Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle which was written by the apostle John. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses four through thirteen of the epistle when you come to this particular passage of Scripture you will find the apostle John bringing to a close his second epistle which is found in the New Testament. What is actually unique and interesting about this second epistle, is that unlike the first epistle which was written, this second epistle not only brings us face to face with who wrote it, but it also brings us face to face with the audience for the epistle. When this epistle begins and opens up, it does so with the apostle John referring to himself as the elder, and the epistle being written unto the elect lady. This is actually quite unique and interesting, for it is perhaps one of the only epistles which begins and opens up this way. The way the apostle John opened the third epistle is done in a smiling manner, but we must turn and direct our attention to the fact that this epistle was written unto “the elect lady.” It is imperative that we recognize and understand that when the apostle John refers to the elect lady he is not referring to a specific and individual lady. This epistle was not written unto a specific individual, but rather, it was written unto the church and body of Jesus Christ. We can deduce this reality when reading the epistle and noticing the word “elect.” If you study the New Testament epistles you will notice the incredible amount of language that was used to write and speak about the church as the body of Christ, and the church being the elect of God. In fact, if you read the various writings of the apostle Paul, you will quickly notice that he wrote a considerable amount concerning the election of the saints, and their adoption as the saints of the living God. There is an incredible amount of language found within the writings of these epistles that points to the awesome reality of the church of Jesus Christ being the elect of God and chosen by Him.
As I sit here this morning and read the words which the apostle John wrote unto the elect lady, I can’t help but wonder if rather than sharing the name of the congregation, the apostles concealed the name of the congregation so as to protect and guard it. If you study the history of this epistle, and specifically the time it was written—together with the first epistle the apostle John wrote—you will find that it was written roughly at or around the year 90 AD. Nearly sixty years had passed since the day of Pentecost, and since the days of the early church. The church of Jesus Christ which began in Jerusalem was scattered throughout the nations, regions and lands of the earth, and there were churches and congregations throughout the provinces of Asia. What’s more, is this epistle was written long beyond the time of the apostle Paul and the epistles he wrote unto the various churches—churches such as Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Thessaloniki, and the like. Nearly thirty years had passed from the time of the writing of the apostle Paul, and we now find the longest living apostle of Jesus Christ still present within and upon the earth. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that the apostle John was the longest living apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that at the time of this writing the other apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ had already been martyred by Rome. What we must recognize concerning the time of the writing of this epistle is that it was written during a time of intense persecution from the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was the dominant authority and empire during the time of Jesus Christ, and it was roman soldiers who placed Jesus upon the tree atop Golgotha, and crucified Him outside Jerusalem. When Jesus stood trial, He stood trial before Pontus Pilate who was a Roman authority in Judaea during the time and days of Jesus. It was Rome that was the dominant empire and power that was manifested in the earth during the days of Christ, as well as during the days and times of the apostles and the early church.
When we read the words the apostle John wrote in this passage of scripture, it is important for us to recognize that at the time he wrote this epistle, he might not have had the freedom and liberty to use his name as freely as the apostle did during the time he wrote his epistles. At the Rome this epistle was written the apostle John could not have used his name as freely as James the brother of Jesus could. At the time these epistles were written we must understand that letters which were written by the apostles, and letters which were written unto the churches of Jesus Christ could not only have been confiscated, but also read and examined by those within the Roman Empire. During this time, letters which were written by Christians, for Christians and unto Christians were scrutinized and examined very carefully, for Christians were perceived to be enemies of the state. At the time of the writing of these epistles the Jewish Temple has already been destroyed and burned to the ground with fire by the Roman army which entered into the city. When Nero reigned as the leader and ruler of the Roman Empire, he himself blamed the Christians for the burning of the Temple. When the temple of the Jews was burned to the ground, many believed that Nero was responsible, although he blamed the Christians for the hideous act. . Nearly sixty years had passed since the day of Pentecost, nearly thirty years had passed since the last and final epistle of the apostle Paul was written, and now twenty years after the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem had passed. Needless to say the times when this epistle was written were extremely and incredibly volatile and hostile toward Christians. During this time Christians were largely marginalized and ostracized by those within the Roman Empire—specifically due to the stigma that was placed on them by Nero and those within his political party who cast a dark and foreboding shadow upon the Christians as those who were responsible for the destruction of the Jewish Temple. It would be an understatement to say that living for Christ and walking as one of His disciples and followers during this time was incredibly and immensely difficult, as many within Rome had a disgust and distaste toward Christians due to believing them to have been responsible for the destruction of the Roman Empire. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke—first during His famous Sermon on the Mount, as well as again during His Olivet Discourse. Consider first the words of our Lord in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, as well as His words as they were recorded by Matthew in the twenty-fourth chapter:
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass; but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall e nature unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no. Flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch, that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (matthew 24:3-28).
