|LESSON 12||*September 12 - 18|
John's Letter to the
Read for This Week's Study:
"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9, NASB).
|John's second letter resembles the
first one in many respects. Although shorter, the same vocabulary is used,
the same themes occur, and the same concern for believers prevail. A personal
touch is also found in both.
However, in contrast to the first letter, the second is clearly cast in a letter form, with both a formal introduction and conclusion. The main body contains praise, an exhortation to love and to walk according to the commandments, and a section dealing with the antichrists. The shortness of 2 John, as well as 3 John, may have been dictated by the size of a papyrus sheet. If this is true, the apostle must have weighed his words carefully as the Holy Spirit moved upon Him to write.
The Week at a Glance:
What is John's basic message, and how is it like his first one? How does he relate the concept of "love" to the concept of "truth"? What is the link between love and keeping the commandments? Why does John take the issue of false teachings so seriously? Why does John tell members not to be hospitable to false teachers?
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 19.
In Love and Truth
Read 2 John. What similarities to 1 John do you find in it? What's the essential message?
A cursory reading of 2 John suggests that the letter is addressed to a group of believers (as opposed to a single woman). This makes good sense, because in other places in the New Testament the church is portrayed as a woman (Eph. 5:22-32, Rev. 12:1-6). These believers, then, are mature Christians, not literal children.
Read 2 John 1-4. What word appears again and again, and how is John using it? See also 2 Thess. 2:10.
Notice, too, that John's use of the word truth is combined with love in verses 1 and 4. To understand the nature of true love among Christians, a qualifier is needed, namely truth. Love can be interpreted in a purely emotional, even sensual and superficial way. Christian love is "true" love, love expressed in the context of truth.
If we talk about truth we are reminded of God; of Jesus, who is the truth (John 14:6); and of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit is with the believers forever (John 14:16), so truth is with them forever (2 John 2). Both truth and love ultimately point back to God and belong together in Christian faith and experience.
At the same time, truth and love seem to form the main theme of 2 John. Love is further discussed in verses 5 and 6. Truth is necessary to discern deceptions and their results (vss. 7, 8) and to abide in the teaching of Christ (vss. 9, 10).
|We often look at the concept of "love" as something good in and of itself, regardless of the context. When, however, can love be very destructive? Have you ever experienced the reality of how love, outside of truth, can be so terrible? How does that experience help you better understand the importance of love in the context of truth, as opposed to outside it?|
Walking According to the Commandments (2 John 4-6)
Verse 4 is an encouragement for both the church and John. It is stimulating and encouraging for church members to hear that the elder rejoices greatly that they are "walking in the truth" (NIV). It motivates them to continue their Christian life "in truth just as the Father has commanded" (NIV) them. The commandment to walk in the truth may be found in 1 John 3:23, where he is calling us to believe in Jesus and to love one another.
How are love and the commandments related to each other? See 2 John 5, 6. Why is this especially important to us as Seventh-day Adventists? See also Rev. 14:12.
After the rejoicing (vs. 4) comes a request that at the same time is an exhortation (vss. 5, 6). John again talks about a commandment (vs. 5). It is the commandment (singular) to love one another. So, he moves from the concept of "commandment" to the concept of "love," and indeed this commandment has love as its content.
In verse 6 he continues the other way around; namely, with love and moves on to commandments (plural). Love is shown by keeping God's commandments. In other words, we have this commandment, and this commandment is to love one another, and we reveal this love by keeping the commandments.
How does keeping the commandments (Exod. 20:1-17) reveal love for one another?
How interesting that something such as keeping the law, the rules, and the dos and the don'ts would be so closely linked with love. And yet, it makes perfect sense. Love isn't just what we feel; love is what we do, it's how we act; it's how we relate to others. Though it is more than just obeying the Ten Commandments, true love cannot be separated from the principles found in them.
|Think about someone you love. How do you treat that person? What things do you say and do that reveal your love? In what ways could you even better show your love to that person? How does your own selfishness sometimes get in the way of showing this love as you know you should?|
Going Beyond the Teaching of Christ (2 John 7-9)
Read 2 John 7-9. What is John warning about here? What can be the results of falling for the deceptions he's warning about?
With verses 7 through 9 we are back to the deceivers and their false understanding of Jesus. It seems to be the same situation that we have already encountered in 1 John. It is so bad that many people have left the church and even have become "deceivers" themselves. Sure, there are those who are still walking in the truth (vs. 4), but a shepherd mourns for everyone who has left God and His church.
The antichrists' views of Jesus differ from the apostles' teaching. Church members have to watch out in order not to be affected by them and their false views. John is very clear here, too, that believers can lose their way, and that there's no such thing as "once saved, always saved."
Read 2 John 9. What is he saying about the importance of having correct "doctrine"? See also Matt. 16:12; Acts 2:42; Rom. 6:17; Rev. 2:14, 15.
John is under no illusion that doctrine does not matter. For him, false teaching can lead to the loss of one's eternal life. Thus, doctrine matters!
In our passage it is obviously the apostles' teaching about Jesus that is being challenged. Those who accept this biblical teaching and faithfully remain in it have the Father and the Son. God the Father and Jesus are placed on the same level. The rejection of the teaching about Jesus leads to a loss of the relationship with the Father.
|What has been your own experience with false teachers and false doctrines? Were you able to see, especially in the beginning, where these teachings could have led you? What have you learned from these experiences that could help others struggling with something similar?|
Refraining From Hospitality? (2 John 10, 11)
The Bible sees great value in hospitality (Heb. 13:2, 1 Pet. 4:9). Jesus mingled with tax collectors, Pharisees, and others who may not always have had their theology or their lifestyle straight. How does such a call fit with what John is saying in 2 John 10, 11? See also Matt. 10:14, 15; 18:15-17.
