John’s second letter is a mere 13 verses. Don’t let that fool you. 2 John offers multiple points of spiritual wisdom every Christian should understand.
Today we start a new study of 2nd John. It is among the shorter works of the canon. You may be wondering do we need to study 1st John before we study 2nd John & 3rd John. Are they dependent upon one another? The answer is no. We see, for example, in Paul’s letters that his letters were typically named after the recipient, Rome, Corinth, Galatia, etc. But John’s letters carry only numbers, Which is why some maybe begin to assume this means there is an order implied to the letters. The answer is no, John’s letters are no more dependent on one to another than Paul’s letters or even Peter’s letters for that matter.
John, like Peter, wrote several letters without identifying a specific church or region as his audience in his letters. So, therefore, to distinguish them we number them. 1 Peter, 2 Peter..2 John, 3 John. But those numbers don’t imply successive thought. So 2 John and 3 John are not dependent on 1 John. On the other hand, there are some striking similarities between all the letters John wrote. He raises similar themes and uses similar phrasing. That is one of the ways we are so sure who wrote these. He had similar concerns, principally about false teachers. And in all three letters, he constantly emphasizes the need for Christians to walk in the knowledge of what we had been given in Christ.
Let’s begin our study of 2 John. I want to take a little time upfront for us to understand the context in which it was written. John’s second letter is a mere 13 verses. Don’t let that fool you. It offers multiple points of spiritual wisdom every Christian should understand. His third letter is only 15 verses but unites two essential themes: the importance of supporting what is good while correcting what is wrong in the church. Apostle John is the author. Even though his name doesn’t appear in this particular letter, his authorship was never in question in the early church and its never really been challenged. Even a cursory comparison of 1 John to 2 John to 3 John makes it clear immediately because of the similar language and similar style that the same person wrote all 3 of them.
John likely wrote this letter while he lived and ministered in Ephesus to a church somewhere in Asia Minor current day Turkey. And he probably did it near the end of his life. Somewhere around AD 85 to AD 95. The key concern John addresses in all 3 of his letters are the importance of living according to the true doctrines of the faith. And secondly to resist the false teaching of those who were trying to undermine the truth in the church. In the late first century, which is the time period of this letter. Mysticism was a movement gaining the most ground in the church among all the many ways in which the enemy was working to undermine the faith. Mysticism was the big enemy of the day.
Mysticism is the practice of religious ecstasies (religious experiences during alternate states of consciousness), together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.
John at this point is the last living Apostle. Therefore, it falls to John to stand up to this heresy and do something about it. That’s why all 3 of his letters read so similarly. He is preoccupied with this movement at this time in the history of the church. He alone stands between them and the truth. So he is urgently concerned with this movement. We will see that in this letter and see it particularly in 1 John. He is working to stem the tide. We are going to talk more about Gnosticism as we get a little deeper in the letter. Some of its beliefs and so on.
Let’s begin with the first two verses.
2 John (NKJV)
Greeting the Elect Lady
1 The Elder,
To the elect (chosen) lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:
John never names the church he wrote this letter to. Interestingly, he addressed the letter to an elect (chosen) lady and her children.
Many have wondered who is this lady is, especially since she is not named in the letter and it gives rise to all manner of speculation. There is a way to understand who he is speaking of. The clue comes in the last verse of this letter. Skip to verse 13. He ends by saying, 2 John 13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. As John finishes the letter, he says that the “children” of the chosen “sister” of this “lady” is greeting this church. If we read between the lines we begin to see what John means by “lady” and “children.” Lady is a euphemism on John’s part for the church. Just as the Church is personified in scripture as a “bride” for Christ, John is calling the local church, in this case, a “lady”. Therefore, the children of that lady are the believers in that particular church. Notice John calls the lady elect (chosen) reflecting the name of the church because the word in Greek elect (chosen) is eklektos. But the Greek word for church is ekklesia, which means the chosen guests. So he is saying “chosen Lady” instead of chosen guests. Very similar to the word church in Greek
The word “chosen” reflects the fact that God’s election of the believers into faith is what brings them into the body of Christ. We were chosen, Paul says in Ephesians before the foundations of the Earth. So the chosen lady is the church. John is addressing a church body, who he calls the chosen lady, and the believers in that church are the “children” of that church. Then at the end of the letter, he tells his recipients that the children of a sister church greet them. That sister church was likely John’s church in Ephesus. Why is John speaking in such terms rather than in naming the churches? The likely reason is to avoid persecution should his letter fall into the wrong hands.
