The letter is written by the Apostle John, the author of the two other Johannine letters and, more famously, the Gospel according to St. John. The recipient of the letter is “the beloved Gaius”, whom we are told John “loves in the truth”. We aren’t told who Gaius is, but it seems that he is a leader of a church congregation. And it’s to that congregation, as much as Gaius that the letter is written.
The overarching concern of this small letter is that they would be “in the truth”. Four times “truth” is mentioned. And that’s why I’ve chosen ‘Brothers of the Truth’ as the title of this exposition. That’s what the congregation back then, was called to be, and that’s what we are called to be today.
1. Brothers walking in the truth
2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
John opens his letter by wishing them “all the best” with their life and their health. He wants them to succeed in what they are doing and not to encounter ill health or sickness. He wants their life to be as good as their spiritual wellbeing. Spiritually, they were healthy. They had heard the good news of Jesus Christ and by embracing it, they were enjoying spiritual life.
In fact, John was delighted that this was the case. Brothers had come from the congregation and informed him that all was well spiritually. Why? Because they were “walking in the truth”.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” John writes.
The Orange Institution has become synonymous with parades and walking. It’s a big part of who we are. We parade publicly to celebrate religious and civil liberties and to witness to our Protestant faith. And it was a delight to watch on the Newsletter’s webpage, Dublin and Wicklow stepping out in style at the Annual Rossnowlagh parade in Donegal. My payer is that someday we will be able to do that freely in Dublin City Centre without fear or threat.
But a bigger part of who we are, is being brothers walking in the truth. In Dublin and Wicklow, we may have been restricted from walking physically on the streets, but this has not prevented us from being brothers walking in the truth.
The Truth, which we have, and which we walk in, is the truth of God, the truth of Jesus Christ, the truth of the Bible.
We stand in the line of the Protestant Reformation. One way of summing up the Reformation is ‘a return to the truth’. Reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli sought to rediscover the truth of Christianity in the Bible and to start walking in that truth again. And for generations, we have walked in that truth. And it has brought immense blessings to us both in terms of both civil and spiritual life. As Protestants, who have experienced the spiritual freedom that the truth of the Jesus Christ gives, we have sought to work this spiritual freedom, out into our civil society. We enjoy the blessings of civil and religious freedoms, primarily because we stand in line with those who have walked in the truth.
So let’s not stop! Let’s keep walking in the truth! Let us know the truth of Jesus Christ and how this changes us, our society, and our world. May Dublin and Wicklow be brothers walking in the truth!
2. Brothers supporting the work for the truth
5 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
John makes note of the faithful work, done by the congregation. They had supported Christian workers and missionaries in different ways. Those workers made mention of this to John, and now John takes the opportunity not only to remind the congregation of the importance of this work, but to encourage them to do more of it.
“we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.”
Not everyone is called or gifted for full-time Christian work, but that does not mean that we don’t all have our part to play. John says that by supporting Christian workers, we become fellow workers for the truth. We work with them, by lending our support in whatever way we can, so that the truth of Christianity can be furthered.
Dublin and Wicklow have been fellow workers for the truth over the years. As a lodge we have been supporting the work of truth by our financial support of ministries like the Irish Church Missions. Last years collection from this service was gratefully received by Rev. Sean Martin for his ministry at U.C.D. Sean has been working there over the past year as the ICM University Chaplain bringing staff and students to the knowledge of the truth through his bible teaching ministry. Our financial support of this ministry, has meant, that whether we realised it or not, we as Dublin and Wicklow have been fellow workers with Sean for the truth.
So do you see what the Apostle John is getting at? The call to be brothers who support the work for the truth.
Can I encourage you to keep being fellow workers by giving your support to people such as Sean. People who are working for the truth. We must be careful that it is the truth of the Bible that they are working for, and not something else. But when we are sure that individuals or ministries are working for the truth, then we should become fellow workers with them by giving our support.
3. Brothers who are wary of division
9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
John moves on to warn the congregation of those who cause unnecessary division among them. A mark of Christian congregation is that it recognises and accepts the authority of the apostles. The apostles are the authentic and official spokesmen for Jesus Christ. By accepting the teaching of apostles, you are accepting the teaching of Jesus Christ.
There were some who rejected the apostles teaching and authority. Diotrephes is one example mentioned here. John says that he put himself first rather than submitting to the rightful authority of the apostles. He was not talking the truth but rather wicked nonsense. And he was preventing partnership and fellowship developing between the Christians at that time.
John is telling them this, so that they are wary of those who cause division.
The old saying “United we stand, divided we fall” is as true today as it was when it was first said. Division has hindered the work of Protestantism down through the years. On the other hand, unity and partnership has enhanced Protestantism.
Unity must be, unity in the truth of Christianity. We must unite around our acceptance of the apostles teaching, or in other words, the authority of the scriptures. We must not seek to put ourselves above and beyond the apostles teaching, but reverently submit to them. If we do so, then we welcome one another and partner with one another.
The Orange Institution can foster this type of unity among Protestants. We meet around the Open Bible and accept its authority. Yes we may have different opinions on baptism or church government, but we are united in the essentials. We are united in the truth of the scriptures and seek to read and promote it together.
Dublin and Wicklow has an important role to play in bringing Protestants together united in their acceptance of the Scriptures. Protestants from the mainstream denominations like the Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Church along with independent evangelical churches are welcome here in Dublin and Wicklow and in the lodges that will no doubt grow from it in the coming years.
But all of this is hampered if we allow division to happen among us, if we set ourselves up against one another. Brothers, be wary of division. Nip it in the bud before it happens!
4. Brothers who imitate good
11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
John encourages the congregation to be people who imitate good. The temptation will be to imitate evil, but they are not to do so. Why? Because evil has not seen God.
Whoever does good, on the other hand, is from God. Therefore it is wise to do good. They imitate God, by imitating those who do good. Demetrius is one such example of someone who does good rather than evil.
Today, the choice before us is as it was then. Do we imitate good or evil?
Evil might be attractive, and may seem to get the job done. But good must always be our choice. Good is from God and therefore it has his blessing.
Edmond Burke, the 18th Century Irish Statesman, who wrote in defence of the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1690, and was Orange through and through, is famously remembered for the following quote.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Brothers we must do good. Good doesn’t mean doing nice things like helping little old Grannies across the street. No, good means standing up for what is right, doing what is right. On the issue of government funding for Protestant education, we need to stand up and speak up.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Let’s be Brothers who imitate good!
5. Brother who meet and greet one another
13 I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.
John closes his letter by emphasising the worth of meeting together face to face and exchanging greetings. John is eager to meet with the congregation and talk to them in person about their situation, their work, their hopes and dreams. The relationship they have with one another isn’t just a businesslike relationship but one of friendship and fellowship.
One of Dublin and Wicklow’s strengths is the friendship and fellowship that exists between us. Its one of the things that keep the Orange together as a whole. Lodges are places for friendship and fellowship for Protestants. And greetings are passed from one lodge to another, connecting us in a special way.
I know that you are scattered all over the place, and I applaud you for your effort in coming from all parts of the country to meet and greet one another.
My prayer is that Dublin and Wicklow will keep meeting together and developing friendships with one another. Events like our Annual Bible Meeting as well as lodge meetings provide a way for this to happen. Let’s keep talking to one another and sharing ideas, and working together.
In 2009, let us be brothers who walk in the truth, work for the truth, are wary of division, who imitate good and who continue to meet and greet one another.