By: Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Second John 1.12
Note to the Reader
Generally, at the beginning of each month we examine one book from the Bible. However, we begin this month by completing our study of Second John, as such I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of Second John in conjunction with this article. Lord willing, next week, we will begin looking at Third John.
What Else Did They Say?
Written communication is a record of events. Through the written word, the writer reveals their thoughts to the reader. The writer uses the written word to clarify, explain, and motivate. Written communication is efficient and effective; yet, it is also incomplete.
Writers Cannot Say Everything They Want
A writer must strike a balance between needed information, and careful articulation of details that bore the reader. Additionally, the writer must assume that the audience has awareness of and perhaps the same pool of information that the writer has. This allows the writer and reader to have something in common, otherwise the writer must detail and outline the information the writer feels the reader must have in order to receive the complete written message. Yet, no matter the quantity of written words, the written material falls short of revealing everything that the author and reader could discuss face to face.
Communication, both written and verbal, is delightful yet delicate. While engaging, written communications are by their very nature static and not dynamic. Even as fluid as Twitter,© Facebook,© Instant Messaging and e-Mail are, written communication does not truly allow fluid reader interaction and participation. The reader interacts passively by reading and reacts actively by writing their own questions, comments or concerns and sends those items in a return message to the other person. Because of this, the written word cannot flow dynamically with the mind of the participants. At best, it is a tedious and mechanical method of communication.
With all of that in mind, does it surprise us that some of the authors of the New Testament letters realized the limitations of written communications? Fully communicating the enormity and profundity of God seems more than what the written word can convey. Hence the need for “hearing the word”1 and “hearing that word” comes in part by preaching, teaching, and just plain regular every day discussions. These are things that if they were written down and the oceans were ink, would drain the oceans dry. Even the Apostle John recognized (and was Holy Spirit inspired to record) that it was impossible for everything to be written down concerning Jesus.2
Writers Who Wanted To Say More
Paul, John and Jude all reveal that they had more to say that just what they wrote. Consider Paul’s statement, “And the rest I will set in order when I come.”3 While Paul’s previous statements, basically the entirety of First Corinthians Eleven, provided powerful insight to head coverings and the partaking of communion, Paul communicated that there was more and he would provide that “more” when he arrived at Corinth. What did he say? What was later communicated to them that was helpful for them and in like manner could be helpful to us? As far as it seems, we do not have that information.
Consider Jude’s statement, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”4 While we could focus on the notion that Jude is going “to write” to the brethren, what is interesting is that he was motivated to change topics. This means, at least, two things. One, Jude wanted to write about other items. Two, Jude was speaking and teaching where people knew who he was and what his teachings were. This short twenty-five verse letter is the only written item we have from Jude. What else did he say? How did he preach? How did he teach? These are left unknown.
Consider the verse that prompted this article, it comes from John in his Second Epistle, “Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.”5 Again, while we could focus on John’s desire “to write” he determined it would be better to say those things personally. What did he want to say to the church? It was a blessing to them, therefore it would be a blessing to us, yet alas it was not written, it was communicated verbally. This is not the only time John wrote such sentiments, consider his idea in his Gospel that many other things could have been written about Jesus,6 but John also said in this Third Epistle, “I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face.”7
Knowing that there were things that John (as well as Paul and Jude) communicated personally to the audiences of his day about God, His Son, and what it means to be a child of God, somehow leaves us wanting. Yet, considering all the written commentaries that occupy this world concerning the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible, how much more commentary material would exist if everything Jesus and his apostles did and said were written down?
The Gospels were written so “that we might believe”8 and the epistles were written so that those early disciples and, secondarily and subsequently, we might learn how to begin understanding our faith. The epistles contain much that revolves around the foundations of our faith. But we can understand from First Corinthians 3.1-3 and Hebrews 5.11 that the writers had more profound things to communicate but felt restricted because of the spiritual immaturity of their audiences. This means that there was more that both Paul and the Hebrews’ writer wanted to say. What did they want to say? What could they have said that would answer some of our questions? Questions like these could go on, but perhaps we could interpret those two passages to mean that they had opportunity to communicate these things in person, yet if so, those ideas are not left for us in written letters.
What we can conclude is that the Apostles knew that their written communications confirmed and clarified their teachings, but they never intended their writings to standalone. If their writings were intended to stand independent, then there would be no need for person to person communication of the Gospel.9 May the LORD bless us as we begin to see these truths and keep asking for more, seeking better understanding, and knocking at the door that contains the breadth, length, depth, and height of Jesus’ love which surpasses all knowledge and be filled with the fullness of God.10
1. “Hearing the word.” Romans 10.14-17, NASB.
2. “Impossible for everything to be written down concerning Jesus.” John 20.30, NASB.
3. “Paul’s statement of wanting to say more.” First Corinthians 11.34, KJV
4. “Jude’s statement of wanting to say more.” Jude 1.3, KJV
5. “John’s statement of wanting to say more.” Second John 1.12, NASB.
6. “Many other things could have been written about Jesus.” John 20.30, NASB.
7. “Another statement of John’s of wanting to say more.” Third John 1.13-14, KJV
8. “Gospels written so that we might believe.” John 20.31, NASB.
9. “Person to person Gospel dialogue.” Romans 10.14-17, NASB.
10. “Learning the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3.14-21, NASB.