The word truth is used five times in the first four verses of 2 John. Verse 4 contains a reference to walking in truth. In order to understand what the author of 2 John was communicating about walking in truth, it helps to understand the context in which he wrote about truth. Part of understanding the context is knowing how the early church defined truth and what they believed and taught about truth. In this study I’m going to look at 11 passages throughout the New Testament to see what the New Testament overall has to say about the concept of truth. Then I’ll read the first four verses of 2 John to see specifically what the author of 2 John was trying to communicate about truth. Watch the video or scroll down to read a transcript.
Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This is a study of the first four verses of the Second Letter of John.
The word truth is used five times in the first four verses of 2 John. Verse 4 contains a reference to walking in truth. The word truth is a translation of the Greek word aletheia. In order to understand what the author of 2 John was communicating about walking in truth, it helps to understand the context in which he wrote about truth. Part of understanding the context is knowing how the early church defined truth and what they believed and taught about truth. In this study I’m going to look at 11 passages throughout the New Testament to see what the New Testament overall has to say about the concept of truth. Then I’ll read the first four verses of 2 John to see specifically what the author of 2 John was trying to communicate about truth.
Let’s start in the Gospel of Mark chapter 5. The context is there was a large crowd following Jesus. In this crowd was a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. She believed that if she touched the cloak of Jesus, she would be healed. She managed to get close to Jesus, touched his cloak, and indeed she was healed. Jesus sensed this had happened and asked, “Who touched Me?”. Then we read this in verse 33.
Mark 5:33 But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.
The last word of this verse is truth. The word truth is used here as a noun. The woman fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. Truth is that which is in accord with fact or reality. What we see here is that the woman accurately related the facts to Jesus. When Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” the woman accurately admitted to Jesus what she had done.
This is a common usage of the word truth throughout the New Testament. Again, the word truth is a translation of the greek word aletheia. The word truth is often used as a noun in the Bible. The definition of the word truth is that which is in accord with fact or reality.
Let’s look at Matthew 22. The Pharisees were planning together to trap Jesus. They decided to ask Jesus if it was lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar. In their minds this would be a dilemma for Jesus because the Romans would not like it if Jesus said no, and the Jews would not like it if Jesus said yes. They were trying to trap Jesus, but before they sprung that question on Him, they tried to butter Him up a little bit. Let’s read verse 16.
Matt. 22:16 And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.
Here, the word truth is part of a prepositional phrase, in truth. This is also a frequent usage of the word truth throughout the New Testament. What did they mean when they talked about Jesus teaching the way of God in truth?
Let’s think about the concept of in. If you are in water, you are immersed in water. If you are in a house, you are surrounded by the walls of that house. If you are in truth, which is the usage here, it means you are immersed in truth. You are surrounded by truth. In other words when they said Jesus taught the way of God in truth, they were saying He was surrounded by truth and immersed in truth when He taught. They were saying He taught the way of God accurately and in accordance with fact and reality.
Again, this is a common usage of the word truth throughout the New Testament. The word truth often appears in a prepositional phrase that starts with the word in. In truth means that whatever is being done or said is being done or said accurately and in accordance with fact and reality.
Let’s go to John 18. Jesus was on trial before Pilate. There was some dialogue between Pilate and Jesus and then we read this in verses 37 and 38.
John 18:37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?”
We see in verse 37 that Jesus used the word truth as a noun. He said He was here to testify to the truth. Truth is that which is in accord with fact and reality. Therefore, Jesus said He was here to testify to that which is in accord with fact and reality. Pilate responded by asking, “What is truth?” What did Pilate mean by that?
As we go through life, we often hear people talk about wanting to find meaning and purpose in life. Sometimes they phrase it differently and say they want to find themselves. Sometimes they say they are seeking truth. This quest to find meaning, purpose, and truth has long been a quest of humanity. It’s not just something happening during our lifetimes. When people talk about finding truth or finding meaning, it means they’re trying to find out the correct nature of life, the things that actually matter, the things that bring fulfillment to life.
When Jesus said He came into the world to testify to the truth, He claimed to be testifying to the things that are correct. He claimed to be testifying to the things that are in accord with fact and reality. He claimed to be testifying to the correct nature of life, to things that bring meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to life. When Jesus said that, Pilate responded with the question that has been asked throughout the history of mankind, “What is truth?”
There are a couple ways to look at Pilate’s question. First, he may have been asking how to define truth. Throughout the history of mankind and the history of philosophy, there’s been some debate as to how to even define the word truth. Second, Pilate may have been asking how to know what is true. Once people agree on a definition of truth, they still have the question of how to know what is true and what is not true. Pilate may have been asking that question.
