Walking in Truth
July 1st, 1973 @ 10:50 AM
2 John 1:1-4
WALKING IN TRUTH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 John 4
7-01-73 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing with us the praise of Jesus and the love of the Lord in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled When Our Children Walk in the Truth. We are preaching through these three epistles of John. And the text is in 2 John, verse 4, and 3 John, verse 4. In an unusual way, the same expression is found in the same verse in both epistles [2 John 4: 3 John 4].
Now I read 2 John: “Ho presbuteros eklektē kuria.” That’s a beautiful thing, “The elder, ho presbuteros, the elder, unto the elect lady, eklektē kuria” [2 John 1].
Do any of you women belong to the Eastern Star? One of the names, one of the points of the star is eklektē, eklektē, and that is where it came from: Ho presbuteros, “the elder,” eklektē kuria, “to the elect lady.” Eklektē:
The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;
For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.
Grace be unto you, peace, and mercy, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
[2 John 1-3]
Now, the text, “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father” [2 John 4]. Now we read from the third epistle:
The elder—ho presbuteros—unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
[3 John 1-2]
I cannot but pause to comment on that. Does the Lord wish a man to fail in his business? Does He? Is the Lord glorified when we don’t succeed out there in the world, where we toil and work and strive? Is the Lord delighted by our failure, our poverty, our necessity? There is no hint of that in the Bible. For a man to take of what he has and dedicate to God is a precious and a beautiful thing, and it honors the Lord, and the Lord receives it. But God does not wish for any man that he fail, that he not succeed. And here is an expression of that: God wishing you success in what you do: if you are a farmer, that you have a good crop; if you raise cattle, that the herds increase; if you work in a store, that your customers multiply; if you’re in the commercial world or the professional world, that you succeed in the thing to which you’ve placed heart and hand.
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” [3 John 2]. Evidently, Gaius was a good man, a fine Christian man, and John wishes that he prosper in his business as he prospers inwardly in his soul. And I wish that, and God wishes that for all of you who work, that you succeed in what you do. “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth” [3 John 3].
Now the text; and the same thing as verse 4 over here, verse 4 here, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” [3 John 4]. Now I’m going to read them together. Fourth verse in 2 John: “I rejoice greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth” [2 John 4]. Now, the fourth verse of the next, the third epistle: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” [3 John 4].
When I read the passage, immediately we have the feeling of an old patriarch, an old pastor, who looks upon his flock as his children. If you’ll look at the last verse in the first epistle,  John 5:21; 1 John 5:21, look at it: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
“Little children,” talking to his congregation, to his church, and then in the text, both of them, in 2 John and 3 John: “I rejoice greatly when I hear that my children walk in truth” [2 John 4; 3 John 4].
John lived far beyond the age of any of the other apostles. Almost certainly, Simon Peter was crucified between 64 and 69 AD. Peter had been dead a generation, thirty years, when John wrote these words. John lived to be an old pastor; pastor of the church at Ephesus when he was about a hundred years old. One of the fellow elders in our church came to me after the service this morning and said, “Isn’t that almost unbelievable, that at the age of one hundred, ninety-five to one hundred, John is still pastor of the church at Ephesus?”
From the ante-Nicene fathers Irenaeus and Eusebius we learn that Polycarp was converted to the Christian faith by the apostle John. Now Polycarp was the pastor of the church at Ephesus in 155 AD, when he was burned at the stake.
And Polycarp said something at his trial before the Roman emperor that is most significant. What they were trying to do to the aged pastor, Polycarp, at Ephesus, was they were trying to get him to take just a little pinch of incense and place it on the flame that burned before the Roman Caesar’s image: an act of worship to the Christian, but an act of patriotism to the Roman government.
But the Christians refused to do it. That’s why they, alone, were persecuted by the Roman government. The Roman government was most liberal and most lenient toward all of the provinces that they conquered. Each province, each tribe, each people, each nation could have their own religion. Rome never interfered in it. That’s one of the reasons why Rome succeeded so magnificently and triumphantly for so many centuries as a great world empire.
