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
“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth” (II Jn. 1). This is how the letter of II John begins. III John starts with the greeting, “The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius whom I love in the truth” (III Jn. 1). As I thought about this statement, it became apparent that truth is more than just a concept. It is an objective reality. When John said he loved the “elect lady and her children” and Gaius “in the truth” (or “in truth” as some versions say), he was speaking about a relationship! Truth is the reason John loved them.
The word “in” in II John 1 and III John 1 does not mean “inside,” like one would go “in” (inside) a house. Instead, it was love “in connection with” the truth, just like the language of John 4:24. We worship God “in connection with” spirit and “in connection with” the truth, not “inside” spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24). John loved these people as a result of their connection with the truth that had been taught and the truth these people (and John) obeyed (II Jn. 4; III Jn. 4).
John loved all men and cared for their souls (Matt. 22:39). However, there is a special bond that develops when we are connected with one another in the truth. Have we ever noticed the feeling and the camaraderie that takes place when we meet people of “like precious faith” (II Pet. 1:1)? It is like no other relationship. I have had the blessing of being able to preach in gospel meetings across this great country. I have gone to places where I knew no one and had people ask me, “How did you end up here?” What brought us together was the truth, and by the end of the gospel meeting, I had developed a life-long bond with them. Why was this? It was because of the truth! Similarly, I have been preaching in a “full-time” capacity over 26 years, and the connections I have made with the brethren I see day-in-and-day-out can never be strained, either. Even now, there are brethren I knew from some of my first years of preaching that I keep up with, and rejoice to hear news about them and their families (Prov. 25:25) Yes, there are many that I, like John, can say I love “in the truth”! Can you say the same? I hope so.
Perhaps we have not thought about the truth in this manner, but go back and consider what John says in II John and III John about his love for the brethren and how it is connected with truth. You will be amazed at what you find! Truth is not an abstract concept. It is real. It is objective. It helps cultivate strong bonds between people as we see one another standing for the truth (Eph. 6:11-14), fighting for the truth (II Cor. 10:3-5; I Tim. 6:12; II Tim. 4:7), and obeying that precious truth that saves our souls (I Pet. 1:22; Rom. 6:17-18)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Truth is a precious commodity today. Many people lie to us. Some lie for self-preservation, others lie to get our money. Still, others lie because they know no other way! They are like the people in II Peter 2:14 who had “exercised” their hearts in this way. A multitude of excuses can be offered for why men are dishonest, but the fact remains that such actions are not of God, but are motivated by Satan (Jn. 8:44). God tells us not to lie, but to speak the truth (Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:25). His word is truth (Jn. 17:17), and Christ is the embodiment of truth (Jn. 14:6). To lie, therefore, means we are drawing closer to Satan rather than drawing closer to God (Jas. 4:4, 7-8; etc.).
Perhaps this is why the Holy Spirit inspired John to speak about the truth in ⅓ of his second letter (II Jn. 1-4). The truth is so important to God that it warrants being mentioned four times in just eleven sentences. There is nothing like the truth! Think about it -- our society treasures the truth. We might not think so at first, but if we do not treasure the truth, why is calling something “fake news” an insult? Why do we have men swear to tell the truth when in court? Why are there “truth in advertising” laws in America? Why is there such a clamor and concern for “CGI,” “AI,” and other technologies taking over? Is it not because they have nearly reached the point where we can’t tell the true from the false? Some dinosaurs will still remember the question, “Is it real, or is it Memorex?” What happens to a society when we can no longer separate fact from fiction? Yes, truth is a precious commodity. God recognized this when He inspired John to write to the “elect lady and her children” about the truth (II Jn. 1-4). Look at some unique characteristics of truth that make it stand above dishonesty in II John 1-4.
- Truth can be known (v. 1).
- Truth abides in us (v. 2).
- Truth is eternal (v. 2).
- Truth cannot be taken from us (v. 2). We might leave it, but it cannot be taken.
- Truth forms strong relationships (v. 1, 3).
- Truth must be obeyed (v. 4).
- Truth shapes the manner of our lives (v. 4).
Are we interested in truth? It is a fact that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18). Therefore, God’s word is truth (Jn. 17:17)! The longer we spend time in it, the more we are exposed to the truth. The longer we speak of it, the longer we are speaking the truth! Is there anything more appealing than that? I don’t think so! Long ago, George Washington was quoted as saying, “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” Why not make this your goal as well, friend? If we lose the interest and capability to be honest then we have lost it all.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
As Peter ended his second letter, he commanded his readers to be involved in one of the most important things we can do - grow! We noted yesterday the importance of growing in grace. Now, we take note of something else we need to do. We need to also “grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). Please note that when it comes to spiritual growth, this is a voluntary act. We are commanded to grow. This is not like physical growth, where we have no control over how tall or how short we are (Matt. 6:27; Lk. 12:25). This is a conscious decision we make daily.
