2 John 1
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An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of The Second Epistle of John
Here we find a canonical epistle inscribed, principally, not only to a single person, but to one also of the softer sex. And why not to one of that sex? In gospel redemption, privilege, and dignity, there is neither male nor female; they are both one in Christ Jesus. Our Lord himself neglected his own repast, to commune with the woman of Samaria, in order to show her the fountain of life; and, when almost expiring upon the cross, he would with his dying lips bequeath his blessed mother to the care of his beloved disciple, and thereby instruct him to respect female disciples for the future. It was to one of the same sex that our Lord chose to appear first after his return from the grave, and to send by her the news of his resurrection to this as well as to the other apostles; and we find afterwards a zealous Priscilla so well acquitting herself in her Christian race, and particularly in some hazardous service towards the apostle Paul, that she is not only often mentioned before her husband, but to her as well as to him, not only the apostle himself, but also all the Gentile churches, were ready to return their thankful acknowledgments. No wonder then that a heroine in the Christian religion, honoured by divine providence, and distinguished by divine grace, should be dignified also by an apostolical epistle. — Henry
2 John THE SECOND EPISTLE OF JOHN.
There has always been a difference of opinion and discussion concerning the Second and Third Epistles ascribed to John, the apostle. Neither the ancient church nor the modern critics have been entirely agreed concerning the writer, the persons addressed, or even concerning their title to a place in the Canon. The limited space to which I am confined will not allow me to enter at length into these controversies, further than to say that every hypothesis which refers to the authorship to any one else than John, the apostle, rests upon filmy foundations. The conjecture that they were written by a "Presbyter John," who was a contemporary of the apostle, and also lived at Ephesus, is based upon a fragment preserved from Papias, a Father in the second century, who mentions what he had learned from "the elders," or ancients, and among them names "the Elder John," who was a personal disciple of Christ. Since in the very same sentence he names seven apostles and calls them not apostles, but "elders," or "ancients," those are hard pressed who assume that he meant by the "Elder John," some other personal disciple of Christ than the son of Zebedee. There is no evidence that any "John the elder" lived in the apostolic age, a separate life from John the apostle. In addition, the language, doctrine and style of the two epistles point to the author of the fourth gospel, and especially to the writer of the First Epistle of John. — PNT
Preface to the Second Epistle of John
The authority of the First Epistle of John being established, little need be said concerning either the second or third, if we regard the language and the sentiment only, for these so fully accord with the first, that there can be no doubt that he who wrote one, wrote all the three. But it must not be concealed that there were doubts entertained in the primitive Church as to the two latter being canonical. And so late as the days of Eusebius, who lived in the fourth century, they were ranked among those writings which were then termed αντιλεγομενα, not received by all, or contradicted, because not believed to be the genuine productions of the Apostle John.
It is very likely that, being letters to private persons, they had for a considerable time been kept in the possession of the families to which they were originally sent; and only came to light perhaps long after the death of the apostle, and the death of the elect lady or Kyria, and Gaius or Caius, to whom they were addressed. When first discovered, all the immediate vouchers were gone; and the Church of Christ, that was always on its guard against imposture, and especially in relation to writings professing to be the work of apostles, hesitated to receive them into the number of canonical Scriptures, till it was fully satisfied that they were Divinely inspired. This extreme caution was of the utmost consequence to the Christian faith; for had it been otherwise, had any measure of what is called credulity prevailed, the Church would have been inundated with spurious writings, and the genuine faith greatly corrupted, if not totally destroyed.
The number of apocryphal gospels, acts of apostles, and epistles, which were offered to the Church in the earliest ages of Christianity, is truly astonishing. We have the names of at least seventy-five gospels which were offered to, and rejected by, the Church; besides Acts of Peter, Acts of Paul and Thecla, Third Epistle to the Corinthians, Epistle to the Laodiceans, Book of Enoch, etc., some of which are come down to the present time, but are convicted of forgery by the sentiment, the style, and the doctrine.
The suspicion, however, of forgery, in reference to the Second Epistle of Peter, second and third of John, Jude, and the Apocalypse, was so strong, that in the third century, when the Peshito Syriac version was made, these books were omitted, and have not since been received into that version to the present day, which is the version still in use in the Syrian Churches. But the later Syriac version, which was made a.d. 508, and is called the Philoxenian, from Philoxenus, bishop of Hierapolis, under whose direction it was formed from the Greek by his rural Bishop Polycarp, and was afterwards corrected and published by Thomas of Charkel, in 616, contains these, as well as all the other canonical books of the New Testament.
