What is the Book of 2 John About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read 2 John!


Historical Context

There was a man in the Bible who commonly referred to himself simply as “The Elder.” His name was the Apostle John. John viewed the church as his spiritual children. As a matter of fact, he used the word “children” 18 times in his 3 short epistles. As a spiritual father to several churches, John had the great responsibility to shepherd his children in the truth of apostolic doctrine, especially when they were confronted by the deceptive error of false teachers. And as any father seriously undertaking his responsibilities, nothing brought John greater joy than to see his children walking in the truth (3 John 4).

—Randy Smith

Source: Randy Smith, quoted from his message transcript, “Fatherly Advice—Part 1, on 2 John,” published by Grace Bible Church at

John the son of Zebedee probably wrote his three New Testament letters [1, 2, and 3 John] no later than the 90s AD. He wrote from Ephesus (in present-day western Turkey), perhaps to churches like those mentioned in Revelation 2:8–3:22. John also wrote the Fourth Gospel and the book of Revelation.  

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote 2 John for your good and to lead you into joy.

John writes to “the elect lady.” This more likely refers to a congregation than to an individual, because much of 2 John is written in the second-person plural. It is also questionable whether John would write to a female Christian that he and she should “love one another” (2 John 5); the phrase makes better sense if addressed to a church. There are three additional reasons why “elect lady” may refer to a whole congregation. First, the word “church” in Greek is feminine in gender, and “lady” would go along with that. Second, the church is depicted as “bride” elsewhere in John’s writings (Revelation 21:2, 9; 22:17). Third, the Greek word kyria (“lady”) referred to a social subunit in the Greek city-state. John may use this word for a local congregation instead of the more common feminine word ekklēsia. 2 John 13 suggests that John writes to one congregation from another, which he terms “your elect sister.” 

The three epistles of John form a single “package,” probably designed to be taken together. First John is the main document of the three; it is essentially a written sermon and lacks the normal salutation (compare Romans 1:1–7) and farewell ­instructions (compare Romans 16:1–27) of a typical epistle. However, the short letter we know as 2 John contains the elements of a salutation. And 3 John contains the personal instructions often included at the end of an epistle. All three epistles thus probably formed a single packet delivered together: a cover letter to the congregation (2 John), a cover letter to the pastor (3 John), and the main written sermon (1 John).

—Michael LeFebvre

Content taken from 1-3 John: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Michael LeFebvre. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Life Together at the End of the Age by John Piper

In this message, Pastor John Piper teaches us a valuable principle from the book of 2 John—that “Life together in Christian love is a great protection against deception.” This message will motivate you to love the other believers in your life well.

2 John Dictionary

As you read through 2 John, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

The great enemy of Christ Jesus who pretends to be the Messiah. The Bible tells us that before the Second Coming of Christ, the Antichrist will rule over the world.

The Greek word that means “God’s Chosen One.” “Messiah” is the Hebrew word meaning the same thing. Jesus was the Christ.

Love and kindness shown to someone who does not deserve it—especially the forgiveness God shows to us. We don’t deserve God’s grace because we sin against him. God showed grace to all people by sending his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. God’s grace allows us to become members of his family (see Ephesians 2:8). God’s grace also helps us live as God wants us to (see Acts 20:32). A person cannot earn God’s grace by trying to be good; it is God’s free gift.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions


The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of 2 John.

There are many similarities between 1 John and 2 John. First, in 1 John, the author deals with the same historical situation as that reflected in 2 John. He speaks of those who ‘went out from us’ and do not acknowledge ‘Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh’ (1 John 2:19, 22-23; cf. 2 John 7). Second, he brands these false teachers as antichrists, as does the elder in 2 John (1 John 2:18, 22; cf. 2 John 7). Third, he stresses the great importance of the love command, which was received at the beginning along with the gospel, just as the elder does in 2 John (1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 21; 5:1-4a; cf. 2 John 4-6). Fourth, the author of 1 John, like the elder, finds his joy in seeing his children walking in the truth of the gospel (1 John 1: 3-4; cf. 2 John 4). 

