For Teaching, Reproof, Correction and Training in Righteousness, Issue 102
January 19, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation
Ezekiel was surrounded by the ‘likeness’ of the glory of the LORD, and he heard ‘someone’ speaking: “eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:1). Each week, pastors continue to eat what is offered to them, and continue to speak to the community of faith. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation offers brief studies of Scripture that may be useful to pastors in teaching and preaching God’s word.
The first letter of John is a well-loved New Testament book. Whether read devotionally, analyzed in a Bible study, or proclaimed from the pulpit, 1 John builds faith and faithfulness. It sets out the shape of Christian life in a bold, down-to-earth, hope-filled way that remains forever fresh.
On the other hand, John’s second letter is usually ignored. It seems devotionally thin, an unlikely subject for Bible study, and a dry well for preachers. Marianne Meye Thompson’s brief commentary on the Johannine epistles devotes 117 pages to 1 John but only 9 pages to 2 John. So why is it in the New Testament? Is it only the belief that it was written by the John of the Gospel and Revelation that warrants its canonical status? Several features of 2 John are worth the attention of the contemporary church. First, the letter is written to “the elect lady and her children,” an intimate way of saying “the congregation and its members.” John does not see the congregation as a statistically-defined institution, but as a beloved community of persons. In our time, larger congregations are known by their facilities, programs, and staff, while smaller congregations are known by their challenges. 2 John encourages us to see every congregation as a community called by God, and to see in every congregation men, women, and children who are loved by God.
Next, John understands that truth and love are intimately related, bound together so that possessing one without the other is impossible. The teaching of Christ, the teaching about Christ, is necessary to know the Father and the Spirit, and to know the one God, Father Son and Spirit, is necessary to live the commandment to love. Faith and faithfulness, theology and ethics, are not two things, but interconnected parts of the one thing.
Third, John warns against “deceivers” who teach and encourage falsehood. Neither truth nor love is inevitably secure, for some teachings are false, some practices are unloving, and some “instructors” are deceivers. Congregations and their members cannot assume fidelity to the gospel, but must be alert to “preserve the truth” and “promote righteousness.”
Next time, the Third Letter of John.
In the Spotlight: Human Trafficking
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Nearly every community in the United States is affected by human trafficking – most commonly for sexual exploitation of women and girls. Around the world, the problem is just as bad. According to UNICEF, 2 million children are estimated to be trafficking victims of sex trade each year, and 20 percent of all traffic victims are children. The average age of a girl being forced into the U.S. domestic sex slavery market is 13. Diaconia Connections is a Presbyterian-related global ministry which addresses human trafficking and other issues. Learn more about their work in the video.