From the time that the language, sentiments, and doctrines of these two epistles were critically examined, no doubts were entertained of their authenticity; and at present they are received by the whole Christian Church throughout the world; for although they are not in the ancient Syriac version, they are in the Philoxenian; and concerning their authenticity I believe the Syrian Churches have at present no doubts.
Dr. Lardner observes that the first epistle was received and quoted by Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, contemporary with the apostle; by Papias, who himself had been a disciple of St. John; by Irenaeus; Clement of Alexandria; Origen, and many others. The second epistle is quoted by Irenaeus, was received by Clement of Alexandria, mentioned by Origen and Dionysius of Alexandria, is quoted by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria. All the three epistles were received by Athanasius, by Cyril, of Jerusalem; by the council of Laodicea; by Epiphanius; by Jerome; by Ruffinus; by the third council of Carthage; by Augustine, and by all those authors who received the same canon of the New Testament that we do. All the epistles are in the Codex Alexandrinus, in the catalogues of Gregory of Nazianzen, etc., etc.
Thus we find they were known and quoted at a very early period; and have been received as genuine by the most respectable fathers, Greek and Latin, of the Christian Church. Their being apparently of a private nature might have prevented their more general circulation at the beginning, kept them for a considerable time unknown, and prevented them from being reckoned canonical. But such a circumstance as this cannot operate in the present times.
As to the time in which this epistle was written, it is very uncertain. It is generally supposed to have been written at Ephesus between a.d. 80 and 90, but of this there is no proof; nor are there any data in the epistle itself to lead to any probable conjecture relative to this point. I have placed it at A D. 85, but could not wish to pledge myself to the correctness of that date.
Chronological Notes Relative to this Epistle
- Year of the Constantinopolitan era of the world, or that used by the Byzantine historians, and other eastern writers, 5593.
- Year of the Alexandrian era of the world, 5587.
- Year of the Antiochian era of the world, 5577.
- Year of the world, according to Archbishop Usher, 4089.
- Year of the world, according to Eusebius, in his Chronicon, 4311.
- Year of the minor Jewish era of the world, or that in common use, 3845.
- Year of the Greater Rabbinical era of the world, 4444.
- Year from the Flood, according to Archbishop Usher, and the English Bible, 2433.
- Year of the Cali yuga, or Indian era of the Deluge, 3187.
- Year of the era of Iphitus, or since the first commencement of the Olympic games, 1025.
- Year of the era of Nabonassar, king of Babylon, 834.
- Year of the CCXVIth Olympiad, 1.
- Year from the building of Rome, according to Fabius Pictor, 832.
- Year from the building of Rome, according to Frontinus, 836.
- Year from the building of Rome, according to the Fasti Capitolini, 837.
- Year from the building of Rome, according to Varro, which was that most generally used, 838.
- Year of the era of the Seleucidae, 397.
- Year of the Caesarean era of Antioch, 133.
- Year of the Julian era, 130.
- Year of the Spanish era, 123.
- Year from the birth of Jesus Christ, according to Archbishop Usher, 89.
- Year of the vulgar era of Christ’s nativity, 85.
- Year of Artabanus IV., king of the Parthians, 4.
- Year of the Dionysian period, or Easter Cycle, 86.
- Year of the Grecian Cycle of nineteen years, or Common Golden Number, 10; or the year before the fourth embolismic.
- Year of the Jewish Cycle of nineteen years, 7; or the year before the third embolismic.
- Year of the Solar Cycle, 10.
- Dominical Letter, it being the first year after the Bissextile, or Leap Year, B.
- Day of the Jewish Passover, the twenty-seventh of March, which happened in this year on the Jewish Sabbath.
- Easter Sunday, the third of April.
- Epact, or age of the moon on the 22d of March, (the day of the earliest Easter Sunday possible), 9.
- Epact, according to the present mode of computation, or the moon’s age on New Year’s day, or the Calends of January, 17.
- Monthly Epacts, or age of the moon on the Calends of each month respectively, (beginning with January), 17, 19, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 24, 25, 27, 27.
- Number of Direction, or the number of days from the twenty-first of March to the Jewish Passover, 6.
- Year of the Emperor Flavius Domitianus Caesar, the last of those usually styled the Twelve Caesars, 5.
- Roman Consuls, Domitianus Augustus Caesar, the eleventh time, and T. Aurelius Fulvus or Fulvius.
- The years in which Domitian had been consul before were, a.d. 71, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 80, 82, 83, and 84.
