2 John — Fatherly Advice to a Woman and Her Family
Only a single chapter long, 2 John is another memo written by an important leader in the early church to address a matter of concern with a follower of Christ. The author of this epistle identified himself simply as, “the Elder.” Although there is no other concrete evidence to suggest that it was written by John, the brother of James and son of Zebedee, the similarity in style, vocabulary and other details closely resemble those of John’s Gospel, 1 John and Revelation, wherein John identified himself as the author. [Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts © 1996, by Thomas Nelson, Inc., p. 473].
Bible scholars estimate that the letter was written about the same time as 3 John—around A.D. 90—most likely from his headquarters in Ephesus. It is addressed anonymously “To the elect lady and her children.” Some experts insist this designated a particular, though unnamed, woman and her family; others say it was a coded reference to an entire congregation. Although brief—a mere thirteen verses long—the letter is still relevant today in its warnings against false teachers.
2 John Chapter 1
As mentioned above, John opened his epistle by identifying himself only as “The elder.” (2 John 1:1). By the time this letter was written, John was likely the oldest still-living member of the original Twelve Apostles, since (according to Fox’s Book of Martyrs) the others had all been killed for their faith by the end of the first century, A.D. He said to the “chosen lady and her children,” that he and “all those who know the truth” truly loved her.
Regarding that truth, John indicated that it is something that “remains in us, and it will be with us forever” (v. 2). The Greek word, menousan, translated in the World English Bible and some other versions as “remains,” can also mean “abides,” “continues,” “dwells,” “endures,” or “stands.” In the third verse, John gave the traditional blessing of “Grace, mercy, and peace…from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” along with the added identification of Jesus as “the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”
John expressed his joy at having “found some of your children walking in truth” (4). There is no specific mention of others of the woman’s children (or members of the congregation, if this was secretly addressed to a church) not doing so. He then begged her, referring to the woman as “dear lady,” to “love one another,” as followers of Christ had been commanded “from the beginning” (5). It was John the Beloved, in the gospel that bears his name, who first quoted Christ as giving the commandment three times that His disciples should love one another (See John 13:34, 15:12 & 17). Just as he also quoted Jesus in John 14:15 and 21, the aged disciple indicated in 2 John 1:6 that to love God was to “walk according to his commandments.”
In verse seven, John broached the subject which appears to be his main reason for writing this letter. He said, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who don’t confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.” He was most likely referring to the gnostics—a group not unlike modern humanists—who denied that Jesus was any more than an enlightened human being, rather than the Son of God. John went so far as to call these people antichrists. He then warned the woman and those affiliated with he to watch themselves, “that we don’t lose the things which we have accomplished, but that we receive a full reward” (1 John 1:8).
John asserted that anyone who doesn’t remain/continue/dwell/abide/endure/stand “in the teaching of Christ, doesn’t have God,” while the person who does live according to Christ’s teaching “has both the Father and the Son” (v. 9). He warned that she should not welcome anyone who comes to her teaching anything other than the doctrine communicated by Jesus or His disciples, since to do so is to participate in that false teacher’s evil deeds (10-11).
In closing, John indicated that he had more to say, but he preferred to communicate in person, rather than by letter (12). Cryptically, he concluded with greetings from “The children of your chosen sister” (13). Whether this was the family of an actual person or a sister church, we are not told.
Just as in John’s day—and, perhaps, even more so—today we have so many counterfeit religions and teachings out in the world. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and other representatives of false teachings appear on our doorsteps, offering printed materials and other resources that deny Christ was the Son of God and the Son of Man. So-called Christian teachers twist the Scriptures and promote love of self, rather than love of God and others. Every day, church-goers are led astray by the latest “new revelation” shared by those who claim to know God but are really working against Him.
It is important now, as then, that followers of Christ familiarize themselves with the teachings of Scripture, so that they can recognize counterfeits. The only way to “walk in the truth” is to know it, and then obey it, as John exhorted us in his gospel and other writings. When people come sharing their beliefs, we need to listen carefully to what they are saying and compare it to the written Word of God. If anything does not ring true to Scripture, then politely correct the error. If the people you are talking to won’t listen, then it’s best not to continue to associate with them, so that you do not take part in their sin. I know these are not easy words to swallow in our ultra “tolerant” society. However, this is what one of Jesus’ most faithful servants wrote to the early church, so we would do well to take it to heart.
Quotations from Scripture are from the World English Bible (WEB), Public Domain