1. The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not I only, but also all they that know the truth.
2. For the truth’s sake which abideth in us, and it shall be with us forever.
3. Grace, mercy, peace shall be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
4. I rejoice greatly that I have found certain of thy children walking in truth, even as we received commandment from the Father.
5. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote to thee a new commandment, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
6. And this is love, that we should walk after His commandments. This is the commandment, even as ye heard from the beginning, that ye should walk in it.
7. For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not (that) Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
8. Look to yourselves, that ye lose not the thing which we have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward.
9. Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God; he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.
10. If anyone cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting.
11. For he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works.
12. Having many things to write unto you, I would not write them with paper and ink. But I hope to come unto you, and to speak face to face, that your joy may be made full.
13. The children of thine elect sister salute thee.
The Second Epistle is evidently an appendix to the First. It does not introduce any additional truth not already presented in the first letter, but emphasizes one particular feature, the danger of antichristian doctrine getting a foothold among the people of God. The Second and Third Epistles again stress the double character of God set forth in the First Epistle, that God is “Light” and God is “Love”. The divine nature is manifested in righteousness and love; therefore truth, which is the basis of all divine righteousness, is emphasized in connection with love. As another has said, the inseparability of these two basic qualities has been constantly before us in the First Epistle. Here in the Second Epistle truth is insisted on. We are shown that love must be in the truth, and does not go beyond the bounds which truth imposes. In the Third Epistle, on the contrary, we find love having the prominent place, truth must be shown forth in love.
A unique feature of the Second Epistle is that it is addressed to a lady; the only book in the Bible of which this is true. Apart from the spiritual teaching of this letter, it is worthy of note how carefully and delicately the Apostle addresses a lady. There is no undue familiarity. He uses no endearing terms, such as he did when he addressed the people of God as a whole. He uses the term “beloved” when writing to all the saints, but not when writing to a Christian sister. In the next Epistle he calls Gaius, the “beloved”, but avoids all such expressions when writing to a woman. It shows how careful Christians ought to be in natural relationships, thus avoiding all appearance of evil.
Perhaps one of the reasons why this letter is written to a sister in Christ is to stress the importance of its message, writing to an individual, the thought is that this matter of refusing an antichrist, and deceiver is an individual responsibility. Now a woman, in Scripture, has less responsibility in such matters than a man does; hence, by addressing a sister in Christ, the Spirit of God through John is saying that this question of false doctrine is so intensely important that even those with the least responsibility are to be deeply concerned about it. A lady naturally hates to be rude, much more so than a man, and it would seem like rudeness to refuse to greet or to receive into your house a professing Christian when he comes to the door. Yet that is just what this lady is told she must do. In this way the necessity for refusing false teaching is told forth; it must take precedence of everything else. Love must be the ruling force in the Christian life, but it must be love in consistency with the truth of God. It is not true love to tolerate evil that makes light of the Person of our blessed Lord.
The Apostle elaborates in the opening verses on the subject of “truth”. He loves the lady in truth, as do all those who have known the truth. It is truth, the truth of God, that draws hearts together and binds them together in a strong bond. The truth dwells in each believer and abides for all eternity—ver. 2. In spite of all the subtlety and intrigue of Satan, truth will eventually triumph. As Paul says in 2 Cor. 13:8: “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” Right shall triumph at last, as even now it is supreme as it brings deliverance, peace and joy to human hearts.
Verse 3. Yes, grace, mercy, and peace are the believer’s portion, flowing down from God through Christ, on the basis of truth and love. Jesus is here called the Son of the Father, and this links the Second Epistle clearly with the First. There we learned, in chap. 2, that the denial of the “Son of the Father” characterizes the Antichrist. So here the full title is given to Christ, in view of the opposition that would destroy and deny that truth.
Verses 4-6 are a rehearsal of similar thoughts found in the first letter. It is great when God’s people do walk in accordance to the revealed mind of God, and in love one to another. Here again truth precedes love, in vers. 4, 5. Love, apart from conformity to the Word of God, would be spurious love; it would be false and destructive. A believer should ever walk in the light of God’s Word, and in the power of Christian love. This we are taught from the very beginning, as ver. 6 tells us, and there can never be anything beyond this. Anything newer than that would not be true.
Yet Satan is always busy to try to palm off something new on the professing Church. Many deceivers, ver. 7, have gone forth into the world, who confess not Jesus Christ coming in flesh. Such strike at the very foundation of the Christian faith. All false apostate teachings are aimed at the very groundwork of our faith; they deny the Deity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And never more so than in these days in which we live. Count- less theories, numberless false cults, have arisen the last half-century or so, all different and often at bitter variance with each other, but all agreed on one point; that is, the denial of the value of the Person and sacrificial work of Christ. It is not necessary to name any of them; most of us have heard of them. Their teaching is often so subtle, that in ver. 8 the Spirit of God warns Christians to be on their guard. “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” There is no thought here of the believer himself being lost, but of losing his reward. A believer who is ensnared by false doctrine will cease to live for the Lord as he once did, and thus will lose the Lord’s “Well done”. The very fact that Christians are warned against such a possibility, shows the insidious character of much of the antichristian teaching of the day. Seeing that divine love naturally makes Christians anxious to think the best of everyone, and gives them the desire to welcome all who seem to love the Lord Jesus, they are therefore the more in danger of being imposed upon by designing persons. Christians are unsuspicious and frank, and therefore often very gullible. They do not know the depths of Satan, so to speak. Therefore it is the more imperative that they should thoroughly know and clearly grasp the truth of God. This is shown in ver. 10, as we shall see in a moment.
