An Overview Of The Book Of 2 John

Writer Of The Second Letter Of John

“The elder,” 2 John 1

The author introduced himself simply as “the elder”. He has been recognized as being the apostle John. John's authorship is evident from the content and literary style of his second letter, which is like that of the First Letter of John. Like his first letter, his second letter dwells on the truth of Jesus Christ the Son of God and the Christian faith, on the commandment to love one another, on the heresy of the false teachers who are antichrists, and on the insistence one must hold to the truth and teaching of Christ to have God the Father.

John probably identified himself as “the elder” in his second letter for a couple of reasons. He wrote the letter late in his life when he was an elderly man. He was the last of the apostles. The others had preceded him in death. What is more, in Asia Minor in the areas surrounding Ephesus, where he had served from before A.D. 70 to around A.D. 100, he was well known and highly regarded as the elderly, grand spokesman for the church and the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Accordingly he referred to himself simply as “the elder.”

For more information about the apostle John see the Overview On The Gospel Of John.

Recipients Of The Second Letter Of John

“To the chosen lady and her children,” 2 John 1.

This address at first may give the impression that John wrote his second letter to one particular Christian woman and her children. Further reflection on the content of the letter, however, indicates it was most likely written to one of the churches in Asia Minor. “The chosen lady and her children” is better understood as a figure of speech for a church and its members. The word for church in the original Greek is a feminine noun that lends itself to being referred to with the pronouns “she” and “her”.

Several statements in the letter fit a church and its members better than an individual family of a mother and her children. John's words about this lady and her children in the address, “Whom I indeed love in truth, and not only I, but even all who know the truth,” is one such statement. Likewise, John's closing greeting in 2 John 13 is another. There John wrote: “The children of your chosen sister greet you.” This seems better understood as meaning that the church with its members where John was located when he wrote the letter were sending their greetings to the church with its members to which John was writing. It is a common practice to speak of churches which are in fellowship with one another as sister congregations. Another statement that better fits a church than an individual Christian woman is that of 2 John 4: “I was very much gladdened that I found some of your children walking in the truth, just as we received the commandment from the Father.” This statement can be understood quite naturally to mean some members of the church were upholding the truth of Christ and the Christian faith in the face of the heresies of the false teachers who were disturbing the Christians of Asia Minor. The admonitions to fulfill the commandment to love one another (cf. 2 John 5,6) and the warning to watch out for the many deceivers and not assist them in their false teaching (cf. 2 John 7-11) also fit a church better than one Christian woman and her family.

Arguments from silence are weak at best. Yet, if the second letter was not written to a church but to a particular woman, then why did John not name her by name as he named the man Gaius by name to whom he wrote his third letter?

Understanding John's second letter was written to a church, and knowing John served the church in Ephesus and its surrounding areas, the recipients were most likely one of the churches in what is now the country of Turkey to which John wrote his first circular letter. For more information about the recipients see the Overview On The Book Of 1 John.

Place Where The Second Letter Of John Was Written

Like John's first letter, his second letter was most likely written in the city of Ephesus.

Date Of The Second Letter Of John

John's second letter was probably written not long after his first letter around A.D. 90 to A.D. 100. For more information on the date of writing, see the Overview On The Book Of 1 John.

Occasion Of The Second Letter Of John

The members of the church to whom John wrote his second letter were being disturbed by deceiving false teachers, who denied Jesus is Christ the Son of God. They were probably the same Gnostics led by Cerinthus, whom John wrote against in his first letter. For more information about Cerinthus and early gnosticism see the Overview On The Book of 1 John, the section entitled “Occasion And Purpose”.

Purpose Of The Second Letter Of John

John's purpose was to strengthen and encourage the church to walk in the truth and love in contrast to what the many false teachers were telling them. The church members were to guard themselves against those false teachers and were not to assist them in spreading their heresies.

Theme Of The Second Letter Of John

Walk In The Truth And Love And Beware Of The Many Deceivers

Outline Of The Second Letter Of John

Part 1: Address, 2 John 1,2

A. From the elder, the apostle John, 2 John 1

B. To the chosen lady and her children, a church and its members, 2 John 1

1. Who is loved in the truth by John and all who know the truth, 2 John 1

2. Who is loved in the truth because of the truth of the true Christian faith which lives in us and will be with us forever, 2 John 2

Part 2: Greeting

The grace, mercy, and peace of God the Father and of the Son Jesus Christ will be with us as we walk in the truth and love, 2 John 3

Part 3: Walk In The Truth And Love

A. I, John, rejoice in the fact that some of you members are walking in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. I commend your walking in the truth as God the Father commanded us to do, 2 John 4

B. I, John, remind you of the command we have heard from the beginning to walk in love for one another through obeying God's commandments, 2 John 5,6

Part 4: Beware Of The Many Deceivers, 2 John 7-11

A. Many deceivers have gone out into the world among you, 2 John 7

1. These deceivers in their false teaching refuse to acknowledge that the heavenly Christ and Son of God became the man Jesus, 2 John 7

2. Any such false teacher is the deceiver and the antichrist, 2 John 7

3. Watch out for yourselves, so you do not lose what we faithful teachers have accomplished through our instructing you in the truth, but that you may receive the reward that comes to the faithful, 2 John 8

B. Don't assist the deceivers

1. Know this: Anyone, like the many deceivers, who does not continue in the true teaching regarding Christ does not have God or fellowship with him. On the other hand, the one who does continue in the true teaching regarding Christ has both the Father and the Son and enjoys fellowship with both, 2 John 9

2. If any deceiver who does not bring this teaching regarding Jesus Christ comes to you, don't assist him in his spreading of his heresy by welcoming him into your house to give him food and lodging, 2 John 10

3. Anyone who assists a deceiver participates in his wicked work of spreading his heresies and lies, 2 John 11

Part 5: Closing, 2 John 12,13

A. John's intention to personally visit the church that he may more fully and properly instruct its members, 2 John 12

B. Closing greeting of one sister congregation to another, 2 John 13