Rome did not persecute, yet they persecuted the Christians, which is a phenomenal thing: only the Christians. And the reason for it is illustrated in Polycarp. In 155 AD, he was tried before the Roman Caesar, and he was offered his life, clemency, if he would just take a pinch of incense and place it on the flame that burned before the image of the Roman emperor.
He refused to do so, for that meant an allegiance to the Roman Caesar as kurios, as Lord. And, the Christian said, “It is Iēsous Kurios, never Kaisar Kurios.” It is “Jesus, Lord,” never “Caesar, Lord.” Well anyway, as they were pressing Polycarp, who was a godly, saintly man. As they were pressing Polycarp to offer that obeisance to the Roman emperor and to deny the lordship of Jesus, his fealty to Christ, Polycarp said, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and I’ll not forsake Him now.”
Well, let’s pull it back. If Polycarp was burned at the stake in 155 AD, and he said to the emperor that eighty and six years he had served the Lord Jesus—that meant that Polycarp was won to Christ in 69 AD. Well, Irenaeus and Eusebius say it was John who won Polycarp to Jesus: that he was a disciple of John. So if Polycarp was won to Christ in Ephesus in 69 AD, then John fled Palestine in the days of the rebellion of the Jews against the Roman government. The Zealots so egged and so flamed those fires of bitterness until in 66 AD, Judah and Galilee and Palestine rebelled against the Roman government, and Josephus was chosen as the general of the army in Galilee. And somewhere in that length of time, after 66 AD, John left the Holy Land and went to Ephesus. And in Ephesus in 69, Polycarp was won to Christ. John was the pastor of the church then in Ephesus from about 67, or 68, or 69 until about 100 AD, and he died there in Ephesus.
Polycrates, who was baptized in 125 AD, and who later was pastor of the church at Ephesus, in naming some of the saints whose ashes slept in that Asian capital city, mentions John the apostle, that he was buried in the Asian capital of Ephesus.
So this, this pastor, this old patriarch between 95 and 100 years of age, when he speaks to his congregation, he speaks to them as though they were little children and he was an aged, loving father. “Little children, I rejoice greatly when I hear that you walk in the truth” [2 John 1:4; 3 John 4].
There is not a story of the apostles that I have heard more frequently, or that I think is more movingly beautiful, than this concerning the aged apostle John: the church at Ephesus asked that he come just one more, one last time, and speak to them out of his heart. So the aged patriarch was brought to the church; an elder was standing on one side to hold him up, and an elder was standing on the other side to hold him up. Like Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses [Exodus 17:12], so the elders on either side held up the aged, patriarchal pastor that he might bring to his congregation one last word.
So as the aged John stood before his people, he said, “Little children, love one another.” Then, he repeated it, “Little children, love one another.” Then he said it again. Finally, one of the elders broke in and said, “But, John, you’ve already told us that. Is there not something more, something besides?” And the old, patriarchal pastor replied, “No. That is enough.”
You know, I think of that: “Little children, love one another.” It is enough. You need nothing beside. We’d never hurt each other, if we loved one another. We’d never gossip about each other, if we loved one another; nor would there be any violence, or any thievery, or any robbery, or any crime if we loved one another.
This is the spirit of the aged apostle. There were many in the congregation who looked upon him as their spiritual father. He had won them to Christ, and all of them looked upon him as their undershepherd, who fed them and taught them the true Word of God. So the spirit of the passage: “I rejoice greatly when I find—when I hear—my children walking in the truth” [2 John 4; 3 John 4].
Now we’re going to take that this morning, not only as the spirit of a true pastor, but also as the spirit of a true parent who loves his little children. If you did not care, if it’s an unconcern about their souls’ welfare, then it wouldn’t matter either way: to rejoice or to be in sorrow. If we don’t care, nothing matters. May be very concerned about the health of the body, but without burden that the leprosy of worldliness or unbelief has seized upon the child. May be very careful and grateful for the cleverness of mind and the astuteness of learning, but be not burdened at all that they don’t know Christ [John 17:3]. May be very proud of the fact that the children win laurels in art, or literature, or political achievement, but have no hurt at all that they are losing the crown of life [Revelation 2:10]. May be very happy that the children are socially acceptable, and the finest social circles love to include them, but have no grief of spirit that they find no favor with God [3 John 4]. Be very delighted to place on the feet of the daughter silver slippers, but have no grief of soul that she walks down the broad way to destruction [Matthew 7:14]. Be very grateful that the children are succeeding in business and getting along in the world, and their accomplishments are brilliant, but have no hurt of soul that they’re not born again [John 3:3, 7].
