Commentary: 2 John

 

Considering the times, I cannot think of a more appropriate book to be going through at the moment than the 2nd epistle of John.

Background

Written approximately 85 AD ± 15 years

Tradition has it John lived most of his latter years in Ephesus. He had the vision of Revelation at Patmos where some believe that he was banished because of Christian persecution by the Romans, in particular the emperor Domitian. He is thought to have remained their until the very end of his life. This is about 60 miles (as the crow flies) from Ephesus in Asia Minor in Turkey. Some historians believe that he did not stay there the whole time, but was allowed to leave with the changing of emperors.

Salutation

2 John 1:1 The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth1, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth2,

The Elder… John was an elder, apostle, minister etc (many job descriptions)

1 Peter 5:1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:

the elect lady…

There is some unmerited “controversy” surrounding this elect lady – believing that she might be Mary, mother of Jesus or Martha and other guesses. This has been made into much more of an issue than it should ever have been.

But what makes the most sense is that it was a surreptitious reference to the church due to ongoing persecution.

lady… symbol of church

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Ephesians 5:22-33 the wife is analogous to church

Revelation 17-18 False church is the harlot that commits fornication with the kings of the earth

Revelation 19 the wife (church) marries the Lamb (Christ)

elect… this is the church

Same word:

Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 24:22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Matthew 24:31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Whom I [John] love in truth… NOT “it’s the truth that I love you” but by his actions:

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John 3:17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

truth… mentioned 5 times in the first 4 verses; sets the theme which John comes back to in another way later.

love… agapao; spiritual love

all those who have known the truth… All in the church love her so this cannot be a love letter from John to woman in the church

Why did John use this terminology?

To the elect lady and her children… The church and those in it. Perhaps written in a clandestine manner because of ongoing persecution. This is not a far-fetched idea considering that this is an issue in many countries today where Christian literature and letters cannot be sent overtly.

2 John 1:2 because of the truth3 which abides in us and will be with us forever:

John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.
John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—
John 14:17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

Hebrews 8:10 FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MIND AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

There is a correlation between truth, love, commandments and God’s word.

will be with us forever … It is representative of God’s character; it is the character that we are building; and if we hold fast to it, we will become a part of the family of God and it will be who and what we are forever.

Truth and Love

2 John 1:3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth4 and love.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God these are spiritual gifts that God can and does give us. Sometimes we think that we initiate it, but it is of God.

[His Workmanship — the Gifts of God]

1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father … No holy spirit mentioned which would be a slap in the face if it was the 3rd God of the trinity.

[No Divinity in The Trinity]

truth and love… This is the template for how to deal with these problems in the church – sometimes with the members (2 John 1:4) and other times heretics (2 John 1:7).

Both of these qualities must be present.

If you have just truth: are those that go about beating people about the head with the Bible; they actually may be armed with right doctrine (though normally they are off the mark) but they go about it in the wrong way: belligerent, prideful, uncaring, etc (Matthew 23:15).

If you have just love: hard to do, since true love encapsulates the God, the truth, the law etc [and for that matter of fact you really cant have the truth without love, since it is the foundation of the truth]; but as a word of warning you may try to help someone with the best of intentions, but you may do more harm than good if you are not skilled in the whole word of God (Hebrews 5:13).

Problems on the Inside

2 John 1:4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth5, as we received commandment from the Father.

Now we get to the meat of the letter and the core of the problem that John is addressing: There are problems in the church! John is instructing them on how to deal with serious problems in the church – from within and without.

some of your children walking in truth… Not everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing

1 John 2:4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God [this is what we just mentioning that it really is impossible to really love without it being accompanied by the truth; the truth defines how we are to love] is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
1 John 2:6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 6:8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

So the next question is how do we deal with those that are in the church who are not walking completely in the truth? Do it in love:

2 John 1:5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.

John 13:33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.
John 13:34 new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

NOT NEW: Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

The reason that it was new was because we now have the perfect example of Jesus to follow. Did He get in peoples faces; did he yell and point the finger; how did he treat the sinners? He was gentle, humble, kind, patient, etc

John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This identifies us as the church of God … or at least it should.