Growth is necessary for physical life, as well as spiritual life. Without growth, we will stagnate and die! It is not enough for a Christian to simply “sit back” and wait for the Lord to return. We need to be active and grow so long as we are upon this earth (Heb. 5:14). In this text, Peter says we need to grow in knowledge, but not just any kind of knowledge! We must grow in the knowledge “of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”! It is this kind of knowledge that saves us (II Peter 2:20a)!
How do we grow “in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”? We do this the same way we grow in any other field of study. We need to take the time to learn! This means reading and studying God’s word (Eph. 3:4; II Tim. 2:15). I am hopeful that our journey this last month in the book of II Peter has been an encouragement to you to read II Peter for yourself. I pray the topics we have explored have motivated you to go and learn the truth for yourself and to dig deeper into the Text. This is a needed aspect of our growth. While I hope that writings like this are helpful to you, this is no substitute for putting your nose in the Book! We, as a people, have spent too much time reading about the Bible. It is time we read the Bible! This will feed our souls (II Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:14) and help us to grow!
We also grow when we take what we have learned and apply or use it daily (I Thess. 5:21). Knowledge is not very useful if it is merely something we “store up” in memory but never really apply in life. I am reminded of the memes that say, “I have gone ____ days and still haven’t used algebra.” The old saying is true that if we don’t use something, we lose it! How much are we using our knowledge of Scriptures?
Peter commanded us to grow in God’s knowledge because we use this knowledge …
- To withstand temptation (Ps. 119:101; Matt. 4:1-13; Eph. 6:16).
- To repent and be restored when I stumble (Ps. 119:9; Acts 8:22; I Jn. 1:9)
- To be clean (Jn. 15:3).
- To be wise (II Tim. 3:15; Ps. 119:98-100).
- To show others the Lord’s way (II Tim. 2:2).
- To treat others in a godly manner (Matt. 7:12; 22:37-39).
These and many other reasons can be brought to mind as advantages for knowing God’s word and growing in that knowledge. How are you doing along this line? If you have been failing, then I hope these words might serve as a reminder and as encouragement to get into God’s word! Read it, study it, live it, and see the blessings that will come as a result. This is not merely a suggestion from a friend, but remember, this is a command of God to grow (II Pet. 3:18)! Let’s get busy!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The final words of the epistles interest me. I think about these men and think, “If I was writing a letter to these churches or individuals, what would I say at the end of the letter to leave a lasting impression?” Of course, these letters are inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:20-21), but still, each letter must end. II Peter 3:18 is the end of Peter’s message “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:1). How fitting that after telling these people they need to be reminded of the truth, after warning them about false teachers and preparing for the end of the world, Peter says essentially, “While we are on earth, keep growing!”
In this study, I want us to focus on the first part of Peter’s statement in II Peter 3:18. Growing in grace is something that all Christians need to do. Perhaps some folks think God’s grace is reserved for the non-Christian who needs to be saved. Actually, the saved and the unsaved need God’s grace. In the case of the Christian, Peter says we must “grow” in that grace. What do these words mean?
The word “grace” comes from the Greek word “Charis” which means, “good-will, lovingkindness, favor .... is used of kindness of a master towards his inferiors or servants, and so esp. of God toward men .... kindness which bestows upon one what he hasn’t deserved .... pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners pardon of their offenses, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ” (Thayer’s, p. 666). Some have shortened the definition of grace to mean simply “unmerited favor.” The word “grow” means what we think it means, the original word means, “enlarge or increase” (Strong’s). Mr. Thayer adds to the definition of “grow” by including “augment, become greater.”
Thus, there is a call and command for Christians to increase, enlarge, or become greater concerning God’s favor. The Christian needs to grow closer in relationship to God rather than farther away (Jas. 4:8). The Christian is the one who should realize how much he indeed relies on God’s grace or favor. We are sinners that have been forgiven (Acts 2:38), and now we must grow and continue to resist temptations daily (Jas. 1:14-15, 4:7). Therefore, if you feel like you’re getting farther from God instead of closer to Him, check your growth! Are you growing in the right direction? Let us increase in this grace, and understand that we will not get to Heaven without it!
How do we “grow in grace”? Peter says we need to stand in the true grace of God (I Pet. 5:12). The word “stand” in this text is not a one-time event, but an ongoing effort. We need to beware of the dangers of falling from grace (Gal. 5:4). We also need to spend time in God’s book (Eph. 3:4, 5:17; II Tim. 2:15) that we might know what God wants and be encouraged to grow as we need to grow! Don’t forget II Peter 1:5-11 and what we need to do to make our “calling and election sure.” These are necessary actions that we might grow in God’s grace.
Don’t believe the lie where people charge, “You people in the church of Christ don’t teach about grace.” The truth is, when you preach the gospel of Christ, I don’t know how you can keep from teaching on grace! Every aspect of the gospel is a product of God’s grace, His unmerited favor! It is a fact that God’s grace justifies (Titus 3:7; Rom. 3:24), it produces redemption (Eph. 1:7), and we who are Christians need to “grow in grace”! How are you doing in this area?
- Jarrod M. Jacob