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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

November 13, 2013

2nd John 1:1-13

  1. 2nd John is a personal letter, unlike 1st John, and at 245 Greek words is shorter than any other New Testament book except 3rd John (with 219 Greek words). 2nd John is written in a standard format characteristic of first century letters. It begins with a greeting formula (vv.1-3), which mentions the sender and the addressee and includes a greeting. Many letters of this period follow the greeting with an expression of thanksgiving or a wish for the health of the addressee. Although no explicit expression of thanksgiving is found in 2nd John, the author’s expression of joy in v.4 may fulfill that role. Following this is the body of the letter found in verses 5-12. A letter would normally end with a concluding formula, which would often repeat the health wish and then include a word of farewell. Verse 13 of 2nd John corresponds to this.

  2. Verses 1-3. The greeting. The first verse identifies the sender and the receiver of this letter. The sender is the apostle John, but he refers to himself as the elder. We are not sure why he does not refer to himself as the apostle John, but comparing all four documents, the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, all scholars conclude it was by the same person. And the early church fathers identified these documents to all come from the same person, the beloved disciple John. There is really no debate over the authorship of this letter. The receiver of this letter is not a woman, but a church that was some distance from the apostle. The church is often referred to as a woman or bride. Her children are the members of the body of Christ. John greets the church in his letter by stating that they are in the truth and know the truth. This is surely a sign that he knows that they have not yet been defiled by the false teaching that he will warn them about in the next few verses.

    1. The issue of this letter will be the issue of the truth verses the fake gospel that will be presented by the false teachers as the “truth”. The word “truth” is mentioned four times in these first three verses, because this is the main issue. John is quickly sharing with the church that they have the truth, the truth is in them, and that they should stand on that truth. John knows some are coming that will try to seduce them away from the truth. John warned others in 1st John about the same thing. The people who split away from the other church with a false gospel to whom 1st John is being written, have continued to engage in efforts to win ‘converts’ from the original (and orthodox) group to which they formerly belonged. 1st John is a warning to the genuine believers who remained behind to continue to resist these efforts and to remain true to the ministry of Jesus. 2nd John is being written to warn a ‘sister’ church some distance away of the seductive missionary efforts of the false teachers, and of the dangers of welcoming them whenever their representatives should arrive.

    2. The immediate problem John is addressing in both 2nd and 3rdJohn is that of traveling teachers that were circulating among the churches. They were generally received into the church and given hospitality in various homes. But what if the teacher claimed to be a Christian, but taught false doctrine? Should he be received or not? 2nd John warns against receiving and encouraging such false teachers, whereas 3rd John encourages genuine hospitality towards true teachers.

  3. Verse 4. This verse serves as the customary thanksgiving found in these letters. In this verse, the apostle shares that he is joyous about the fact that this church has not been defiled by the false teachings. John states that he has found some walking in the truth. This does not mean that he found others walking in falsehood, but that those whom he met were living according to the true faith.

  4. Verses 5-7. We are not quite sure what was all included in the false teachings, but it becomes apparent from the apostles admonishments that the false teaching somehow was in opposition to the first and greatest commandment to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The heretics were deceiving people about the person of Christ (v.7). Since we know that part of the false teaching was to deny Christ, we can assume that another part of the teaching was to nullify or not recognize the teachings of Jesus Christ himself. And since the hallmark of our faith is the Love of God and his power to help us love others, it would stand to reason that the false teachings led people to think that they did not have to show love for others (1st John 4:7-21). When John emphasizes that his readers had these commandments “from the beginning” (5, 6), he means that Jesus Christ gave us these commandments and that obeying them should be basic, first-level Christian teaching. The first thing a new believer should learn is that being a Christian means obeying Jesus as Lord. And, a key commandment of Jesus is that we love one another. As we’ve seen, biblical love is not primarily a feeling, but rather a matter of the will that can be commanded. It is a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that seeks the highest good of the one loved.

  5. Verses 7-11. John tells the church that many have gone out denying Christ in the name of God. John warns the church to be cautious because these teachers are deceivers and antichrists. The false teachers looked innocent. They didn’t have an evil look about them. They were subtle and they probably used the smooth words and twisted scriptures to back up everything they said. Their explanation of things seemed to “make more sense” or appeal to the flesh more than doctrines that were difficult to understand. John describes these false teachers as people who have gone ahead. They claimed to have superior knowledge that could take you farther in your Christian life than the teaching of the apostles could do. John is sarcastically saying, “Yes, in fact the false teachers have gone so far ahead that they have left God behind them!” And because of that, John urges his readers to watch themselves so that they don’t fall for the cunning trap and waste their time following a false gospel which will rob them of being pleasing to God. The apostle says we have to watch out for these false teachers that deny Christ and all sufficient atoning work through his death burial and resurrection. Not only are we to watch out for these false teachers and their teachings, we are to not even to welcome into our homes or fellowships. To welcome them is to partake in their evil work. Once we know that they are false we are not to help advance their ministry.

  6. Verses 12-13. John is not trying to teach but to warn. His real desire in this letter is to visit the church and speak face to face. What he has to say cannot be contained in some letters, but must be conveyed face to face. He ends the letter by stating that the other believers who are chosen just like they are chosen send their well wishes and greetings.

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