1. Title. In the ancient Greek manuscripts the title is simply Ioµannou B, literally, “Of John 2.” See on the Title of the First Epistle (p. 623). No external evidence enables us to decide whether the present letter is second in order of writing, but from a comparison of the contents of the three epistles credited to John, it seems likely that the second was written after the first. The second appears to refer to the contents of the first in a manner that is natural if the writer had already penned the longer letter, but which would be strange if the shorter were written first (cf. 2 John 5–7, 9, 12 with 1 John 1:4; 2:4, 5, 7 18; 5:10–12).

2. Authorship. To a certain extent the question of authorship is settled by the first two words of the epistle, “the elder,” but the identity of “the elder” still calls for discussion. Scholarly consensus favors John as the author, and it is generally agreed that the title “elder” is singularly fitting for the aged apostle who lingered long after his fellow disciples had died. If John were writing to an individual or a group with whom he was well acquainted, there would be no need for other identification beyond the affectionate title by which he was already known to his readers.

The identification of “the elder” largely depends on the relationship that is found to exist between the second and first epistles, and between them and the Fourth Gospel. The obvious similarities between the second and first letters suggest a common authorship. The word “antichrist” occurs only in v. 7 and in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3. For similarity in phraseology, cf. “walking in truth” (2 John 4) with “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7); “a new commandment” (2 John 5; 1 John 2:8); “love one another” (2 John 1:5; 1 John 3:11); “he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9) with “he that hath the Son” (1 John 5:12). As outlined in the Introduction to the First Epistle, there are valid reasons for accepting the apostle John as the author of that letter as well as of the Gospel. If those reasons be accepted, John may also be taken to be the author of the present epistle.

3. Historical Setting. For reasons given above, it seems probable that this letter was written after the first epistle, and, if John be accepted as the author, soon after the first letter, in view of the apostle’s age (see Introduction to the First Epistle). The additional factor brought to light by the second epistle is that false teachers were taking advantage of Christian hospitality to disseminate erroneous doctrine.

4. Theme. Even a casual reading of the epistle will reveal its intimate nature. It is indeed a personal letter, but whether it is addressed to an individual or to a group depends on the interpretation given to the phrase “the elect lady and her children” (see on v. 1). Within these limits, the theme of the epistle is one of satisfaction with the spiritual state of the readers, encouragement for them in the Christian way, warning against false teachers, and suggestions for dealing with the deceivers. The letter reveals the writer’s tender, loving spirit, and the beauty of spiritual intimacy that could exist between fellow believers in the early church.

It has been suggested that the almost identical length of the second and third epistles was determined by the size of the papyrus sheet then commonly used (see Vol. V, pp. 112, 113).

5. Outline.

So brief a letter, touching upon so many different topics, must be divided into very small units in order to list the subjects it contains. However, there are three main sections in the epistle.

I.      Introduction, 1–3.

A.     Salutation, 1a.

B.     The tie that binds, 1a, 2.

C.     Benediction, 3.

II.     Message, 4–11.

A.     Praise for faithfulness, 4.

B.     Exhortation to continue in love, 5, 6.

C.     Warning against false teachers, 7–11.

1.     Warning against deceivers, 7, 8.

2.     Results of continued friendship with deceivers, 9.

3.     How to deal with heretical teachers, 10, 11.

III.    Conclusion, 12, 13.

A.     Hope of an early meeting, 12.

B.     Greetings from friends or relatives, 13.

1 He exhorteth a certain honourable matron, with her children, to persevere in Christian love and belief, 8 lest they lose the reward of their former profession: 10 and to have nothing to do with those seducers that bring not the true doctrine of Christ Jesus.

1. Elder. Gr. presbuteros (see on Acts 11:30). The title may refer to age or to position, or to both. Since this commentary holds that the apostle John was the author of this epistle (see p. 683), it may be observed how fitting is the word “elder” in his case. At the time when the epistle was written, c. a.d. 95 (see p. 683), John would be an old man and—according to tradition—being the last surviving apostle, would occupy a venerated position in the expanding Christian church. Therefore, when writing to people who were well acquainted with him, there would be no need for any other identification than the simple, unpretentious title, “elder.”

Some suggest that the title, “the elder,” refers to another person, identified as John the Presbyter, or the Elder John. Support for this view is drawn from the words of Papias (died c. a.d. 163) as reported by the church historian Eusebius. In his Ecclesiastical History (iii. 39. 4; Loeb ed., vol. 1, p. 293) Eusebius quotes Papias as follows: “But if ever anyone came who had followed the presbyters, I inquired into the words of the presbyters, what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord’s disciples, had said, and what Aristion and the presbyter John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying.” But it is extremely doubtful whether Papias is here referring to different persons, both bearing the name of John. It is probable that he is speaking of one and the same person, John, the beloved disciple. In the first reference, he includes him among the other apostles who may have left written records; in the second, he appears to include him with Aristion as one from whose own lips he (Papias) had heard direct testimony concerning the Lord Jesus. Thus the very existence of a distinct Presbyter John is open to doubt; the name may be only another designation for the last of the apostles. In this case the title “elder” has still more apt significance when applied to John.

