Uniform 05.03.2015: Walk in the Truth

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For three summers in high school, I spent a glorious week at camp in the mountains of North Georgia. During each of those weeks, I joined other teenagers, who quickly felt like old friends, in a variety of standard camp experiences. We hiked deep into the woods and did team building exercises on the ropes course. We roasted marshmallows and slept under the stars. We ate questionable food and sang folk songs on the front porch of the dining hall. We worshiped in an A-frame chapel and made commitments to be better disciples in the year ahead.

At the closing celebration of each week of camp, the counselors encircled the campers and sang a song about Christian friendship, “My Friend, I Think of You Daily.” Its chorus described our hopes for the new friends we knew we might not see again:

I’ll be praying for you every morning
As I start off my day with my Lord
I’ll be praying that you’re walking with Jesus
And abiding in His word.

I haven’t seen again most of the people that I met during those happy weeks of summer camp. I don’t even remember most of their names anymore. But I hope that all of them have continued to grow and mature in their faith in the years since high school. I hope they have become kind and loving Christians who are shaping their communities for the better.

I think this John means something like this when he rejoices at the news that his “children are walking in the truth” (3 Jn 4). “The elder” (v. 1) does not share daily life with Gaius. Their relationship relies on occasional visits, letters, and reports from others. But their separation does not prevent John from genuinely caring about Gaius’s life and faith. John is delighted to hear that Gaius understands the connection between faith and action. Christian life must be about more than believing that Jesus is Lord, though that is important. Christian life must be a partnership between our beliefs and our deeds. Our very steps, John suggests, should be grounded in our confidence in the gospel. Discovering that people he cares for are walking so confidently in God’s love is the fulfillment of the elder’s hopes for his friends.

This will be my last post as Uniform editor. Guiding each unit to your Sunday school classrooms has been a great privilege. I am thankful to have been part of this community that is so committed to helping people see the truth of God’s word in new, personal ways. As I sit in my own classroom each Sunday morning, I will continue to think of all of you, Uniform’s loyal readers. Like John hoped for Gaius, I pray that you will continue to walk in the truth.

Discussion

1. How have you been shaped by brief relationships? When have you connected with someone for a short time but then never seen him or her again?
2. How can we maintain relationships with people we know won’t cross our paths often, if at all? Why might doing so be important?
3. What are your hopes for friends you don’t see or talk to often?
4. What do you think it means to “walk in truth”? How can you live out the truth of the gospel through your actions?
5. What current situations in your life or in your community could benefit from truth-inspired action? How can you bring the truth of the gospel to those situations?

References

Verse 2, addressed personally to the “beloved” Gaius, continues to reflect epistolary convention of the era, especially the traditional health wish (v. 2). He wishes or prays for Gaius that all will go well, the word “well” prominent (the Greek prefix eu notable in the sentence). On the basis of what he recounts at v. 3, he is quite confident about the spiritual health of Gaius and wishes comparable physical well-being also, not merely offering a routine pleasantry. The spiritual well-being may include the peace of v. 15a. Interestingly, the author leaves out the usual greeting as at 2 John 3, plentifully present in his closing (v. 15), though thanksgiving is present in his expression of joyful satisfaction (vv. 3-4).

The Elder divulges a particular pastoral satisfaction in the report from the brothers, and possibly sisters as well, who had returned to the home church with glowing accounts about Gaius. He lets him know that his name has been called with great respect in Christian assembly. The returning missioners have “witnessed” favorably about him. While their witness here did not center on Jesus as typical of Johannine literature, it was nevertheless a witness from Christian witnesses about a Christian particularly faithful to the Johannine gospel. This vaunted faithfulness to the truth most likely included the vital christological component.

The Elder, good pastor, was given to enthusiasm as well as affection (2 John 4). He gave a high priority to the well-being of the church.

The witnesses did not simply give a private report to the Elder but spoke before the entire church, as the church was likely involved in the original sending, possibly “members.” There seems to be a common practice of reporting to a church about missionary activities with other churches (Acts 14:27; 15:4; 20:17-36; 21:17-19; Gal 2:2). These references along with the Epistles of John provide for us an invaluable window that demonstrates how the churches networked through emissaries. The same witnesses of 3 John must have been the source for the less happy news about Diotrephes (vv. 9-10).

The Elder singles out from the church report that Gaius was walking in the Christian truth, an ethical truth of loving and a christological truth of believing, especially the latter. Here “walk” is related to Christian truth, whereas in 1 John 1:6-7 and 2:6, 11 the alternative is one of darkness or light, although there darkness is related to the absence of love and light is related to the sphere in which Jesus walked. “Walk” has to do with how one conducts oneself. Given the parallel in 2 John 4, following the truth includes confessing what the deceivers deny (v. 7). Living the Christian truth is not merely a matter of ossified creedal orthodoxy.

At v. 4 the Elder generalizes about his standing attitude in response to his children who faithfully walk in the truth. This pastoral writer who offers assurance so regularly values and appreciates it personally when someone like Gaius becomes such a source for him. This walking in Christian truth represents the basic text/sign of authentic Christianity. Since he refers generally to “my children,” he may be referring to those converted by him as we picture Christian colonies spinning off from a mother church. This great Johannine joy of satisfaction appears at 2 John 12 and also at 1 John 1:4 (cf. John 15:1) in relation to other believers. This truth walker, faithful Gaius, stands out as source of joy and hope for mission.

Reference

Peter Rhea Jones, 1, 2 & 3 John, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2006) 295-300.

Bonnie Chappell is the editor of the Uniform Series Bible Study. She is a graduate of Mercer University and Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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Comments

  1. Anne Jolly says:

    So sorry you’ll be leaving us, Bonnie. I’ve enjoyed using your blogs in my teaching on Sunday mornings. I hope your future journeys are bright, and my prayers go with you.