2 John 1

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Verse 1: The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, (NRSV)

  • It was traditional to begin your letter with your name, not end it as it is today. That this writer did not use his proper name, but a title, is significant (Marshall 59).
    • It is the title that matters here, not the person.
    • This also might indicate that this was being sent to many people, some of whom didn’t know the author but respected the title.
  • The title “elder” was generally used as a title for groups of men leading local churches.
    • The word just means an old man but quickly took on meaning of authority (Akin 218).
    • That this is “the elder” could be a claim to power over all churches. This is supported by the metaphorical use of a single family representing the entire Church (lady and her children). He is the elder of her.
    • This could also refer to a generation of people still associated with Jesus or the beginning of the Church (Marshall 60).
  • The “elect lady” is probably metaphorical for a local church, and “her children” being the people in the church as opposed to any particular person. This is because there are no personal references to a specific lady and this letter was obviously written to a congregation.
  • ”The term for “lady” is the feminine form of “Lord” and implies respect.
    • By using this title, it could be connecting the Church with the Lord, the bride of Christ and we her children (Marshall 60-61).
    • Some think this could be a proper name, “Kuria”, but “elect” indicates this probably isn’t so (Westcott 224).
  • Some scholars take the first “truth” to be a promise that he speaks the truth, but that does not fit with the second use of truth in this verse.
    • The second use is about the gospel, the real truth, and the first should be taken to be the same.
    • This means that the author’s love is a love based on the gospel, consistent with the gospel and because of the truth of the gospel.
    • The second use of “truth” implies solidarity with all other believers. These people are not alone and the elder is not alone with loving them because everyone who knows the truth loves them too.


Verse 2: because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: (NRSV)

  • This is a repetition and rephrasing of what the elder had already said in verse one.
  • But this isn’t just a repetition, “abide” says that this truth has found a lasting place in them (Marshall 62).


Verse 3: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love. (NRSV)

  • This is the greeting which traditionally follows after the introduction of the author in Greek letters.
  • Grace and peace are standard terms used by the Church in the greeting, but adding “mercy” into the greeting is unusual (Marshall 63).
  • The sequence, “grace mercy, and peace”, is purposeful. This goes from the first motion of God giving grace, to us acting gracefully with mercy, and mercy bringing us peace (Westcott 225).
  • The elder includes himself in this blessing, “will be with us” as opposed to the more standard “be with you.”


Verse 4: I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. (NRSV)

  • ”Find” is a perfect verb, meaning that the elder found them in the past to be godly and believes that they are continuing in this (Akin 224).
  • ”Some of your children” could be interpreted two main ways.
    • It could indicate that only some of the people in the church are following God, but this is less likely because it is phrased as such a positive thing.
    • More likely, the elder encountered some of the members of the church and found them doing well. Those people might be the ones bringing this letter (Marshall 65).
  • ”Walking” is about the whole life and behavior and not physical movement (Marshall 66).


Verse 5: But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. (NRSV)

  • ”But now I ask you” is a common phrase in used in letters to tell when the writer comes to his main subject matter (Haas 165).
  • This is a direct address, which is unusual in the Bible. The elder is speaking directly to the lady here (Akin 225).
  • This is another way of saying “you are already doing this, but remember to keep it up”.


Verse 6: And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it. (NRSV)

  • Commandments is separated from commandment. The singular is to love one another from the previous verse, and the plural is the general laws of God.
  • This verse should not be taken as separate, but as a continuation of the previous verse. This is not love in general, but love of one another. The best way to love each other is to follow God.
  • Again, a reference to walking as a metaphor for life. We live out God’s commandments.


Verse 7: 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. (NIV)

  • This verse begins in the Greek with “because” making this verse the reason why you need to walk in God’s commandments (Marshall 69).
  • ”Deceiver” here should be considered the opposite of the truth previously mentioned, and therefore would lead to a loss of love.
  • Denying that Jesus came in the flesh is a Gnostic idea, that God is too holy to have come in the flesh.
  • This is not saying that these people were Satan, but that they are standing in the way of Christ, working against Christ. It is saying that these people are supremely set against Jesus as his opponents (Marshall 71).


Verse 8: Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. (NIV)

  • More literally, this is “what we have worked for.”
  • There are divergent opinions on what is destroyed.
    • Some think that it’s salvation itself that is at stake. The next verse indicates that they will lose God.
    • Other ideas are that the elder was their missionary and that this would be ruining his work (Marshall 72), in effect destroying the church.
    • This could also be that they would lose their love for others and what this love has done.


Verse 9: 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. (NIV)

  • Running ahead is here going beyond the limits of Christianity. This was leaving behind the faith and trying to find new ones (Westcott 230).


Verse 10: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. (NIV)

  • The term translated as “if” here indicates an assumption based on a real situation (Haas 170). This will happen, it’s not really a question of if but when.
  • This assumes that the heresy is not within the church, but external to it.
  • Hospitality was one of the most important things you could do, you gave hospitality to everyone. And this is an order not to give hospitality to these people.
  • As most churches were house churches, this could be about allowing them to teach or assume leadership in the church.


Verse 11: Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (NIV)

  • The word translated as “shares” is “koinonia” or “community.” It means that if you welcome someone you are participating with them, joining with them in this.


Verse 12: 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. (NIV)

  • There is really no way of knowing what other messages the elder wanted to give.
  • ”Paper” is of course more accurately papyrus.


Verse 13: The children of your chosen sister send their greetings. (NIV)

  • That this is from a “sister” with children supports the notion that the letter was written to a church and the people in it as this would be the part of the letter that the writer would normally give greetings from whatever other believers they were with.


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