Understanding 2 John 1-13
John wrote as an elder (“elder” means an older person. It can mean a special leader in the church (Titus1:5) to an unknown Christian lady (“lady” might mean a woman, or in this letter it might mean a church, then her children would be the people of the church).
It is believed that John wrote this letter in about AD 90 to this mother in Ephesus with several children, perhaps a widow, to answer her questions regarding her doubts on the Christian faith. For at that time, evidently some false prophets and teachers had taught among Christians doctrinal matters that disturbed her. (Please also read Introduction in 1 John).
A balance of truth and love
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love (v.3).
A Christian life is characterized by truth and love—the same disposition living out as Paul commends to us in Ephesians 4:15—“speaking the truth”. The challenge we have to face in life is learning to maintain truth and love in balance.
Going off balance to the extreme of truth or love is not the authentic Christian faith. Since the beginning of Christianity, we have had and still have some believers who are full of doctrines, dogmas, opinions, tenets, and laws. Like the arrogant Pharisees, they are cold and judgmental, having no concern for feelings, needs, or hurts of others. On the other extreme are some who would never confront anyone caught in sin—they have all so called love but no truth. Both practices are not the truth of the Christian faith.
Deceivers and Anti-Christ
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 anti-Christ (v.7).
We must test all the teachings in the world by the Scriptures. “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” (v.9).
How should we respond to those who approach us with false doctrines and heresies regarding the Lord and His teaching?
John advises us not to entertain them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work (vv. 10-11). In here we must be careful not to interpret John’s message wrongly. John didn’t ask us to shut the door in the face of anyone who comes with a false teaching. We are not to receive deceivers or false teachers in such a way that appear to support, endure or subsidize the teaching of antichrist. Truth should be spoken in love and love should be bounded by truth. (“Truth” means “Good News” about Jesus Christ that joins us all believers together).
In ending his letter, John said in effect that he had a lot to tell but he did not want to write letters, because in those days, mail was slow and uncertain. False or heretical teaching is so important it couldn’t wait. He had to write to forewarn them about the anti-Christ prior to visiting the church and talking to them face to face (v.12).
Ray C. Stedman puts it well:
“Truth and love together that is the vital balance we must seek in the Christian life. It is not only Christian balance, it is Christian sanity. A person who practices truth without love or love without truth does not have a Christian worldview. To be spiritually unbalanced is to be, in a very real sense, spiritually insane. John’s goal in this brief but powerful letter is to restore us to a sane balance” (Adventure through the Bible, P759).
(. . .to be cont’d in Third John. . .)