2 John 1:1
The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth
(a) The elder. Church tradition tells us that the elder was the Apostle John, the author of this letter and several other books in the New Testament. However, some say that the letter was written by a different John, an Ephesian known as John the Presbyter, but there is little evidence to support this.
It is generally believed that John was an old man when he wrote this letter. Hence “the elder” may be more than a title, but an acknowledgement of John’s rich life experience and his enviable association with Jesus. If you got a letter from John, you knew you were talking with a respected elder in the church.
(b) Who was the chosen lady and her children? No one knows. Some believe she was a metaphor for the church in general, but this is unlikely since John longs to speak to her face to face (2 John 1:12). The New Testament letters were sent to people. Even when they were sent to churches, someone had to receive the mail and read it. And if the chosen lady symbolizes the church, who are her children? Also the church? That doesn’t make sense. Why would John write a letter “to the church and her church”?
Who was the chosen lady? Was she Mary, the mother chosen to bear the Savior and loved by all in the early church? Was she Mary or Martha of Bethany? Was she the woman in Babylon mentioned by Peter (1 Pet. 5:13)? Nobody knows. The best we can say is she was an unnamed leader of a church, and her children were the people in it.
(c) Whom I love in truth. John’s love is unfeigned Christian love. It’s the real deal.
(d) All who know the truth meaning believers who have put their faith in the one called Truth (see 2 John 1:2).
2 John 1:2
for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:
(a) The truth which abides in us is Jesus. Every believer has the Spirit of truth within them (1 Cor. 3:16). See also the entry for 1 John 1:8.
(b) Will be with us forever. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would take up permanent residence in the hearts of the believer. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). What a wonderful affirmation of our eternal security in the Lord.
Further reading: “Eternal security scriptures”
2 John 1:3
Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
(a) Grace, mercy and peace. Like the other apostles, John began his letters with a foundation of the love and grace that comes from God (Rom. 1:7, 1 Pet. 1:2). Our God is a merciful, gracious and forgiving Father (Matt. 6:14, 18:27, Luke 7:47, 15:22, 23:34, John 1:14, 2 Th. 2:16, Heb. 4:16, Rev 1:4).
(b) God the Father… the Father. God is not a distant judge or bookkeeper weighing us in the scales, but our heavenly Father who has blessed us with grace, mercy and peace. In this short epistle, John refers to God as the Father four times. Like Jesus (John 6:46) and the apostle Paul (Rom. 8:15), John had a revelation of a God who loves us like a Father. See also the entry for 1 John 3:1.
(c) Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father. In contrast with those deceivers who denied Jesus (2 John 1:7) or his sonship (Matt. 27:40), John preached the good news of Jesus Christ “the Son of the Father.” Jesus is no mere teacher or prophet; he is the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32) and the Son of God (1 John 3:8).
(d) Truth and love are two of John’s favorite themes. Like Paul, John loved the truth and was only interested in “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). One without the other would not do (1 John 3:18).
2 John 1:4
I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.
(a) Your children refers to the spiritual offspring of the chosen lady, people she had led to or nurtured in the Lord. All believers are children of God the Father (1 John 2:1), but those who plant the life-giving word and lead us to faith can be considered our spiritual parents. In his third epistle, John speaks of his joy at hearing how his children are walking in the truth (3 John 1:4).
(b) Walking in truth is analogous to walking in the light (1 John 1:7) and walking according to his commandments (2 John 1:6). It is walking by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) and walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). It is continuing in the grace of God (Acts 13:43) and continuing in the faith (Col. 1:23). It is refusing to be seduced into sin or self-trust and staying settled in Christ. It’s keeping his word (Rev. 3:8), his deeds (Rev. 2:26), his faith (Rev. 2:13), and the word of his perseverance (Rev. 3:10). In short, it is walking in the same manner Jesus walked (1 John 2:6), which is in total dependence on the Father (John 5:19).
We who know the truth (2 John 1:1) walk in truth because the Truth abides in us (2 John 1:2). We walk in the light because Jesus the Light lives in us (John 8:12).
(c) We have received commandment. In the old covenant, people obeyed the laws of Moses to become acceptable to God; in the new, we trust and obey our Father because we know how much he loves us. The love and grace of verse 3, precede the walking in truth and obedience of verse 4.
(d) The commandment to walk in truth is analogous to the commandment to believe in Jesus (1 John 3:23). John is essentially saying, “I was very glad to hear your people are continuing in the grace of God.” John had personal experience with busy churches that had wandered from their first love (Rev. 2:4). This wasn’t one of those.