2 John 1:6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

Definition of Love:

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

He makes truth and love synonymous to each other and with the law

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
Matthew 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Matthew 22:39 And the second is like it: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

What we are seeing here is that love and truth (being commandments, law, Word of God etc) that they are inextricably linked – you really cannot have one without the other.

Problems from the Outside

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

many deceivers… already happening then and will be a problem in the end time. This is something that we need to be aware and deal with. I believe that they already exist in the church right now.

Matthew 24:11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
Matthew 24:12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

out into the world… we walk in the world, but we are not to be a part of it

John 17:11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.
John 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
John 17:13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
John 17:14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
John 17:15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
John 17:16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh…

Docetism (a spin-off or subset of Gnosticism): the doctrine that Christ’s body was not human, but either a phantasm or of real but celestial substance, and that therefore his sufferings were only apparent.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

Romans 1:3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,

1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

John 10:35 … (and the Scripture cannot be broken)

This is a deceiver and an antichrist… [see notes in 1 John]

Mentioned 5 times in the Bible, the other four times are in 1 John

1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

2 John 1:8 Look to yourselves [take heed / be aware], that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.

Look to yourselves… take heed / be aware

do not lose those things we worked for…

Matthew 24:13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Revelation 3:11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

We can lose these things

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Keep bible study, prayer, fasting, mediation, good works, producing good fruit, growing in holy righteous character.

receive a full reward… is according to works

[Good Works – A Requirement for Salvation]

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
1 Corinthians 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
1 Corinthians 3:13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
1 Corinthians 3:14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

Do not lose the talents that you have grown (the business that you have done). We cannot go backwards

Luke 19:13 So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’
Luke 19:14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’
Luke 19:15 “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
Luke 19:16 Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’
Luke 19:17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’
Luke 19:18 And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’
Luke 19:19 Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’
Luke 19:20 “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief.
Luke 19:21 For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’
Luke 19:22 And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.
Luke 19:23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’
Luke 19:24 “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’

Sound Doctrine

(ties into truth)

2 John 1:9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide [stay] in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides [stays] in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.

John 14:7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.
John 14:8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Of course He reflected the Father’s direction and instruction.

John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.

doctrine of Christ… that He was God and came in the flesh; lived perfect life; sacrificial death / resurrected; preached the Gospel etc – in other words all that He did and said while He was here. And all this represented the Father…so if you believe and follow Christ, then you automatically are believing and following the Father

2 John 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;

This is how dangerous a situation like this can be – to the point that you have nothing to do with them. You do not help them or bring them into your house or church.

Galatians 1:6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,
Galatians 1:7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

There is always the possibility that heretics (possibly dressed in sheep’s clothing) will come into the church. It is a device, tool and ploy of Satan.

The way to handle this is with truth and love. John is telling us now the best way to deal with this.

In Against Heresies, Irenaeus relates how Polycarp told a story of John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.”

2 John 1:11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

Something to really consider

Psalms 129:4 The LORD is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.
Psalms 129:5 Let all those who hate Zion ….
Psalms 129:8 Neither let those who pass by them say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you; We bless you in the name of the LORD!”

Why should/would we be entreatable to those that come in as wolves in sheep’s clothing and they do not confess the real Jesus. We are to love God more!

Closing

2 John 1:12 Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.

I did not wish to do so with paper and ink … Possibly because of the possible persecution that could come with it

speak face to face … John would have really would have rather seen them AND so much more can be accomplished talking in person.

2 John 1:13 The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.

Started very similarly to 1 Peter 5:1 and ends like it:

1 Peter 5:13 She [church] who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.

Conclusion

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

With all that is going on in the world and in the church … how timely is this message and how ageless is the word of God!