Fellowship, Honour and Truth
This short letter is unusual amongst all the Bible's books because it is addressed to an individual lady. She was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the mother of children, a sister of another believer and an aunt to her children. She gladly gave hospitality to travelling preachers. Although many suggestions have been made about her name, and role in the church (from examining the original Greek words), we simply do not know for sure.
This lady was known to John and other church leaders as a woman of integrity and generous in hospitality. John had visited her home and enjoyed fellowship in the Lord with her and her family. He honoured her because she honoured the Lord. She had been chosen by God to belong to Him; it was obvious that the Holy Spirit lived in her, motivating her lifestyle. John had a true affection for her, and honoured her as a godly woman who demonstrated the presence of God.
Nevertheless, this lady was vulnerable to being deceived by travelling false teachers. Her lovely open-hearted character, which was such an asset to the church, could also put the church in great danger: she must not be naïve. And so John wrote this letter to commend her love of the Lord but also to warn her to be alert to the danger of false doctrine – it would wreak havoc in the church. She must be more discerning about who she welcomed into her house and introduced to the church as somebody worth hearing. Giving a platform to false teachers was not loving at all.
Alas, some people are spiritually malignant. They seek to get into a fellowship but do not have truly godly motives; they claim to worship God but do not belong to the Lord. They do not speak the truth about Jesus and lead people astray. Today it is still important to discern if God has sent people to speak truth, or if Satan is manipulating people to spread lies about Jesus and the gospel. Christian 'niceness' is an easy doorway for error to enter the church. Do not believe everyone (1 John 4:1) but test them by seeing what they really think of Christ Jesus.
© Dr Paul Adams