The Books of 2 John / 3 John – Part I

by The Doctor

You are the last remaining member of a small group of men who were chosen by Jesus to be His followers. Your name is John. The year is 90 A.D.

About 25 years earlier, the Roman Emperor decided to blame you and your fellow Christians for a large fire that totally destroyed large portions of the city of Rome. Anyone openly claiming to be a Christian has been in serious danger since then. At one point, the government arrested you and sent you away to a small island where they tried to kill you by boiling you in cauldron of hot oil. But somehow you miraculously escaped. Unfortunately, that was not the case for the others who were chosen along with you.

Your brother James has been gone now for almost 50 years, having been put to death by a governor who wanted to gain favor with some local religious leaders. It’s been reported that another member of your group died in India. Two others were crucified to death. All the rest are gone now too. Of all the apostles, you are now the last man standing.

Despite these things, you have never stopped working for God even though you are now over 90 years old. Today you find yourself in the town of Ephesus where you are helping to oversee the church that meets there.

And now, you sit alone in a room. You are seated at a wooden table where small flickering candle provides the only light available. In front of you is a piece of paper that was made from the dried strips of a marshy plant. To your right is a reed with a sharp point that you will use as a pen. A small dish of water mixed with powdered charcoal is ready to serve as your ink.

You dip the pointed end of the reed into the charcoal/water mixture and this is what you write…

“The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth-and not I only, but also all who know the truth- because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:  Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love” (2 John 1:1-3 NIV).

A little known fact about 2 John is that it is the only Biblical book that is addressed to a woman- the chosen lady spoken of in verse 1.

So who was this “chosen lady” that John is writing to? Well, it’s possible that John was writing to an individual person but it’s also possible that he was writing to a church too. You see, John wrote this letter during a time of serious persecution against Christians and it’s possible that he didn’t want to identify a particular person or church by name for fear of the authorities.

If John was writing to an individual then he is obviously speaking to a real person, her children and her actual sister (whom John will mention a little later in verse 13). On the other hand, if John was writing in code to a group of Christians, then the “chosen lady” becomes the church, her “children” are the individual members of the church and “the children of your chosen sister” in verse 13 is a secret way of referring to another local church.

“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us” (2 John 1:4 NIV).

It seems that John had visited some local churches and was happy to find people who were really serious about living God-honoring lives. But look closely at this verse again- “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth…” (emphasis added).

Does this suggest something to you? If not, then consider this: if John found some who were walking in the truth and living a lifestyle that showed love and respect for Jesus and His teachings, then it may also mean that there were others who weren’t. This is important because anyone who isn’t walking in Christ (who is “the truth” [John 14:6]), can only be walking in a lie. That’s a bad place to be.

“And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2 John 1:5-6 NIV).

Someone who loves God will do what He says, just as we read in the verse quoted above. Romans 13:10 also tells us that “Love does no wrong to anyone. That’s why it fully satisfies all of God’s requirements. It is the only law you need.” This means that anyone who follows God’s instructions to walk in love will always be doing what they should.

“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” (2 John 1:7 NIV).

The word “deceivers” used in the verse quoted above tells us something really important. You see, the people that John is speaking about weren’t just wrong or mistaken- they were actively trying to trick or deceive people into believing something that wasn’t true.

In this case, John is talking about those people who do not accept the Bible’s teaching that Jesus was a real human being. Since the Scriptures tell us that “…(T)he Word (speaking of Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 NKJ), anyone who says something different is not being honest about what the Bible really says.

“Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:8-9 NIV).

You should be careful of those who “run ahead” of what the Bible says and teach things that can’t be supported from the Scriptures. Like an athlete that runs off the track during a race and is disqualified, it’s also possible for someone to run so far “off the track” in their spiritual beliefs that they advance right out of what Christianity is really all about.

Here’s an example: there’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25 NIV). So far, so good, right?

OK, now let’s say that someone wants to justify a teaching that they can’t support from the Bible by saying, Well, this is just one of those “many other things” that Jesus did. Now here’s the question: would it be right to accept someone’s teaching just on that basis alone? Well, The Doctor thinks that can be a big mistake.

You should definitely be watchful of people who want to run ahead of what the Scriptures actually teach by adding some “new teaching” or some “new revelation” to the Bible that isn’t already there. If you stay within the boundaries of what the Bible clearly teaches, then you never have to worry about being tricked or deceived by something that isn’t really true.

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work” (2 John 1:10-11 NIV).

Now this doesn’t mean that you should treat people who don’t believe in Christianity in a rude or impolite way. There’s nothing in this verse that says that you can’t show courtesy and good manners. However, it does means that you shouldn’t tolerate or accept false teachers. For example, if someone claims to be a Christian but has “run ahead” by teaching something that can’t be supported by the Bible, you shouldn’t accept or encourage them.

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your chosen sister send their greetings” (2 John 1:12-13 NIV).

So it’s not like John has run out of things to say- he just prefers to communicate it in a more personal way. Since mail delivery was very uncertain back in those days, 2 John is more like a quick note that ends by saying, I’ll tell you more when I see you just as we also might do today.