Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the June 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Application: “Truth and Love—It’s Both/And, Not Either/Or,” by David Faust
Lesson Aim: Work together for the truth and don’t be led astray.
By Mark Scott
Truth and love have enemies, namely lies and selfishness—both inspired by the devil. Lies must be jettisoned, and selfishness must yield to love. The apostle John discussed how truth and love work in concert. A good example shows the balance between the two. An anointing keeps the community from being led astray to falsehood. And a lavish love from above garners confidence when Jesus comes again.
A Good Example (3 John 3-8)
The third Epistle of John was written to a man named Gaius. He was a stellar believer and a good example of balancing truth and love. When the truth was going to be compromised by a selfish man named Diotrephes, Gaius was as straight as an arrow in truth (8). When the church gave Demetrius a good testimony, John rejoiced in love (12).
John was confident that Gaius was as strong in his soul as he was physically healthy. Gaius did not have to boast about his love for the truth. Other believers spoke on his behalf. Word had reached John that Gaius was faithful to the truth and continued to walk in the truth. As a sidebar, John said he had no greater joy than to hear that his disciples were walking in the truth like Gaius (cf. 2 John 4).
But Gaius balanced his love for truth with tenderness for others. He had received strangers (probably a reference to unbelievers). This involved taking them into his home, feeding them, supporting them, and sending them on their way in the name of the Lord. The pagans (Gentiles or unbelievers) had not helped them, which made Gaius’s generosity stand out all the more. Maybe some of them were the “least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46). Maybe some were angels (Hebrews 13:2). No matter, as Gaius showed them uncommon hospitality.
A Holy Anointing (1 John 2:20-27)
Loving others does not demand that believers kiss their brains goodbye. They still must be discerning in their love for others. And the good news is they have inside information to assist them in this. John had reminded his readers in this first letter that they were not to love the world (2:15-17). He also cautioned them against being duped by the antichrists (i.e., people who denied the reality of the incarnation of Jesus—2:18, 19).
In the midst of loving others, God would help these believers be discerning. He would equip them with his Holy Spirit (this is the anointing in the text), who helps believers to discern the difference between truth and error (1 John 4:1-6). The Holy Spirit reminded the community of faith of what was true (John 14:16, 17). The Holy Spirit would alert the community of faith of any false doctrine that denied the solidarity between the Father and the Son. The Triune God cannot be compartmentalized even though the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have separate functions. John called the believers to embrace the godly tradition they had been given in Christ. He urged them not to stray from it. The motivation for all of this is quite simple—eternal life.
John made plain he was writing this part of the Epistle because he was concerned some in the church would be led astray. The Holy Spirit reminded the church of Jesus’ teachings. No additional instruction would be necessary than this tradition of apostolic teaching.
A Lavish Love (1 John 2:28–3:1)
John wrote of truth that is not cold or indifferent. It is warm and identity giving. John addressed his recipients as dear children and children of God. He gave them something to do, something to know, and something to celebrate.
John’s children (the people in the church) had something to do. They were to continue in him. The phrase highlights abiding or remaining. The abiding would be rewarded at the return of Christ. When he comes, John’s people could stand confident (bold) and unashamed (to not shrink back).
John’s children were given something to know. That truth was that Christ was righteous. And the accompanying truth to that was for his followers to do what is right. This demonstrated the people’s conversions.
John’s children were given something to celebrate. That celebration was the love of God. This is God’s love for us as his children. He lavished it on us. We bask in that identity, and that helps us when the world gives us a first-class yawn and dismisses us. Be like Gaius. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide. Celebrate the love of God.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.