When you read and consider the words which our Lord spoke—not only during His famous Sermon on the Mount, but also His Olivet discourse—you will find Him warning His disciples and followers concerning the tremendous opposition that would rise up against them. The more I read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the more I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that when He prepared for us to go into the world, he didn’t prepare us to be loved, but to be hated. We so often think that when we come to Jesus Christ, and we choose to commit our lives to Him fully and completely, the world will receive and love us. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case, for Jesus did not prepare us to be loved by the world, but rather to be hated by the world. Jesus never spoke and declared unto his disciples and followers that they would be welcomed, received, loved and appreciated by the world, but rather that they would be hated of all for His name’s sake. In the Sermon on the Mount we find Jesus declaring unto those whom He spoke unto and taught that they were blessed when men reviled them, and persecuted them, and spoke all manner of evil against them falsely for His name’s sake. Jesus declared unto those whom He was speaking and teaching on that day that they should rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is their reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before them. As he spoke unto His disciples concerning the last days and the end of time, our Lord emphatically declared that many will seek to deceive us, and many would come in His name declaring and professing themselves to be Christ. What’s more, is that our Lord also went on to emphatically declare unto His disciples that they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake, and that men would be offended, and would betray one another, and would hate one another. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance of these words, for it is absolutely vital and critical that we recognize and understand that when Jesus sent us out into the world, He never sent us out to be loved, nor did He send us out to be received and accepted. In fact, I would dare say that when Jesus sent us out into the world, He sent us out knowing full well that we can and most likely will be ostracized, marginalized and criticized. When our Lord sent us out as His disciples and followers into the earth, He sent us out with the command to love our neighbour as ourselves, but also with the command and instruction to love our enemies. It’s worth noting that Jesus never drew a distinction between our neighbour and our enemy, and He instructed us to love our neighbour as ourselves, and even to love our enemies who persecute, revile, oppose, criticize, and mistreat us. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke later on in the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Rome:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
“Let love be without dissimulation.A bore that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
It is quite clear from the words which our Lord spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the epistle unto the Romans that there is no distinction between our enemies and our neighbours. In fact, Jesus declared that it was said in previous times to love our neighbour and to hate our enemies, however, Jesus was taking the law, turning it upside down, flipping it on its head, and bringing us face to face with an entirely different reality. I can’t help but be captivated by the tremendous and incredible reality that not only did Jesus send us out into the world to be hated by others for his name’s sake, but He also instructed us to love our enemies as we would our neighbours, and even as we love ourselves. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that not only have we been sent out into the world and will most likely be hated by others, but we are also to love those who hate us. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—can you do that? Can you love those who hate you? Can you love those who persecute you? Can you love those who oppose you? Can you love those who ridicule you time and time again? Jesus sent his disciples into the world—not to be loved by others, but to do the loving. This is actually quite unique, for Jesus didn’t prepare us to be loved, but rather to love. When Jesus sent us out into the world, He didn’t send us out expecting to receive love, to receive affection, to receive attention, to receive compassion, and to receive a warm welcome and greeting by those whom we interact with. YOU ARE TO DO THE LOVING! YOU ARE TO DO THE LOVING—EVEN WHEN YOU AREN’T RECEIVING LOVE IN RETURN! I am utterly and completely convinced that not only are we to love even when we don’t receive love in return, but we are to also lead with love—both a love for our neighbour, as well as a love for our enemies. LEADING WITH LOVE! There would be those among us who would think that we are to love those who love us, and even to love when we ourselves have first received love from others. The truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. We do ourselves a great disservice when we think and perceive that we are to love others only when they have loved us first, or have reciprocated love. We have been incredibly deceived into thinking that we can and that we shall receive love in return for the love we show, and the love we demonstrate toward others. I am reminded of the old familiar phrase “looking for love in all the wrong places,” and I would dare say that there are countless Christians who are looking for love in all the wrong places, and who are looking for love from those around then, when the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. There are countless Christians who are refusing to lead with love—both a love for their neighbour, as well as a love for their enemy—because they are waiting for and expecting love in return, or to be loved first.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke when He sent His disciples out two by two into the world as an extension of His ministry and work within the earth. If you journey to the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, you will find Jesus speaking directly to his disciples, and not only sending them out, but also preparing them for how they should act, and what they should expect when they go out into the world. Consider if you will the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning the sending out of the twelve disciples:
“These twelve Jesus ent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go no into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.”
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the Houston’s. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loveth his life for my sake shall find it.”
“He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:5-42).