Verse 9. “Whosoever transgresseth, or goes beyond, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God.” The false teacher always pretends to have something “new;” something that goes beyond what the Bible teaches. It is one of the marks of an apostate. In Hebrews, where the Christian would go back to law, the Apostle bids them go on to Christ, on to perfection. Here, where the false teacher would go beyond Christ, the believer is bidden to go back to the beginning. There is nothing beyond that which is revealed in God’s precious Word, and everything inconsistent with its teaching is therefore of Satan. Hence, the believer only needs a thorough acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, and he will be protected against all false doctrine. It is not necessary to know all about the false theories of the day; in fact, in many cases it would be most unwise to try to do so. Nearly all well-known evil teachings, such as Christian Science, Theosophy, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, etc., profess to have new thoughts, which we poor folks are missing. Such transgress, or go beyond, the truth of God’s Word, as stated in ver. 9. We are to abide by the teaching of God’s Word.
Verse 10. The believer therefore is not exhorted to listen for false teaching, but to listen for the true. If anyone come and bring not the true doctrine (the doctrine of Christ as God manifest in flesh), then receive him not into your house, and do not even greet him. Satan is very clever. When he comes with his lies, he does not come openly. He is more subtle than any beast of the field, and he knows how to sugar-coat his bitterest falsehoods. Oftentimes under the most pleasing exterior lurk the most deadly blasphemies. It is not what a preacher says, but what he does not say that the Christian is bidden to note. If anyone leaves out the truth concerning Christ as the Son of God who came from glory to die for our sins, and who is seated as Man on the throne of God, then that person is of Satan, utterly regardless of whatever else he, or she, may or may not say. It is the absence of the true doctrine that marks devilish teaching. Gradually, with the sweet nothings that Satan’s emissaries proclaim, they will slip in this and that tiny falsehood till at last the soul is ensnared, hardly knowing or realizing what has happened.
To God’s people the path is simple, though requiring courage and faithfulness. If anyone come and does not bring the truth, receive him not into the house nor greet him. A believer cannot simply be neutral; he must be positive in the refusal of all that is dishonoring to the Person of his Lord. It is not a question here of the assembly refusing false teaching, but of each believer realizing his or her responsibility to be true to Christ. Often, when someone has been refused fellowship with the saints because of holding erroneous views, individuals have received that person into their homes, thus undoing the work of the assembly. Nothing that is derogatory to the person of Christ should be tolerated for one moment. It has been said that a Christian should suffer anything that is said against him; and should suffer nothing that is dishonoring to Christ.
There may be some significance in the fact that in ver. 11 it only mentions the greeting of the false believer, while in ver. 10 it speaks of that as well as of receiving him into the house. It might be that a Christian could receive someone who was untrue to Christ, without knowing or realizing it. Then after having heard that one and recognizing that he had been deceived into harboring an apostate, he would send him on his way, not bidding him God speed. He therefore would not be a partaker of his evil deeds by receiving him into his house, for that had been done unknowingly, but he would be guilty if, after having learned who his visitor was, he wished him God speed. This seems the more plausible to me when considering that it is not the presence of false teaching, but the absence of the true, which is the distinguishing mark of apostasy, as given in these verses. It would easily be possible for many Christians to be deceived, for the devil is very clever. But when upon discovering the teaching to be false, the believer would persist in making the false teacher welcome, then he would be as guilty as the apostate himself; he would be a partaker of his evil deeds.
Verse 12. This verse still further emphasizes the vital importance of the warning just given in vers. 8-11. John does not write anything further to this lady, hoping to see her shortly when he can speak to her mouth to mouth. But he could not let this matter, just treated, wait till he saw her. This proves its great importance, both for the lady of that day, and for us today. Had he spoken to her about it, we would not have had it in print. And though the same truth has been handled in his First Epistle, it is brought forward again here. How thankful we may be for this thoughtfulness on the part of our gracious God, for we live in days when there are truly many antichrists. How good to cleave close to Him, and like John with our heads on Jesus’ breast, to be very conscious of the honor and glory that is due to Him, whom we know and worship as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Both the saints as a whole (as in the First Epistle), and the saints as individuals (sisters as well as brothers, as in the Second Epistle), need to be watchful that nothing may come in between them and their holy Lord. We are left here to make His glories known. Verse 13. We have no way of knowing who the elect lady is of whom John speaks. Perhaps she was some prominent sister, well known to both the writer and the reader of this letter. Perhaps it was John’s wife, if he had a wife, which I don’t know. It matters little, God knows her name. It adds a personal touch to this Epistle, and that has its value, for it further stresses how each believer should have a personal interest in the vital message of this short Epistle.