It should be observed that the date of this epistle is very uncertain. The above is only upon the supposition that it was written about a.d. 85. See the preface to 2 John. — Clarke
The Second and Third Epistles General of John
Commentary by A. R. Faussett
Authenticity. — That these two Epistles were written by the same author appears from their similarity of tone, style, and sentiments. That John, the beloved disciple, was the author of the Second and Third Epistles, as of the First Epistle, appears from Irenaeus [Against Heresies, 1.16.3], who quotes 2Jo_1:10, 2Jo_1:11; and in [3.16.8], he quotes 2Jo_1:7, mistaking it, however, as if occurring in First John. Clement of Alexandria (a.d. 192) [Miscellanies, 2.66], implies his knowledge of other Epistles of John besides the First Epistle; and in fragments of his Adumbrations [p. 1011], he says, “John’s Second Epistle which was written to the virgins (Greek, “parthenous”; perhaps Parthos is what was meant) is the simplest; but it was written to a certain Babylonian named the Elect lady.” Dionysius of Alexandria (in Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 7.25]) observes that John never names himself in his Epistles, “not even in the Second and Third Epistles, although they are short Epistles, but simply calls himself the presbyter, a confutation of those who think John the apostle distinct from John the presbyter. Alexander of Alexandria cites 2Jo_1:10, 2Jo_1:11, as John’s [Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, 1.6]. Cyprian [Concerning the Baptism of Heretics], in referring to the bishops at the Council of Carthage, says, “John the apostle, in His Epistle, has said, if any come to you” (2Jo_1:10); so that this Epistle, and therefore its twin sister, Third John, was recognized as apostolic in the North African Church. The Muratori fragment is ambiguous. The Second and Third Epistles were not in the Peschito or old Syriac version; and Cosmas Indicopleustes in the sixth century says that in his time the Syriac Church only acknowledged three of the Catholic Epistles, First Peter, First John, and James. But Ephrem the Syrian quotes the Second Epistle of John. Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History,] reckons both Epistles among the Antilegomena or controverted Scriptures, as distinguished from the Homologoumena or universally acknowledged from the first. Still his own opinion was that the two minor Epistles were genuine, remarking, as he does in Demonstration of the Gospel [3.5], that in John’s “Epistles” he does not mention his own name, nor call himself an apostle or evangelist, but an “elder” (2Jo_1:1; 3Jo_1:1). Origen (in Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 6.25]) mentions the Second and Third Epistles, but adds, “not all admit (implying that most authorities do) their genuineness.” Jerome [On Illustrious Men, 9] mentions the two latter Epistles as attributed to John the presbyter, whose sepulcher was shown among the Ephesians in his day. But the designation “elder” was used of the apostles by others (for example, Papias, in Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 3.39]), and is used by Peter, an apostle, of himself (1Pe_5:1). Why, then, should not John also use this designation of himself, in consonance with the humility which leads him not to name himself or his apostleship even in the First Epistle? The Antilegomena were generally recognized as canonical soon after the Council of Nicea (a.d. 325). Thus Cyril of Jerusalem, a.d. 349, enumerates fourteen Epistles of Paul, and seven Catholic Epistles. So Gregory Nazianzen, in a.d. 389. The Councils of Hippo, 393, and Carthage, 397, adopted a catalogue of New Testament books exactly agreeing with our canon. So our oldest extant Greek manuscripts. The Second and Third Epistles of John, from their brevity (which Origen notices), and the private nature of their contents, were less generally read in the earliest Christian assemblies and were also less quoted by the Fathers; hence arose their non-universal recognition at the first. Their private nature makes them the less likely to be spurious, for there seems no purpose in their forgery. The style and coloring too accord with the style of the First Epistle.
To Whom Addressed. — The Third Epistle is directed to Gaius or Caius; whether Gaius of Macedonia (Act_19:20), or Gaius of Corinth (Rom_16:23; 1Co_1:14), or Gaius of Derbe (Act_20:4), it is hard to decide. Mill believes Gaius, bishop of Pergamos [Apostolic Constitutions, 7.40], to be the person addressed in 3Jo_1:1.
