John told Gaius, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (III Jn. 4). This statement, though short, teaches us several things. Let us break this verse down, see what John was saying, and make some applications to our lives.
“I Have No Greater Joy” - Nothing gave John greater joy than to know that Gaius, Demetrius (v. 12), and other Christians (i.e., “friends,” v. 14) were holding fast to the Lord. He had his joy set on things eternal and not temporal (II Cor. 4:18). In other words, John’s joy didn’t rest in men’s opinion of him or some physical pursuit. John’s joy was in knowing that faithful Christians were doing their duty for the Lord! (See: II John 4)
Friend, what gives you joy? Is it vacations? Physical pursuits? Work? Children? Cars? Hobbies? These things might bring momentary happiness, but what brings joy? Is our true joy found in spiritual things? If we truly love the brethren as we ought (I Pet. 2:17), we will be able to speak as John concerning the well-doing of brethren all over this country and world!
“Than To Hear” - Though he wasn’t there in body, John was concerned for the brethren. He wanted “to hear” about Gaius, and others and learn about their welfare. I know brethren who look down on such concern for others, but John (and the other apostles) showed us the proper example (I Cor. 4:16, 11:1; Phil. 3:17; Eph. 5:1-2). Please understand, John wasn’t interested in gossip, etc., but genuinely concerned for their souls. This needs to be our attitude as well (Prov. 25:25).
Other apostles showed concern for the brethren as well. We see Paul’s care for brethren through all of his epistles (II Cor. 11:28; Rom. 16:1-15; I Cor. 1:11; Phil. 4:21; Col. 4:15, 17). The same goes for Peter (I Pet. 1:1, 2:17; II Pet. 1:1).
How concerned are we for our brethren? Do we show it through prayers? Through financial support or other means? Are we so caught up in ourselves that we don’t have time to “hear” about the welfare of other Christians?
“My Children” - This does not have reference to his physical lineage, but to those he had been instrumental in bringing to the Lord. The apostle Paul used the same language for those he taught (I Cor. 4:15, 17; I Tim. 1:1-2; II Tim. 1:1-2; Titus 1:4).
I think it is interesting to note that we are never told about the apostles’ physical children. (For example, we know the apostle Peter had children, I Pet. 5:1!) I wonder if this was done so we would keep our eyes on the apostles who pointed us to Christ, rather than on their descendants that we might treat as “royalty,” or give them some special position in the church that God never intended?
Brethren, what is our attitude toward fellow Christians? Do we strive for closeness? Do we treat one another as brethren? Let’s ask this another way: How many can we consider “children” in the sense the John and Paul used the word (II Tim. 2:2)?
“Walk In Truth” - The word “walk” describes one’s manner of life or behavior. This was seen as Gaius showed hospitality toward others, and showed the right example to fellow Christians not traveling (III Jn. 5-8). In other words, Gaius was faithfully following God despite the difficulties that surrounded him. He didn’t merely give lip-service to the truth, but was walking in it! John said those, like Gaius, who were walking in the truth brought him great joy. Why did he have joy? It is because he knew that what they were doing pleased the Father (II Jn 4; III Jn. 4). Let us examine ourselves so that when the Lord returns, He will find us walking in truth.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Peter asks his readers a crucial question in I Peter 3:11-12. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” His question is one that has been asked multiple times since then. Since this world will be consumed by fire one day, then how should we act now?
Peter told the Christians in his first epistle to be “obedient children” and to “be holy in all manner of conversation” (I Pet. 1:14-15). These are two great characteristics that ought to describe Christians today! Our obedience to God and our being holy are two things that will not be burned up when this world burns!
Jude 21 adds that we ought to keep ourselves “in the love of God.” This is another characteristic that needs to be seen in us and something that cannot be taken away! It is interesting to note that Jesus connects our love for Him with our obedience (Jn. 14:15, 23-24, 15:14). So, as Peter teaches us to be obedient, Christ says our obedience is an outgrowth of our love for God. This is how we know it is genuine and not merely “rote” action!
What manner of persons ought we to be? How about being “stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58)? Such a determination will keep our hands, and our minds occupied! I believe a lot of the fuming and fussing in the brotherhood can be linked to the fact that Christians are not staying busy in the Lord’s work! When we try to bring lost souls to the Lord as well as encourage the saved to remain strong, we will have a full plate! Let us be this kind of person and see how this work transcends the fires of II Peter 3:10!
