Truth and Love: Part 1

WELCOME: Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

Last week we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has demonstrated His infinite love for us. We began our study of 2nd John last month and one of the points John has consistently emphasized Jesus’ love for true believers and how true believers demonstrate that love to others. 2 John 5-13 is going to highlight the importance of the Truth of God’s Word and how we are to be loyal to it, guard it and learn it. John will also demonstrate how Truth and Love are integrally related and are inseparable.

In 2 John 5-13, John says….

5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 12 Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full. 13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. (2 John 5-13)

INTRODUCTION TO TODAY’S SERMON:

Verse 9 reiterates what John had focused on throughout his first epistle:

“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”

This is the test of a true Christian; are you abiding in Christ and His teaching. Or, are you adding to God’s Word by integrating secular thinking and other “things” that sound “good.” We are to abide, to live each day, resting, spending time with, basking in the beauty of His love for this is a foundational doctrine concerning our relationship with Christ.

The true church of Jesus Christ has always understood that fact. Through the centuries, even in the church’s darkest hours, there have always been those who were faithful to evangelize the lost with the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. People searched the Scriptures, they were diligent to search out the truth and all without the Bible study tools available to us today. Why? It was extremely important to understand the gospel in preparation for spreading the message of salvation. There were many unsung heroes of the faith who labored for decades translating the Word so people could read it in their own languages. Missionaries traveled in hard and hazardous circumstances to reach difficult places with the truth of Christ. In these remote locations they endured long periods of separation from family, friends, and country, suffered the loss of coworkers and loved ones, and battled disease, danger, and satanic opposition for the gospel’s sake. Ephesians 6:12 says that our battle is against “the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Tens of thousands of faithful evangelists have been martyred for their unwavering commitment to obey the Lord’s command to proclaim “The Truth” that saves.

There are some, however, who advocate a radical and alarming shift from the Great Commission, suggesting that preaching the gospel to the lost may actually be unnecessary, along with the immense sacrifices that have been made to do so. Going beyond the Bible’s teaching about the general revelation of God in nature, some argue that natural theology, which is the attempt to attain an understanding of God and his relationship with the universe by means of rational reflection, without appealing to special revelation such as the self-revelation of God in Christ and in Scripture. They say that this alone is sufficient to save—apart from any knowledge of the true God, or of Jesus Christ or the gospel.

Some imagine that God saves people apart from the gospel by treating them as He did those who lived before the time of the New Testament (trans-dispensationalism). But Hebrews 1:1-2 emphasizes,

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

Having given His final revelation in His Son, God will not turn back the clock to another era. John 1:12 fixes the necessity of faith in Christ:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

Others, advocates of the so-called "Wider Mercy” view, propose something even more radical. They, too, believe that lost sinners can be saved apart from the gospel. But they go one step further and argue that those in non-Christian religions may actually be aided in coming to God by those false religions. This type of universalism rejects the teaching of the apostles, who wholeheartedly declared,

“There is salvation in no one else [speaking of Jesus Christ]; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

Universalism also rejects the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, who stated unequivocally,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6)

In Romans 10:9–10 Paul explains what is essential for salvation:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Then in verses 13–15 the apostle—in sharp contrast to the “Wider Mercy” view—stresses the absolute necessity of the church carrying out the Great Commission:

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

Paul’s progression is crystal clear: only those who call on the name of the Lord can be saved. But no one can call on the Lord without first believing in Him. And no one can believe in Him until they hear the gospel. Therefore the church must send out preachers to proclaim the gospel message to lost sinners because, as Paul summarized in Romans 10:17,

“[Saving] faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word [about] Christ.”

In 2 Corinthians 5:18–21 it is clear that the message and ministry of reconciliation is to preach Christ, since we are “ambassadors for Christ” through whom God makes His appeal for reconciliation.

In keeping with the biblical mandate, the early church, at great cost, took the gospel to the farthest reaches of the Roman world and beyond, clearly understanding that people cannot be saved apart from believing in Christ. The suffering the gospel preachers endured would surely be pointless if the lost could be saved through natural theology or their pagan religions. This type of thinking implies the Christian missionaries could have stayed safely at home and not risked being killed or catch an incurable disease. Even exposing pagans to the gospel may have damned them, since they might not believe it.

Paul’s encounter with the pagan Athenians on Mars Hill is instructive of how the early church approached those of other faiths. The apostle began by commending them for their religious zeal, much as he did the unbelieving Jews. Then, as was his custom when evangelizing Gentiles, Paul appealed to God’s general revelation in nature. He noted that he had “found an altar with this inscription, ‘to an unknown god’ ” (Acts 17:23). Despite the pantheon of gods they worshiped, the Athenians had a nagging concern that there might be one god that they still did not know. To avoid offending this unknown god, they erected a sort of catchall altar to appease any god they might have inadvertently overlooked.

