There is so much beyond the words written in the Gospel but in these busy times I feel we overlook all that is there. I sometimes think we just read the words and remember the stories and it just becomes a ritual for many of us. The bible is a record of God’s people from time beginning and His instructions to them through the patriarchs; from there into the NT a record of God’s desire to reconcile with his people through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I enjoy having a platform to express my opinion from but I want “From The Pew”, to really be a “Layman’s View of The Gospel.” Nothing wrong with opinion but sharing the gospel and opening the door to understanding it is just as important. Like other layman many times I seek understanding through prayer and the many commentaries and bible study materials available today. I am not bashful about it….there are so many wonderful and knowledgeable sources out there and I use them all. I will always recognize the authors and in some instances provide a url for you to visit them. Last week I shared with you that there were five books in the bible that had no chapters. I also shared that I had written about one of them in an earlier blog about Philemon, ‘The Little Book With A Big Message” and today will be the first in a series that will look at the other four. I have elected to start with 2 John.
In the New Testament only 3 John is briefer than 2 John. Either of these two letters could have been put on a single papyrus sheet, about 8×10 when measured by today’s standards. I liked the term used in the NIB, that they are more like postcards. To me these little letters or postcards contain much more than their size would indicate. In 2 John we find that the opening and closing read like a family letter. There are positive and negative elements, the author also notes there are benefits for compliance and liabilities for those who disregard this letter. (NIB) Who is the “Elder” in the opening verse of 2 John? Both letters are written by the same person and the use of the noun, Elder,would indicate masculine gender or perhaps a man of advanced years. It has also been suggested that it was someone of juridical authority. Now all this can be confusing and there was once a Pastor who advised me not to become overwhelmed with detail. It is surely a person recognized to have at least some moral authority and associated with the tradition to which he testifies within this community. We will leave it at that. The next thing we encounter is the “Elect Lady”. Our reference material lists some speculation as to who that might be. I believe I will take the short path on this and simply pass on to you that the substance of 2 John like that of 1 John is clearly not aimed at an individual but at a Christian community meeting in someone’s home. Plainly here John’s statement in verse 3 is more than just a wish but an assurance to all who believe. Of note also, is that not only is the “Lady” mentioned but also her children, placing an emphasis on the church as a family. Interesting to note that John writes in the following verse 4 “that some of your children are walking in truth” leaving the impression that there may be some division in behavior among the church. The letter seems to use the language of love to clarify what it means to walk in truth as God has commanded the church do from the beginning. From a layman’s view there is also the warning to be aware of those who do not teach the word as intended by God. Be aware of false teachers and even advises the church to refuse them hospitality. There is in fact to be no tolerance for those who go beyond the “teaching of Christ.”
I found it interesting that we find ourselves, the church today, experiencing a realignment of faith values and truths, in order to accommodate today’s changing morals. Verses 9 and 10 encourage us to abide in the teaching and there is always a risk of conflict in doing this. I have referred to “The New Interpreter’s Bible” quite often for direction in writing this blog. Sometimes we can be harsh in our judgement of others and within the reflections section of NIB I found this…… “The elder does not fault as faithless any kind of advance” the meaning here I believe to be a warning about overreacting. “The risk of losing God is incurred, rather by anyone who is so progressive that he does not remain rooted in the teaching of Christ.” Perhaps we as the church today need to do a better job at balancing theology with tradition. This letter also emphasizes something else. We, the Christian community “would be unable to move forward without a tradition that reminds us who we are and to whom we belong and where we have been.”
I have enjoyed my time in the pew today and hope you have. (New Interpreters Bible is “A standard reference for pastors, teachers, and students, this critically acclaimed commentary series provides a wealth of theologically diverse perspectives from today’s leading scholars.”) You would be best served to goggle it and investigate the many resources it offers and where it can be purchased. Hope to see you in the pew next week.