Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Marks of a Healthy Christian Faith - 3 John 1-8

3 John 1-2 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.

At only 219 words, the book of 3 John is officially the shortest book in the Bible.  Though it is the shortest, its message and importance ranks among the greatest of all Bible books.  If we were to take an inventory of the five Bible books attributed to the Apostle John, here is what we would have in terms of themes:

1. John's Gospel - Written for the purpose to ensure knowledge of and faith in Jesus Christ, God in human flesh. John 20:31

2. 1 John - Written to grant assurances of salvation. 1 John 5:13

3. 2 John - Written to describe the Christian walk. 2 John 6

4. 3 John - Written to describe a healthy Christianity or Christian faith. 3 John 2

5. The Book of Revelation - Written to reveal the Person of Jesus Christ and His present purposes that will lead to the second coming, His coming Kingdom, His judgment on satan and sinners and His eternity with His people. Revelation 1:19

It is with the Book of 3 John that we find our interest in today's post.  What is a healthy Christian? In 3 John 1-8 we will see what is entailed in a healthy Christian walk.

What does a healthy Christian faith look like?
1. Sound faith.  3 John 1-2
3 John 2 states - "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers."  The two underlined words provide the definition for what it means to be spiritually healthy as a Christian: namely an effectiveness (prosper) and soundness (health) to one's Christianity.  The first word translated "prosper" could also be translated "effectiveness".  Healthy Christians are effective because of the second word "health", which we could translate "soundness". 

A healthy Christian will be effective in their journey of faith due to the fact they have kept a healthy or sound faith.   In Genesis 24:26 we see the servant of Abraham praising God for granting him a prosperous mission in the search for a bride for Abraham's son Isaac.  Genesis 24:26 reads - "Then the man bowed low and worshiped the Lord.27 He said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the Lord has guided me in the way to the house of my master’s brothers.” Just as this man had a sound faith in the Lord that enabled him to see God's hand in his long journey to find Isaac a wife, a healthy Christian will be able to see God's hand guiding them in the journey of faith.  But notice the second trait of a healthy Christian, not only sound, effective faith, but also...

2. Strongly committed faith. 3 John 3-4
3 John 3-4 reads - "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."  In similar manner to what he wrote in 2 John 4, John here states his joy over the fact that the people of God to whom he wrote were "walking in the truth".  

To "walk" with the Lord simply refers to a strongly committed lifestyle of faith.  Enoch in Genesis 5:24 is the first mentioned person in scripture to be described as "walking with God".  In previous studies through 2 John, we discovered that the strength of the Christian walk is based upon God's truth. (2 John 1-3) With truth being the strength or power of the Christian walk, love is the purpose. (2 John 3) Thus a healthy Christian will have a strong committed faith that walks with God in the power of truth purposed in His love.  

So we have seen that a healthy Christian faith is sound, strongly committed and thirdly a...

3. Sharing Faith. 3 John 5-8
3 John 5 reads - "Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers."  When you think of a healthy Christian faith, one of the words that should come to mind is the word "sharing".  There must be a point in the Christian walk where it becomes more about others and less about me.  All the Christian faith is about Jesus - this we know.  Yet when you or I look at the proportion of time spent thinking about ourselves versus others, which way do the scales tip?

John lists out the ways in which we ought to be sharing in our faith.  Certainly the idea of sharing our possessions with fellow believers whom we may not know is stated in 3 John 5.  The fact that we share our love with other members of the church and share in the support of those doing God's work is communicated in 3 John 6. Sharing of your faith is implied throughout these verses.  Whether directly or indirectly, we have a heart for missions and heartily share in the efforts of those who share Christ as seen in 3 John 7-8. 
The Apostle Paul speaks of the importance of sharing and putting others ahead of ourselves in Romans 14:7-8 "For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s."  

Conclusion: The marks of a healthy Christian faith
As we have explored the first half of 3 John, we have noted the following three traits of a healthy Christian faith:

1. Sound faith.                        3 John 1-2
2. Strongly Committed faith.    3 John 3-4
3. Sharing faith.                      3 John 5-8

May you and I be those Christians who rely upon grace and strive in Godliness to have the healthy faith unfolded for us here in 3 John 1-8.  

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