John begins the main body of instruction (vs. 4-11) by way of exhortation, command, and warning. There is an old maxim which says, “Practice what you preach.” Today we say, “Walk the talk.” These adages bring out the underlying purpose of John’s letter. It is to examine ourselves by the light of God’s sure word in a world of darkness and deception. Do we prove ourselves “doers of the word” (see James 1:22)?
In verse 4, John was elated to find some of the children of the chosen lady walking in truth. This resembles the situation found in Third John verse 4. There we see John received a good report from some visiting brethren concerning the godly Gaius. John rejoiced that this brother was ‘walking the talk’. Gaius was walking in truth, that is the truth of the gospel.
In our text (vs. 4a), it is possible that some brethren had visited John. He learned from them first hand about conditions at this church. The apostle began by expressing his joy in learning that these church members which he calls children (a term he is fond of using in First John), were walking in truth.
Walking is a Biblical expression for how a person conducts their life. It encompasses their thoughts, words, and actions. It is based on the source book of truth, the Bible.
The words of the Lord are pure words (Psalm 12:6). The commandment of the Lord is pure (Psalm 19:8). Thy word is truth (Psalm 119:160, John 17:17). The truth of God’s Word is absolute, pure, and sure. It is far removed from claims of popular ‘relative truth’ promoters which truth is at best dim, contorted, and confusing.
To walk in the truth is the commandment of the Father to His people (vs. 4b). The Lord’s command is clear. It is direct and to the point. Walk before Me in truth (1Kin. 2:4), Walk in My instruction (Ex. 16:4) Walk in My statutes (Lev. 26:3) Walk in the light (Is. 2:5). We can sum up what it means to walk in truth in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ who said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).
All aspects of our Christian walk are anchored in the truth of God’s Word. We are to walk in agreement with that Word. We, who name the name of Christ, are we “doers of the Word?” If not then we are fooling ourselves and others but not the Lord (see Hebrews 4:12-13; James 1:22).
The fifth verse expresses John’s fatherly appeal to the church. It was an urgent appeal (a commandment) marked with tenderness (I ask you lady). This command that John issues is one that is foundational to the Christian faith. It is the command to love one another. It is old not new in the sense that Jesus Christ taught its true meaning from old and kept it perfectly in thought, word, and deed. If we may say it reverently, Jesus Christ ‘practiced what He preached.’ Jesus declared, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13: 34-35).
Note the authority of John in giving this command. His is not a self proclaimed authority but a derived authority. It is an authority not taken by someone who tampers with God’s authority or arrogantly insists on setting up their own standard. This authority is that of an apostle who was an “eye, ear, and touch” witness of the Lord (see 1 John 1:1-4). This is the authority of an apostle commissioned by Christ (see Mark 3:13-19, Acts 9:15-16 concerning Paul). This is the authority of an apostle as Paul makes plain in his Thessalonian correspondence, “For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus (1 Thes 4:2). John does likewise. This old command came from Jesus in the beginning, that is, the beginning of the gospel (the good news) that Jesus proclaimed with authority.
The command to love along with its inseparable companions of truth and righteousness (obedience) are God’s ancient landmarks. They are immoveable, unchangeable, and uncompromising having their origin in the one true living God to whom we all must give an account.
John proceeds to show what this love entails. “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments (vs. 6). Notice again the binding and indissoluble relationship of truth, love, and obedience. The commandments of God embody this triad. The commandments reflect the holy character of God. They are the highest expressions of love. When asked what the foremost commandment was, Jesus replied, “[…] and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all you strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).
How the do we love God and our neighbor? It is told us very clearly. We do so by obeying the commandments of God. Paul reminds us that love is the fulfillment of the Law (see Rom. 13:8-10). The Law is none other than the commandments, the instructions, and directions God gives us throughout His Word. God sets the standard because He is the Creator and Lawgiver. As such, He has claims on us.
Yet we sadly say that the sinful hearts of human beings do not submit to the Law of God and it cannot (see Rom. 8:7). Sinful people go their own way and sets their own standards. They come up with all sorts of excuses not to heed the commandments of God. They either openly defy God or offer attractive alternatives to God’s Law. Evil can be very bold or exceedingly subtle in its undertakings against the ways of the Lord.
We should not be surprised by the different views, interpretations, and presentations of truth. The popular notion that truth is relative not absolute (God’s Word) finds something agreeable to everyone’s appetite.
John, as He is directed by the Spirit, has set the criteria to determine if are walking in truth, absolute truth. He presents the social test (love), the moral test (righteousness), and the doctrinal (truth) and these three are in agreement. The very foundation of this ‘sacred triple measure’ is rooted in the very nature of God who is truth and love and righteousness.
Christians. Do we walk in truth? Do we love one another? Are we walking the talk?
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