The address of the Second Epistle is more disputed. It opens, “The elder unto the Elect lady” (2Jo_1:1). And it closes, “The children of thy elect sister greet thee” (2Jo_1:13). Now, 1Pe_1:1, 1Pe_1:2, addresses the elect in Asia, etc., and closes (1Pe_5:13), “The Church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you.” Putting together these facts, with the quotations (above) from Clement of Alexandria, and the fact that the word “Church” comes from a Greek word (kyriake) cognate to the Greek for “lady” (kyria; “belonging to the Lord,” kyrios); Wordsworth’s view is probable. As Peter in Babylon had sent the salutations of the elect Church in the then Parthian (see above on Clement of Alexandria) Babylon to her elect sister in Asia, so John, the metropolitan president of the elect Church in Asia, writes to the elect lady, that is, Church, in Babylon. Neander, Alford, and others, think the Greek “kyria” not to mean “lady,” but to be her proper name; and that she had a “sister, a Christian matron,” then with John.
Date and Place of Writing. — Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 3.25] relates that John, after the death of Domitian, returned from his exile in Patmos to Ephesus, and went on missionary tours into the heathen regions around, and also made visitations of the churches around, and ordained bishops and clergy. Such journeys are mentioned, 2Jo_1:12; 3Jo_1:10, 3Jo_1:14. If Eusebius be right, both Epistles must have been written after the Apocalypse, in his old age, which harmonizes with the tone of the Epistles, and in or near Ephesus. It was on one of his visitation tours that he designed to rebuke Diotrephes (3Jo_1:9, 3Jo_1:10). — JFB
1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; 2 For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. 3 Grace be with you, mercy, [and] peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. 5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 1John 2:7; John 13:34; John 15:12; Eph 5:2; 1Thess 4:9; 1Pet 4:8; 1John 3:23; 1John 4:21; 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. Matt 4:4; This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. John 15:10;
7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. 1John 4:3; This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Matt 24:5; Matt 24:24; 2Pet 2:1; 1John 4:1; 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. John 15:6; He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. John 14:23; 1John 3:24; 5:20;
10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your] house, neither bid him God speed: Rom 16:17; 2Tim 3:5; Titus 3:10; 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. 1Tim. 5:22;
12 Having many things to write unto you, I would not [write] with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 1Cor. 13:12; John 3:2; 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen. TOC
2 John 1
The apostle’s address to a Christian matron and her children, 2Jo. 1:1-3. He rejoices to find that certain of her family had received, and continued to adorn, the truth; and he exhorts them to continue to love one another according to the commandment of Christ, 2Jo. 1:4-6, And particularly cautions them against deceivers, and to so watch, that they might not lose the benefit of what they had received, 2Jo. 1:7, 2Jo. 1:8. The necessity of abiding in the doctrine of Christ, 2Jo. 1:9. He cautions them against receiving, or in any way forwarding, those who did not bring the true doctrine of Christ, 2Jo. 1:10, 2Jo. 1:11. Excuses himself from writing more largely, and purposes to pay her and family a visit shortly, 2Jo. 1:12, 2Jo. 1:13. — Clarke
2 John 1
The apostle here salutes an honourable matron and her children (2Jo. 1:1-3). Recommends to them faith and love (2Jo. 1:5, 2Jo. 1:6). Warns them of deceivers (2Jo. 1:7), and to take heed to themselves (2Jo. 1:8). Teaches how to treat those who bring not the doctrine of Christ (2Jo. 1:10, 2Jo. 1:11). And, referring other things to personal discourse, concludes the epistle (2Jo. 1:12, 2Jo. 1:13). — Henry
2 John 1:1-3
Religion turns compliments into real expressions of respect and love. And old disciple is honourable; an old apostle and leader of disciples is more so. The letter is to a noble Christian matron, and her children; it is well that the gospel should get among such: some noble persons are called. Families are to be encouraged and directed in their love and duties at home. Those who love truth and piety in themselves, should love it in others; and the Christians loved this lady, not for her rank, but for her holiness. And where religion truly dwells, it will abide for ever. From the Divine Persons of the Godhead, the apostle craves grace, Divine favour, and good-will, the spring of all good things. It is grace indeed that any spiritual blessing should be given to sinful mortals. Mercy, free pardon, and forgiveness; for those already rich in grace, need continual forgiveness. Peace, quietness of spirit, and a clear conscience, in assured reconciliation with God, together with all outward prosperity that is really for good: these are desired in truth and love.
2 John 1:4-6
It is good to be trained to early religion; and children may be beloved for their parents' sake. It gave great joy to the apostle to see children treading in their parents' steps, and likely in their turn to support the gospel. May God bless such families more and more, and raise up many to their example. How pleasing the contrast to numbers who spread irreligion, infidelity, and vice, among their children! Our walk is true, our converse right, when according to the word of God. This commandment of mutual Christian love, may be said to be a new one, in respect of its being declared by the Lord Christ; yet, as to the matter, it is old. And this is love to our own souls, that we obey the Divine commands. The foresight of the decay of this love, as well as of other apostacies, or fallings away, might engage the apostle to urge this duty, and this command, frequently and earnestly.
