hospitality. So she invited them to stay in her home. "Be careful," says John to this lady. "Be careful," says John to all the ladies of the church. "Be careful," says John to all the members of the Ephesian church. "Be careful about who you invite into your home." Look at verses 10 & 11:
(2 Jn 1:10-11) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. (11) Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.Do not take him into your house or welcome him. Don't share in his wicked work. Because truth is at stake. Because lies are being said. Because members and children are being misled. Here is why we don't invite JWs and Mormons into our home to discuss theology. The home must stay true and pure.
Fellowship and hospitality are important. But never at the expense of truth. The truth is never served, the truth is never honored, the truth is never aided by being hospitable to heretics. Nothing is gained by being exposed to error. Don't let it in your church. Don't let it in your home. You cannot walk in the truth and welcome those who destroy it.
"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (2 Jn 1:4). That's how our Bible reading ends. That is John's joy. But this is also the joy of our pastors and our elders: to hear and see that the members of Trinity also walk in the truth. Because truth is everything.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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