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The Book of 2 John

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The Book of 2 John
Commentary by Ron Beckham

The letter called 2 John was likely written from Ephesus; in about 90 A.D.

Verse 1. "The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth,"

The "elder" is John the beloved Apostle, the formerly young man (a "son of thunder") who leaned against Jesus during the Last Supper. The "lady and her children" are not identified, though they may have been individuals who lived at that time. Another likely explanation is that John addressed the Church, sometimes described in the feminine (in places such as 2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelations 21:2,9, etc.), and the Church may well be the reference here.

John would have been quite old at this time and may well have been the last person alive to have personally seen the risen Christ. As a youth he had personally met the One who is "the truth" (John 14:6). He also saw and touched Jesus after His resurrection (1 John 1:1). John is a man we should listen to for he personally looked at and heard the Lord. He loved the people of Christ, and we should learn from him. Even more than becoming adept at studying Scripture, we need to love one another.

Verse 2. "for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:"

Because Christ (who is the truth) is in us, we are to be true. No more hidden agendas, no more secret thoughts that differ from our outward "walk" - we must be true. Faithful to His word, and true to the Spirit He has lavished upon and within us. We must be a people of truth, and yet this must not be expressed in mere literalism, lest we end up like the precise and correct Ephesians, who were told by Jesus, "you have left your first love" (Revelation 2:4). We must trust in Him and not in our "cleverness" with religious ideas.

The "truth" of this world will not last, for "truth" is often flung into the faces of other people, as an expression of hidden anger. Our eyes are on eternity and not on our personal agendas. Paul, in this regard, cautioned us that we should be "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:14) and not by some "cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive" (Ephesians 4:13). Our motive must be to bring others to Christ and build up those in need.

Verse 3. "Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love."

Whether this letter was addressed to a particular lady (verse 1) or was sent to a Church or a group of Churches does not matter, because it has been sent by the Holy Spirit of God to Churches and individuals for the past 2,000 years. We receive this letter and we receive these greetings, not only from John (who we will meet someday) but also from God's Holy Spirit (Who we can meet right now).

The Spirit tells us of the Father and the Son, who have given us grace (unmerited favor with God), mercy (forgiveness we did not earn or deserve), and peace (the laying down of any animosity between man and God). Jesus Christ is indeed the Son (of God the Father), and He is the birthday present given to you and to me, in truth and in love. We deserve nothing because this (human) race has been in rebellion against God from the beginning, and yet we are given EVERYTHING in Christ Jesus. Such love as we never even thought about is ours today.

Verse 4. "I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father."

This particular verse is very helpful for it is an introductory statement about something mankind has questioned since the beginning of time. Pilate asked the question for the rest humanity, when he shrugged at Jesus and asked the words, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). In that same verse, we find that Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, for "I find no fault in Him." Indeed, there is no fault in Jesus, and when we question whether He is the "truth", we demonstrate our lack of personal relationship with God the Father.

But to know Jesus, as we shall see in the next verse, is much more than simply intellectual assent or a theological awareness about a person in history. This is a personal encounter with the love of God expressed in Christ Jesus, resulting in the imparting of His love to people just like you and me. As we shall see, we can be changed by God in Christ. No more do we need to be "right" whether in religion, politics, or whatever. We can know Him who is the truth and when we do, we will be made new, by and through our Lord.

Verse 5. "Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another."

We should not be surprised at the commandments of God. There were many of them, of which ten have been highlighted since the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20). Jesus was asked which of all the commandments are the most important, and He surprised them with Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:5, which instruct us to "love God" and "love (our) neighbor". Jesus was asked "who is my neighbor?" at one point and He responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), teaching us that our "neighbor" is anybody we see that is in need.

Since everybody in the world has unfulfilled need, we are ALL neighbors and we have an affirmative duty to love others at least as much as we care for ourselves. Reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, we see a person who abandoned all his plans just because someone else (a stranger of a different religion) had a need. John wrote to a lady (a person or a Church - see verse 1) and told her something "she" already knew - that loving another person (as the Holy Spirit leads us) is infinitely better than any other act we might ever perform on this earth.

Verse 6. "And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it."

J. Vernon McGee often used the expression "this is where the rubber meets the road", and indeed it is one thing to know about love and the commandments of God, and it is another thing to do that which we are commanded. We are to walk in love. We have only one sword, and that is the "sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). This is a gentle sword, which does not harm the person physically at all, but instead enters the spirit of the person and draws them to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

The Good Samaritan mentioned in the previous verse (Luke 10:29-37), is a case in point. Here was a man of the Samaritan religious belief system who helped a Jew he did not know. (Hints about what Samaritans believed can be seen in a Samaritan woman's statements to Jesus; John 4:1-26). The Jewish man in the parable had been beaten by thieves and left to die. The Samaritan gave his time, his money, his transportation device (an animal), and his medicines (oil and wine were medicines of the day), to someone who traditionally was his enemy. Jesus says to us "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37).

