If you created an anonymous online survey asking your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors to describe your pattern of life, what would they say? What tendencies do you have? What comes to mind when they think about you? What impressions do the choices of your life make on the people around you? How do you come across?
In this series of posts, we’re studying an ancient letter a guy named John wrote to his friend Gaius, and in that letter John tells Gaius how he comes across. If you want, read the letter, called 3rd John in your Bible or Bible app, and catch up with these posts with Part 1 and Part 2. In Part 2 we learned that John prayed for Gaius, that it would be going well with his soul. As we continue in verses 3-4, John further describes what it means for things to be going well with Gaius’ body and soul when he expresses the great joy he had when he heard that Gaius was faithful to the truth and walking in the truth. So this “walking in the truth,” whatever it is, is really important to John!
In our previous series when we studied the letter called 2nd John, he also mentioned “walking in the truth” 2nd John verse 4. In fact, while I think it is coincidental, compare the verse fours in both 2nd and 3rd John, and notice how similar they are! The significance to this, I sense, is that “walking in the truth” was on John’s mind and clearly important to him, so let’s take time to try to understand it.
John calls it a “walk,” or “walking.” Walking most obviously gives us the image of a person putting one foot in front of the other. But John is not talking about the physical act moving yourself by the motion of walking. John is using walking in a figurative way.
Walking here is defined as “to live or behave in a customary manner, with possible focus upon continuity of action” You see what that means? John is talking about a way of life. In 2nd John, when we focused on “walking in love,” we learned that John wanted the people to have a way of life based on love. Here in 3rd John, he is talking about a way of life based on truth. Your walk is your way of life that refers to your behavior, your choices, your actions, and it is not a one-time event but the ongoing pattern of your life. It is habitual. It is what characterizes you because you do it over and over and over again. John says that is your walk. And he says, it should be a walk in the truth.
So, then, what is the truth? This is the Greek word alethia which is used as a female name in English, and it means “truth.” John is not talking about a concept or idea of truth, so much as he is talking about the fact that Jesus is the embodiment of truth. I know that he doesn’t spell that out in verses 1-4, so how do we know this? Because of what John has written in other places, the most famous of which is John 14:6, in John’s account of Jesus’ life, when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” This was and still is a fairly surprising way to think of truth. Truth is a person. Jesus is truth. Last week we read John saying that there is an amazing reality that this truth lives in us and is with us forever. Now this week we are focusing on what it means to walk in that truth. It means that our pattern of life should be based on Jesus’ pattern of life, in agreement with or consistent with Jesus’ way of life.
Our guide, our example, for the way to live life, is Jesus, and how he lived. He is the truth, and we walk in his way. Walking truth is not just telling the truth. It surely includes telling the truth, but it is much more than that. Walking in the truth occurs when we strive to apply the ways and habits of Jesus to our lives.
As we continue studying the letter, let’s be alert to learn if John has anything further to say about walking in truth. In verse 5, for example, he encourages Gaius because Gaius has been faithful in what he has done for the brothers, even those who were strangers to him. This is a somewhat vague sentence, so perhaps if we keep reading John will explain it for us. In verse 6 these brothers have told the church about Gaius’ love. So clearly there are Christian people who Gaius helped in some way, and those Christian people shared the news about Gaius’ generosity to John’s church. Sounds like John is describing that Gaius was walking in the truth!
Can it be said of you that you are walking in the truth? What does the pattern of your life tell about you? Do you want to know? How would the people around you describe your walk? Ask them. You might need to make it anonymous, so you get the truth.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 504.