In this very short letter, we are given an up close and personal, intimate look inside the life of a little church in the first century. We are given a brief glimpse through the lives of three men in the church, three different personalities, three kinds of Christians that are in every church. We can learn and benefit from each of them.
III John is more like a postcard than a letter. A postcard epistle. It is the shortest book in the Bible with 219 words. The Spirit is not always long winded. Like I and II Timothy, Titus and Philemon, it is written to an individual, a man named Gaius.
John begins verse 7 with what sounds like discouraging news. There are many deceivers who have gone out into the world. He doesn’t want believers to be naïve about how many, they are not rare, but commonplace. Don’t be discouraged about all the false teaching in the church in the world. Jesus said again and again there would be false angels, false spirits, false apostles, false teachers, false evangelists, false missionaries, false shepherds, false messiahs, anti-christs, wolves in sheep’s clothing. There is nothing new here, no surprises. This is the work of Satan, it has never ceased and won’t until Christ returns and puts an end to it. The enemy never rests and the enemy is very subtle. Our world is filled with thousands of cults with millions of followers, false religions, liberal theologies, and worldly ideologies. There are over five thousand cults with millions of followers. Many of them once attended a church. But we need not fear, “And though this world with devils filled.” Jesus is on His throne and He will not be overthrown and the gates of hell will not prevail against His blood-bought Church.
In our culture today which would you say is more important, truth or love? I think the answer is pretty obvious. Love trumps everything. Truth is relative, diversity and tolerance are all the rage. People who stand for truth are labeled haters speaking hate speech. Unyielding commitment to the truth is called unloving. Truth has been sacrificed on the altar of love. We are told truth divides and separates us from love, because it makes distinctions and calls error error. We are told doctrine divides and love unites. Today love is defined as tolerance without the truth. Love is never challenging someone’s views. Love is refusing to label anything as wrong. One example is the view of marriage. It is no longer culturally acceptable to say marriage is only between one man and one woman. That is too exclusive, elitist, narrow, unfair. It marginalizes people who feel and think differently, and want all the rights and benefits even if they don’t believe God’s will and purpose for marriage. Predictably it won’t stop at same-sex unions. Recently the American Psychological Association announced it is opening the door to polygamous relationships or what are now called polyamorous relationships. If we throw out God’s definition of marriage, then anything and everything goes. Why not a marriage with three or four or more people? Who can stand up against that? If gender doesn’t matter then why should number matter? There is no end to the folly of godlessness. If there is no God then everything is permitted.
Tonight, we come to the conclusion of our sermon series on John’s first letter. For those who like statistics this is sermon number 20 on these five chapters. If you think that’s a lot, consider the great preacher, D.M. Lloyd-Jones, who preached 67 sermons on this letter. I have those sermons in five volumes. In one of those sermons he digs deeply into one of the things John emphasizes the most in his letter, that God is love. I decided to do the same as a way of wrapping up and summarizing our time in this great little love letter from the apostle John. What can be more important than knowing the love of God? John certainly doesn’t think there is anything more important. In the short section of John, I just read he uses love 18 times. John wants us to know something and he wants us to know it so that our joy may be complete (I John 1:4). He wants us to know the love of God. He wants our knowledge to be objective and subjective, grounded in truth and doctrine, and at the same time experiential, felt, personal, practical, living. Mind and heart will and emotion.
We have already mentioned that verse 13 seemed like a natural ending to this letter. Even verse 20 could have worked. He could have ended, little children, love Jesus, walk in the light, love your brother. Or he could have ended this letter the way he ends his next two letters, II John and III John, saying he has much more to say but hopes to come in person, face to face. So why this strange, unexpected concluding command added onto the end of I John? This is the only letter in the NT to end with an abrupt command. If we look at the context we get some clues for this ending.
We are in the postscript or PS of John’s letter where he gives some final affirmations or exhortations, each marked with “we know” and these are followed by a final warning. Since the warning stands by itself and seems like a very strange way to end a letter, we will take it up separately. So, this evening let’s consider these three “we knows.” It’s one of John’s favorite words, he repeats it a lot, over thirty times in I John and over 100 times in his Gospel. The Christian faith is not a mystery religion, not a religion over which hangs a heavy cloud of unknowing, of cosmic uncertainty, of endless speculation. There are great truths in our faith that stand as absolutes, as things about which you need not doubt. John lays down three great truths here.
Every text in I John seems to have its special word, a word that he repeats over and over. What is that word in our text? Testimony and testify, at least eight times. Our text reads like a courtroom drama. John does three things: First, he calls in three witnesses to give expert testimony to testify to the proof and validity that Jesus really is the Christ, Son of God who gives eternal life to all who believe, vss. 6-8. Then, he contrasts the testimony of men with the testimony of God and give three reasons why the testimony of God must be accepted, vss. 9-12. Finally, he sums up the testimony and makes his closing argument in verse 13