I Peter 2:2, and II Peter 3:18 encourage us to grow! We need to be the kind of people who are not stagnant in our spiritual lives. We need to grow and to continue in this growth so long as the Lord gives us breath! Spiritual growth provides us with many challenges, regardless of how long we have been a Christian. Whether as “newborn babes” (I Pet. 2:2), or as mature people (Heb. 5:12-14), there is plenty to do and plenty of growth possible in the Lord’s kingdom!
Peter’s question in I Peter 3:11 is rhetorical, but when examined, it makes for a good reminder. Friend, are you a Christian (Acts 11:26; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38)? If you are, how is your spiritual growth? If you are a Christian, then you should have an appreciation for what is on the horizon (II Pet. 3:10). We don’t know a day or hour, but we can be prepared, and we can help others get ready! Look again at this short list. Are you prepared? Are you growing? If not, why not? Make the time to be prepared while you still can (II Cor. 6:2)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
This article is not easy to write. The reason is that reading the phrase “righteous Lot” seems contradictory. How can we think that a man who chose to live in Sodom is righteous (Gen. 13-19)? How can we believe that a man who defended strangers in town (who later revealed themselves to be angels) by offering his daughters to a mob is righteous (Gen. 19:1-12; Heb. 13:2)? How can we fathom that a man who was made drunk so his daughters might commit incest with him is righteous (Gen. 19:30-38)?
Calling Lot “righteous” might be hard for us to do, but it wasn’t hard for God to do (II Pet. 2:7-8). How can God say this? Is He ignoring sin? I am not saying I have the “one and only answer,” but could I suggest a few thoughts I have had concerning Lot in this context?
First, God is the biographer who presents His characters “warts and all.” He is a true journalist, telling us only the facts about people. What did they do? Where did they fail? God lets us know, and this is the way it is with Lot. II Peter 2 affects me because when I read this chapter, Lot becomes “real.” He becomes “human” to me. He is not someone who went into Sodom in ignorance (Gen. 13:10-12). The “men of Sodom were wicked and sinners,” and I am sure Abraham and Lot knew this. Since we are not told Lot’s thought process beyond the attraction of the land (v. 10), we can only assume his reasoning. Since God called Lot righteous, and a man “vexed” at the people’s wickedness, I have to assume that he thought he might be able to change the people when he moved into the city (Gen. 14:12). He even became someone of prominence in the area (Gen. 19:1, 9). Did he think that this position might make it possible for him to turn the people to God? God says their wickedness “vexed his righteous soul” daily (II Pet. 2:8). “Vexed” means torture or torment (Strong’s). Therefore, in Genesis 13-19, we read about a man who was agonizing over the people, and no doubt agonizing as he thought he might be able to change them.
Sadly, we see how this did not work. Lot and his girls left Sodom, but Sodom never left the girls (Gen. 19:30-38). By the end of Genesis 19, we read of a broken man, and might I say a depressed man as well? He’s lost everything but his girls. While having your children is a great blessing, I see a man focused on loss. He came into Sodom a rich man, and left a pauper (Gen. 13:5-7, 19:15-29). He came in married and left a widower (Gen. 19:26). Might I venture to say Lot entered this area and idealistic man, and left in depression? Notice how the angels had to drag Lot and his family out of town (Gen. 19:16)! Could he have thought that one more day might have made the difference? Thus, now sitting with his daughters in a cave, he has given up! When we think about this perspective, Lot takes his place with many righteous people in the Bible who became depressed at the reality of sin that surrounded them.
The Bible says the reason God had the angels drag this man and family out of town is that the Lord was “merciful unto him” (Gen. 19:16). For a long time, I thought mercy was shown because of his uncle. Perhaps this was a factor. Based on II Peter 2, however, I believe God is merciful because of Lot’s righteous soul. God saw and knew what Lot had been doing for years (Prov. 15:3; Jer. 23:24; Heb. 4:13). Thus, God extended mercy to a man “vexed” at the wickedness of the people and powerless to change them!
Is this the quintessential answer to II Peter 2:7-8? Of course, not, but I do believe Peter’s second letter demands we look at Lot again and see him as a three-dimensional person, as we all are. God, knowing all sides, shows us how to be merciful. Let us follow that example. Yes, people need to repent of their sin, and yes, we will answer for unrepented sin (Acts 17:30; II Pet. 3:9; Lk. 13:3, 5). However, let us not be so quick to judge people’s decisions when we do not know their motivation or other factors that led to their decision. For the record, I do not agree with Lot’s decisions, especially those highlighted in the first paragraph! However, why did he do these things? Except for the drunken incest, I believe God, through Peter, gives us insight into a flawed man’s motivation. I might not have done what Lot did, but then again, maybe I am doing what he did at times. Perhaps I am holding out hope on a situation that is hopeless? Do I think “one more day” is what is needed? What do I do after that day has come and gone, and nothing has changed? Perhaps I am waiting on someone or on a situation that has passed me by? Maybe it is time for me to face reality on some situations in my life because things are not changing and are not going to change?
