Today’s selected reading is found in the third New Testament epistle written by the apostle John. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses one through fourteen of the epistle. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the third and final epistle ugh as written by the apostle John found within the New Testament. What is so unique about this epistle is that it is the last epistle before the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ comes only two books later. There exists only the book of Jude between this third epistle written by the apostle John and the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ which he wrote while exiled and banished on the isle of Patmos. Perhaps one of the most intriguing features regarding the epistles which were written by the apostle John was that none of them begin with an introduction which provides us with his name. In fact, if you read the second epistle written by the apostle John you will notice how he begins and opens the epistle by referring to himself as the elder, and by referring to his audience as the elder lady. It is absolutely unmistakable that when the apostle John writes and refers to the elder lady that he is writing concerning a specific church and body of believers. What’s more, is that it might be possible that the use of the world elder lady refers to this particular church as one with prominence and stature among the various other churches within the province of Asia. It might be that since the early church was formed by the Holy Spirit in the city of Jerusalem that the elder lady was the church that was found within the city of Jerusalem itself. We aren’t entirely or exactly aware of who this specific elder lady is, although we can deduce that this elder lady was a specific church that existed at the time of this writing. It would be incredibly wise for us to recognize and understand this reality, for these epistles were written and addressed to specific saints and a specific body of believers within the known world at that time.
As you come to this third epistle which was written by the apostle John you will again find him writing and referring to himself as the elder, however, when you come to the opening portion of this epistle you will find the apostle writing unto an individual by the name of Gaius. This third epistle was different from the first and second epistle in that whereas the first two epistles were written unto the church and the saints of God, this epistle was written unto a specific individual. Much like the epistles written unto Timothy, the epistle written unto Titus, as well as the epistle written unto Philemon, this epistle was not written to, nor was it addressed to a specific body of believers or congregation. This epistle contained a wonderful and powerful word of encouragement directed to this specific individual with whom the apostle Hohn sought to write unto. This is now the third epistle which the apostle John has written, and one of the most spectacular features and characteristics of his epistles and writings is that they were written with and from the unique perspective of Persian experience with the Son of the living God. The epistles written by the apostle John—much like the two epistles written by the apostle Peter—were not written based on facts about Christ, nor were they written based on opinions of Christ. These epistles were written by men who actually spent three and a half years walking with Jesus and following wherever He went. Much like the Sprit moves wherever He wants and we move with and follow the Spirit, so also did the apostles John and peter move with Christ and follow Him wherever He went. How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is that we have five epistles found within the New Testament which were written by men who actually walked with Jesus during His years of ministry here in the earth. What’s more, is we have two gospel accounts concerning His life and ministry that were also written by men who followed and walked with Jesus the Christ.
I must admit what the writings of the apostle John are incredibly alluring and captivating, for his writings contain a tremendous amount of truth that was found within the words that were spoken by Jesus the Christ. In fact, I would dare say that. Impossible to truly understand that which is found within these three epistles without first reading and seeking to understand the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ which was written by the same apostle. The apostle John was not only one who wrote a gospel account concerning the life and ministry of Jesus, but he also wrote three specific and distinct epistles which were found within the New Testament. What’s more, is that in addition to these four books within the New Testament, the apostle John also received and wrote the Revelation of Jesus Christ which was found at the very end of the New Testament. This in and of itself is interesting, for you will find that when the apostle peter asked what would come of the apostle John, Jesus essentially asked what that was to him. Jesus then declared unto peter that if He sought to keep the apostle John alive until he saw the kingdom of heaven come in power and might, Peter himself was to follow him. Although the apostle John would not live until the end of time, he would receive the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ while on the isle of Patmos. In essence the apostle John did in fact see the kingdom of heaven manifested, for he received revelation directly from the Lord Jesus Christ concerning the last days and end of time. Within the New Testament—not only do we find a gospel account written by the apostle John concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, not only do we find three distinct and unique epistles which were written by the apostle John, but we also find the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. What an incredible and vast array of writings we find within the New Testament which were written by the apostle John, and what a wide spectrum of topics and truth the apostle John set forth to write. Not only did the apostle John write a gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus, but that same Jesus whom he wrote an entire book about was also the same Jesus who revealed Himself to Him alive, ascended and glorified while he was on the isle of Patmos after being banished and exiled by the Roman Empire. What an incredible testimony and work the apostle John undertook—particularly and especially considering that he was the oldest and longest living apostle of those who followed Jesus during those three and a half years He walked upon the earth.
I have previously written that in order to get a true sense of that which the apostle John wrote within these three epistles, it is necessary to first read and examine the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. While I cannot undertake to present you with the entire gospel which John wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, I can direct and point your attention to specific chapters found and contained within the book. I would first direct your attention to the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, for in this chapter we find a wonderful and mighty response given by Jesus when the Jews persecuted Him, and sought to slay Him because He did things on the Sabbath day. Beginning with the sixteenth verse of the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John we find the following words:
“And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to k ill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father Judith no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and He bare witness unto the truth. But. I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father Himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in His own name, Him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words” (John 5:16-47).