Did you catch what was spoken and declared unto the disciples when Jesus sent them out two by two into the world? There is within this passage the emphatic declaration that they will and can be expected to be hated of and hated by many nations. Immediately after Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning their entrance into the houses they would come unto and visit, He then declares unto them that He sends them forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, and instructs them to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. What’s more, is that Jesus instructs them to beware of men, for they will deliver them up to the councils, and will scourge them in their synagogues. What’s more, is Jesus would go on to declare that they would be brought before governors and kings for His sake, for a testimony against them and against the Gentiles. Taking this even further, Jesus declared unto them that when they deliver them up, they are to take no thought how or what they shall speak, for it shall be given in them that same hour that which they shall speak. When they open their mouths to speak, it would not be them which spoke, but rather the Spirit of their Father which speaks in them. If you continue reading these words, you will find Jesus further declare that brother shall deliver brother unto death, and the father the child. Moreover, Jesus declared that children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. It was at this juncture where Jesus emphatically and pointedly declares unto them that they shall be hated of all men for His name’s sake, and that he who endures to the end shall be saved. Oh please don’t miss or lose sight of this tremendous and incredible reality, for when we come to the time of the writing of the epistles which the apostle John wrote, we not only find the great persecution against Christians in the city of Jerusalem having passed, we not only find the destruction of the Jewish Temple having passed, and Christians being blamed for the atrocity, but we also find a great opposition toward and against Christians within and throughout the Roman Empire. When I read the opening words which the apostle John wrote in this second epistle, I can’t help but think that he referred to himself as “the elder” and addressed the epistle unto “the elect lady,” so as to avoid detection—either concerning the author of the epistle itself, or concerning the audience and intended recipients of the epistle. By the time these epistles which were written by the apostle John were written, the Romans had increased their hatred toward and against Christians, and many Christians either found themselves imprisoned, or crucified upon a cross, or even thrust into the arena where they would be slaughtered by gladiators, or mauled to pieces by wild beasts. There is not a doubt in my mind that when this epistle was written by the apostle John, he sought to conceal his identity, as well as the identity of those to whom he was writing, so as to safeguard and protect both during a time of intense and tremendous opposition and persecution.
When you come to the opening verse of this second epistle written by the apostle John, you will find the apostle opening the epistle with the declaration that it was written by the elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom he loves in the truth. The apostle John goes on within the first verse to declare that not only does he love her in the truth, but also all them which have known the truth. The apostle John goes on to write concerning the truth that it dwells within them, and that the truth shall be with them forever. What I so love about this particular epistle, is that even though it was written during a time of tremendous opposition and affliction, the apostle John rejoiced greatly that he found the children of the elect lady walking truth, according to the commandment which they received from the Father. In all reality, the apostle John was pleased and delighted to know and discern that the children of the elect lady walked in the truth according to the commandment which they received from the Father. And what was the commandment which they received from the Father, but that they love one another. I can’t help but read the words which are found within this epistles and come face to face with the fact that even during a time of intense and incredible persecution and opposition, the children of the elect lady not only walked in and according to the truth, but they also loved one another. There is not a doubt in my mind that those to whom the apostle wrote within this epistle not only loved their neighbours, but also loved their enemies as themselves. Think about it—could you love someone who handed you over to the Roman authority to be imprisoned and cast into a dark, and perhaps even dangerous prison cell? Could you love someone who handed you over to the Roman authorities to be crucified as a martyr, or perhaps even burned at the stake with fire? Could you love someone handed you over to the authorities to be cast into the arena where you would either be slaughtered by Gladiator warriors, or mauled to death by wild beasts and animals? Moreover, could you love those who persecuted you, and those who ridiculed you, and those who opposed you, and those who criticized you? Could you love those who persecuted you—even unto the death as you knew your natural and physical life was coming to an end? The apostle John writes within this epistle that the demonstration and manifestation of love is that we walk after the commandments which we have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. This must we do during a time when many deceivers are entered and have entered into the world—those who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. We must look to ourselves, and must examine whether or not we are walking in truth, and loving others—a reality which demonstrates that we are manifesting and keeping the commandments which were given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. Within this writing the apostle John also goes on to speak concerning those who transgress, and abide not in the doctrine of Christ, and how such individuals have not God. Those—on the other hand—who abide in the doctrine of Christ—have both the Father and the Son. The apostle John instructed that if there come any among them, and bring not this doctrine, they were to not receive them into their house, neither bid them God speed, for such who bid them God speed is a partaker of their evil deeds.
I leave you with the words which our Lord Himself spoke when teaching His disciples in the upper room before he would be betrayed by Judas into the hands of His opponents, and those who sought to crucify and destroy Him. In the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find the following words which were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ concerning abiding in Him, concerning love, and concerning keeping His commandments. These words I leave with you at the end of this writing on this particular day:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, Except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the ranches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I l over you: continue in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:1-27).