(e) The Father; see entry for 2 John 1:3.
2 John 1:5
Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.
(a) Lady. John does not use the patronizing “dear lady” as some translations have it. He calls her kyria, which is the feminized version of kyrios, a word meaning lord or master. The recipient of his letter was an important woman, a VIP. Was she a noble woman or a benefactor like Phoebe (Rom. 16:1)? Was she a church leader like Nympha and Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11, Col. 4:15)? We can only guess. But there seems little doubt that she was a woman of some influence within the church.
(b) A new commandment. John reminds the lady about the new commandment the church received from Jesus, namely the command to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This new commandment is sometimes referred to as the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21, Gal. 6:2).
Jesus was once asked to name the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus replied that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt. 22:36-38). Note that this is the greatest commandment in the law. Under the law-keeping covenant, the flow was from you to the Lord (Deut. 6:5, 10:12). You loved God because it was a law that came with consequences. But in the new covenant of grace, we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Jesus laid down his life for all. When we receive his great love, we are empowered to love others as we love ourselves. This is why Jesus referred to the law of Christ as a new commandment (John 13:34).
(c) The beginning, meaning the commandment they heard from the beginning of their association with Christ. Although it is a new commandment, it is not news to her. See also the entry for 1 John 1:1.
(d) We don’t love one another because it is a law that must be obeyed, as though we were still under the old covenant. Rather, we are able to love one another because we have received the love and grace of the Father that is revealed to us through the Son (2 John 1:3). We are able to love others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). See also the entry for 1 John 3:11.
2 John 1:6
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.
(a) This is love. Love is not merely a sermon or a sonnet; love is something we reveal by our actions (1 John 3:18). Love is preferring one another, seeking the best for them, and even laying down our lives for them (1 John 3:16).
(b) That we walk according to his commandments. John is not preaching the commands of Moses but the commands of Jesus. “Do what Jesus said.”
The commands of Moses are hard and heavy (Act 15:10), but the commands of Jesus are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). Moses instructed the children of Israel to keep all the laws of the old covenant, but Jesus instructs the children of God to love one another (John 13:34, 15:12, 17). Just as the followers of Moses are recognized by their love for the law, the disciples of Jesus are known by their love for one another (John 13:35).
(c) The new commandment to love one another (2 John 1:5) is an expression of the Father’s commandment to believe in his Son Jesus (1 John 3:23). The former is the fruit of the latter.
(d) The beginning; see entry for 1 John 1:1.
(e) Walk in it means love one another with the love that God gave you (1 John 4:19).
2 John 1:7
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
(a) Deceivers are false teachers, false prophets and those with an antichrist spirit who deny that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22) or has come in the flesh (2 John 1:7) or is the Son of God (1 John 5:10)? John’s warnings were justified because the early church was plagued by many deceivers, many antichrists, and many false prophets (1 John 2:18, 4:1).
(b) Gone out into the world. Deceivers left the church community because they never belonged (1 John 2:19). The world was their home and those in the world listened to them (1 John 4:5).
(c) Those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. Some false teachers went around saying that the Messiah had not come in the physical form of a man. John reminded us that he had touched Jesus with his hands (1 John 1:1).
(d) An antichrist spirit is one that denies Jesus is the Christ or that he has come from God in the form of a man (see entry for 1 John 2:18).
2 John 1:8
Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.
(a) Watch yourselves. Beware of deceivers who draw people to themselves and away from Jesus. John’s warnings about false teachers and false prophets echo those given by Paul (2 Cor. 11:13), Peter (2 Pet. 2:1), and Jude (Jude 1:4).
(b) What we have accomplished. John, the chosen lady and her children had sowed the good seed by preaching the gospel. His concern was that false people would undermine what they had done.
(c) You may receive a full reward meaning spiritual offspring. Just as fish are a fisherman’s reward, spiritual children are the reward for those who labor in the gospel. Both the elder and the lady had led people to Jesus. John’s concern was that some might be led astray by deceivers (2 John 1:7). He tells us how to recognize these deceivers in verse 9 and how to deal with them in verse 10. See also the entry for 1 Cor. 3:14.
2 John 1:9
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.
(a) Anyone who goes too far that they go beyond Christ has missed the mark. Christ is the first step and the only step, the journey and the destination. Everything that needed to be done to make you holy, righteous, and acceptable to God was accomplished by Jesus. Anything we might add to his sacrifice only detracts from his finished work.