I fully recognize that there is a tremendous amount of language contained within this particular chapter found within the New Testament gospel of John. Suffice it to say that within this chapter we find Jesus who is the Christ and the Son of the living God speaking directly to the work which He performed while walking upon the earth. Within this particular passage of Scripture we find Jesus the Christ declaring unto those who sought to persecute and destroy Him, that He came not of His own will, nor of His own accord, in that He could do nothing of Himself. When Jesus walked upon the face of the earth, He sought only to fulfill, complete and accomplish the work, the word and the will of the Father who was in heaven. We dare not, we cannot, we must not forget this reality, for when Jesus the Christ came to the earth, He came in order that He might fulfill and complete that which the Father had sent Him to fulfill and accomplish. There is perhaps no greater manifestation of this reality than that which is found in the third chapter of the same New Testament book. Beginning with the tenth verse of the third chapter of the New Testament gospel according to the apostle John we find the following words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ unto Nicodemus who came to Him by night—perhaps because of fear of the Jews, as well as fear of the Pharisees and religious community during that day. Consider if you will the words which are recorded by the apostle John which Jesus spoke beginning with the tenth verse of the chapter:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but ye that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.o And this is the condemnation, that Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought of God” (John 3:10-21).
There is perhaps no greater declaration of the work, which Jesus came to this earth to fulfill, complete and accomplish than what is found within this passage of Scripture. Within this passage of Scripture we find Jesus declaring that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, in order that whosoever would believe on Him would not perish, but would have eternal and everlasting life. Please pay close attention to this, for this will appear again later on in the New Testament gospel of John when Jesus again spoke of His being sent by the Father to lay His life down for the sake of friends and enemies alike. What I happen to find so incredibly beautiful about the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is that He voluntarily and willingly laid His life down for both friend and foe alike. When Jesus hung there naked and bleeding upon the cross, there was no dividing line drawn, nor was their any distinction made between friend and foe. Think about it—how could Jesus draw a dividing line between friend and enemy when He Himself instructed us to not only love our neighbour as ourselves, but also to love our enemies, and to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us. Remember the words which Jesus prayed while on the cross? If you recall the seven sayings of Jesus upon the cross, you will undoubtedly be brought to what is perhaps one of the most beautiful and captivating prayers in all of Scripture. While hanging there naked and bleeding upon the cross preparing to die, Jesus with a loud voice cried out unto the Father and prayed, saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Please don’t miss the incredible importance of this phrase, for aside from the act itself, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring realities found within Jesus’ crucifixion upon the cross. This coupled together with the fact that when the one thief cried out unto Jesus asking Him to remember Him when He entered into His kingdom, Jesus emphatically and boldly declared unto him that today on that very day he would be with him in paradise. On the cross—not only did Jesus cry out unto the Father and petition Him for forgiveness for those who crucified and put Him on the cross, and those who stood as mockers and scorners, but He also granted access and entrance into His kingdom to that one thief who asked Jesus to remember Him when He entered into His kingdom. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for that thief when his legs were broken by a Roman soldier, and when he breathed his last breath here on this earth, only to awake in eternity and find himself in the kingdom of heaven. I can’t help but wonder if when he breathed his last breath and awoke in eternity, he was greeted by Jesus the Christ whom he just witnessed hang there naked and bleeding upon the cross.
As you continue reading the New Testament gospel of John you will come to the eighth chapter of the book, which begins with somewhat of a controversial account within the life and ministry of Jesus. When the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John wrote begins, it does so with a woman who was caught in the act of adultery being brought into the courts of the Temple, and into the presence of Jesus by those who not only sought to accuse her, but also those who sought to condemn her with stones according to the law of Moses. It’s interesting and worth noting that not only did they seek to accuse her according to the law of Moses, but they also sought to condemn her according to the law which was given unto Moses. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this, for this is what religion, this is what legalism, and this is what hypocrisy can and will always do. Religion and legalism will always seek to catch us in an act of disobedience and transgression before the Lord, bring us into the house of the Lord and into the presence of Jesus, and then—not only accuse us according to the law, but also condemn us according to the law. Religion has always and will always seek to accuse us before the throne of God—much like we read in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. In the twelfth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, we find reference of Satan who exists to accuse the saints of God before the throne of God both night and day without ceasing—that is until he is finally cast forth out of heaven, and there is no longer any place found for him. Consider if you will the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ before I call your attention to the words which are found in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John:
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:7-12).