Although hospitality is a Christian virtue, there are limitations. If hospitality leads to directly or indirectly supporting false doctrines, it must be abandoned. In the first century A.D., teachers were traveling around, preaching in various places, and staying with church members who would provide food and lodging.
If such a teacher would propagate false doctrines, hospitality would be understood as an encouragement of his position and would actually help his work. Furthermore, church members who were wavering between the apostolic teaching and the false ideas could be puzzled or could even make a wrong decision if they saw a prominent church member letting a deceiver stay with him or her.
John is not proposing to hate these people, or to avoid any contact with them, but we must be aware of the fact that our behavior could be understood as endorsement of ideas opposed to truth. If this is the case, we must be very careful.
It has been suggested that in verses 10 and 11 John is concerned not so much with the behavior of an individual believer as with that of the entire church, and that the "house" mentioned in verse 10 is not a private dwelling place but the place where the church meets for worship. The church should not encourage a teacher who preaches heresy.
In short, to welcome a false teacher would be perceived as encouragement of what he or she presents. Today we may have lost the sense of how problematic heresies can be. It is considered by some judgmental or arrogant even to talk about "heresy" at all, although Scripture addresses this topic frequently. John reminds us that there is a basic difference between truth and error.
|Think about how your actions impact others. Think about how easily your example can influence others for good or for evil. What kind of example of Christ do you present? In what ways could you do better?|
Communicating With One Another (2 John 12, 13)
With verses 12 and 13 we have reached the end of 2 John. These verses form the conclusion of the letter, and they allow us to see John's personal interest in his audience and his desire to meet with these believers personally.
Look at what John has written in 2 John 12, 13. What advantages are there to speaking face to face, as opposed to a written letter? What hint can you find from his expression "that our joy may be full" as to why he wanted to meet with them? See also Acts 2:42-47.
The message that John communicates is quite strong. When it comes to the antichrists, John leaves no room for negotiation or a compromise. We are reminded of Paul's attitude when he wrote to the Galatians (Gal. 1:6-9).
John may have been able to share his message orally, but there also are advantages to a written form of communication:
Despite all this, John still wanted to meet with them face to face.
Why is face-to-face contact often so important for developing good relationships? What are the advantages of this kind of personal contact? What kind of example of personal contact did Jesus leave us? How can you improve your face-to-face dealings with others?
|Read the following passages:
"The apostle teaches that while we should manifest Christian courtesy, we are authorized to call sin and sinners by their right names-that this is consistent with true charity. While we are to love the souls for whom Christ died, and labor for their salvation, we should not make a compromise with sin. We are not to unite with the rebellious, and call this charity. God requires His people in this age of the world to stand, as did John in his time, unflinchingly for the right, in opposition to soul-destroying errors."Ellen G. White, The Sanctified Life, p. 65.
"The greatest want of the world is the want of men-men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall."Ellen G. White, Education, p. 57.
| Discuss the idea that doctrine, or teaching, is not that
important, that what matters is how kind and loving and accepting we are.
What should we think of this idea?
Go back over the idea of how obedience to the Ten Commandments is an expression of love. Try to imagine what it would be like expressing love while in violation of the principles of the Ten Commandments. How well would that work?
In class, ask the question "What is truth?" Make sure that the members don't merely give examples of truth, but look for a working definition, one simple expression that covers the whole concept. What can you learn from this exercise?
What do you do with the question of "calling sin by its right name"? How can we deal with wayward members without being judgmental or condemnatory? At the same time, are we not shirking our Christian duty if we don't confront brothers or sisters in the church who are doing wrong? How do we deal with this difficult subject?
|I N S I D E Story|
|The Red Bible
by KINGSLEY SABENG AMOATENG
I was born in Ghana and moved to the Netherlands several years ago. I was a Christian, but I sensed that there must be something more to worshiping God than I was experiencing. I asked God to show me His truth. My close friend, who was an Adventist, often invited me to visit his church. But I was busy on Saturdays. One day while visiting his house, I found a Bible with a red cover. I opened it and found a section that con-tained questions and answers. I asked him where he bought the Bible, but he said he'd gotten it during a series of meetings he'd attended. He offered to tell me the next time the church held evangelistic meetings so I could get one.
I wasn't interested in attending Adventist meetings, for I thought the church was strange to worship on Saturdays. But a few months later my friend told me that the church was planning evangelistic meetings. I agreed to go, but only to get the Bible. The meetings were shown via video and satellite. I learned about many different subjects that I'd never thought about before, such as the state of the dead. And when we studied the Sabbath, I realized that it wasn't strange at all. In fact, this was the very truth I had been praying about for two years. I didn't get my red Bible, but I got something so much better-God's truth and a new church. I asked to be baptized.
However, my wife and daughter still attended our former church. My wife asked me why I refused to attend with them, and I told her that I had found the church that teaches only the Bible. She attended my baptism, and the next week she came to church with me. On the way home she told me that maybe this new church did have truth that her church had missed. However, she continued to attend her church on Sunday and worship with me on Sabbaths. Then one Sunday morning she didn't get dressed for church. "Aren't you going to church this morning?" I asked. "No," she said, "I've decided that your church has the truth."
God is so wonderful. When the pastor learned that I had wanted one of the red Bibles, he asked his mother to give hers to me. I treasure that Bible, but I treasure my Lord even more.
Your mission offerings have helped grow the church in the Netherlands. Thank you! My wife and I are the fruits of your gifts.
KINGSLEY SABENG AMOATENG (left) lives in the Netherlands.
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