The apostle’s reaction is revealing. He did not approach those pagans expecting to discover how God had been speaking to them. Nor did he seek a new understanding of God’s grace and love in his encounter with them. Instead, he confronted them with the fact that they were worshiping in ignorance, and explained to them who God really is. And far from assuming that they could know the Lord and be saved from hell through their false religion, Paul closed his message by calling them to repent and turn to Jesus Christ, as the only way to God, saying,

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31)

Paul’s encounter with the Athenians illustrates the impossibility of anyone being saved through general revelation alone. General revelation demonstrates that an all-powerful Creator exists but it does not reveal the way of salvation. 1 Corinthians 1:21 illustrates this point by saying, “since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God.” Human reason, even aided by general revelation, cannot produce a saving knowledge of God. Therefore, as Paul went on to write in 1 Corinthians 1:21-24,

“God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

Only those who believe the message of

“Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” will be saved.

No human has the power in himself to come to God, even by the gospel. According to Romans 8:7-8, Scripture is clear that humanity is dead and cannot in the flesh please God;

“because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

No person can by his own strength, works, or faith please God at all, especially not so as to earn salvation even under the hearing of the gospel, let alone apart from it. God alone saves sovereignly and always through the gospel. Only He can give life and light producing repentance and faith which is always directed toward Jesus Christ.

When we talk about all men are totally depraved, that doesn’t mean that they are evil as they could possibly be. That can’t be true because 2 Timothy 3:13 says that even “evil men” in general “proceed from bad to worse.” But Ephesians 4:18 says, all men are “excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them.” Therefore, they are unable to do anything to please God—especially to do the highest good which would be to repent and believe. If an unregenerate sinner, on his own, by a free act of his will, could believe in God or Christ, then he would do the greatest work of all. But the Bible says that he cannot please God. Unregenerate sinners do not have the ability to believe to the point of salvation. If they did have the power to do what pleases God, they would be glorified for it—potentially even worshiped. But no one can be saved except by divine, sovereign, regenerating grace—and God grants that separate and apart from any righteous act. Salvation only comes with the hearing and believing of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If the salvation of someone who heard the gospel was conditioned on their ability to believe, then there would be no need for effectual grace. This of course would also mean that God would be taking too much credit for His part in salvation by saying it is “all” through His grace. Of course this is complete foolishness, if not outright blasphemy. No sinner can do anything that pleases God, and only God can sovereignly grant saving faith by grace alone, and He does so only through Christ. How do we know this? God has provided us details of who is responsible for salvation. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:3-7,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”

If salvation is by man’s will, then what is the point of God’s election? But all the redeemed are elect in Christ and saved through the divine gift of trust in Him and His work. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, \

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

I many, many times have said, “I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” This is absolutely wrong. I believe it’s because I am a recovering Southern Baptist that I use this word “accepted.” If I “accept” Jesus Christ, it would mean I chose; I acted; somehow I had some part in my salvation. That is absolutely and unequivocally wrong! I had nothing to do with my salvation. However, I did receive Jesus Christ’s free gift of salvation for which He alone died and paid the price for my sins. Do you see the difference? Accepting means that I choose to obtain. Receive means to be given or presented with. We all need to be very careful with our words because “accepting” means it was all about my decision as if I had the power to affect my salvation. While on the other hand, “receiving” means it was all about God electing; God choosing; God giving.

God does not save by sovereign grace through general revelation. Why? Because general revelation only renders the sinner being judged without excuse. Romans 1:19-20 says that ALL men have ample evidence for God’s existence;

“because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Unfortunately, that knowledge does not lead a sinner to God. On the contrary! Backup to verse 18 of Romans chapter 1, Paul says,

“the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

John MacArthur says, “that knowledge only leaves them without excuse when God judges them, because general revelation is not sufficient for salvation, but is enough for damnation.” Human reasoning alone will never lead sinners to a saving knowledge of God. Without God’s special revelation in His Son and in the Scriptures, people will remain ungodly, defiant, depraved sinners, hopelessly lost in the world of idolatrous dark religion because God will turn them over to their depraved minds.

John knew that there is no substitute for teaching that the truth is in Jesus Christ and He stressed the importance of it in this brief epistle. John had called his readers to live in the truth of Christ because it will unite, bless, and control them. So, John is going to exhort the readers of this short letter

  1. to remain loyal to the truth,
  2. guard the truth, and
  3. learn the truth.

However, before he does that, he starts with a very important stipulation. What is it? Truth and love are inseparably linked. Love is an integral part of obedience to the truth. As we have previously discussed, those who do not love do not practice the truth and those who uphold the truth do so in love.

APPLICATION/CLOSING:

How was that for an introduction? We all need to understand the importance of true saving faith and that general revelation can never save. It can only create and understanding that we will be judged and find us condemned. It is my desire that you know and understand that saving faith can only come from God. This lady to whom John is writing is being reminded that true love can only come from a regenerate heart which ultimately reflects the love of God that He alone possesses.

John says….

5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 12 Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full. 13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. (2 John 5-13)

Let’s pray.