2 John 1:7-11
The deceiver and his deceit are described: he brings some error concerning the person or office of the Lord Jesus. Such a one is a deceiver and an antichrist; he deludes souls, and undermines the glory and kingdom of the Lord Christ. Let us not think it strange, that there are deceivers and opposers of the Lord Christ's name and dignity now, for there were such, even in the apostles' times. The more deceivers and deceits abound, the more watchful the disciples must be. Sad it is, that splendid attainments in the school of Christ, should ever be lost. The way to gain the full reward is, to abide true to Christ, and constant in religion to the end. Firm cleaving to Christian truth unites us to Christ, and thereby to the Father also; for they are one. Let us equally disregard such as abide not in the doctrine of Christ, and those who transgress his commands. Any who did not profess and preach the doctrine of Christ, respecting him as the Son of God, and salvation by him from guilt and sin, were not to be noticed and countenanced. Yet in obeying this command, we must show kindness and a good spirit to those who differ from us in lesser matters, but hold firmly the all-important doctrines of Christ's person, atonement, and holy salvation.
2 John 1:12-13
The apostle refers many things to a personal meeting. Pen and ink were means of strengthening and comforting others; but to see each other is more so. The communion of saints should be maintained by all methods; and should tend to mutual joy. In communion with them we find much of our present joy, and look forward to happiness for ever. — MHCC
2 John 1:1-4
Ancient epistles began, as here, with salutation and good wishes: religion consecrates, as far as may be, old forms, and turns compliments into real expressions of life and love. Here we have, as usually,
I. The saluter, not expressed by name, but by a chosen character: The elder. The expression, and style, and love, intimate that the penman was the same with that of the foregoing epistle; he is now the elder, emphatically and eminently so; possibly the oldest apostle now living, the chief elder in the church of God. An elder in the ancient house of Israel was reverend, or to be reverenced, much more he who is so In the gospel Israel of God. An old disciple is honourable; and old apostle and leader of disciples is more so. He was now old in holy service and experience, had seen and tasted much of heaven, and was much nearer than when at first he believed.
II. The saluted - a noble Christian matron, and her children: To the elect lady and her children. A lady, a person of eminent quality for birth, education, and estate. It is well that the gospel ha got among such. It is a pity but lords and ladies should be acquainted with the Lord Christ and his religion. They owe more to him than others do; though usually not many noble are called. Here is a pattern for persons of quality of the same sex. The elect lady; not only a choice one, but one chosen of God. It is lovely and beautiful to see ladies, by holy walking, demonstrate their election of God. And her children; probably the lady was a widow; she and her children then are the principal part of the family, and so this may be styled an economical epistle. Families may well be written to and encouraged, and further directed in their domestic love, and order, and duties. We see that children may well be taken notice of in Christian letters, and they should know it too; it may avail to their encouragement and caution. Those who love and commend them will be apt to enquire after them. This lady and her children are further notified by the respect paid them, and that, 1. By the apostle himself: Whom I love in the truth, or in truth, whom I sincerely and heartily love. He who was the beloved disciple had learnt the art or exercise of love; and he especially loved those who loved him, that Lord who loved him. 2. By all her Christian acquaintance, all the religious who knew her: And not I only, but also all those that have known the truth. virtue and goodness in an elevated sphere shine brightly. Truth demands acknowledgment, and those who see the evidences of pure religion should confess and attest them; it is a good sign and great duty to love and value religion in others. The ground of this love and respect thus paid to this lady and her children was their regard to the truth: For the truth's sake (or true religion's sake) which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. Christian love is founded upon the appearance of vital religion. Likeness should beget affection. Those who love truth and piety in themselves should love it in others too, or love others upon the account of it. The apostle and the other Christians loved this lady, not so much for her honour as her holiness; not so much for her bounty as her serious Christianity. We should not be religious merely by fits and starts, in certain moods and moons; but religion should still dwell within us, in our minds and hearts, in our faith and love. It is to be hoped that where religion once truly dwells it will abide for ever. The Spirit of Christianity, we may suppose, will not be totally extinguished: Which shall be with us for ever.
