Treasures From the Original

2nd John: Walking in the Truth

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
If God's revealed truth has truly taken hold of us, it will govern every aspect of the way we think and live.
From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part two of a five-part series. Read part one.

If God's revealed truth has truly taken hold of us, it will govern every aspect of the way we think and live.

The Elder,

To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. (2 John 1-4)

The Sphere of Truth

John addresses this very personal letter to "the elect lady...whom I love in truth." John is not saying, "whom I love truly" but rather, in the original, "whom I love in the sphere or realm of the truth."

Here John uses the verb agapo - not mere human fondness, but self-sacrificial love. Furthermore, John says that it is not only he who loves this lady and her children "in the truth" - "but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever."

We shall discuss the nature of agape love more fully in our next article, but at this point suffice it to say that John has put the central issue of Christian love before us: It is love that is motivated and governed by truth. Such love has an objective basis, it is not founded on subjective opinion.

The Objective Nature of Truth

What is this truth? We find the answer throughout John's three epistles and in his Gospel account. He uses the word "truth" (Greek aletheia) over fifty times in those four books. In the Gospel of John, on sixteen occasions the word "truth" appears in statements of our Lord Himself.

Jesus spoke of Himself as the very embodiment and messenger of truth:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. (John 8:40)

And for their sakes [those who believe] I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:19)

Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." (John 18:37)

Jesus spoke also of the nature and purpose of truth - that truth is revealed, and that it liberates the soul whom God effectually calls from spiritual darkness and bondage:

For God did not sent His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:18-21)

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32)

Jesus said to them [to the unbelieving Jews who called Him demon-possessed], "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My Word. You are of your father the Devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God." (John 8:42-47)

Jesus also spoke of the Word of God as truth itself, and Holy Spirit as the One who opens and illuminates the truth in the regenerated mind:

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth. (John 17:17)

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:7-15)

John reiterates and applies these words of Christ in his first epistle:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:6-8)

He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:4)

I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (1 John 2:21)

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. (1 John 3:18-19)

We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6)

The Apostle Paul had used a similar greeting to that of John in his second epistle, when Paul wrote to the Colossians and the Thessalonians. He also spoke of the sphere of truth, the objective nature and eternal purpose of truth:

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth... (Colossians 1:3-6)

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Paul and John both speak of the vital nature of truth. Paul identifies it as "the word of the truth of the Gospel." John identifies it as "the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever." Jesus said that the one thing that will never pass away is the Word of God, which is itself truth, and which declares to us the Gospel.

Walking in the Truth

In verse four of his second epistle, John writes, "I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father." It is not merely a matter of having the truth, but walking in truth.

Paul tells us in Romans chapter one that all men have sufficient knowledge of the truth of God to condemn them for unbelief. But as Paul puts it in Colossians 1:6, the true believer has not mere gnosis (general knowledge) of the truth but epignosis - precise knowledge, correct knowledge, overflowing and abundant knowledge that is not lacking or deficient in any way. It is knowledge, as Paul says, that "brings forth fruit."

John is saying the same thing here in his second epistle. He rejoices that this lady's children are "walking in truth." Literally, John says, they are "ordering their lives and behavior in the realm of the truth." As Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest put it,

Her children were conducting themselves in the sphere of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. That is, their actions and words were circumscribed by the Word of God. Their conduct was governed by the Word of God. This truth is further defined by John as being the commandment received from God as to how a Christian should conduct himself. [1]

Similarly, Paul prays for the Colossian believers,

that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

If we have the truth abiding in us - if the Gospel has truly taken hold of us - it will affect the way we think and live. The truth, as Paul says, "effectively works in you who believe." And that truth is objective truth, revealed truth, not a matter of subjective opinions. This is confirmed by a literal rendering of 2 Peter 1:20-21 -

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture originated in the human writer's own personal determination of what is true or not true, because prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were driven by the Holy Spirit.

God's truth, Holy Scripture, is not a mere collection of the words and ideas of men. It did not originate in man's understanding of things. The Bible is not the record of man's views, man's perspectives, or man's interpretation of events. Man did not decide what is true and what is not true. The truth is revelation, given by inspiration.


  1. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Volume 3, entry at 2nd John 4 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1954).

Next: Love's Relationship to Truth


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