John is writing at a point in history when Christian persecution was rampant around the Roman empire. Should this letter had fallen into the wrong hands then he and those he is writing to could have been identified as Christians in a specific way. So by avoiding naming the specific locations of the churches (or even calling them churches), John protects himself and his audience, should this letter be made public. That’s maybe also why John doesn’t identify himself except to call himself an elder, so to avoid being named personally in the letter. You will notice also in 1st John he often speaks about my dear children my little children when he speaks to the believers. That would be consistent with the use of the term here.
John says he loves this church body in truth. Not only does John love this church, but he says all who know the truth do love them as well. What truth is John speaking about and how does it relate to love? The truth of Jesus as the Messiah. The truth of the Gospel itself. In short, the testimony of God’s word concerning Christ. That is the truth he is speaking of. So John says he loves this church in the Gospel of Christ. And all those who know that same Gospel love them as well. This is a powerful statement and it is one we should not take for granted or jump over too quickly.
The word love gets tossed around a lot in the world and in our culture today and in our
time. But the biblical concept is very specific and very important. John is saying that by their shared faith they have been made part of a family united in love. And that shared faith, that truth, draws men and women together by a spiritual love that is not natural… it’s supernatural. In natural terms, how do people love? In natural terms, people express love to one another for any number of reasons. We understand the love of a parent for a child or a child for their parent. We can understand the love of siblings and we can understand the love of romance. We can understand lesser forms of love for a pet, for a car, for a sports team etc.
None of those loves are “in truth”, however. None of them. They don’t exist as a matter of truth. In fact, their existence is subject to changing emotions, changing circumstances. Marriages end, siblings fight, parents abuse children and children abuse parents. We may lose interest in pets, cars breakdown, favorite teams come and go. The point is these are not relationships based in an unshakable truth. Truth doesn’t change. It is or it isn’t. A love based in truth is equally unshakable. The love John has for the children of God, he says is based in truth. And that truth is a Person, and His Spirit indwells all of us, making us all experience love one for another in the body of Christ. The interesting thing is this, we may not like every Christian we meet. But if we are being led by the Spirit, we can still experience a supernatural love for every brother and sister. In spite of the fact, they annoy us sometimes. That love originates from the Spirit Who teaches us what self-sacrificial love looks like. That’s the truth that creates the love John is speaking about. ◦ This is the reason why Jesus said things like this:
Matthew 12:47-50 (NKJV)
47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
Or this provocative statement:
Mark 10:29-30 (NKJV)
29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.
In His teaching, in both cases, Jesus draws upon this same principle of love in truth. The love Christians can experience for one another is based on the love of God living in us by His Spirit. By that Spirit, we come to know each other as a new family. And that new family is bound together by a love that is even stronger than the earthly bonds we know or will know in any other capacity. We may love our mothers and fathers and siblings, and pets and possessions. But we can never love them with the same degree and steadfastness that we will love the family of God. Because our love is not based on circumstance or emotions, it’s based on truth. Which lives in us perpetually verses the kind of things that stand for love in the temporal sense. In eternity, the family of God will be our eternal family.
Next, John says this truth is something that abides in us and will be with us forever. One of John’s most popular words is abide. In Greek, it’s the word meno, which means simply to stay or to remain. There is love present among the believers made possible by the truth of the Gospel. Having knowledge of the truth and having the indwelling of the Spirit are the characteristics that define believers. And both the truth that we have in faith and the Spirit which indwells us; John says will remain with all believers forever.
Here you find a simple proof of eternal security The truth, John says which we now know understood to be the faith we have in the Gospel and the Spirit that indwells us is the consequence of that. That truth, John says will be with us forever. The only way John’s promise can be true is if our salvation is permanent.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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