2 John 1:1 The elder, To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth.
The author of this letter is not identified, but is widely believed to be the Apostle John. The style is similar to the Gospel of John, as well as to First John. This letter was probably written around AD 90 to combat the false teaching that Jesus was not truly human. It is not clear who the recipients were, but they may have been members of a church that met in the house of a Christian woman (2 John 1:1, 13). This letter is so brief that it resembles a personal note.
2 John 1:4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.
As an apostle of Jesus Christ, John defended true Christianity against false Christianity. He was so concerned for the truth that he used the word five times in the first four verses. It was not enough for John’s readers to be sincere; they had to be sincerely right. Christianity is not one option among many; it is the truth of God that leads to eternal life.
2 John 1:7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.
If Satan cannot eliminate Christianity, he will try to mix it with error. The error John was combating came to be known as docetism. It is the idea that spirit is good, and matter is evil. Since Jesus was good, his physical body must not have been real. But having spent time with Jesus, John knew for a fact that he was an actual, flesh and blood, physical human being.
John fought against the idea that Jesus was not truly human, but today it is more common to believe that he was not truly divine. The biblical doctrine of Christ was formally defined by the council of Chalcedon in AD 451. The council taught that Jesus is one person, with two natures, truly human and truly divine.
These two natures were not blended to make a third, nor can they be separated. This means that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human forever. The concept cannot be understood completely, but it is faithful to what the Bible teaches about the person of Jesus Christ.
2 John 1:8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.
Salvation is a gift from God to all who believe (John 3:16), and it cannot be earned (Ephesians 2:8-9). But all who believe in Jesus Christ will be rewarded for their service. My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done (Revelation 22:12), said Jesus. John wanted his readers to keep doing their best, so they would be rewarded fully.
The story is told of a carpenter, who was getting ready to retire, and was given his final project—a small but nice home. Since this was his final job, he did something out of character: the sloppiest work of his career. On the day of his retirement his boss surprised him with a generous gift. It was the key to the home he just built. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will have a home in heaven, but only those who serve him fully will be rewarded fully.
2 John 1:10-11 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.
Early Christian preachers traveled from place to place, depending on local believers for lodging and support. We ought . . . to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth (3 John 1:8), wrote John. But false teachers were doing the same thing, so John forbad welcoming them, lest we [share] in their wicked work. This does not forbid courtesy, or religious conversation, but it does forbid supporting a false religion.
Few believers give lodging to false teachers today, but many give money to schools they once attended, even if those schools contradict the Bible. But any organization that contradicts the Bible is doing a wicked work, and should not be supported by Christians. The most important work for Christians to support is the promotion of the truth.
3 John 1:1 The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
Like the letters of First and Second John, the author of this letter is not identified. He is widely believed to be the Apostle John, however, due to similarities with the Gospel of John. First, Second and Third John were likely written around AD 90, and sent off together. First John was to be read in various churches, while Second and Third John each had a more specific audience.
3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
John was referring to Gaius, who was likely using his home to offer hospitality to traveling missionaries, who were sent out by the Apostle John. They returned to John with a good report about Gaius, which brought joy to the aging apostle.
John’s greatest joy was to know that his spiritual children were walking in the truth, and the greatest joy of Christian parents is to know their natural children walk in the truth. Nothing is more important to a godly mom or dad than knowing their children follow Jesus Christ. And nothing offers greater comfort if a child dies.
The parents of nine year old boy were nearly inconsolable when he suddenly died of an illness. But as they cleaned his room, they found a small New Testament in the pocket of his pants. Inside the front cover were three little words in their son’s handwriting: I love God. Nothing in the world could have brought them greater joy, because there is no greater joy than knowing that our children walk in the truth.
3 John 1:9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.
As an apostle of Jesus Christ, John had the responsibility of guiding various churches. Many met in homes, and would have been thrilled by an apostolic visit. But Diotrephes led a church, and he refused to receive the Apostle John. He was spreading malicious nonsense (3 John 1:9) about John, and Diotrephes excommunicated whoever disagreed with him (3 John 1:10). His dictatorial style was destroying the very church he was trying to lead.
Christians ought to understand that churches do not belong to the leaders, or to the pastor, or to the one with the strongest personality. Jesus bought the church with his own blood, and it belongs to him alone (Acts 20:28). Good and godly leaders are a gift to any church, and ought to be obeyed (Hebrews 13:17). But leaders who govern the church for themselves mislead God’s people, and do more harm than good.
Reflection and Review
Have you ever believed a false teaching?
How can we be fully rewarded?
Should we always obey our pastor?