Second John is the shortest book in the New Testament at 13 verses. In ancient days the entire book would have fit onto one papyrus. The first letter of John elaborated the principles of continuing in the truth, loving fellow believers, and watching out for false teachers. This letter gives us an example of applying these principles to a specific situation. The letter is written to a dear lady or the chosen lady. This many refer to a particular Christian woman and her family, to a specific individual, or to a female leader of a house church. It is also possible this is a reference to a sister church in a nearby town. In this case the “children of your chosen sister” would refer to the members of another local church. During the first two centuries the gospel was spread by traveling evangelists and teachers. Since inns were not readily available, believers usually took these missionaries into their own homes and supplied them with provisions for their journey when they were about to leave. John asked his readers to refuse hospitality to false teachers moving about among the churches who did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. As you read this brief letter notice John’s emphasis on truth and love. Also note his warning about false teachers and deceivers. Here are three themes to watch for! The first is false teaching. By now you have seen this theme and warning several times. False teachers were a huge problem in the early church, but it is also a big problem today. We see it in some famous and influential preachers on television. This letter cautions Christians against the same false teaching John opposed in his first letter. The second theme is truth. This is a major theme in John’s writings. He mentioned it 52 times in his gospel and 22 times in his three short letters. The third is love. Like 1 John this letter emphasizes the command to love one another. This is the test of the true believer. John’s command to love does not contradict his directive to refuse hospitality to false teachers because issues of truth are way too important to compromise.
John mentioned truth four times in the first three verses and once more in verse four. This letter is from John the elder. This may mean he served in the Ephesian church as an elder. It could also mean John was old and was using elder as a term of authority to lend credibility to his writing. There is scholarly debate about the chosen lady with many scholars leaning toward this ”lady” as a local church and it’s believers. John professes love for this lady. He loves her in the truth which probably means a love between those who profess the same truth about Christ. This would be in contrast to the lies of the false teachers. John emphasized the pronoun I to contrast sharply with the lovelessness of the false teachers who rejected the true church. Christian love is rooted in knowing the truth. The truth that lives in us is more than just facts and doctrine. It is the presence of God who will be with us forever.
Verses 4-11 is where John applied the truth and love that he mentioned in the introduction, to the readers situation. Living in truth and love means maintaining fellowship with true Christians. It is also discerning false teachers and refusing to listen to them or help them. John is writing to remind believers but John really means he is urging these believers. There is a sense of great urgency here. Love here is both a command and an action and the command is that we are called to love one another. Already there were many deceivers and false teachers. They were a dime a dozen. There were docetists who denied that Jesus Christ came in a real body. John refuted this in his first letter too. John reminded them that false teachers were deceivers because they mislead unwary believers. They were also considered to be antichrists because they distracted and lead people away from the true Christ. By using the apocalyptic symbol of antichrist John signaled the severity of the heresy and the ultimate judgement on the false teachers. In verse eight the “we” refers to the apostles and their co-workers. The apostles taught the truth and defended it against heresies. And believers, referred to as “you” are admonished to protect their faith from teaching that could destroy them.
John warned that anyone who wandered away from the teachings of the apostles, who believed things the apostles did not teach, had moved far away from God and therefore had no relationship with Him. He cautioned that believers should not invite the false teachers…the ones who do not teach the truth about Christ, into their homes. The early churches met in homes so these false teachers were not to be invited in lest they would begin teaching false things. John didn’t want the believers offering these false teachers hospitality of any kind either. The only way to deal with them was to not accept them into the fellowship. Those who chose to listen, provide hospitality, or invited them to teach would become a partner in their evil work. John did not mince words here. This is just a fragment of what John had to say to these believers but he decided to wait until he could visit them and they could talk face to face. That would make his joy complete. Our relationship with Christ is not just a private experience. We experience the fullest joy in harmony and fellowship with other believers. John’s final greeting here is from the children of your sister. This is most likely a greeting from the church in Ephesus and it’s members with whom John was staying. John lived in that region and cared for several churches.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W