Elect. Gr.eklektos, “picked out,” from eklegoµ, “to choose,” probably used here in the sense of ethical eminence. Some have preferred to take the word as a feminine proper name, Eklekta, but such an interpretation is hardly tenable in view of the clear use of eklektos as an adjective in v. 13.

Lady. Gr. kuria. Two translations of this word are possible. One takes it to be a lady’s proper name, Kyria or Cyria, which is not unknown in Greek inscriptions. But the Greek construction makes it improbable that the writer is here using a proper name. The second possible translation of kuria is “lady,” a courteous form of address that is the feminine equivalent of kurios, “lord” (see on John 13:13). In this case the phrase used here, eklekte kuria, literally means, “to an elect lady.”

There still remains the problem of interpretation. To whom was John addressing his epistle? To this question two answers are advanced: (1) He was writing to a specific Christian lady and her literal children; (2) He was writing to the church, or a church that he chose to call “an elect lady.” A combination of the above two views may well provide the best solution to the problem. The lady to whom the letter is addressed may have been the leader of the church to which John writes, and her “children” may be the church members (cf. 3 John 4). The tenor of the message is more suited to a group of believers than to an individual, and to mature Christians rather than to children of a certain woman.

Her children. These may be the actual children of the “elect lady,” or the members of the church to whom the letter is read (cf. 1 John 2:1).

Whom. The Greek pronoun is masculine plural, and refers to the elect lady and her children of both sexes.

I love. The pronoun is emphatic in the Greek. John may also have been stressing his love because others were not showing affection for the Christians to whom he was writing (cf. 3 John 9).

In the truth. Literally, “in truth,” that is, John loves his friends in the sphere of “truth,” that is, in connection with all that is expounded in the Christian faith.

All they. While there may have been those false teachers and upstarts who would not love John’s readers, he strikes a reassuring note by referring to the genuine believers who will love those to whom he is writing.

Have known. That is, have come to know and are still knowing. John is speaking to the faithful Christians who have not backslidden.

The truth. That is, the Christian doctrine, as expounded by Christ, who is “truth” (see on John 8:32; cf. John 14:6), and “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). Those who hold such “truth” naturally love those who share their beliefs.

2. For the truth’s sake. Literally, “on account of the truth.” It is on account of our common acceptance of the truth that we are so closely related to one another by the cords of love.

Dwelleth. Gr. menoµ (see on 1 John 2:6). Truth must live in the hearts of the believers before it can be a unifying factor among them. John is confident that the members of his Christian community fulfilled the qualification.

Shall be with us. Presumably, the truth had also once dwelt in the hearts of those who later apostatized, but here the apostle expresses firm confidence that truth will perpetually abide with the members of his circle. Such confidence does not preclude individual apostasy, but does proclaim the consistent adherence of the church to its Heaven-sent doctrine.

For ever. Gr. eis ton aioµna (see on Rev. 1:6; 14:11). John never intends to relinquish the central facts of Christian faith on which his belief is based—the loving nature of God, the incarnation, the atoning death, the resurrected life of the Son of God.

3. Grace. Gr. charis (see on Rom. 1:7; 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:3). Apart from John 1:14, 16, 17; Rev. 1:4; 22:21, the word charis, “grace,” appears only here in the writings of John, but it is a key word in Paul’s vocabulary. John makes frequent use of agapeµ “love” (see on 1 Cor. 13:1), and employs it 18 times in his first epistle. The threefold greeting, “grace, mercy, and peace,” is found in Paul’s pastoral epistles (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4). John uses it here in a slightly different form.

With you. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the reading “with us.” The apostle is still including himself and his Christian friends in the message to the “elect lady.”

Mercy. Gr.eleos (cf. on Matt. 5:7). The word occurs nowhere else in the Johannine writings.

Peace. See on Rom. 1:7. When grace has awakened a desire for salvation and the heart seeks God for forgiveness and rebirth, then the Lord can give the second gift, “mercy,” or compassion, which would be wasted on one who did not realize his need (Luke 18:10–14). “Peace” comes when the forgiven sinner realizes that he has been reconciled to God and is no longer under the condemnation of the law, which he has broken (see on Rom. 5:1).

From God. Literally, “from the side of God,” hence, “from the presence of God,” indicating that God is the source from which grace, mercy, and peace flow to the believer.

The Father. See on Rom. 1:7, where Paul speaks of “our Father.”

