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3 John 1:3 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:58 mins 26 secs

Walking by Means of Truth: Doctrine of Walking; 3 John 3

3 John 1:3, 4 NASB "For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, {that is,} how you are walking in truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth."

The translators of the New American Standard version have reversed the impact of the Greek here. There is no article in front of the noun "truth" in verse 3, but there is the article with the noun in verse 4. The reason a writer would mention something in one verse and then come back in the next verse and include the article with it is to show that he is talking about the same truth in verse 4 that he just mentioned previously in verse 3. The phrase "walk in truth" shows up in vv. 3 & 4 as the main emphasis of the two verses. John is saying how excited he was when brethren came and gave him a report on what was going on with Gaius and what was going on in the church in whatever location it was. He writes, as we will see in vv. 5-8, to praise the congregation because of the way they are supporting missionaries that come through and the way they are taking care of them logistically. But the problem he is addressing is the problem of vv. 9-12 which is a problem with one of the leaders in the church, probably the man who became the pastor, Diotrephes, because he loved to have the pre-eminence among them.

The greatest threat to a pastor is arrogance. Pastors get up and handle the Word of God and are told all kinds of things and given all sorts of compliments from people, and when pastors lose humility and start taking all of that very seriously they begin to think that they have a corner on the truth and that they are God's gift to the church. This sword cuts both ways because there are congregations that fall in love with their pastor, which is not a problem, but they begin to think that their pastor has a corner on truth. So that pastor suddenly becomes the benchmark for all truth and no pastor has the gift of infallibility or inerrancy. That is not what the filling of the Holy Spirit is all about. The filling of the Holy Spirit in relationship to a pastor teaching guides and directs the pastor in his study of the Word, but it is not an ex cathedra infallibility like the pope claims to have. The pastor is to study hard but he can still make mistakes. No pastor has the time or energy to become an expert in every area of biblical truth.

Diotrephes' problem was that he loved to be in the spotlight and wanted to get all of the approbation from the congregation. This is why churches need to be careful about the approbation that they give to pastors. There will always be pastors who begin to live off of that approbation and attention and before long they have an ego problem. The congregation participates in that by giving them that pre-eminence. There have been great men in the past who have given tremendous doctrine to the church but there will be men in the future who stand on the shoulders of them who came before them. So we have to avoid that problem. Them issue is not the pastor, the issue is not who the teacher is, or the personality, the issue is truth. That is what John is emphasising in this epistle. There are six times in this epistle where John mentions the truth. The issue is always doctrine. It is always, What does the Word of God say? The issue is never what some theological system says or what some theologian or pastor says, but what the Scriptures say. So people in the pew have to learn how to think, and part of what a pastor should do is teach the congregation how to think with discernment. John emphasises truth as the key issue for Gaius.

The phrase "walking in the truth" should be translated "walking by means of the truth." The dative case in the Greek indicates the indirect object of the verb, and there are various ways a dative case can be understood. The first is in a locative sense and a second is in an instrumental sense. The locative case is the case of sphere and the instrumental case has the idea of means—by means of—and it indicates the instrument by which something is accomplished. A locative sense has a more passive idea to it. If I am walking in the sphere of truth means I am just living within the context of truth, whereas walking by means of truth indicates that this is that which enables one to walk. It is very important to understand that distinction.

