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- 3 John
by William Baxter Godbey
1ST, 2ND, AND 3RD JOHN
John, the beloved junior apostle, is said to have been powerfully converted under the preaching of John the Baptist. This evinces from the enthusiasm which characterized his espousal of our Savior’s call and the deep burning love he constantly manifested during his discipleship. He is the only apostle to escape bloody martyrdom. Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia; Mark in Alexandria, Egypt; Luke was hung on an olive tree in Greece; Paul beheaded at Rome; Peter crucified; James the First beheaded by Herod at Jerusalem; James the Less precipitated from a pinnacle of the temple; Andrew crucified in Armenia; Philip in Asia Minor; Bartholomew skinned alive in Phrygia; Matthias martyred in Abyssinia, Africa; Jude shot full of arrows in Tartary; Thomas pierced through with a cruel iron bar in India, and John, having been miraculously delivered from martyrdom when cast into the soap caldron at Rome, and afterward banished to the Isle of Patmos, in the Aegean Sea, where he witnessed the wonderful Apocalyptic visions, spent the closing years of his life at Ephesus; history following him down to age of 101, when he was translated to heaven alive, as testified by Justin Martyr, Jerome and other Christian Fathers, and solidly believed by John Wesley. Of course, we have no inspired record of his translation, as he himself was the last writer. John was truly the Patriarch of the Apostolic Church, surviving all the other apostles a whole generation, standing alone in the heroic grandeur of his solitude. Awaiting his translation, he did all of his writing, the gospel, epistles, and apocalypse, away down at the end of his long and eventful life, doubtless dictating them all to an amanuensis. His early conversion and call to the apostleship, extraordinary fellowship with Jesus, wonderful sanctification, thrilling, miraculous deliverances, ineffable heavenly visions on the Isle of Patmos, great longevity and coming translation, doubtless to him spiritually adumbrating his approaching transfiguration, all conduced to flood him with unparalleled spiritual illumination and make him, more significantly than any other inspired writer, the personification of love, which literally inundates especially his epistles with a sea bottomless and shoreless.
Perhaps none of the epistolary writings are so little understood as the Johanic, owing to his wonderful and perpetual emphasis of the agapee divine love, which is not brought out in the English translation. John makes the whole problem of salvation to hang on it. The English is so weak, not discriminating between the human and the divine, as to not only mar the beauty and detract from the force of the letter, but to render it very monotonous. I hope and pray that my exposition may be used by the Holy Spirit to enable us to grasp the wonderful depth and height of this beautiful epistle. The venerable patriarch, having leaned on the breast of Jesus in his youth, enjoyed the Pentecostal sanctification twenty-five years, talked with the glorified Savior on the Isle of Patmos, looking into the open panorama of celestial glory, enjoys a richness of Christian experience with an inundation of heavenly love extraordinary and transcendent, enjoying an insight into Christian experience doubtless beyond that of any other mortal. Over and over he rings heavenly bells on divine love, magnifying the Christhood and warning all against Antichrists and false prophets, holding the divine agapee, indigenous only in the heart of God, and poured out in the human by the Holy Ghost in regeneration, and made perfect when depravity, its irreconcilable enemy, is expurgated in entire sanctification. This love, like God, takes in its enemies as well as its friends, casts out fear, filling and thrilling the entire being with a sweetness and fragrance akin to heaven. Since the agapee is the divine nature, is it not perfect love? Certainly. But your heart is not perfect. The wheat is as pure grain in the stock as in the bin. Yet it is mixed with chaff, straw and cheat. You need the steam engine to clean you, making no intrinsic change, but a wonderful extrinsic, removing all the impediments to its profitable use. So the divine agapee is the tree of life, caught by conserving angels from the debris of the fall, preserved in heaven from the collapse of earth, brought back and planted by the Holy Ghost in the soil of the fallen soul in regeneration. Here in California we have nearly all the valuable fruit trees of the old world flourishing and bearing their delicious and valuable fruit. But much labor must be expended to purify the soil of its indigenous filth and fertilize it. I labored nineteen years after the heavenly tree was planted in my heart to purify my soul-soil. Fortuitously I read 1 Corinthians 3:9, “Ye are God’s farm.” Oh, what a surprise! I thought I was the farmer. I toss away my grub-ax, matlock, hoe and spade, and begin to shout. I know God wants a perfectly clean farm. Why these Spanish needles, cinch-bugs, thorns and briers? Since thou art the Farmer and I am the farm, I turn all over to the omnipotent Farmer. He breathes on the farm, and every obnoxious weed and bramble withers and dies, decomposing and enriching the soil. Twenty-eight years have rolled away, and oh, how wonderfully He has kept the farm clean! Satan comes round with his big bag of cockle briers and Spanish needles and many obnoxious seeds, sowing them over my fields, but the fires of perfect love burn them into ashes before they can reach the ground, the falling ashes constantly enriching my soul-soil. Glory to God for His transcendent grace, which has actually subordinated the devil till he has become a fertilizer of my soil!
Romans 8:28. You can not have “all things” and leave the devil out. Therefore, in a most mysterious way the devil is made a great blessing to God’s true people. It is doubtful whether anything this side of heaven is more conducive to spiritual establishment than the terrible conflicts we have with the strong intellect of Satan. Oh, the transcendent glory of this wonderful salvation!
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11