This morning's reading was 2 John. The apostle's emphasis stood right out:
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love. 4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.Notice an stress there? John uses some form of ἀλήθεια (alētheia, truth) five times in the first four verses. You don't have to be the Archbishop of Exegesis to figure out that the man is emphasizing something: truth matters.
John's love for them is a love in truth; what characterizes them is knowing the truth; the truth abides in us now and forever; our experience of God's graces is in connection with truth; what really makes John happy is that his audience is walking in the truth.
This stands out in another way in verse 7:
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.This is emphasis by contrast. The deceivers stand in opposition to the truth. A deceiver is someone who wanders from the truth, and attempts to induce others to wander with him. There were many such about as John wrote. But his readers had withstood them, because they loved one another (v. 5), and "this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it" (v. 6). Love, walk, commandments, walk.
So we see this intricate weaving of truth and life, of facts and values, of doctrine and practice. The opposition of truth to life, of doctrine to practice, so cried up by some, is absent (to say the least) in the apostolic writings.
Faith and practice, truth and life. The latter is meaningless without the former; the former necessarily issues in the latter. To single out one without the other is to advocate breath without lungs, or blood circulation without a heart. Without truth, one has no clue as to whether a life must change, or why, or by what means, or in what manner. On the other hand, if the life does not change, is not affected, then truth has not been embraced. Divorcing the two is damnable folly.
But John clarifies the issue even further (if possible) in verse 9:
Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.The teaching is the expression of truth. It is truth with edges. It verbalizes truth, gives it form, crystallizes it. Truth is not left as a floating fogbank, but framed and carved and established.
Embrace this expression of truth in doctrine, and you have "both the Father and the Son." Wander from it and you do "not have God." It is as simple as that, according to the apostle.
This fits in with the canonical position that saving faith is a matter of how we respond to the word of God (Genesis 15:6). Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes — not by interpretive dance, not by humming a ditty, not by great art, not by a great cup of coffee, but — by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). That's why the pastor's greatest, highest, and most critical calling is to preach the Word no matter what (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Or, to put it in Johannine terms, a relationship with God comes from and is sustained in the words, the verbally-expressed doctrines, of the apostles. It is how we "do" Christianity.
Does truth matter? God says it does.
Woe to him who thinks he knows better.