Here’s something interesting. When we look at the context of this verse, we see that Pilate didn’t get an answer to his question. It appears he didn’t even wait for an answer. Instead, Pilate went out to the Jews and said he didn’t find any guilt in Jesus. However, the Jews demanded that Jesus be crucified, and eventually Pilate gave in to them.
Even though there’s not an answer to this question in this particular passage, the Bible does contain some verses that give us answers to the question, “What is truth?” One of those verses is in John 14. Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room, the night before Jesus was crucified. They were eating the Last Supper. As part of the dialogue, Jesus told His disciples that in His Father’s house are many dwelling places. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for them. Thomas asked, “How do we know the way, since we don’t know where You’re going?” Then we read this.
John 14:6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
After telling Thomas that He is the way, Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Jesus claimed that He Himself is the answer to life’s questions. If you are seeking meaning, purpose, and fulfillment, if you are seeking truth, or if you are trying to find yourself, you need to find Jesus. You need to learn the truth about Jesus.
Now, let’s go to John 17. This is the same evening. Jesus was still with His disciples. This was shortly before Jesus went to the garden and was betrayed by Judas. John 17 is a prayer that Jesus prayed to the Father. At one point Jesus prayed the following:
John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
Jesus stated very clearly that the Word of God, the Bible, is truth. The Word of God provides answers to the questions about life. Again, if you are seeking meaning, purpose, fulfillment, truth, and/or yourself, you need to read the Bible. The Bible contains answers to a lot of the questions you are asking.
Let’s look at Romans 1. Paul was writing about the wrath of God being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Paul wrote that God’s existence is evident to everyone. Paul mentioned those who deny the existence of God. Then he wrote this.
Rom. 1:25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Notice the contrast between truth and lies. Sometimes the best way to understand what something is, is to know what it isn’t. One of the ways to understand truth is to understand what truth is not. Truth and lies are opposites. If you understand that truth is the opposite of a lie, that helps you understand the definition and the nature of truth.
Let’s look at another passage in John. The context is Jesus was in Samaria. He was at the well. He was talking to a woman who had had multiple husbands. As part of their dialogue, the woman brought up a huge distinction between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Samaritans believed the one and only place to worship God was in Samaria. The Jews believed the one and only place to worship God was in Jerusalem. We see part of Jesus’ response in verse 23.
John 4:23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
We see the word truth two times. Both times it was used as part of a prepositional phrase. It’s this concept of being in truth, surrounded by truth, immersed in truth. This passage tells us truth is a vital component of worship. If you don’t have truth, you don’t have true worship. In order to worship, one must be immersed in truth. In order to worship, one must be thinking about truth. This tells us worship is not mindless. In fact, worship is the opposite of mindless.
A problem we have in 21st century Christianity is a lot of things that happen in our church services that are called worship actually tend to be somewhat mindless. Think about contemporary Christian music. If you look at contemporary Christian music and read the words, there’s not a lot of substance there. If you think about the words in contemporary Christian music, along with the melody, harmony, and rhythms that are used, contemporary Christian music is designed to put people on an emotional high. It’s designed to appeal to your emotions. There’s very little substance in this music to make you think. There’s very little substance in this music to communicate truth. We see in John 4 that truth is an essential component of worship. Therefore, using music that doesn’t contain truth or contains very shallow truth means the so-called worship is equally shallow.
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13. This passage is a well-known definition of love. What is not as well-known is the fact that truth is part of the definition of love. Let’s start reading at verse four.
1Cor. 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
It’s common for people to focus on the fact that love is patient, kind, and not jealous, but they usually overlook truth. However, we read in verse 6 that love rejoices with the truth.
We also read that love does not rejoice with unrighteousness. Lies and deceit are part of unrighteousness. Truth is an essential component of love. Love has to be based on truth. Love has to be based on facts and reality. If you know someone who’s going through life and not dealing with facts and reality, it’s not love if you let them continue to live their life based on a lie.
We see something similar in 1 John 3. In this book the author wrote about love and the fact that we should love one another. He wrote about the fact that the world hates us. He drew a contrast between the actions of someone who hates and the actions of someone who loves. Then he wrote this.
1John 3:18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
Again, we see that truth is an essential component of love. If we love, it’s not enough merely to say that we love. Our deeds have to reflect our love. Our love must be based on truth.
Let’s look at John 8. John 8:30 tells us that as a result of Jesus’ teaching, many people came to believe in Him. Then we read this in verse 31.
John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
In this instance truth is used as a noun. Jesus said, “You will know that which is in accord with fact and reality, and these things that are in accord with fact and reality will make you free.” One question to think about in regards to this is what truth was Jesus talking about? Was it the truth about life and the nature of life? Was it the truth about Jesus? Or was it both?
