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What does it mean to walk in truth (3 John 1:4)?

walk in truth

Truth is a dominant theme in the apostle John’s third epistle. The word truth appears four times in the letter’s opening four verses. John writes to Gaius, a church elder and dear friend, praising him for his selfless conduct and Christian hospitality. John is overjoyed to learn that Gaius is “walking in the truth.” His greeting concludes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:3–4, ESV).

In the Bible, a person’s “walk” denotes his behavior or lifestyle. Walking in 3 John 1:4 is a form of the verb walk (peripateō in Greek), which is used figuratively to mean “to live or behave in a specified manner.” Our “Christian walk” refers to following Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:24), learning from Him (Matthew 11:29), imitating His behavior (John 13:15), loving and living as He did (John 13:34; 1 John 2:6; Romans 13:14), and being conformed into His image (Romans 8:29).

The Greek term alētheia, translated as “truth” in 3 John 1:4, specifically references “the good news about Jesus Christ, especially as a message that conforms to (and answers) the nature of reality.” The expression to walk in truth is biblical imagery for behaving in a way that agrees with the truth of Scripture, the message of the gospel that Jesus preached, and the Christian doctrines we profess.

When we apply what we believe to our daily lives, actions, and behaviors, we are walking in truth. Nowadays, instead of “walk in truth,” we might say “walk the talk” or “practice what you preach.” A person who walks in truth is committed to obeying God’s Word, which is truth (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). When our lifestyle is based on the Bible, there should be no contradiction between our creed and our conduct.

To walk in truth involves walking in love (Ephesians 5:2; John 13:34–35; 2 John 1:5–6), a concept that John fleshed out in 1 John 4:7–11: “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (NLT).

Just as walking in love reveals God’s loving character to the world, walking in truth expresses all that we know of His truth to the world. Warren Wiersbe wrote, “True living comes from the living truth” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, Victor Books, 1996, p. 542). When God’s truth dwells within us, the evidence will show in our authentic godly living.

To walk in truth is to walk in the Spirit, who is truth (1 John 5:6). The Holy Spirit teaches us all truth (John 14:17; 16:13; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 2:13). As we “live by the Spirit,” “keep in step with the Spirit,” and are “led by the Spirit,” we are changed from the inside out. Our behavior reflects that transformation in every part of our lives (Romans 8:4, 9; Galatians 5:16–18, 25; Ephesians 5:18).

To walk in truth is to “walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded” (Deuteronomy 5:33). It is parallel to walking in the light (Isaiah 2:5; 1 John 1:5–7), walking by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and walking in a manner worthy of the Lord and our calling (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1).

An excellent way to understand what it means to walk in truth is to consider what happens when we walk. If we walk in the dust and the mud, we get dirty. If we walk in the rain, we get soaked. If we walk in the storm, we get blown around. John encourages us to walk in truth so that it gets all over us and establishes us securely in our faith (Ephesians 6:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). God wants us to become so deeply entrenched and coated in His truth, love, and light that it rubs off onto all the people we touch. If we walk in truth, it has the power to transform and set us free and positively impact the people in our lives (John 8:32; Romans 6:22).

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What does it mean to walk in truth (3 John 1:4)?
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This page last updated: April 30, 2024