Yesterday we thought of four certainties that John mentioned as he wrote to a family he knew for their encouragement because they were living in uncertain times towards the end of the first century. In addition to providing those details, John also reminded the unnamed woman of several responsibilities that believers in Jesus have even when they live in uncertain times.
The first responsibility is that they, as followers of Jesus, should continue to love one another (vv. 5-6). Jesus had said in Matthew 24:11-12 that the presence of false teachers will cause love to grow cold. John’s recipients were facing the danger of people teaching false doctrine, and disruption in Christian fellowship had been the outcome. So John was reminding his friend of the necessity to maintain brotherly love in as many ways as possible. Changing circumstances are not an excuse for reducing expressions of Christian love.
The second responsibility is to have a right understanding of who Jesus is (v. 7). John’s opponents were denying the reality of the humanity of Jesus. They may have used the same words as true believers, but they gave a different meaning to them. Since some had succumbed to those wrong ideas, it was obvious that they did not have a right understanding of the person and work of Christ. Understanding who he is and what he did is not merely grasping a right doctrine; it is also showing true appreciation for the Lover of our souls and knowing what to say to and about him.
The third responsibility is to remember the future reward that they would receive from Jesus (v. 8). John’s words state that it is possible for a Christian not to receive as large a reward as he could have done. In the case of his readers, their reward would be affected if they moved away from orthodox teaching about Jesus. Of course, there are many other ways by which Christians can affect in a negative way their degree of glory, and the common feature of all those ways is wilful sin. So we should remember that there is a great reward for the faithful.
The fourth responsibility concerns how we use our assets (v. 10). It was common practice in those days to show hospitality, but John’s words indicate that there is a limit to it. He says that it is wrong to help in any way the opponents of the Saviour. Of course, it is unlikely today that many will face the danger of providing too much hospitality. Instead, it is more likely to be the opposite. Still we are responsible to use our assets to further the cause of Jesus in whatever ways we can.
So in this personal letter John reminded his friend of four certainties and four responsibilities that were given to first-century Christians facing various troubles. The Holy Spirit, in inspiring John to write the letter, reminds us of them and says that those certainties and responsibilities are also ours.