III. The salutation, which is indeed an apostolical benediction: Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love, 2Jo. 1:3. Sacred love pours out blessings upon this honourable Christian family; to those who have shall more be given. Observe,
1. From whom these blessings are craved, (1.) From God the Father, the God of all grace. He is the fountain of blessedness, and of all the blessings that must bring us thither. (2.) From the Lord Jesus Christ. He is also author and communicator of these heavenly blessings, and he is distinguished by this emphatic character - the Son of the Father; such a Son as none else can be; such a Son as is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, who, with the Father, is also eternal life, 1Jo. 1:2.
2. What the apostle craves from these divine persons. (1.) Grace - divine favour and good-will, the spring of all good things: it is grace indeed that any spiritual blessing should be conferred on sinful mortals. (2.) Mercy - free pardon and forgiveness; those who are already rich in grace have need of continual forgiveness. (3.) Peace - tranquility of spirit and serenity of conscience, in an assured reconciliation with God, together with all safe and sanctified outward prosperity. And these are desired in truth and love, either by sincere and ardent affection in the saluter (in faith and love he prays them from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ), or as productive of continued truth and love in the saluted; these blessings will continually preserve true faith and love in the elect lady and her children; and may they do so!
IV. The congratulation upon the prospect of the exemplary behaviour of other children of this excellent lady. Happy parent, who was blessed with such a numerous religious offspring! I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in the truth, as we have received commandment from the Father, 2Jo. 1:4. Possibly the lady's sons travelled abroad, either for accomplishment and acquaintance with the world, or on the account of their own business or the common affairs of the family, and in their travels might come to Ephesus, where the apostle is supposed to have now resided, and might there happily converse with him. See how good it is to be trained up to early religion! Though religion is not to be founded upon education, yet education may be and often is blessed, and is the way to fortify youth against irreligious infection. Hence too let young travellers learn to carry their religion along with them, and not either leave it at home or learn the ill customs of the countries where they come. It may be observed, also, that sometimes election runs in a direct line; here we have an elect lady, and her elect children; children may be beloved for their parents' sake, but both by virtue of free grace. From the apostle's joy herein we may observe that it is pleasant to see children treading in good parent's steps; and those who see this may well congratulate their parents thereupon, and that both to excite their thankfulness to God for, and to enlarge their comfort in, so great a blessing. How happy a lady was this, who had brought forth so many children for heaven and for God! And how great a joy must it be to her ladyship to hear so good an account of them from so good a judge! And we may further see that it is joyful to good old ministers, and accordingly to other good old disciples, to see a hopeful rising generation, who may serve God and support religion in the world when they are dead and gone. We see here also the rule of true walking: the commandment of the Father. Then is our walk true, our converse right, when it is managed by the word of God.
2 John 1:5-6
We come now more into the design and substance of the epistle; and here we have,
I. The apostle's request: Now, I beseech thee, lady. Considering what it is that he entreats, the way of address is very remarkable; it is not any particular boon or bounty to himself, but common duty and observance of divine command. Here he might command or charge; but harsher measures are worse than needless where milder will prevail; and the apostolical spirit is, of all other, the most tender and endearing. Whether out of deference to her ladyship, or apostolical meekness, or both, he condescends to beseech: And now I beseech thee, lady. He may be supposed speaking as another apostle does to a certain master to whom he writes: Wherefore, though I might be very bold in Christ (and according to the power with which Christ hath entrusted me) to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet, for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such a one as the aged, the elder. Love will avail where authority will not; and we may often see that the more authority is urged the more it is slighted. The apostolical minister will love and beseech his friends into their duty.
II. The thing requested of the lady and her children - Christian sacred love: That we love one another, 2Jo. 1:5. Those that are eminent in any Christian virtue have yet room to grow therein. But, as touching brotherly love, you need not that I write unto you; for you yourselves are taught of God to love one another. But we beseech you, brethren (and sisters), that you increase more and more, 1Th. 4:9, 1Th. 4:10.
1. This love is recommended, (1.) From the obligation thereto - the commandment. Divine command should sway our mind and heart. (2.) From the antiquity of the obligation: Not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, 2Jo. 1:5. This commandment of mutual Christian love may be said to be a new one in respect of its new enaction and sanction by the Lord Christ; but yet, as to the matter of it (mutual holy love), it is as old as natural, Jewish, or Christian religion. This commandment must every where attend Christianity, that the disciples of it must love one another.