The doctrine of walking

There are four different words for walking used in the Greek New Testament. 1) peripateo [peripatew]which is used literally for the forward step-by-step motion as someone propels himself forward. The figurative or metaphorical meaning has to do with how one lives one's life, how one conducts himself, or how he behaves. It is a metaphor for how you live your life. In fact, all of these metaphors are used for how we conduct ourselves in life, the principles by which we govern our lives, how we think, how we live our lives overtly. As we walk in the spiritual life we work all the muscles of the spiritual life, i.e., all of the stress-busters or problem-solving devices. Furthermore, as we walk we will increase the circulation of doctrine in the mentality of our soul so that it will become second nature to us to think in terms of divine viewpoint and of what the Bible says about a particular situation. It will improve the inhale and exhale of doctrine. The more we walk the more it will enable us to discern, understand and assimilate doctrine in our soul. Furthermore, it will help eliminate the waste of human viewpoint that has accumulated in the soul and has spiritually constipated our life. As we walk it strengthens the soul and builds the soul fortress that protects and defends the soul. 2) stocheo [stoixew], used in Galatians 5:26 to refer to walking in a straight line. It refers metaphorically to marching in step, marching in ranks, to walk in agreement with, or to walk forward in an orderly manner. It has the idea of following a set path, a straight line. The set path is set down by the objective revelation of God's Word. This is the word that is used for advancing in relation to the mandates given in the Word of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 3) orthopodeo [o)rqopodew], which means to walk straight, to walk in a straight path. It is used in Galatians 2:14 to refer to a source of conduct, how well we live our life, walking a straight path according to God's revelation. 4) A more general word is poreuo [poreuw], which means to walk, to proceed, to travel, go about business, to live the life. These four words can all be translated "walking" and each one brings out a slightly different emphasis and dynamic in walking.

Walking is a crucial term used to describe the characteristics of a believer's life. The overall mandate for walking is to walk worthy, because it is repeated three times in the Scriptures. Ephesians 4:1 NASB "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." Colossians 1:10 NASB "so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." 1 Thessalonians 2:12 NASB "so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." So what does Paul mean by the term "worthy"? This doesn't mean walking to gain God's approval or God's approbation. That is legalism. People get the idea that legalism is emphasising a mandate, a command, and therefore emphasising obedience. Obedience to the Word is not really an option, it is a command of Scripture to obey the Word. The problem is that some people want to say that by obeying the Word you get the blessing and approval of God. That is not true; that is legalism. Legalism is the idea that anything you say or do is done to gain the approval or blessing of God. We get the blessing or approval of God solely on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Christ which is imputed to us at the instant of salvation. Everything that God gives us is based not on what we do but it is based on the possession of Christ's righteousness. We obey Him in order to grow and advance spiritually. Obedience must be in the framework of walking by the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit, and that is the second overall command. Walking in Scripture is classified in three different ways, and each is defined by the use of a different preposition. For example, we have walking where the dative is a dative of sphere or location, where we walk in a sphere or realm. Romans 13:13 NASB "Let us behave [peripatew] properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy." "As in the day" is talking about a sphere or realm. It is also called "in the light" in Ephesians 5:8 NASB "for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light." It is also described that way in 1 John 1:6, 7 NASB "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and {yet} walk in the darkness [sphere of darkness; carnality], we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." So here we are to walk in the sphere of the Light. We do not walk by means of the Light per se but walk in the sphere of Light, i.e. in the sphere of the illumination which comes from the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word of God. We are to walk in the newness of life, Romans 6:4 NASB "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." That verse doesn't give us much of an option for disobedience. We have been buried with Him for a purpose. Walking in newness of life can only happen if we are walking by means of God the Holy Spirit. Colossians 2:6 NASB "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, {so} walk in Him." Walking "in Him" is the idea of sphere. How did we receive Christ? By faith alone in Christ alone; so walking in Him is also a walk by mean of faith, i.e. trusting in Him and His commandments and what has been revealed in Scripture. A third category of walking in the sphere is emphasised in Ephesians 5:2 NASB "and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." 2 John 6 NASB "And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it." Walking according to His commandments is obeying His commandments, and that is certainly not legalism. Every imperative mood of the New Testament emphasises obedience. Only when we are obeying the Scriptures and walking by means of the Holy Spirit can we grow and mature as believers. A fourth sphere is "in good works." Ephesians 2:10 NASB "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." The purpose is divine good, not human good. Fifth, we are to walk in the sphere of wisdom, Colossians 4:5.