This is the rejoicing, the golden joy of a true pastor and of a true parent: “I rejoice greatly that I found thy children walking in the truth” [2 John 4; 3 John 4].
Can you imagine the happiness of Hannah? I suppose somewhat, when she made the little coat and brought it to the lad each year, once a year [1 Samuel 2:19], but oh, how much more was she glad when she saw the presence of God in the life of that little boy, for he was converted at an early age [1 Samuel 3:7-10], and it was known and established from Dan to Beersheba that that lad was set to be a prophet in Israel [1 Samuel 3:20]. How delighted the heart of that mother must have been to see God in the life of that precious boy.
Like old Barzillai: he came to David and said, “I give you my eldest son that he may serve you all the days of his life” [2 Samuel 19:37]. And how proud old Barzillai must have been when he saw his son, Chimham, in the household of the king [2 Samuel 19:40], serving David all of the days of his life.
If I had ten thousand, thousand tongues,
Not one would silent be.
And if I had ten thousand, thousand sons,
I’d give them all to Thee.
[Praise selection from The Baptist Hymnal 1975]
“Rejoicing to see my children walking in the truth” [2 John 4; 3 John 4]. How happy Abraham, to have a son like Isaac? [Genesis 21:1-3]. How happy Obed, to have a son like Jesse? [Ruth 4:17, 22]. How happy Jesse, to have a son like David? [1 Samuel 16:11-13]. How happy David, to have a successor like Solomon? [1 Chronicles 22:9-10]. How happy Lois, to have a daughter like Eunice? [2 Timothy 2:5]. How happy Eunice, to have a son like Timothy? [2 Timothy 2:5]. “I rejoice greatly when I see my children walking in the faith.”
Obversely, what sorrow to the pastor, what sorrow to the parent, when he sees his children depart away from God: the father turning his face toward the house of the Lord, and the son turning his face toward the house of sin; the father singing the songs of Zion, and the son singing the ballads of Belial; the father on the highway to heaven, and the son on the broad way to destruction. No time and no place in the Word of God will you find the Lord reprimanding, or condemning, or censuring a parent who’s pleading in behalf of an unworthy son. God Himself is moved at the heart-cries of a parent who pleads and intercedes and begs in behalf of a prodigal child.
David said to the army, “Spare the life of the young man, Absalom [2 Samuel 18:5, 12]. Spare his life. He is a traitor to the kingdom; he would destroy me, his own father, if he could. He has raised rebellion in Israel. He has divided the kingdom, but when you fight in the day of that confrontation, spare the life of the young man Absalom.” And you remember when he was caught by the hair in a tree and suspended? [2 Samuel 18:9]. Some ran to Joab, the captain of the hosts, and said, “We have found Absalom, the traitor, and he is strung by his hair in a tree, suspended there.”
Joab said, “Did you kill him?”
And they said, “No, for his father said to spare his life!”
And, Joab said, “Foolish ones!”
And Joab found Absalom and took three darts and thrust them through his heart, and he died there [2 Samuel 18:10-14].
When word came to David that Absalom had been slain, [David] went up to his chamber, and he cried, and he lamented as he walked, saying, “O Absalom, my son, Absalom. Would God I had died for thee—O Absalom, my son, my son” [2 Samuel 18:33].
Joab heard about it. And Joab came to David and said, “You fool! Dry those tears and hush that lament! Don’t you know Israel has jeopardized its life for you, fighting for your kingdom and your person against that traitor, Absalom?” [2 Samuel 19:1-7]. And Joab censured David, condemned him. But you’ll not find that God condemned him or that God censured him, for God sympathized with David in his prayer, and in his intercession, and in his lament for his unworthy son, Absalom.
