David Pawson - Unlocking the Bible - Letters of John Pt2

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Thoughtful Thoughts 31.3.2023 by John Dunning. The Letters of John, Part 2.

Introduction; A black-and-white kind of apostle:- John

John the apostle was the best friend of Jesus and lived to old age, writing these letters sometime between 85-95 AD-ish. 1 John was written to confront the teaching of a heretic called Cerinthus. To correct bad teaching he defines how we can know who is a child of the Father.

John was a black-and-white type of person. Later on, other writings record that as an old man, John once said to his helpers carrying him to the public baths; “Get me out of this water… I won’t be in the same water as that man”. 

1 John:- Teaching on the importance of combining both ‘Truth And Love’.
John is known as the apostle of love, but here he teaches that both truth and love must be practiced together. John starts his letters with 1 John addressing the truth about sin. He starts by emphasizing that sin is exceptionally serious in believers, (1 John 5:15-16). That is why we need to keep short accounts with God and why Jesus taught His disciples in the Lord’s Prayer of the need to confess sin when we pray to our Father in heaven. In Rev. 22:19-20, Jesus said “If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the book of life, …”. As their name was originally in the book of life, they used to be in God’s family. They had been on track to go to ‘the holy city’, but came to be rejected because of disobedience, So in Rev.22:20 Jesus taught here that we can lose our salvation. (This is preparation for next week’s book, of “Jude”, which was his focus.)

This time we look at the importance of combining Truth AND Love. The apostle John is known as the apostle of love, yet these letters show there was also much more substance to him than that. We like to quote the verses about love as long as we don’t have to also quote their context! John puts that love into context in his letters. In spite of John adding context, we often ignore context because that is the challenging bit! For example, in the first letter, John points out just how serious sin is in believers; ( 1 John 5:15-16.) We need to keep short accounts with God. Remember Jesus taught His disciples in the Lord’s Prayer of the need to confess sin when He taught His disciples to pray. When we pray, it is to our Father in Heaven.

2 John-Putting Truth Into Practice

John wrote his second letter to “the elect lady” to draw her attention to the fact of her neglect of the truth. 

The problem was that she had been showing so much love that she had been letting anyone preach who wanted to preach. John writes to her to tell her to put the brakes on and only permit those who had the truth, to preach. 

Again and again today we hear that love is the thing. I once had a landlady who ran her weekly Bible study like this ‘elect lady’. John says here in his 2nd letter that it is not enough. Only speakers who have the truth may be permitted to speak.

This tells us that for this “apostle of love”, the truth was so critical that he would not socialize with a heretic. Francis Schaeffer once said, “The greatest problem for the church in the future will be the loss of the truth.” 

2 John is written to “the elect lady”. John identifies a problem of the truth being ignored, in order to show love. “The elect lady” had been welcoming any old teacher, to teach her group. John tells her to only have teachers of truth. She extended hospitality regardless of who they were. (I knew a land-lady who ran weekly Bible studies just like that ‘elect lady’.) Showing ‘love’ all sounds very Christian, but what kind of love sends people in the wrong direction?

3 John-Putting Love Into Practice

John wrote his 3rd letter to Gaius, who had the opposite problem. He was so possessive about what he saw as being “his” church, that he had not permitted even the right people to teach the truth, so, John had to teach Gaius about love. An Anglican vicar I once knew had the problem Gaius had, by getting hot under the collar at the church youth leader for allowing a Baptist pastor to speak about the immersion of believers. That is the unredeemed part of us still showing through. 
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth as well as love. God’s children should have a balance of both. God’s children should be able to be identified because they have both agape love of the God of truth. Disciples can’t just accept the popular teaching on love, and reject the truth we don’t like. (For example, when Jesus taught us about the kind of love that God has, He also taught us everything we know about hell.)


What we have in the church today is the problem that “the elect lady” had, of sacrificing the truth about God, by focusing only on love. Showing ‘love’ sounds nice, but what kind of love sends people in the wrong direction? John put into practice his point about Truth AND Love. He refused to even socialize with a heretical church leader. Reading the Bible can help to protect us against wrong teaching.

John the Apostle who promoted love in his 3rd letter warned of the seriousness of sin in believers in his 1st letter and the critical importance of only preaching the truth in his 2nd letter. 

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth as well as love. God’s children should have a balance of both. They have the love of the Father in them who is the God of Truth.

A summary of the substance of these two letters is that we must have the truth as well as love.
In his 1st letter, John warned of the seriousness of sin in believers.
In his 2nd letter, John promoted the importance of the truth.
In his 3rd letter, John promoted the importance of love.

Well, John is saying we must receive truthful teaching as well as agape love.

Next week, we’ll look at the tiny letter of Jude, who also packs a punch about truth.

This is John Dunning signing off from “Thoughtful Thoughts” for another week.

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