There are also striking similarities of language, content, and style between 2 John and 3 John, and these indicate that the same elder was responsible for writing both letters: in both of them he expresses joy that the ‘children’ are ‘walking in the truth’ (2 John 4; 3 John 4); in both the addressees (the ‘chosen lady’ and Gaius respectively) are described as those whom the elder loves ‘in the truth’ (2 John 1; 3 John 1); and both conclude with virtually identical statements (2 John 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’; 3 John 13-14a: ‘I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face’). Because of the close connections between 1 John and 2 John, and between 2 John and 3 John, there is a prima facie case for saying that the three letters were written by the same person, at about the same time, and in response to various aspects of the same crisis.  

—Colin G. Kruse  

Source: Colin G. Kruse, quoted from his book The Letters of John in The Pillar New Testament Commentary Series, published by Eerdmans.

Verse six says, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (NIV). 

So one of the ways that we demonstrate love for God is to obey God. You know, when we walk in his commandments and we do what God says, we show that we love him. This is what John is reminding us of here. 

—Gary Hamrick  

Source: Gary Hamrick, quoted from his message, “2 & 3 John,” preached at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, VA on January 29, 2020. 

The word “truth” is found five times in this short letter of 13 verses. It is the keyword. The word “love” occurs five times. Truth and love are inseparable. 

—Henrietta Mears 

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Second John stands in direct antithesis to the frequent cry for ecumenism and Christian unity among believers. Love and truth are inseparable in Christianity. Truth must always guide the exercise of love (cf. Ephesians 4:15). Love must stand the test of truth. The main lesson of this book is that truth determines the bounds of love, and as a consequence, of unity. Therefore, truth must exist before love can unite, for truth generates love (1 Peter 1:22). When someone compromises the truth, true Christian love and unity are destroyed. Only a shallow sentimentalism exists where the truth is not the foundation of unity. 

—John MacArthur 

Copyright 2023, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This Grace to You article originally appeared here at 

Here in Second John, the Apostle warns the church about being hospitable to false teachers. You see, when someone knocked on the door, the church was supposed to discern truth from error. They were to support the true teachers and shun the false teachers. Refusing to give the false teachers a platform would protect the church and eventually put them out of business. They were not to give God’s people to someone bent on destroying their faith!

—Randy Smith

Source: Randy Smith, quoted from his message transcript, “Contending for the Truth,” on 2 John, published by Grace Bible Church at 

It is extremely important that we check everything we see, hear, and read that claims to be “Christian” with the Scriptures. This cannot be too strongly emphasized because one of Satan’s greatest weapons is deceit. It is very easy to be taken in by a new and exciting doctrine that appears to be based on Scripture but which, if examined closely, is in fact a departure from the Word of God. If what appears to be happening does not line up explicitly with Scripture, then this is false and not of the Spirit, and we should have nothing to do with it.

—Got Questions

Source: Got Questions, quoted from their article, “Summary of the Book of 2 John,” published at 

One of the things I love about the way those two letters (2 and 3 John) work together is they’re two sides of one pastoral issue: 1) The need for the church to patrol itself on what it hears concerning Jesus and therefore restraining itself from adopting anyone to teach or preach. And then the flip side is 2) You’ve got to welcome the right guys and you better support them, you better fund them, you better send them on their way. [In other words,] welcome the brothers who are retaining the apostolic message. Do not welcome into your assembly those who are rejecting it. And both of those follow on the heels of 1 John where he’s really fully laid out how you can know [the difference between those who are truly teaching the truth about Jesus and those who are not]. 

—David Helm  

Source: David Helm, quoted from the podcast episode, “David Helm on 1, 2, and 3 John” from Nancy Guthrie’s podcast, Help Me Teach the Bible. 

The Epistles of John are perfumed with love. The word is continually occurring, while the Spirit enters into every sentence. Each letter is thoroughly soaked and impregnated with this heavenly honey. If he speaks of God, his name must be love; are the brethren mentioned, he loves them; and even of the world itself, he writes, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16 KJV). From the opening to the conclusion, love is the manner, love the matter, love the motive, and love the aim. 

—Charles Spurgeon

Source: Charles Spurgeon, quoted from his message, “The Victory of Faith,” preached on March 18, 1855, published by The Spurgeon Center at 

2 John Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of 2 John.

A Love for Truth
by Dylan Woodward | Contemporary
The Truth
by The Belonging Co. feat. Lauren Strahm and Andrew Holt | Praise & Worship
Love One Another
by Michael W. Smith | Funk Rock
Love Each Other
by Graham Kendrick | Chill & Relaxing
Son of Suffering
by The Worship Initiative feat. Aaron Williams and Davy Flowers | Praise & Worship
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