Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Studying an entire book in one session

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:
            Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love.
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
            The children of your elect sister greet you.
(2 John ESV)

There is very little agreement in the scholarly community as to the authorship of the five works that bear the name “John.”  Part of the reason is that with the exception of Revelation, which begins by identifying the author by name (I… John…), the others never mention who the author is, and the attribution is questionable at best. 

There is an equal possibility that the Gospel of John was actually written by Lazarus of Bethany, Martha and Mary’s brother, or by a sort of committee that had gathered around the aging Apostle John in his last days. 

The authorship of 1 John seems to be the same as the Gospel, carrying many of the same themes as the Gospel.  Second and Third John offer the greeting, “The Elder, to…” This man has been called John the Presbyter.  And the Revelation seems to be coming totally from a third source.  He is called John of Patmos sometimes for clarity. 

Why does any of this matter to a 21st century audience, other than as a piece of trivia you can haul out at parties?  Because if John the Presbyter is other than John the Apostle, this letter is a series of quotes from 1 John and the Gospel strung together to make a point.

John the Presbyter opens the letter with a greeting to “The Elect Lady,” a title that has certainly fueled Calvinism over the years.  He is either writing to a woman and her family or to a church and its “offspring churches.”  If that is who he is writing to, this is great commentary on the process of church planting!  The idea is that the letter would have been circulated not only to the main church, but onward from there to all the churches nearby which that church had planted.

John is concerned to be communicating “the truth” to these people.  He also borrows a version of Paul’s standard greeting, “grace, mercy, and peace.”

But look at the body of the letter as if he were quoting other sources:

not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning

love one another

this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;

this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.

Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

With the exception of the final statement, this reads like the Reader’s Digest verison of 1 John.  That’s actually why I think John the Presbyter is a different person from John the Apostle.  The writing is a sort of “saying of the Apostle John.” 

John the Presbyter is circulating the core of the teaching of the Apostle, particularly his twin emphases on love being the ultimate obedience to Christ and of abiding in the teaching of Christ.  He also quotes John the Apostle’s view that antichrist is alive and well on planet earth.  Notice that he doesn’t say there is but one antichrist.  The spirit of antichrist is active in anyone who denies Jesus.

Even in his final greeting, John the Presbyter quotes 1 John, “that our joy may be complete.”  I think that final statement also makes it clear that 1 John was well known to The Church of the Elect Lady.  And assuming this letter can be dated to around 90 AD (most believe Ephesus as the location of writing), it would demonstrate how widely and how quickly the Gospels and letters of the Apostles were adopted by the early church. 

There!  We’ve done it.  Now you can say you’ve studied an entire book of the Bible in one session.  If you’d like to jump in the arena, please write and add your thoughts on 2 John.  This is just an opportunity to stir the pot and get some discussion going.  Matt Church, one of Australia’s most powerful motivational speakers and life coaches has said, “Speak as though you are certain, listen as though you are not.” 

Jon 

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