Lord Jesus Christ. Important textual evidence may be cited (cf. p. 10) for the omission of “Lord.” The full title “Lord Jesus Christ” does not occur elsewhere in John’s writings. For comment on “Jesus Christ” see on 1 John 1:3. The apostle emphasizes the equality of the Son with the Father and the fact that spiritual gifts proceed to men from both persons of the God-head (cf. on 1 John 1:2, 3).

The Son of the Father. A unique phrase in Scripture. It emphasizes the central thought in John’s theology, the divinity of his Master, Jesus Christ.

Truth and love. The two elements necessary for the reception of the divinely bestowed gifts of grace, mercy, and peace. The two words “truth” and “love” may be taken as the key words of this short epistle. Common as both words are in the NT, especially in the writings of John, their juxtaposition does not occur elsewhere in the NT.

4. I rejoiced greatly. The greeting over, the apostle begins his message. Like Paul in his epistles (Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:4; Phil. 1:3; etc.) and like Christ in His letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2; 3), John begins with pleasant and praiseworthy matters (cf. 3 John 3).

I found. Or, “I have found.” John may have formed his estimate of the faithfulness of the believers either by personal observation or, as in 3 John 3, from the reports of visiting brethren.

Of thy children. Literally, “out of thy children.” This may reflect the possibility that all church members had not proved faithful. It may also be that John had not met or heard reports of all the “children,” and that others were equally faithful.

Walking. Gr. peripateoµ (see on Eph. 2:2). The word is frequently used in Scripture to describe the daily conduct (cf. Phil. 3:17).

In truth. That is, consistently living under the control of truth, faithfully performing every duty on earth as part of the walk toward the eternal home (see on 1 John 1:7).

As we have received a commandment. Or, “even as we received a commandment.” Although the commandment is not defined, John’s previous writings suggest a reference to the “new commandment” of love (see on 1 John 2:7, 8; 3:23; 4:21).

5. Now. In v. 4 the apostle recorded past satisfaction at the condition of his friends. Henow concerns himself with their future conduct.

Beseech. Gr. eroµtaoµ, “to ask,” “to pray,” “to beseech,” and “to desire.”

Thee. The use of the singular pronoun is cited by some as proof that the recipient of the letter was a literal lady, but this reasoning is weakened by the writer’s later use of “yourselves” (v. 8), “you” (vs. 10, 12, a plural as indicated by the Greek). It would appear that John uses both singular and plural forms of address interchangeably in this letter.

Lady. Gr. kuria (see on v. 1).

New commandment. See on 1 John 2:7, 8; 3:11. It is probable that the readers of this epistle had also read John’s first letter.

6. This is love. Literally, “this is the love,” that is, this is the love about which I am talking. John then defines that love as walking “after his commandments.” Love consists not only in cherishing kind feelings toward others but in observing right conduct toward our fellows as directed in God’s commandments. These commands, faithfully observed, will result in practical demonstrations of love to our fellows (cf. on 1 John 2:3–6; 3:23; 5:3).

This is the commandment. The one command concerning love comprehends all the other precepts given by the Lord. This explains John’s alternating use of the singular and plural forms, “commandment” and “commandments” (see on John 13:34; Rom. 13:8). The apostle does not define the commandment, but reminds his readers of it, assuming that they are well enough acquainted with it to need no more than the reminder.

That … ye should walk in it. Or, “that ye should keep on walking in it,” that is, molding the life according to the law of love.

7. For. Or, “because.” The word connects vs. 6 and 7. The immediate reason for John’s stress on “the commandment” is the activity of the “deceivers,” which can be effectively counteracted only by the practice of the law of love.

Deceivers. The troublemakers are clearly identified later in the present verse: they are those who deny the full implications of the incarnation.

Are entered. Rather, “went forth” (cf. on 1 John 4:1).

Who confess not. See on 1 John 2:22; 4:3.

Is come. The clause reads literally, “those not confessing Jesus Christ coming in flesh.” The form of the Greek verb emphasizes the timelessness of the truth of the incarnation, in contrast with 1 John 4:2, where the historical fact is stressed (see comment there).

A deceiver. Rather, “the deceiver.”

An antichrist. Rather, “the antichrist.” See on 1 John 2:18, 22. John identifies all “deceivers” as being ultimately represented by the great deceiver and antichrist, Satan. All deceptive work proceeds from the devil, no matter what local form his servants may take.

8. Look to yourselves. That is, beware, or take heed (cf. Mark 13:9). The apostle has issued a general warning against deceivers (2 John 7), but now makes a personal application to his readers. It may be noted that he addresses a group, “yourselves,” rather than an individual, “thyself” (cf. on v. 5), supporting the thought that John is writing to a church and not simply to an individual member.

We lose not. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the reading, “ye lose not,” a reading that harmonizes with the context. John is aware of the possibility of falling from the faith, and wants to open his readers’ eyes to the dangers that confront them (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27; 10:12). But the final responsibility rests on the believers themselves, hence the admonition “look to yourselves.”