Verse 7. "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist."

This verse is a warning to those of us who are in the Church. The point in this verse is not to either avoid or attack those who do not acknowledge Jesus, but instead we are to be warned about their practices. The key phrase is "Jesus Christ… in the flesh". We are to understand that Jesus is not only a man, but He is also God the Son, the anointed one of God, expected for centuries by those who longed for Him. We are to see that He is the truth and we are to trust in Him. He IS the Son of God and we can only be saved through Him.

To simply be AGAINST those who believe differently than we do is to miss the point. We are FOR Christ and will promote Him at all times as the Spirit leads us, for the benefit of those in need. Note there are countries here on earth where it is an illegal act to tell others about Jesus. We must pray for our brothers and sisters who reside in such places. The ultimate love is to give Jesus Christ to another person, and yet there is often great danger to the giver of that Gift.

Jesus Christ is love. His opposite, the spirit of antichrist, is utterly without love. If our Lord is in us, we will find love for one another.

Verse 8. "Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward."

There is always the temptation to pull back and never mention our Lord. "What will people think of me?" is common. And yet, there is something greater than your personal comfort and mine. The "full reward" of God is found in responding to the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God and doing His will, no matter where He takes you in life. To follow Him is reward in itself. John the Apostle and the others accomplished much when they went "everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4).

The instruction to them, just like it is for us, is to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). Sometimes we may lose our lives when we "Go" in His name. Other times we will not. But the key to life is Jesus Christ, and He is greater than religion, greater than our philosophies, and greater than our personal need. This is seen in His concluding words, "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). He is WITH you and me.

Verse 9. "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son."

The one who "goes too far" refers to those who leave Scripture behind and profess to have some extra-Biblical knowledge that makes them feel superior. The Bible is very simple. In the Word of God we find the biographies of hundreds of people, of whom many came to know the Lord, and it also speaks about those who did not want Him. It reveals humankind to us, and His Word tells us of God who made heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1), including you and me.

There are those who insist we need "other books" in order to understand God. It’s not such a bad idea to look at them. I have read much of the Koran, the Vedas, the Book of Mormon, and other literature, and all they did was draw me closer to the Bible, the Word of God. "Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105) is both a promise and a joy to those who love His word. And if we abide in the teachings of this Word, we discover to our delight, that we find "both the Father and the Son."

Verse 10. "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;"

This verse directly goes to those who distort Scripture, especially about our Lord (verse 9). In general it is not wise to surround ourselves with non-Christians, on the ground that we are weak and tend to develop the habits of those around us. Paul gave us such a caution in 2 Corinthians 6:14, a verse we have heard often: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers…" So our decisions in marriage and business to become partners with non-believers should be preceded by caution and a lot of prayer.

This advice is followed by a lot of Christians, and statistics do show (as we recently heard from a Christian educator), that "the typical Christian loses all meaningful relationships with non-Christians, within two years after becoming a Christian." This is interesting and we should note, as is discussed in the next verse that Jesus was well-known for having close relationships with those considered undesirable by this world.

Verse 11. "for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds."

This verse reflects the danger of closely associating with those who distort the teachings about our Lord. We can become like them. As noted in the previous verse, however, Jesus, our model for all that we do, often caused consternation for His disciples, who were sometimes asked questions like, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?" (Matthew 9:11). We are not Jesus, we are just people, and indeed we can fall because of our associations.

With one exception – we are to follow the Holy Spirit of God in our decisions and in our associations. Note the whole context of this Chapter, that the persons we are to avoid are actually conscious deceivers (false Christians), rather than those who are merely ignorant about our Lord. We should follow Jesus’ advice when He says "Abide in Me" (John 15:4), and when we do, we won’t need to worry about following the example of those we associate with. We will instead be following Him.

Verse 12. "Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full."

The people who were receiving this letter, whoever they were, loved this man, John the beloved Apostle. And he loved them, which is obvious by his statement "so that your joy may be made full." To really love someone is to delight in them, to be pleased by their victories, to be happy when they do well, and to be glad when you can do something for them.

If you’ve ever thought about it, you and I are going to bring precisely this very pleasure to John the Apostle. His words have been "paper and ink" to us, but those same words have also changed our lives for the better, and there is a time when we will speak to him, "face to face". This will be soon, and our joy will be made full. We will see Jesus, and we will meet people like Moses, Elijah, John, and Paul.

Verse 13. "The children of your chosen sister greet you."

The "children of your chosen sister" are likely the Churches of another area. Or, the reference may be to a literal woman, the sister of the woman addressed in the first verse. It does not matter. The reality is that we are to GREET one another in Christ Jesus. We do more than just nod and say "hello," because we actually become drawn to PRAY and care for those who may like us or they may not. We pray for their success in life and with our Lord. We pray for their well being, and in prayer for them, we will come to love that other person.

God bless you.
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