“I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.” ~ 2 John 4
Explanation of the Text: John begins the body of his message with an expression of his personal joy at the testimony of the local body of believers. He rejoices at the fact that there are some who are walking in the truth. Despite the ongoing issues of false teachers, there are those who have remained faithful in obedience and lifestyle.
This lifestyle is evidenced first by John’s use of the present progressive verb ‘walking.’ Like Paul’s own writings, John uses this imagery to convey that the character and nature of the life these believers are leading is defined by the truth.
The notation that the believers are walking in the truth defines a second indicator that John provides. It is not a matter that these believers are walking uprightly according to worldly standards, but to the standards of truth. Truth is defined by God and given through His Word (John 17:17). It is important that believers set themselves apart from the world by walking differently than the ways of the world, thus in the truth.
Note that John indicates that not all of the believers are walking in the truth. He says that only ‘some’ are. While there is some discussion about the true meaning of this phrase, it is best to recognize that not everyone within the body of believers is truly a believer. Paul confirms this in 2 Timothy 3:5 when he tels Timothy that there are some who, while being part of the group, do not actually walk in truth.
Examination & Application of the Text: John’s words in verse 4 seem short and to the point, that walking in the truth is obedience to God’s command. Yet, his words indicate so much more for us when we pause to reflect on this sentence.
First, John is an example of living within the body of Christ. We see John rejoice and find joy in the success of others when they are following God’s command upon their lives. Like John, we should be encouraged and excited when others have truly trusted in the gospel and evidence it by the lifestyle they live. These circumstances not only provide an encouragement and provide motivation for us, but compel us to encourage others in their walk as well.
Second, we see the importance of walking in the truth. John’s emphasis on the children is not simply they were good people, but that they were walking in God’s truth. We have for us, an example of not only the necessity of it, but how to walk in the truth. “To walk in truth is to live under the authority of the truth” (1). As followers of Jesus Christ, we obey God and give His truth authority in our lives rather than giving the world authority. In this way we are not conformed to the ways of the world. In fact, walking in the truth is not demonstrated by mere outward conformity, but is the transformation of the complete person (Romans 12:2).
It is true that sometimes one will be faced with difficult circumstances. There are those who may seek to deceive us and lead us away from the truth as the false teachers were doing that John is counteracting. Other times it may be that we are simply struggling in our Christian life, but John’s writing affirm that “truth does not have to be sacrificed in difficult circumstances” (2).
Truth is meant to transform a person. Furthermore, truth is meant to not only impact a person’s life but to be lived out in one’s life. In this way it will also impact another person’s life.
(1) Ian Hamilton, Let’s Study the Letters of John (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 95.
(2) Spiros Zodhiates, The Epistles of John, Exegetical Commentary Series (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1994), 455.