2. Then this love is illustrated from the fruitful nature of it: And this is love, that we walk after his commandments, 2Jo. 1:5. This is the test of our love to God, our obedience to him. This is love to ourselves, to our own souls, that we walk in obedience to divine commands. In keeping them there is great reward. This is love to one another, to engage one another to walk in holiness; and this is the evidence of our sincere, mutual, Christian love - that we (in other things) walk after God's commands. There may be mutual love that is not religious and Christian; but we know ours to be so, by our attendance to all other commands besides that of mutual love. Universal obedience is the proof of the goodness and sincerity of Christian virtues; and those that aim at all Christian obedience will be sure to attend to Christian love. This is a fundamental duty in the gospel-charter: This is the commandment, that, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it (2Jo. 1:6), that is, walk in this love. The foresight of the decay of this love, as well as of other apostasy, might engage the apostle to inculcate this duty, and this primordial command, the more frequently, the more earnestly.
2 John 1:7-9
In this principal part of the epistle we find,
I. The ill news communicated to the lady-seducers are abroad: For many deceivers have entered into the world. This report is introduced by a particle that bespeaks a reason of the report. “You have need to maintain your love, for there are destroyers of it in the world. Those who subvert the faith destroy the love; the common faith is one ground of the common love;” or, “You must secure your walk according to the commands of God; this will secure you. Your stability is likely to be tried, for many deceivers have entered into the world.” Sad and saddening news may be communicated to our Christian friends; not that we should love to make them sorry, but to fore-warn is the way to fore-arm them against their trials. Now here is, 1. The description of the deceiver and his deceit - he confesses not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (2Jo. 1:7); he brings some error or other concerning the person of the Lord Jesus; he either confesses not that Jesus Christ is the same person, or that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the anointed of God, the Messiah promised of old for the redemption of Israel, or that the promised Messiah and Redeemer has come in the flesh, or into the flesh, into our world and into our nature; such a one pretends that he is yet to be expected. Strange that after such evidence any should deny that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God and Saviour of the world! 2. The aggravation of the case - such a one is a deceiver and an antichrist (2Jo. 1:7); he deludes souls and undermines the glory and kingdom of the Lord Christ. He must be an impostor, a wilful deceiver, after all the light that has been afforded, and all the evidence that Christ has given concerning himself, and the attestation God has given concerning his Son; and he is a wilful opposer of the person, and honour, and interest of the Lord Christ, and as such shall be reckoned with when the Lord Christ comes again. Let us not think it strange that there are deceivers and opposers of the Lord Christ's name and dignity now, for there were such of old, even in the apostle's times.
II. The counsel given to this elect household hereupon. Now care and caution are needful: Look to yourselves, 2Jo. 1:8. The more deceivers and deceits abound, the more watchful the disciples must be. Delusions may so prevail that even the elect may be endangered thereby. Two things they must beware of: - 1. That they lose not what they have wrought (2Jo. 1:8), what they have done or what they have gained. It is a pity that any religious labour should be in vain; some begin well, but at last lose all their pains. The hopeful gentleman, who had kept the commands of the second table from his youth up, lost all for want of less love to the world and more love to Christ. Professors should take care not to lose what they have gained. Many have not only gained a fair reputation for religion, but much light therein, much conviction of the evil of sin, the vanity of the world, the excellency of religion, and the power of God's word. They have even tasted of the powers of the world to come, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and yet at last lose all. You did run well, who hindered you, that you should not obey (or not go on to obey) the truth? Sad it is that fair and splendid attainments in the school of Christ should all be lost at last. 2. That they lose not their reward, none of it, no portion of that honour, or praise, or glory that they once stood fair for. That we (or you, as in some copies) receive a full reward. “Secure you as full a reward as will be given to any in the church of God; if there are degrees of glory, lose none of that grace (that light, or love, or peace) which is to prepare you for the higher elevation in glory. Hold fast that which thou hast (in faith, and hope, and a good conscience), that no man take thy crown, that thou neither lose it nor any jewel out of it,” Rev. 3:11. The way to attain the full reward is to abide true to Christ, and constant in religion to the end.
III. The reason of the apostle's counsel, and of their care and caution about themselves, which is twofold: - 1. The danger and evil of departure from gospel light and revelation; it is in effect and reality a departure from God himself: Whosoever transgresseth (transgresseth at this dismal rate), and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. It is the doctrine of Christ that is appointed to guide us to God; it is that whereby God draws souls to salvation and to himself. Those who revolt thence, in so doing revolt from God. 2. The advantage and happiness of firm adherence to Christian truth; it unites us to Christ (the object or subject-matter of that truth), and thereby to the Father also; for they are one. He that abideth (rooted and grounded) in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. By the doctrine of Christ we are enlightened in the knowledge of the Father and the Son; by it we are sanctified for the Father and the Son; thereupon we are enriched with holy love to the Father and the Son; and thereby prepared for the endless enjoyment of the Father and the Son. Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you, Jn. 15:3. This purity makes meet for heaven. The great God, as he has set his seal to the doctrine of Christ, so he puts a value upon it. We must retain that holy doctrine in faith and love, as we hope or desire to arrive at blessed communion with the Father and the Son.