Friend, When you reach the point where you can understand you have acted like Lot, then please don’t act like Lot and descend into a depression, which can lead to even more sin (Gen. 19:30-38). Please look to God for strength (Ps. 110:1-2), for courage (Josh. 1:6, 9), for hope (Rom. 8:24), for forgiveness (Acts 2:38), and acceptance (Jas. 4:8). Remember, God has not been able to preserve all of His children for Heaven. Therefore, let us not think we will have a 100% success rate. Let us remember our responsibilities before God and make sure our righteous souls are prepared for Heaven and look for those who will listen, who will obey, and who appreciate the truth of God’s word (Mk. 16:15; II Tim. 2:2).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
II Peter 1:3 tells us that God has “given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” What does this mean? What can I learn from such a statement? I know I usually write these short articles, but I am making an exception today. Brother R.L. Whiteside wrote on this subject years ago, and I think he explains this verse better than I could. Please read his writing and benefit from his wisdom on II Peter 1:3.
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (II Pet. 1:3). We are in the habit of saying that God has given us in the gospel, everything that is essential to life and godliness, but Peter goes a little farther than that and affirms that God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. There is a difference. To illustrate: There are certain things that are essential to an automobile, and there are other things that pertain to an automobile but are not essential to it. When you have all things that are essential to an automobile, you can go to a supply house and purchase a lot of extras that pertain to an automobile. But suppose you have all the essentials of an automobile, and then you add all the things that pertain to an automobile, nothing else could be added that would make it any more complete. God has not only given us all things that are essential to life and godliness, but He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
But do religious people believe it? If so, why all these flummeries that God has said nothing about? If you will read the verse again, you will notice that He has given us all these things through the knowledge of Christ. The knowledge of Christ means the knowledge that has been revealed about Him -- the gospel of Christ. Hence, through the gospel God has not only given us all things that are essential to life and godliness, but all things that pertain to life and godliness. If there is, therefore, anything in your religion that did not come to you through the gospel, it does not so much as pertain to life and godliness. Is it not time to check up on our religion and see if we have anything that we cannot find in the New Testament? Any person of intelligence can do that for himself.
(Whiteside, R.L., The Kingdom Of Promise And Prophecy, p. 42)
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
“Remember The Alamo!” “Remember The Maine!” “Remember Pearl Harbor!” “Remember 9/11!” These are just a few of the rallying cries that have been heard in our country through the years. These cries showed people that the war being waged was for a cause greater than self.
When we read Nehemiah, we read a similar cry. When Sanballat, Tobiah, and others were intent on destroying the work of the Jews, Nehemiah stood and cried, “Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (Neh. 4:14). In other words, Nehemiah told the people that the conflict they faced was greater than themselves. They needed to fight for their families!
In a spiritual sense, Satan’s onslaught continues in this world (I Pet. 5:8). He wants to tempt us to leave the Lord (Jas. 1:14-15), and he has no problem hurting the weakest among us to do it! Fathers have the responsibility to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). They have a responsibility to make sure a new generation knows, loves, and respects the God of Heaven! The younger need to be taught by the older to be sober-minded and develop into men ready to serve God (Titus 2:6). Men, are we doing that?
The juvenile delinquency problem continues to be a stain on our nation. This is a result, no doubt, of homes where the father is non-existent. Young people need a father, not a cash machine! Our young need fathers willing to stand and show them what sacrifice looks like as well as an authoritative figure who expects the rules to be obeyed. To borrow a phrase, how can children respect the Father they have not seen if they are not taught to respect the father they have seen? Men, are you doing your job? Are you fighting for your families?
Mothers have the responsibility to raise their children in a godly way and be “teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3). For example, they need to remind their daughters to “be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5). Mothers need to be reminded that their work does not go unnoticed. Mother has a great responsibility to teach, train, to show love and caring, and to be the “heart” of every family. Children see sacrificial, consistent love in mom. Ladies, are you fighting for your families? Don’t let your children down!
Yes, we are in a fight against Satan and the “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12)! Let us remember that we are not merely fighting Satan to protect ourselves. We are fighting for our families! Remember them! Remember their souls! Let us be busy in the Lord’s work and train a new generation to do God’s will while we have the time and opportunity! Satan, like Sanballat and Tobiah, is looking for his opening into our homes. Don’t let him have it!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs