The context for our text this evening is the Upper Room and the Last Supper. These words flow out of a last supper, out of a love feast instituted for all His disciples in all ages and in all places. John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. In His last words alone with the disciples before leaving the earth, Jesus says something of immense importance. He speaks of a great and rare and invaluable grace, love one another. Love one another, a new commandment. But is this really new? Haven’t we been told to love before? Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What does it mean when our Lord and Master commands us with what He calls a new commandment? Notice with me four ways in which this is a new command.
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.