Truth and Love are Siamese Priorities
1 To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. 4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. 5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. (2 John 1:1-6)
Love In Truth
John describes his relationship with the “chosen lady” as “whom I love in truth” (1:1c). This may refer to his sincerity, that is, he truly loves her from a pure heart. Considering how the rest of the context uses the term “truth” and love’s connection to it, it would seem more logical for John to refer to the Truth. He truly loves her because she is in the Truth. Our love for one another is not based on a feeling, but our mutual relationship to the Truth. The saints have all obeyed the Word of Truth.
Truth Known Produces Love
John is not alone in his love for her: “and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth” (1:1d). He is alluding to the fellow saints who have come to know the Truth. Those who have loved and obeyed the Truth will naturally love others who share in that common love and obedience. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him” (1 Jn. 5:1). In this way love of the brethren and knowledge of the Truth are inseparable. Truth is the foundation of the Christian’s love for other Christians. They love each other not on the basis of personal attraction for each other but because of their mutual attraction for the Truth.
When it comes to the idea of truth, many today are like Pilate who asked Jesus, “what is truth?’ (Jn. 18:38). According to recent polls most Americans reject the idea of absolute religious truth. They believe truth is merely relative to an individual’s current circumstances. Relativist will argue “your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth.” John clearly states that Truth can be known and it is not individual, but that others can know the same Truth.
Truth Abides in Us Now
John gives the reason for this knowledge of the truth and consequent love of the fellow-believers: “because of the truth which abides in us” (1:2a). The term “abide” is a favorite of the apostle John. He uses it extensively throughout his gospel. It is from the Greek term meno which occurs over forty times in the Gospel of John and twenty more times in his other writings. It can be translated “dwell” or “remain.” John focuses on the disciple’s relationship with Christ who dwells or abides in Him and He in them (Jn. 15:4,7). Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). He has declared that God’s Word, the Bible, is truth (Jn. 17:17).
This passage dispels the common concept that truth is individual and originates from within the individual. Truth cannot be found apart from Jesus and God’s Word. Truth lives in the Christian who knows the Truth.
Truth Abides In Us Forever
The second way John describes the saint’s relationship with the Truth is it “will be with us forever” (1:2b). Truth according to man is ever evolving and changing. They believe that “what is true today in this era of history may not be true for the next generation.” In contrast, Truth comes from an eternal, unchangeable God. Truth does not change. It does not end. In fact, there is no new truth. Even in science they do not discover new truth. They only discover new knowledge, that is, a truth not known to them previously.
Truth and Love Bring Blessings
As is common in the letters of the first century, John includes a greeting at the beginning of this epistle. “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (1:3).
Three things are desired and expected for the “chosen lady.”
- First, John mentions “grace” which is unmerited favor from God. The normal Greek greeting used the salutation charein, the New Testament writers substituted in it’s place the word charis translated “grace.”
- Second, truth and love provide “mercy.” Whereas grace covers the sins of men; their miseries are covered with mercy. Sinful men deserve to suffer in their sins, but the mercy of God triumphs over pure justice and the judgment sinners have merited (Js. 2:13). Mercy is the expressed action of grace. It is God showing the sinner His much undeserved pity.
- The third blessing John is confident they will receive is “peace.” It is not the absence of conflict. Peace involves an inner security and tranquility which comes from being reconciled with God. Jesus assured His disciples, “these things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Grace is God giving the sinner undeserved blessings. Mercy is God withholding well-deserved punishment. Peace is God restoring a relationship destroyed by our sinful enmity.
It was customary in the greeting to pray or wish a blessing upon the addressee. John instead promises a blessing in that these three benefits from God “will be with you.” The verb “will be” is in the future tense.
The benefactors of these three blessings of grace, mercy, and peace are “from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.” No one else in all of time and eternity throughout the universe can bless Christians with these. The language used by John “equates the Son with the Father as coequal, coexistent, and coeternal.” God as the Father must have a Son. Jesus is not a son as all saints are sons and daughters of God. When Jesus said to the Jews, “I and My Father are One,” they sought to stone Him, because He was equating Himself with God (Jn. 10:30-33).
John concludes the greeting by pointing out that grace, mercy, and peace are rooted in truth and love. As the saints abide in the truth and love one another, the Father and the Son will bless them with these benefits. From here, “truth” and “love” segues into the rest of John’s message.
In the movie A Few Good Men Tom Cruise’s character wants the truth. Jack Nickleson’s character responded, “you can’t handle the truth!” Today, some Christians can be found who are able to handle the truth. Truth is not something just to believe. Truth must be practiced in day to day life. Finding children of God who practice the truth is a cause for great rejoicing. It is an incredible find. The phrase “I have found” in verse four is from the Greek word heureko which is “eureka” in the English language. John also found that Gaius was walking in the truth (3 John 3). Every faithful preacher and teacher of the Truth who has witnessed the growth in and the practice of the commandments of God will say along with John “I rejoiced greatly” (1:4a).
These Christians did not just believe the truth, read the truth, study the truth, they lived it in every day life. They were “walking in truth” (1:4b). This is not just a one time or even intermittent obedience to some truth. It is an on-going action as one walks forward toward a specific destination.
The only way to walk in the truth is to be obedient to God’s commandments. Note John uses “we” and includes himself as one who must obey “as we received commandment from the Father” (1:4c). To walk in the truth is the same as walking in the light as opposed to the darkness. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 Jn. 1:6). Note, that John had found that some had been faithful. This means others were not. He focuses his attention on the obedient children of God.
Truth Commanded: Love One Another
Walking in truth is a great priority for a Christian. Loving each other is just as important. John makes a personal request for all of the saints to “love one another” (1:5). This commandment is not new. John had heard this command from Jesus Himself (1 Jn. 2:7,8) . “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn. 13:34). Loving others is not new as far as commandments go (see Lev. 19:18). It was new with regard to the new emphasis the life of Jesus Christ exemplified by how much He loved them. He loved them to death – His death on the cross. To love one another is a commandment to be obeyed not a mere emotion one feels toward another. John wrote, “and this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:21). “Christian love belongs rather to the sphere of action than of emotion. It is not involuntary, uncontrollable passion, but unselfish service undertaken by deliberate choice.” This love is a act of the will not the emotion. This action, like walking, is a habitual loving of the brethren.
Truth, Love, and Obedience
John is going in circles with his discussion about love, truth, and walking by the commandments. They are to walk in the truth because of God’s commandment. They are to walk in love for this too is God’s commandment. If they walk in the truth, they will love one another. If they love each other, they will “walk according to His commandments” (1:6b). The commandment is for them to walk in love. Confusing? Consider one of the great truths commanded for Christian to walk in is to love one another. The more they obey the Truth the more they will have love for each other. Love of Truth produces love for others and obedience to all the commandments. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5:3). Jesus said, “if you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). Obedience to the commandments does not conflict with loving others or loving God. Truth, love, and walking in obedience to God’s commands are inseparably intertwined. Love obeys the truth. Obedience loves.
– Daniel R. Vess