2 John 1:10-11
Here, I. Upon due warning given concerning seducers, the apostle gives direction concerning the treatment of such. They are not to be entertained as the ministers of Christ. The Lord Christ will distinguish them from such, and so would he have his disciples. The direction is negative. 1. “Support them not: If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (concerning Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah and anointed of God for our redemption and salvation), receive him not into your house.” Possibly this lady was like Gaius, of whom we read in the next epistle, a generous housekeeper, and hospitable entertainer of travelling ministers and Christians. These deceivers might possibly expect the same reception with others, or with the best who came there (as the blind are often bold enough), but the apostle allows it not: “Do not welcome them into your family.” Doubtless such may be relieved in their pressing necessities, but not encouraged for ill service. Deniers of the faith are destroyers of souls; and it is supposed that even ladies themselves should have good understanding in the affairs of religion. 2. “Bless not their enterprises: Neither bid him God speed. Attend not their service with your prayers and good wishes.” Bad work should not be consecrated or recommended to the divine benediction. God will be no patron of falsehood, seduction, and sin. We ought to bid God speed to evangelical ministration; but the propagation of fatal error, if we cannot prevent, we must not dare to countenance. Then,
II. Here is the reason of such direction, forbidding the support and patronage of the deceiver: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Favour and affection partake of the sin. We may be sharers in the iniquities of others. How judicious and how cautious should the Christian be! There are many ways of sharing the guilt of other people's transgressions; it may be done by culpable silence, indolence, unconcernedness, private contribution, public countenance and assistance, inward approbation, open apology and defence. The Lord pardon our guilt of other persons' sins!
2 John 1:12-13
The apostle concludes this letter, 1. With an adjournment of many things to personal conference: Having many things to write unto you I would not write with paper and ink; but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. Here it is supposed that some things are better spoken than written. The use of pen and ink may be a mercy and a pleasure; but a personal interview may be more so. The apostle was not yet too old for travel, nor consequently for travelling service. The communion of saints should be by all methods maintained; and their communion should tend to their mutual joy. Excellent ministers may have their joy advanced by their Christian friends. That I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me, Rom. 1:12. 2. With the presentation of service and salutation from some near relations to the lady: The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Grace was abundant towards this family; here are two elect sisters, and probably their elect children. How will they admire this grace in heaven! The apostle condescends to insert the nieces' duty (as we should call it), or dutiful salutation, to their aunt. The duty of inferior relations is to be cherished. Doubtless the apostle was easy of access, and would admit all friendly and pious communication, and was ready to enhance the good lady's joy in her nieces as well as in her children. May there by many such gracious ladies rejoicing in their gracious descendants and other relations! Amen. — Henry
2Jn. 1:7: As in 1Jn. 4:3, denying that Jesus Christ that is come in the flesh pertains to both Jews who deny the incarnation of the Divine Messiah, and Gnostics, which made Christ to be more like a phantom who did not really suffer, while as in 1Jn. 4:2, professing Christ entails more than simple assertion to facts. See notes in that chapter in regards to that.
2Jn. 1:10: The intent of the command is to be observed here, which is to give them no platform to teach and infect others, or affirmation of their doctrine and work. The chief apostles gave to Paul the right hand of fellowship, (Gal. 2:9) which confirmation we are not to give in anyway to deceivers. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (Ephesians 5:11)
However, I do not think this literally forbids allowing such into one's house in order to hear and refute them, if those who hear are grounded in the faith and fit for battling such. This applies most primarily to missionaries of a false gospel, but it also applies to the lost in general, as per 1Cor. 15:33, though it does not preclude showing them mercy in genuine love, and 3Jn. 1:5 encourages hospitality, which is part of our witness to them. But which type of witness must never be allowed to become an end in itself, as such good works can take on a power of their own, thus we must be intent upon actually sharing the gospel and effecting conversion as instruments of Almighty God, turning many to righteousness (Dan. 12:3) and delivering souls from their just damnation. by the same grace we received, to the glory of God. The free book, Revolution in World Missions from Gospel to Asia, is recommended in this regard.
See New Testament Table of Contents, and please read the Introductory Notes here