Got Truth?

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

A Few Good Men is a 1992 American legal drama featuring an ensemble cast. The film is focused upon the court martial of two U.S. Marines who are charged with the murder of a fellow Marine, and the challenges their lawyers must overcome as they prepare a case to defend their clients. 

Tom Cruise is one of the stars; he plays the role of Lieutenant (junior grade) Daniel Kaffee. Cruise’s character receives the case because he is both inexperienced and unenthusiastic, with a proclivity for plea bargains.

The two Marines insist they heeded a “code red” order (a violent extrajudicial punishment) from their platoon commander and that they never intended to murder their fellow Marine. Jack Nicholson plays the role of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, who is ultimately responsible for ordering the “code red” as a means of discipline. One climactic scene has Nicholson’s character (Jessup) called as a witness to be interrogated by Kaffee. Jessup spars with notable composure to Kaffee’s questioning, but is unnerved when the Cruise character identifies a contradiction in his testimony.

Jessup becomes irate and disgusted by what he perceives as Kaffee’s disrespect toward the Marines. Nicholson’s character extols the military’s importance and his own worth for national security. Recognizing his interrogation is failing, Kaffee asks Jessup directly if he ordered the “code red.” Cruise’s character wants answers and yells, “I want the truth!” Jessup retorts, “You can’t handle the truth!” Second John is written for those who can handle the truth.

Most people would say they want to be told the truth. Certainly, no one finds pleasure in being told a lie. And yet the truth can be unsettling to the degree that some do not want to hear it. Human nature is such that people do not like being told anything they believe or do is wrong. Jesus promised, “‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’” (John 8:31-32).

Practice the Truth
(2 John 1-6) Second John is addressed “to the chosen lady [a local church] and her children [the believers constituting that church].” The church was “chosen” in that it consisted of elect persons: believers in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The doctrine of election is a component of the greater concept of predestination, which is the sovereign determination and foreknowledge of God. Whenever the word election is used in Scripture, it always refers to God’s eternal choosing of those He eventually calls and justifies. Election is never used in relation to those who perish eternally.

John (the author of this letter) loved this church “in truth” in addition to “all who know the truth” (v. 1). The basis of this love was the truth that believers share in common with one another. Scripture is God’s revelation of truth by means of the Holy Spirit, who impelled erring persons as penmen, yet miraculously superintended them as they wrote, thereby preventing any error or omission. Truth results in an authentic, Christlike community and unites believers (cf. John 17:6-23). “The truth” is God’s revelation in Scripture, the Holy Bible. Truth is unchanging “and will be with us forever” (2 John 2). The trustworthiness of Scripture means it is credible and worthy of belief. God gave His Word to reveal Himself and His will for humanity. Scripture makes errant humans wise unto salvation, and hearing and heeding it will certainly grant a person all the strength and wisdom needed for life. Truth does not change from age to age or from generation to generation. The same Holy Spirit who enabled the human authors of the Bible to record what God desired to have written as Scripture, also permanently “abides” with genuine believers.

“Grace, mercy and peace” are the qualities that result from “truth and love” (v. 3). A distinctly Christlike character is developed when truth and love exist together in a harmonious manner (cf. Eph 4:15). “Grace” is God’s unmerited favor. “Mercy” is compassion for those who are guilty and wretched. “Peace” is the harmony that results from God’s grace and mercy. All three blessings are “from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.”

The joy of a pastor is knowing that church members are “walking in truth” (v. 4). The truth is not merely something to be believed with the mind, but also is to be practiced in everyday behavior. Jesus was the living incarnation of truth, so it can be expected that His followers also live in conformity to truthfulness.

The command to “love one another” is not “a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning” (v. 5). Continuing to walk in obedience to biblical truth means continuing to love fellow believers. This is an important admonition because false teachers will encourage departure from what has been “heard from the beginning” (v. 6). First John 2:7 nearly states the same truth: “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.” The integrity of a believer’s life is evident in love for fellow believers (John 13:35; 1 John 4:20-21).

To love God is to “walk according to His commandments” (2 John 6). Genuine believers express love for God by obeying His commandments, in addition to loving others. God’s “commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3b), for they are what is best for all people. The principal end of humanity is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Catechism Q1). Those who love also obey! Love is essentially obeying God (1 John 2:3).

Protect the Truth
(2 John 7-13) Second John now emphasizes the importance of the doctrine that Jesus is God’s Son (i.e., He is both God and Man). The immediate problem in 2nd John is “many deceivers . . . who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (v. 7). Jesus’ “coming in the flesh” means He truly did take full humanity upon Himself and lived a truly human life.

In taking humanity upon Himself, Jesus did not experience any loss of His divine nature, for He continued to be fully God. Scripture insists that Jesus Christ continues to be fully God and fully man. Jesus was, is, and always will be God. He is the eternal Word of God who appeared in human form (John 1:1-14). Jesus is truly and properly God, while being truly and properly human. The two genuine natures of deity and humanity are united in one person, yet each of the two genuine natures is properly distinct in that person. The Bible declares that those who deny Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh are deceivers and have the spirit of antichrist. First John 2:18-23 and 4:3 previously warned against such false teaching. The ultimate fulfillment of that spirit is the Antichrist, who will lead humanity in a last days rebellion against God.

Scripture affirms the need to be watchful concerning false teaching (v. 8). There is “a full reward” for doing so, and loss for compromise! Always test all teachings by Scripture. Even test your knowledge and personal encounters by the Holy Bible, but never examine Scripture on the basis of experience. “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God” (v. 9a).

The test of biblical fidelity is not what a person thinks or feels, or even what someone else has done or said; rather, it is: what does the Holy Bible reveal? “The one who abides in the teaching [of Scripture] . . . has both the Father and the Son” (v. 9b). A vital personal relationship with God is the result of living in accordance with the truth of the Bible—not merely affirming correct doctrine (orthodoxy) without a change of heart or practical outworking of those beliefs (orthopraxis).

The statement, “do not receive him [the false teacher] into your house” (v. 10) means not giving an opportunity to promote what is false with others of the particular local church (“the chosen lady”), who may be influenced in a negative manner. Even giving “a greeting” in public may be regarded by others as giving approval to false views concerning Jesus, and would be participating in the “evil deeds” of the deceivers (v. 11). Scripture forbids giving aid or encouragement to those whose teachings are destructive. While one does not give approval to the false teachings, it is still necessary to demonstrate concern for their personal relationship with God. Protecting the truth does not mean being intolerant and unloving.

John had more things to write in his brief letter, but ceased doing so in “hope” of a personal visit to “speak face to face.” A personal encounter is always preferable to “paper and ink,” for there would be “joy” in that “face to face” interaction (v. 12). The concluding reference to “the children of your chosen sister” (v. 13) is a reminder to guard against false teaching, for believers in Jesus Christ are more than just one particular group. Faith is living in an authentic, Christlike community, not isolation.

Midnight Call - 06/2022

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