There are some negatives to keep in mind. Ephesians 4:17 NASB "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind." That is, do not walk or live life in the sphere of the emptiness of the pagan thinking, human viewpoint thinking, that characterises the Gentiles. 2 Corinthians 4:2 NASB "but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness [deceitful cunning] or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."

Then we are to walk by means of certain things. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB "for we walk by [means of] faith, not by sight." Sight refers to all of the human viewpoint systems of knowledge where we on the basis of empiricism or rationalism come up with truth and our experience then becomes more real to us than what the Word of God says. The second category of means is walking by means of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16 NASB "But I say, walk by [means of] the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh… [25] If we live by [means of] the Spirit [regeneration], let us also walk by [means of] the Spirit." That is our day-to-day progress in the spiritual life. The third means given is emphasised both in 2 John 6 and 3 John 3 & 4, "by means of truth." So we have by means of faith, by means of the Holy Spirit, and by means of truth. These three elements work together; we don't have one and not the other. Then we come to a third phrase which we have in the Greek which uses a different preposition, the preposition kata [kata] plus the accusative which means "according to a norm or standard." Once again this brings in the idea of obedience to something. This is used in Romans 8:4 NASB "so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh [the standard of the sin nature and human viewpoint thinking] but according to the Spirit." So we are to walk according to a certain standard, and that is the standard revealed by God the Holy Spirit and according to the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:15 NASB "For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love…" That is the standard, to love one another as Christ loved the church. There are certain negative associated with this phraseology as well. We are not to walk according to the norms or standards of the sin nature, Romans 8:4. This is further described in 1 Corinthians 3:3 NASB "for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" Ephesians 2:2 NASB "in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." That describes the lifestyle of the unbeliever—human viewpoint thinking. Human viewpoint thinking is tantamount to the thinking of Satan and is evil. All of this is to show the different ways that walking is modified in the Scripture.

In Galatians 5:16 walking by means of the Spirit is contrasted with walking by means of the flesh. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." We see from that passage that in our life we are only walking in one of two categories. We are either living our life according to the sin nature or we are living our life according to the Holy Spirit. There is no in between, it is either one or the other.

The basis for the believers walk is in Romans 6:1-6. This addresses obedience again. The goal is not to sin. The purpose is to log maximum time in fellowship so that we can grow and advance in the spiritual life.

Another key verse is to walk as a child of light. Ephesians 5:8 NASB "for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light." This is a present active imperative which means this is to be the general characteristic and standard operating procedure for living our life. [9] "(for the fruit of the Light [Spirit: majority text] {consists} in all goodness and righteousness and truth)." We don't get the fruit of the Spirit unless we are walking in the Light. Light in Scripture represents absolute perfection. It reflects all that God is in His absolute righteousness and walking in a manner which ism consistent with that. 1 Timothy 6:16 NASB "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him {be} honor and eternal dominion! Amen." 1 John 1:5 NASB "…that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." So at salvation we positionally become the sons of light. This is a description of our basic character; we now have positional righteousness. John 12:36 NASB "While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light." That is what happens at salvation. At salvation we are transferred positionally into light. 1 Peter 2:9 NASB "But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR {God's} OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Acts 26:18 NASB "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me." Our new position in Christ means that we are children of light and we are to live as children of light. Romans 13:12 NASB "The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."

The precedent for walking in the light is found in 1 John 2:6 NASB "the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." The precedent is Jesus Christ. He walked in light; He is light; we are to walk in the same manner.

Walking leads to living in the sphere of the love triplex: personal love for God the Father, impersonal love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ.

The Christian walk is based on the faith-rest drill. The faith-rest drill is not faith in faith, it is faith in truth. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB "for we walk by faith, not by sight."

Conclusion: the three means work together, and these three means that work together are the foundation for understanding how to live the Christian life, or how to walk the Christian walk. It is under the filling of the Holy Spirit; it is a moment by moment dependence on the Holy Spirit. While we are walking by the Spirit we have the action of faith that is trusting, relying upon what He has revealed in His Word which is the truth. That is how these three means clauses all work together. This is the means by which we grow and mature as believers.