Encouragement in Person

Study #7 (2 John 12-13)

Encouragement in Person

John had expressed his joy that some were walking in the truth. He explained that walking according to God’s commandments is what a true biblical love is all about. This has been what God has told us from the beginning.

John also warned against those who were misleading others about who Jesus Christ was. He called these people “deceivers” and “antichrist” in verse 7.

Believers needed to watch out and keep from running off ignoring godly instruction. To receive full reward they need to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, and avoid giving support to those who are deceivers.

John ended this very personal letter in a consistently personal way.

12. 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.

There were many more things John wanted to communicate than what he was writing in this short letter. Some matters are better dealt with in person than just in letters. The Apostles certainly said a lot more in laying the foundation for the New Testament church than what is preserved for us in the books of the Bible.

As he wrote at the end of his Third Epistle, John believed that what he had to say was not best communicated by just paper and ink. Instead, he planned to come to minister to this elect lady and her children in person. The words “face to face” are literally “mouth to mouth” [stoma pros stoma (στόμα πρὸς στόμα)].

Direct personal conversation has many advantages over written letters when it’s possible. Personal instruction is an important teaching and ministering tool. The Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles didn’t just give us written information, they were direct and personal in their ministries. This gives those being taught the opportunity to ask questions to clarify things they don’t understand fully. It also lets the teacher know what ideas need more clarification and development. Complex issues often require clarifications which can take a long time if only done by an exchange of letters. When there are deceivers, direct dialogue is very important. The problem needs to be discussed to be sure it’s identified accurately and fully.

Direct fellowship and personal communication are important parts of ministering to the people of the church. Paul felt his ministry to the Roman believers was incomplete without a personal visit. In Romans 1:11-12 he said, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you– that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”

This is how God ordained that his message would be spread, and how counseling is best done. The church is a spiritual family which requires personal contact and encouragement along with written instructions.

Though the Bible contains all the information we need to know, God instituted Elders and teachers to guide and instruct his church by being in personal contact with the people. They are one of the means God uses to help us properly worship, learn, and mature spiritually. Many very committed believers are not able to spend the time needed to explore and apply all the teachings of Scripture in their lives on their own. God’s word directs these ordained leaders to carefully study the books of Scripture. They need to understand exactly what was said, how it all fits together, and how to teach it effectively to those under their care.

– Jesus sent out Apostles, and today God gives us Elders as shepherds to oversee us spiritually (Acts 20:28-32).
– The Elders are to teach and guide us with God’s word (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9).
– We are to be in subjection to these officers under Christ’s headship (Hebrews 13:17).

It’s sad that some fail to be involved in a local church family. Those who stay at home often imagine themselves to be adequately fed by TV or radio preachers. They are not only missing out on participating in the life of a church family and the blessing of congregational worship, they are also in many cases exposing themselves to horrible errors and deceptions.

Cable TV, the internet with it’s social media, radio, magazines, and books are wonderful ways of communicating God’s truth and encouragement when done responsibly. But they can’t replace the ministry of people in direct contact with one another. Even those who are physically unable to attend worship services should try to be under the care of a sound church where they can have that personal counsel, oversight, and encouragement by others joined together as a church family.

John said that one of the purposes of this letter and his planned visit was so that their joy may be made full. Joy is one of the great fruits of the Holy Spirit. It was one of the benefits John wanted to see in Christians. He had already expressed his great joy in the report of the children walking in truth. He also wrote in First John 1:4, “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

The Christian life is not just about information, rules, or emotions. It’s a life of abundant blessing and joy based upon God’s promises and grace. John wanted all his readers, all believers, to improve their walk in truth. We not only need to have the truth, we need to be walking in it, living it every day. We need encouragement and fellowship as we comfort one another as a church family led personally by responsible leaders as God had commanded.

That’s how John determined that the remaining matters would be best settled. This is the way their joy would come to its fullest.

John concluded by relaying a personal greeting

13. The children of your elect sister greet you.

If this is taken literally, these children who were with John were sending a greeting to their aunt. Those who take this figuratively see this as the members of a sister church near John sending their personal greetings to the other sister church. In either case we see how important it is to greet and encourage one another as a family in Christ.

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Bob Burridge ©2017
Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted

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