I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have
received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as
though I were writing to you a new commandment,
but the one which we have had from the beginning,
that we love one another. And this is love, that we
walk according to His commandments. This is
the commandment, just as you have heard from
the beginning, that you should walk in it.
2 John 4–6
Sunday’s Bible reading is 2 John. At first glance you may not think this, but it’s a letter that’s eminently fitting to read during the Christmas season. Why? Because John’s chief concern is the incarnation of the Lord Jesus.
In the first six verses of this brief epistle, John uses the same words over and over—the word truth occurs four times, the word love four times, and the word commandment(s) four times. John is reiterating themes found in 1 John, which are found originally in the Last Supper Discourse of the Lord Jesus in John 13–16.
The word walk(ing) is here three times. Leon Morris writes that the phrase translated in the NAS in verse six as walking in truth,
…must be very nearly equivalent to ‘living the Christian life.’ That it is put this way indicates the stress our writer places on the truth. To follow the truth is not an option selected by men but we have been commanded by the Father.1
Morris points out that John goes on to define loving one another as walking according to God’s commandments. There is no false dichotomy between truth and love or between love and obedience to God’s commands.2
John rejoices at those he finds walking in truth and asks “that we love one another.” In verse seven, John explains why he has been writing about their walk as Christians:
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
2 John 7
John is speaking here of the denial of the incarnation of Jesus Christ: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14. cf: Romans 1:3, 7:4, 8:3, 9:5; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 2:14–16; Philippians 2:7; Colossians 1:21–22; 1 Timothy 3:6; 1 Peter 3:18, 4:1; 1 John 1:1–3, 4:2).
Jesus is both truly God and truly man. Why is the incarnation crucial?
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Louis Berkhof explains:
…if Christ is not both man and God, He cannot be our Mediator. He had to be one of the human race, in order to represent sinners in His redemptive work.3
J. I. Packer writes:
The only sense in which the New Testament writers ever attempt to explain the incarnation is by showing how it fits into God’s over-all plan for redeeming mankind (see, e.g., Rom. viii. 3; Phil. ii. 6–11; Col. i. 13–22; Jn. 1. 18; 1 Jn. i. 1–ii. 2; and the main argument of Hebrews, i–ii, iv. 14–v. 10, vii. 1–x. 18).
…This silence need not mean that any of the New Testament writers were ignorant of the virgin birth, as some have supposed. It is sufficiently explained by the fact New Testament interest in Jesus centres elsewhere, upon His relation to the saving purposes of God….
The apostolic writers clearly see that both the deity and the manhood of Jesus are fundamental to His saving work. They see that it is just because Jesus is God the Son that they are to regard His disclosure of the Father’s mind and heart as perfect and final (cf. Jn. i. 18, xiv. 7–10; Heb. i. 1f.), and His death as supreme evidence of God’s love for sinners and His will to bless believers (cf. Jn. iii. 16; Rom. v. 5–10, viii. 32; 1 Jn. iv. 8–10).
They realize that it is Jesus’ divine Sonship that guarantees the endless duration, sinless perfection, and limitless efficacy, of His High-Priestly service (Heb. vii. 3, 16, 24–28). They are aware that it was in virtue of His deity that He was able to defeat and dispossess the devil, the ‘strong man armed’ who kept sinners in a state of helpless thraldom (Heb. ii. 14. f.; Rev. xx. 1 f.; cf. Mk. iii. 27; Lk. x. 17 f; Jn. xii. 31 f., xvi. 11).
Equally, they see that it was necessary for the Son of God to ‘become flesh’, for only so could He take His place as the ‘second man’ through whom God deals with the race (1 Cor. xv. 21 f., 47 ff.; Rom. v. 15–19); only so could He mediate between God and men (1 Tim. ii. 5); and only so could He die for sins, for only flesh can die…
We should, therefore, expect the New Testament to treat any denial that Jesus Christ is both truly divine and truly human as a damning heresy, destructive of the gospel; and so it does.4
Even as there is no false dichotomy between truth and love or between love and obedience, there is no false dichotomy between doctrine and life. Truth brings transformation. We are to abide in the teaching of Christ.
Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 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. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
2 John 8—11
As Morris summarizes, “it is necessary to be right about the Son if we are to be right with the Father (cf. 1 Jn. 2:23).”5
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Take the time before Christmas to read the many Bible verses included in this post. Through His Word may God give you great joy through understanding the truth of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, “God with us.”
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Anbetung der Hirten: Gerard van Honthorst, Public Domain.
1, 2, 5Leon Morris, “2 John,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds. (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 1271, 1271, 1272.
3Louis Berkof, Manual of Christian Doctrine, (Wm. E. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1933) 183.
4J. I. Packer, “Incarnation,” New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, organizing ed., F. F. Bruce, J. I. Packer, R. V. G. Tasker, D. J. Wiseman, consulting eds. (Wm. E. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1962) 559. The last three paragraphs in the quote are one paragraph in Packer’s article. I divided it for easier reading.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter