We feel certain that the author of this epistle is the apostle John, chiefly because of the likeness of the style and the subject matter, comparing it with 1 John. Read 2 John 5-9 and then 1 John 2:7,8 and 1 John 3:23.
The epistle is address not to a church, but to a certain woman and her children. We should not think this so unusual, for in Christ there is neither male nor female; they are both one in him. Think of the Lord's special attention to and care of certain women; the Samaritan woman, Mary and Martha, the woman with the issue, the Syrophenician and others. After his resurrection he appeared to a woman and sent her to tell the disciples that he was alive. Think of Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, Esther, Dorcas, Lydia, Priscilla, Lois and Eunice. No wonder that the Lord was pleased to honour and distinguish by divine grace a certain woman by addressing to her an apostolic epistle!
v.1. "The elder." Some think that John was nearly a hundred years old, having outlived all the other apostles. He may be referring to his office or to his age. The term fits both.
"To the elect lady and her children." It is futile to try to give her a name or to decide if she is a widow. We know no more about her than the Word tells us. She is one of God's elect, chosen by his grace to life eternal (Matt. 24:31; Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:4). Evidently her children were grown up, had made a profession of the truth and walked in it (v4).
John expresses his sincere and heartfelt love for them and adds, "All who know them and recognize and understand the truth as it is in Christ love them." The believer has love for all people, but he has a special love for those who are in the family of faith (Gal. 6:10; Titus 3:15). The ground for the love and respect paid to this lady and her children by the apostle and all who knew them was their regard for the truth! Those who love the truth will love it in others.
v.2. The word "truth" occurs five times in the first four verses. It refers both to Christ and to the doctrine of Christ, for they cannot be separated! Truth to John was not mere facts or a theory about Christ, but Christ himself! (John 14:6; 4:24; 8:32; 18:37). Christ dwells in us and shall be with us for ever. The word of Christ dwells in us, an inward principle of grace (John 17:17; 15:4-7).
v.3. This is the same salutation used by other apostles (1 Tim. 1:2; Rom 1:7), only it is added here, with respect to Christ, that he is the Son of God. This was a special issue to John and he dealt with it frequently in all his writings (John 1:1; 10:30; 1 John 1:3,7; 4:2,15).
"In truth and love." John is called by some "the apostle of love." These two words ("truth" and "love") occur repeatedly in this epistle. They are noble and natural companions which cannot be separated on earth any more than in heaven. God is light (truth) and God is love. In the family of believers they ought to be united. Truth without love becomes stern, cold and even cruel; love without truth (if it were possible) would be unstable and without foundation.
v.4. It brought great joy to the heart of the apostles to find the children of this dear woman walking (living day by day) in a continual, progressive spirit, attitude and conversation which revealed that Christ was in them. They not only professed to know Christ, but their conduct and conversation revealed a living union with Christ. This is the commandment we have received from the Father (Micah 6:8; 1 John 3:18).
v.5. This is almost identical with 1 John 2:7,8. John refers probably to the words of Christ in John 13:34. This is no new commandment in the sense that it has been formulated and brought recently into effect: Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever, and his gospel, commandments and teachings are the same. But this commandment to love one another is newly explained by him and purged from the error of the Pharisees. it is newly exemplified by Christ in his love for us. It is newly enforced by the argument, "How can we love God and not love one another? How can we be in Christ and not be like Christ?"
v.6. The love which this commandment requires is an active, obedient love. Warm feelings toward God or toward men are worthless unless they are united with truth on one hand and obedience on the other (Matt 7:24; James 2:14-17). This is the will (or commandment) of God, that his people walk in love (guided by it and practicing it).Top Of This Page
v.7. "Many deceivers have gone out into the world." John is referring to false teachers and preachers, who are described by their character and work. They are seducers who cause others to go astray. They pretend to be ministers of the Word, to have a love for truth, to be concerned for men's souls and to have a view of the glory of God. But they handle the Word deceitfully. They are impostors (1 John 2:18; Matt.7:15,16; 2 Peter 2:1-3).
The chief error of these impostors is their denial of the person and work of Christ. They profess to believe in Christ as a prophet, teacher, healer or even a messenger from God, but they deny that he is God incarnate! They deny that the divine Word was made flesh and dwelt among us! (1 John 4:1-3; John 1:14; Isa. 9:6). All who deny that Jesus Christ is God are deceivers and anti-Christ (John 10:30-33; Matt. 1:21-23).
v.8. This is an exhortation to the elect lady and her children to look about them, be aware of this error, take care of themselves and beware of these false teachers and their doctrines (2 Cor. 11:1-4).
"Don't lose those things (or throw away all) that we have laboured for, and in the process lose your own soul." If we depart from the gospel of Christ, there remains no sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:26; 6:4-6). Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). If we are not redeemed in him, we have no life or hope (Gal. 4:4,5). Persevere in the faith of Christ until we are made like him; this is our full reward (Heb. 3:6,14; Col. 1:19-23).
v9. "Whosoever transgresseth." Not the law of God, of which everyone is a transgressor daily in thought, word and deed, but the person who denies the doctrine of Christ, the Messiah, has not, knows not and believes not God.
1. His person as the Son of God, as truly God, and the union of the two natures divine and human, in one person.
2. His offices as Mediator, Surety, Prophet, Priest and King.
3. His redemptive work his obedience, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension.4. His return to judge and to reign.
This is the doctrine of King Messiah, the doctrine of redemption and eternal glory. The man who abides in the truth of Christ has both the Father and the Son. He has an interest in them and a knowledge of them (John 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13).
v.10. "If there comes to your church or your home (under the character of a preacher, teacher, or a religious leader) one who does not preach this doctrine but despises and denies it, do not allow him to preach in the house of God and do not entertain him in your home" (Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:8,9).
"Neither bid him God speed." Do not give the false teacher the usual civil form of salutation, as Good day," "All hail," "Health and prosperity," or "God bless you." Do not encourage him or give him the impression that you are sympathetic with him, for it could mislead others to think favorably of him.
v.11. Those who wish false teachers well, who encourage them, or who converse with them in a friendly and familiar way instead of reproving them and shunning them as they ought, are aiding and abetting them, supporting them in their attacks on Christ and can be considered partakers in their evil deeds.
v.12. "Although I have many things to write to you and to declare unto you, I prefer not to do so with paper and ink. I hope to visit you and talk with you personally, so that our joy may be complete."
There is a great value in writing to believers and communicating in various ways, but nothing replaces personal fellowship, exhortation and encouragement (Heb. 10:24,25; 3:13; Col. 3:16).
v.13. "The children of your sister, who is also one of God's elect, chosen ones, wish to be remembered to you." Evidently her sister's children lived near the apostle and knew of this letter to her.