Abraham stood before the Lord and prayed, “O that Ishmael might live before Thee, might be acceptable in Thy sight!” [Genesis 17:18]. Did God condemn Abraham for praying for Ishmael? No. No. God said, “Abraham, for your sake, I hear your prayer, and I will make of him a great nation” [Genesis 17:20]. However unworthy the child may be—an Ishmael, an Esau, an Absalom—yet, the heart of God is moved when the pastor prays for unworthy children and when the parent intercedes for a prodigal boy, or a prodigal girl.
Tell me. Tell me. If you were to pick out one that you would say, “This is fine; that one be lost, or that one be lost, or that one be lost, or this one be lost,” tell me, which one would you pick out? Which one? “It’s all right for all of these to be saved, but that one? It’s all right, fine that one be lost, or this one.” Which one would you pick out?
You couldn’t do it. After all of these are in the fold, if that one is not saved, it’s a burden to the heart of the pastor or the parent. For we want all of them to share in the Paschal Lamb. And we want all of them to go with us out of the darkness of Egypt.
Brethren, my prayer to God is that all of my people might be saved, all of them! [Romans 10:1]. I kind of hesitate about saying this, but so many times things happen in my pastoral ministry that I ponder over, and can’t get away from, can’t forget. And I go and say—why, I do the best that I can—I say what prayerfully I ask God to give me wisdom to say, yet having done it or having said it, I walk away and the burden stays on my heart.
For example: here is a girl, and she says to me, “I am not married, and I am going to be a mother. What shall I do with my baby?”
And I will say to the sweet girl—I’ll say, “My dear, you have no way to care for the child, no way at all. You have nothing except just a menial servant’s place. You’re not trained, you’re not educated. You have no way to provide for the child, and to rear the child like that is so difficult. There are so many fine families that would love to have the child, an adopted child, raise the child in a beautiful home, in affluence, and educate the child. It is better that you give the child away.”
And the girl will say, “Oh, but to give my baby away…”
I say, “It is much better. It is much better.”
But she says to me, “I will strive. I will slave. I will work.”
But I persist. “It is much better.”
The child is born, and according to my insistence, the child is given away. But I walk away with a heavy, heavy heart, and I can’t get over it. I have done that many times Just how do you say, “This one we will give away”? Just how do you do it? That is the burden of a true parent: which one do you give away? Which one would you choose to be lost? Just which one shall we omit out of our prayers? Which one shall we not include in the family?
O God, we include them all! We pray for them all! We love and intercede for them all. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth” [3 John 4]. “I rejoice greatly that I found my children walking in the truth” [2 John 4]. This is the delight of a pastor’s heart: his people love the Lord. This is the infinite, superlative gladness of a parent’s heart: to see the child, beautiful in every way, loving God all the days of his life.
And this is the sweet invitation we press upon your heart today. Is there a child in your family? Does he speak to you: “I feel Jesus calling me in my heart.” Come with the youngster, come. Are you here with the mother and all of the circle of the home? All of you, come. “Pastor, my wife, my children, we all are here today. Here we come. Here we are.” A couple, or just one somebody you, in the balcony round, in the last seat and the last, topmost balcony, there’s time and to spare, come. The throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Here I am. I make it now.” Do it. On the first note of this stanza, in a moment when we stand to sing the appeal, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front, make it now. Decide now in your heart, and when you stand up, stand up walking down that aisle. God speed you, and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
2 John 4; 3
Speaks as though he were a father(1 John 5:21; 2
John 4; 3 John 4)
He lived far beyond the age of any of the other apostles
some he was their spiritual father – he had won them to Christ
To all he was their undershepherd, giving fatherly care over their souls
II. Both the parent and the pastor
joy either way to the parent or pastor who does not care whether children
walking in truth or not
The golden joy of the parent and pastor is seeing his children walking in the
sorrow to a godly parent or pastor when the children depart away from God
Heart of God moved when His people intercede for unworthy children
a. David for Absalom(2 Samuel 18:9-14, 33, 19:5-7)
b. Abraham for Ishmael(Genesis 17:18, 20)