Here is another question. Jesus said the truth will make them free. Free from what? This is the question the Jews asked.
John 8:33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” When we keep reading in John 8 we see that Jesus went on to say that the truth would make them free from sin.
Let’s go back to verse 31. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth”. In order to be free from sin, the disciples had to continue in the words of Jesus. They had to know the truth that Jesus was teaching. They had to know the truth about Jesus. That truth would make them free from sin.
Let’s look at one more verse before we get into 2 John. This is from Ephesians 4. The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians and drew a contrast between their former life before Christ and their current life in Christ. He told them to lay aside their old self which was mired in sin, and put on their new self which was created in righteousness. Then we read this in verse 25.
Eph. 4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. Notice this is a command. We are clearly commanded to speak truth with one another.
Notice the contrast. We are to lay aside falsehood and speak truth instead.
Let me summarize what we’ve learned about truth. The word truth is a translation of the Greek word aletheia. Truth is that which is in accord with fact and reality. Throughout the Bible, truth was used as a noun. It was also often used in a prepositional phrase, communicating the concept of being immersed in or surrounded by truth. Throughout human history, there’s been a quest to find truth and the meaning of life. Jesus said He is the truth. Jesus also said The Word of God is truth. We saw that truth is an essential component of worship. We saw that truth is an essential component of love. We saw that truth will make us free. Last, we saw we are commanded to speak truth to one another.
Now that we know overall what the Bible teaches about truth, let’s read the first four verses of 2 John and see what the author of 2 John was communicating about truth.
2 John 1 The Elder to the chosen lady and her children whom I love in truth, and not only me, but also everyone who knows the truth, 2 for the sake of the truth abiding in us, which also will be with us into eternity.
The first time we see the word truth, it is part of a prepositional phrase, in truth. The Elder said he loved the chosen lady and her children. When he added the phrase in truth, he was reinforcing the idea that he was speaking the truth when he claimed to love them. It also means his interactions with them were based on truth.
Then he wrote it wasn’t just him who loved the chosen lady and her children. He said everyone who knows the truth loves them. Here the word truth was used as a noun. He was referring to everyone who knows those things that are in accord with fact and reality. More specifically, he was referring to those who know the facts about Jesus.
In verse two the author explained why he was writing. He wrote for the sake of the truth. He wrote to communicate truth and to stand up for truth. Since Jesus is truth, we can say he wrote for the sake of Jesus and to stand up for Jesus. Since The Word of God is truth, we can say he wrote for the sake of The Word of God and to stand up for The Word of God.
2 John 3 Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father will be with us in truth and love.
We once again see the word truth used in a prepositional phrase. The author was saying it is true that grace, mercy, and peace will be with us. He was also saying the grace, mercy, and peace would be immersed in and surrounded by truth.
2 John 4 I was very glad because I found some of your children walking in truth just as we received commandment from the Father.
This is the final usage of the word truth and the most important. The author of 2 John was glad because some of the children of the chosen lady were walking in truth.
Let’s examine this idea of walking in truth. In Bible times walking was living. Here is what I mean by that. In Bible times they didn’t have cars, trains, or airplanes. Whenever they traveled, they mostly walked. Yes, they had animals and sometimes they rode horses, camels, or donkeys, but traveling usually meant walking. Furthermore, when they went to the city gate, they walked. They walked to the market. When they wanted to work in the field, they walked to the field. They didn’t have tractors, so working in the field was mostly walking. Walking is something they did every day, all day long, so walking was the same thing as living life.
In verse four the author of 2 John said he was glad. He was glad because some of the children of the chosen lady were walking in truth. This means they were living life immersed in truth. Their thoughts and actions were based on truth. Their thoughts and actions were based on things that were in accord with fact and reality. They were living a life that was immersed in the truth about Jesus and the truth that Jesus taught. Since they were walking in truth, they were able to worship, love, be free from sin, and speak truth to one another.
Notice at the end of verse four he said, “just as we received commandment from the Father. The children who were living life immersed in truth were doing it just as the Father had commanded us.
Notice something the author did not do. He did not praise them for living life immersed in emotions or feelings. Unfortunately, in the 21st century our society is immersed in feelings and emotions. Many, if not most, of our thoughts, priorities, decisions, and actions are based on feelings and emotions instead of truth. That should not be. As Christians, as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we should live life in truth. Our words, deeds, actions, priorities, values, and decisions should be based on truth. Our lives should be based on the truth about Jesus and the truth found in the Bible, not our emotions and feelings.
How do we walk in truth? We have to be immersed in the Bible. We have to read the Bible. We have to study the Bible. We have to know the Bible.
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