John’s second epistle is a very personal one. It’s either written to a particular woman or a particular church that he refers to as “a woman.” Whichever this is, we see that John is extremely delighted with what he has heard about them. In 2 John 1:4, he says, “I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.” The commentators seem to default to the understanding that “walking in truth” means to live pure, holy lives. It means to follow the ten commandments, take stands against certain practices, engage in other religious practices, give generously, and avoid all appearances of doing wrong. It’s certain that we have a need for this kind of life in our society. Since truth is that which accords to reality, it’s intimately connected with God. God created mankind “male and female.” Only women can have children. God is the one who decided and established this truth. But today, there are even arguments against that. I like what one web blogger says, “In the Bible, truth is closely connected to God. Apart from Him, there is no absolute truth – as many philosophers and scientists have experienced. Apart from God, we can’t get beyond truth as a subjective, cultural construct. Therefore, many consider truth an invalid and outdated concept. And that has huge consequences for ethics, to name just one field, since there is no longer an absolute starting point on which to base our moral decisions. Without absolute truth, there is no absolute right or wrong, good or bad.”[1]

Butler, who shares a Navy background with me, writes, “It is not easy to walk a holy life. No one will help you or encourage you. Sometimes even Christians are no help to walking in the truth. Most Christians I met in the Navy were head and shoulder above others in their conduct, but there were some who tried to live a double life. It was no encouragement to a good stand for Jesus Christ.”[2] I’m not sure that this is how John wanted us to understand his phrase about “walking in the truth.” Brannan observes, “Manuscripts are split between ‘walking in the truth’ and ‘walk in truth.’ In the first, the author has a specific truth in mind, while in the second, the truth may be of a general nature.”[3] I would argue that a specific truth is in John’s mind, not the general idea of truth.

John’s truth concerns two important things. First is that we are all sinners. This truth is something we walk in. We don’t walk through it into a sinless life. That never happens. Even the Apostle Paul recognized that when he wanted to do good, he found himself failing. When he tries not to do bad, he finds he has failed in that as well (See Romans 7). We walk into this room of the realization and acknowledgment of our sinfulness, and we stay there! We don’t pass on to the “perfect” room. The other part of John’s truth is that Jesus Christ is the only remedy for that problem. The only way we move from sin to righteousness is for God to attribute Christ’s righteousness to us. We will never attain righteousness on our own. Keeping this truth foremost in our lives, walking in it, makes the ground at the foot of the cross perfectly level. We all stand as sinners saved by grace. I’m no better than others. We are all in the same boat. These truths open the door for real Christian living. The call throughout the bible is to “repent.” That means entering into the room of the truth about our human condition. As Paul told the Philippian jailor who wanted to know how he could be saved, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” I think this is the commandment that John was referring to in this short letter. He says it more clearly in 1 John. In 1 John 3:23, John describes the commandment that Jesus gave us. He says, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”


[2] Butler, John G. 2014. “Character.” In Sermon Starters, 5:205. Clinton, IA: LBC Publications.

[3] Brannan, Rick, and Israel Loken. 2014. The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible. Lexham Bible Reference Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.