Background of 2 John

What Is the Book of 2 John About?

Time: 3 Minutes

Hey Friend!

Our editorial team wrote this book introduction for you. We hope it helps you find your bearings in the Bible story and inspires you to open this book of the Bible!

First, Second, and Third John are letters written by the apostle John near the end of his life. First John is more like a blog post than a letter. It’s reflective and addresses multiple churches instead of one. Second John reads like a typical letter and is addressed to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1:1 ESV).

While 1 John assures true believers of their salvation, 2 John warns us against welcoming every teaching about Jesus too quickly.

While 1 John assures true believers of their salvation, 2 John warns us against welcoming every teaching about Jesus too quickly.

More than any other New Testament writer, John loved poetic language. He packs his writing with images, symbols, and poetic expressions. In typical “John” fashion, he does not write to “the church” but to “the elect lady.” We can understand the recipient of this letter to be either a specific woman, or metaphorically speaking, a church. Regardless of which way we understand 2 John, we can be sure of two things. Either way, we know the message of the book remains the same, and we know that John is writing affectionately to believers in Jesus.

Second John is a loving warning against “deceivers” (2 John 1:7 ESV) or false teachers. John calls these false teachers “the antichrist” (2 John 1:7 ESV) because they preach against Jesus’ teaching and distort the truth about Jesus’ identity. Second John is a loving letter written to help the church know how to respond to these deceivers.

John encourages “the lady and her children” to press on in what they are already doing. He exhorts them to walk in the truth (2 John 1:4) and love one another (2 John 1:5). John warns them to be on guard against deception (2 John 1:8). Finally, John tells the church to refuse hospitality to anyone who denies Jesus’ teaching, identity, or the facts of his life (2 John 1:7, 10).

For a writer who repeats “love one another” over and over again, it surprises us when John tells the church, “do not receive him [the deceiver] into your house or give him any greeting” (2 John 1:10 ESV).

Sometimes we mistakenly think that in Christian love we should accept all perspectives and welcome everyone. But whether John addresses a church or a few individuals in this letter, his point is clear for us today. Jesus’ followers must not welcome and have fellowship with people who teach what opposes the truth about Jesus. The church must guard against anyone whose teaching doesn’t line up with Jesus’ teaching.

The Bible instructs us to welcome unbelievers into our homes and churches, but that’s not what John is talking about. The people John has in mind are “deceivers,” meaning influencers who live in opposition to the good news about Jesus.

John reminds us to take false teaching seriously. This letter should motivate us to know Jesus’ teaching more fully so that we can recognize lies. As you read 2 John, consider the kind of teaching you receive not just in church, but on the internet, social media, on television, in books, and elsewhere. Is there any teacher or teaching you have welcomed into your life, that you need to refuse to affirm any longer?

Take to heart John’s warning to test this teaching against the Bible’s testimony about Jesus. Follow John’s warning and command: Cling to the Bible’s teaching about Jesus while loving others as Jesus calls us to love.