We have wrought. That is, John and his colaborers have wrought—a reference to their evangelistic work, the results of which should not be lost to the believers.

We receive. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the reading, “ye receive” (cf. above on “we lose not”). The word translated “receive” may be rendered “receive from,” or “receive back,” that is, from God, the One from whom all good rewards come.

Reward. Gr. misthos (see on Rom. 6:23). The “full reward” can be none other than immortality, which will be enjoyed only by those who remain faithful unto the end (cf. on Matt. 24:13; Gal. 6:9).

9. Whosoever transgresseth. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the reading, “whosoever goeth before,” that is, whoever tries to go ahead of Christ’s teaching, as the Gnostics (see pp. 625, 626) did. The phraseology is strongly reminiscent of John’s first epistle (cf. on 1 John 3:6).

Abideth not. The Greek construction shows that these words qualify “whosoever transgresseth,” that is, whosoever goes ahead. There is nothing wrong in going ahead so long as one remains within the framework of the Saviour’s own doctrine. But he who tries to go where Christ has not led, places himself outside Christ’s domain, and thus remains not in the doctrine given by Jesus.

Doctrine. Or, “teaching” (see on John 7:16). While “the teaching of Christ” may be taken as teaching about Christ, the context clearly favors a reference to the teaching given by Christ. The expression covers the doctrine personally delivered by the Master and its continuation in the preaching of the apostles. The “deceivers” were not willing to limit themselves to such teachings, but were bent on adding other points of their own, thus going beyond what the Saviour Himself had taught.

Hath not God. This phrase is reminiscent of the first epistle (cf. 1 John 5:12). Since the Son and the Father are one (John 10:30), he who rejects Christ’s teaching also rejects the Father’s, and shows that he is trying to outreach God; he is not content with the height and depth of spiritual knowledge God has placed at man’s disposal, but wants to probe into other realms that can only contain falsehood.

Abideth. Gr. menoµ (see on 1 John 2:6). To remain and make one’s home in the doctrine that Christ taught and believed, instead of straying into the realms of philosophical speculation or following the deceptive gleams of satanic delusions, is the only way to ensure a saving relationship with the Father.

Hath both. In developing a positive statement from a negative, John, as his custom is (cf. 1 John 1:6, 7; 2:21; etc.), has enriched his thought. He who wanders outside of truth loses the Father; he who remains has the Father—and also the Son through whom all truth is revealed (1 John 2:23).

10. If there come. That is, when there comes, indicating that visits from heretical teachers are anticipated.

Bring not this doctrine. The phrase serves to definite the visitor and to show that he is a teacher of anti-Christian doctrine, evidently bent on seducing faithful church members.

Receive him not. This apparently inhospitable counsel applies only in the case of a “deceiver” and “antichrist” (v. 7), and has no direct bearing on the hospitality that Christians should cheerfully show to needy friends and strangers (see Matt. 25:35; Heb. 13:2). There would be no point in receiving a visitor who was determined to deceive the church of God.

House. This may refer to the individual’s own home, or to a house where the church was meeting.

God speed. Gr. chairein, literally, “to rejoice,” used often in the NT as a greeting (see on Rom. 1:7). It is not possible for a Christian to “rejoice” or to wish God’s blessing on a “deceiver.” He may pray for him, that he may see the error of his ways and turn to embrace the full gospel of Christ, but Christian fellowship is not possible between the believer and the false teacher (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9–13).

11. Is partaker. Gr. koinoµneoµ, “to have in common,” “to share in.” John makes it clear why we should not entertain false teachers: voluntary association with them will make it appear that we approve of their teachings, and the undiscerning might misinterpret even well-meaning hospitality given to such teachers.

12. Many things. In this letter the apostle has dealt only with the most urgent matter, to warn his readers about the danger of false teachers. Many other topics call for attention, but they can best be dealt with more clearly and expeditiously by word of mouth. John appears to be his own secretary.

Paper. Gr.charteµs, “a sheet of papyrus,” a common writing material. The word appears only here in the NT, though it appears in the LXX of Jer. 36:23.

Ink. For a discussion of ancient writing materials see Vol. V, pp. 112–114.

Face to face. Literally, “mouth to mouth” (cf. Num. 12:8), John’s emphasis being on the interchange of speech rather than the mere sight of his friends.

Our joy. The apostle’s visit would bring joy not only to the believers but also to himself. Thus, their joy would be mutual (cf. on 1 John 1:4).

13. Thy elect sister. These words may refer to either (1) an actual sister of an individual “elect lady” (v. 1), or (2) a sister church in the area in which John was then writing. The two ideas may be combined as in v. 1 (see comment there).

Amen. Textual evidence favors (cf. p. 10) the omission of this word.

Ellen G. White comments

7–11AA 554; SL 64