Introduction

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!

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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 1:4).

—Randy Smith

Source: Randy Smith, quoted from his message, “Fatherly Advice—Part One,” from his series, preached at Grace Bible Church.  

From Bibles.net: 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 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.

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 1:5); 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 1:13 suggests that John writes to one congregation from another, which he terms “your elect sister.” 

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.

Books
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.

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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! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

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.

What the Bible Is All About NIV Henrietta Mears

Dictionary 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. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?

Insights

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

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” (2 John 1:6 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: “Verse by Verse Bible Study | 2 & 3 John | Gary Hamrick.” YouTube video. Posted by “Cornerstone Chapel – Leesburg, VA,” January 30, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGqBcOOmvXs  

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. 

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 1:7). Second, he brands these false teachers as antichrists, as does the elder in 2 John (1 John 2:18, 22; cf. 2 John 1:7). 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; 5:1-4; cf. 2 John 1:4-6). 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 1:4).

There are also striking similarities of language, content, and style between 2 John and 3 John…in both of them he expresses joy that the ‘children’ are ‘walking in the truth’ (2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:4); in both the addressees (the ‘chosen lady’ and Gaius respectively) are described as those whom the elder loves ‘in the truth’ (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1); and both conclude with virtually identical statements (2 John 1:12: ‘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 1:13-14: ‘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’).

—Colin G. Kruse  

Source: Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2021.

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: Helm, David. Interview with Nancy Guthrie. Help Me Teach the Bible. Podcast Audio. May 18, 2017. This podcast originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition.

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: Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. “The Victory of Faith.” The Spurgeon Center (March 18, 1855).

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, “Contending for the Truth,” from the series Miscellaneous on 2 John:1-13, preached at Grace Bible Church on September 14, 2004. 

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: “Summary of the Book of 2 John,” Got Questions Ministries, accessed May 31, 2023, [https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-2-John.html]

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 gty.org. 

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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