What we find in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is precisely what the ancient serpent and dragon—the one who is called Satan and the Devil—seeks to do day and night before the throne of God. Just as Satan seeks to accuse the saints of God day and night before the throne of God, so also does religion seek to accuse and condemn the saints of God—and even those who aren’t yet saints of God—before and in the presence of Jesus who is the Christ. It was religion itself that sought to accused this woman who was caught in the act of adultery, and it was religion which sought to condemn this woman according to the law in the presence of Jesus in the very house of God. We dare not forget this very fact, for to do so would be to miss the incredible and tremendous significance that is found in this particular passage, for this is precisely what makes the words which Jesus speaks in this chapter so absolutely and incredibly powerful and significant. Consider if you will the words which are found in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John beginning with the twelfth verse:
“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall the light of life…Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I god. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me…Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also…I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come…Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins…Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him…When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please Him…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father…If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father…If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but He sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? HE that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God…I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death…If I honour. Myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: yet ye have not known Him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know Him, and keep His saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:12-56).
I fully recognize that there is a tremendous amount of truth that is found in the New Testament gospel of John. I recognize and acknowledge that what I provided in this writing is but a snapshot of what is actually contained within the gospel of John, however, I am convinced that it is necessary in order to truly understand that which the apostle John wrote in the epistles which are found within the New Testament. If you read the writings of the apostle John in these epistles, you will find that he spoke a great and considerable amount concerning truth, as well as love. For the apostle John, there were perhaps no greater spiritual realities within the life of a believer and saint of God than truth—both the truth that is found in the person of Jesus Christ, as well as with the Father, and the truth which we recognize, acknowledge and follow within our lives. In fact, within the first epistle which the apostle John wrote we find him continually speaking about the lies we sometimes tell ourselves concerning how we are living, for there are times when we not only lie to ourselves, but also deceive ourselves and believe something that simply is not the truth. Within the first epistle which the apostle John wrote, not only does the apostle John declare that “if we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth,” but the apostle John also wrote that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Furthermore, the apostle John wrote in this epistle that “if we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” For John, one of the greatest treasures found within our hearts and lives is truth—not only truth that is perceived, but also truth that is recognized by us. The apostle John wanted us to take a good, long and hard look at ourselves and truly see ourselves as we are, as well as the lies we continually tell ourselves. Perhaps at this juncture I must ask myself first—what lies have I told myself throughout and over the years? What lies have I bought into on a regular and consistent basis? What lies have I told myself throughout the years that I have believed and perceived to be truth? The apostle John declared that if we walk in darkness we lie, we do not the truth, and we might not even truly have fellowship with the true and living God. What’s more, is the apostle John would go on to declare that if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Oh, how many times have I tried to deny that I have sinned, or that I have sin within my heart and life? How many times do I try to reason away that darkness that is present within my heart and life? How many times do I try to lie to myself and somehow convince myself that I have fellowship with the Lord, and yet I choose to walk in darkness? What areas of my life are presently saturated with and by darkness? In what ways have I lied to myself throughout and over the years—lies which have helped create walls around me, and have even kept me from knowing and obeying the truth?
We must recognize and remember that Jesus Himself declared that if we know the truth, the truth shall make us free, and that if the Son has set us free, we are free indeed. Oh, in what areas of my life do I desperately need the truth, as well as the freedom of Christ? We cannot afford to miss the tremendous and awesome truth that is contained within this reality, for not only must we acknowledge our need for truth, but we must also acknowledge our need for freedom within our hearts and lives. The apostle John went on to write that those who say they know Him, and yet do not keep His commandments, are liars, and the truth is not in them. Oh, this is absolutely remarkable and astounding, for if you turn and direct your attention back to the gospel which John wrote, you will find Jesus declaring that we are His friends if we keep and continue in His commandments. Oh, it is very easy to profess that we know Jesus the Christ, and yet our knowledge of Him is directly and solely based on the fact that we keep His commandments and walk in obedience to Him. Truth was incredibly important to the apostle John, for consider the various uses of the word “truth” in the second epistle which was written unto the elect lady: “whom I love in the truth,” “they that have known the truth,” “for truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us,” “the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” Perhaps one of the greatest declarations the apostle John made concerning truth is when he encouraged and invited us to not merely love in word and in tongue, but to love in deed and in truth. With these words, the apostle John directly links and connects truth and love, for if we say we love others around us, it is absolutely imperative that we not only love them in deed, but also in truth. It is very easy to love others in word and in tongue, but it is something altogether different to truly love in deed and in truth. It is very easy to love, and to love according to words and tongue only, and yet not love with deed and with truth. There is perhaps no greater declaration concerning loving in deed and truth than when Jesus emphatically declared that greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends. If we are to truly recognize and understand love, we must recognize and understand love as being that which requires and demands action. In fact, I would dare say that love that does not manifest itself in deed, in action, and in truth is not love at all, and is nothing more than pretense, lies and delusion. Oh that we would be willing to confront the truth about ourselves, and even acknowledge the lies we tell ourselves on a consistent and regular basis. Oh that we would read this final epistle which was written by the apostle John and that whatever we do unto the brethren and strangers we would do faithfully, and in truth and love before the Father who sits upon the throne in heaven above.