(b) Does not abide or dwell in the good news of Christ. Some read this as a threat to the believer’s salvation, as in, “fail to continue in the teaching of Christ and you will no longer have God.” But John is talking about deceivers who “do not acknowledge Jesus Christ” (2 John 1:7). He is describing false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, rather than believers (1 John 4:1).
(c) The teaching of Christ is the gospel or good news of Jesus, the Son of God. This gospel declares the unconditional love of your heavenly Father (1 John 4:9, 19), the complete forgiveness of all your sins (1 John 1:7, 2:2, 10), and the invitation to live in eternal fellowship or union with Jesus (1 John 1:3, 4:9).
(d) Does not abide in the teaching of Christ. Instead of abiding or making their home in the message of Christ, some move on to empty philosophy and dead religion. They embrace another gospel (Gal. 1:8) effectively preaching another Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4).
(e) The one who abides or makes their home in the message of Jesus will not be distracted by those who “go too far” and tempted to add dead works to grace. John is repeating Jesus’ exhortation to: “Abide in me” (John 15:4). See also the entry for 1 John 2:6.
(f) Has both the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son are a package deal.
The religious Jews of the first-century believed in God, but they did not receive the Son he sent. John makes it plain that you can’t have one without the other (1 John 2:23).
2 John 1:10
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;
(a) This teaching meaning the teaching or gospel of Christ (2 John 1:9).
(b) Do not receive him into your house. Don’t welcome false prophets and don’t give them a platform.
Some interpret John’s words as “Don’t invite sinners to your home,” but Jesus was a friend of sinners. Jesus came to seek and save the lost and we don’t represent him well by shutting our doors in their faces. John is talking about false prophets and false teachers who are preaching an antichrist message (2 John 1:7). “Distance yourself from such people.” Inviting such people to stay in your home at a time when the church met in people’s homes, was tantamount to giving them an endorsement.
(c) Do not greet him as a believer because he is not a believer. Do not introduce or endorse a false teacher in any way.
2 John 1:11
for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
In other words, have nothing to do with those preaching an antichrist message. Again, John is not talking about unbelievers in general, but false teachers and deceivers (2 John 1:7). In a post-truth world, we have a high tolerance for people who see things differently from us. But John was not afraid to draw lines in the sand. Truth is divisive (Matt. 10:34).
2 John 1:12
Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.
(a) I have many things to write to you. John had much to say about Jesus. John once said, “If all the deeds of Jesus were written down, the world could not contain all the books” (John 21:25).
(b) I do not want to do so with paper and ink. Why was John a reluctant writer (3 John 1:13)? Was it on account of his old age or a shortage of papyrus? Was he worried about the censorship of an oppressive government? Most likely he just preferred face to face conversation. “I hope to come to you and speak face to face.”
(c) So that your joy may be made full. “Our joy” may be a better translation. John is already glad (2 John 1:4). He wants the chosen lady to be glad too.
2 John 1:13
The children of your chosen sister greet you.
The children or spiritual offspring.
Chosen. The original word (eklektos) is used to describe believers or the elect or those chosen by God (Col. 3:12).
“Many are called, but few are chosen,” said Jesus (Matt. 22:14). God’s call goes out to all but not all respond. Those who respond to the call of God are called the elect or the chosen. “For you are a chosen generation” (1 Pet. 2:9). In a manner of speaking, the chosen choose themselves. But since the Lord initiates the call, it’s accurate to say we are God’s chosen (Rom. 8:33, Eph. 1:4, 2 Th. 2:13, 2 Tim. 2:10).
Your chosen sister. This letter begins with a greeting to a chosen lady and it closes with a greeting from a chosen sister. In a generic sense, chosen means believer. In context, both women were spiritual mothers or leaders within the church because they had raised up spiritual offspring.
Can women lead in the church? If we are to take the scriptures as our final authority, the answer can only be a resounding yes. In the New Testament, where pastors are generally not named, as many as six pastors were women, including the two chosen women of 2 John.
Further reading: “Women pastors in the Bible”
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- 2 John 1:1
- 2 John 1:2
- 2 John 1:3
- 2 John 1:4
- 2 John 1:5
- 2 John 1:6
- 2 John 1:7
- 2 John 1:8
- 2 John 1:9
- 2 John 1:10
- 2 John 1:11
- 2 John 1:12
- 2 John 1:13