April 19, 2000
This book was probably a private letter to this lady and her family, and came to light after John's death and the death of the recipient.
It seems that he wrote this letter with his previous letter on his mind, for he covers the same ground as he did in 1 John. However, this letter is written more on a personal level. He continues the theme from 1 John, warning against the many deceivers who had already entered into the world. This book is probably written within 60 or so years after Christ, and already there were many deceivers undermining the truth of the gospel.
The Apostle John describes himself as The elder. He is not necessarily using the name of an office in the church, e.g., bishop, presbyter or elder, but referring to his advanced age. He is said to be over ninety years old at this point, and was the oldest of the apostles at his death. He is said to have been the only apostle to die a natural death.
Elect lady... This book is written to a woman, probably the only book so written. It shows us that there is no difference in between male and female in Christ. He also addresses her children. This lady may have been a widow
Love in the truth... The previous book emphasized Christian love. Here John tells this lady that he loves her in the truth. Christian love is toward one another because of the truth, Christ Jesus. The truth is to be the common ground of meeting for all Christians.
For the truth's sake, we must love one another. Though that "other" person may be as unloveable as anyone can be, we must love them, for the sake of the truth, Christ, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.
V. 3, is typical of the opening greetings by all the apostles' letters. Grace, mercy that is, free pardon and forgiveness and peace that is, "tranquillity of spirit and serenity of conscience, in an assured reconciliation with God, together with all safe and sanctified outward prosperity" (MH) come only from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Note that John emphasizes the Sonship of Christ.
"Grace " covers the sins of men; "mercy, " their miseries. Grace must first do away with man's guilt before his misery can be relieved by mercy. Therefore grace stands before mercy. Peace is the result of both, and therefore stands third in order. Casting all our care on the Lord, with thanksgiving, maintains this peace. (JFB)
V. 4, John rejoices in the fact that this lady's children are walking in truth, as commanded by the Father. Note that truth is the truth as defined, commanded, by the Father God establishes truth. Evidently, this godly lady had faithfully trained up her children in the Christian religion, and they were now following it. I found... the children were probably out on their own, and John had either seen them or heard about them and their faithful testimony.
There is no higher "praise" for parents than for their children to follow them in the truth of the gospel of Christ.
Also, there is no husband mentioned, as the letter is addressed to the elect lady and her children. So we see that children can be raised as godly children with no father in the home. I assume that the father is dead, and not divorced out of the home. A dead father is much easier to deal with than a divorced father.
John has made it clear that the lady is elect and the children are godly because of the grace, mercy and loving kindness of God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no higher cause for rejoicing for spiritual leaders than to know that children they have had an influence over continue to walk in the truth as they go out into the world.
Vv. 5, 6
And now John comes to the theme of his letter. He does not "exercise" his apostolic authority; rather, he pleads with the lady, I beseech thee.
And again, he does not claim any new commandment, nor did he claim a new commandment in 1 John, where he used almost identical words. The Apostle learned these words from the Saviour himself:
1 John 2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
Not only is love recommended, but it is the obligation of all Christians. Christian love is commanded, telling us that Christian love is not a natural thing, but something that must be worked at, prayed for, and that the Lord must build in his people despite their selfishness. (See 1 Thes. 4:9, 10.)
Love for ourselves, for others and for the Lord God is obedience to his divine commandments (MH):
John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Note that John continually defines love: And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.
1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
All the commandments of God are summed up in love love God and love our fellow man.
See my notes in 1 John.
The main message of this personal letter to the elect lady is the warning about the many deceivers that are entered into the world.
His warning is given in the context of Christian love. Thus the deceivers are corrupting the truth about love. He goes on to define the deceivers, and his definition is the same as it was in 1 John denial that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God himself incarnate in the flesh. He again points out that any person who denies the Christ is the promised Messiah is an antichrist.
And thus the common faith in Christ is the common ground for the proper love (MH), so when the proper Christian faith is corrupted, so is the proper love love becomes very self-centered and lustful without the proper faith.
John is again very firm about the point that the antichrist is basically any person who denies the office Christ filled as the only begotten Son of God. Yes, Hitler was antichrist, but not because of his evil deeds; he was antichrist because he denied Christ. According to the inspired Scriptures, the worse sin of all is the rejection of Christ, John 3:36. All who yet look for the Old Testament Messiah to come are antichrists.
V. 8, Look to yourselves. The more deceivers that are around, the more dangerous it is for God's people. Yourselves, and then he changes to we. He makes general statements, though directed to the elect lady.
John pleads, I beseech thee, with this lady to beware of the many deceivers who are entered into the world. He is concerned that the deceivers may rob her of her of the progress she had made in the Christian faith the grace, mercy and peace she has gained through her faith in Christ and the gospel. He did not warn her of losing her salvation; rather, he warned her of losing her peace and joy.
Those who profess Christ must be on guard that they do not lose what they have gained over the years. John makes it sound as though there is a serious danger of losing one's Christian growth. In other words, it does not take much to influence one to "backslide."
They have even tasted of the powers of the world to come, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and yet at last lose all. You did run well, who hindered you, that you should not obey (or not go on to obey) the truth? Sad it is that fair and splendid attainments in the school of Christ should all be lost at last. (MH)
We seems that John includes himself in the warning of faith being undermined receive a full reward. John seems to say here that one can lose his reward, though not his soul, by the influence of false teachers:
2 Timothy 1:13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
In other words, John says that the many deceivers are capable of robing us of our rewards if we listen to them. Implied is that one can lose his rewards that he worked so hard to lay up in heaven.
V. 9, the mark of the many deceivers that are entered into the world is their attitude toward the doctrine of Christ. The context tells us that one of the deceptions offered the believer is to compromise the doctrine of Christ, which includes telling us that the commandments are not for today. (John has already dealt with the commandment issue above and in 1 John.)
Without proper love for Christ, there is no love for Heavenly Father.
Vv. 10, 11
"True love is combined with hearty renunciation and separation from all that is false, whether persons or doctrines." (JFB)
Those who do not present the proper doctrine of Christ must not be "entertained as the ministers of Christ." (MH)
This lady may have been known for her generous hospitality, so John issues this warning to her. Only those who present the proper doctrine of Christ can be entertained in one's home as ministers. Obviously, this does not mean that one must be doctrinally sound to eat with, but we place our family at risk by welcoming those with corrupt doctrine into our homes. Equally obvious is that we are to show our love to the unsaved, but it must be done in such a way that our family knows we are not placing our approval upon their system of faith. We must be kind and helpful to everyone regardless of their belief, but that can be done without violating John's instructions.
"Deniers of the faith are destroyers of souls." (MH)
John's instruction to this lady shows us that women must also be sound enough in the doctrine of Christ that they can recognize false doctrine and protect their families.
Bid him God's speed. Implied here is that welcoming a deceiver into one's home encourages him in his false doctrine, and makes us a partaker in his evil deeds.
There are many ways of sharing the guilt of others evil deeds silence, private financial support, unconcern, &c.
Vv. 12, 13
John concludes this personal letter.
He had many more things to say, but he wanted to say them to her face rather than in a letter.
Some things are better spoken than written. We should work at keeping the lines of communication open, and that communication should be a source of joy to both parties.
The children of thy elect sister... Evidently the children are with him or in close contact with him, for he sends greetings to their aunt for them. Also evident is that the two sisters were both faithful Christians God called sisters to himself.