This epistle is like an abridgement of the first; it touches, in few words, on the same points. The Lady Electa is commended for her virtuous and religious education of her children; is exhorted to abide in the doctrine of Christ, to persevere in the truth, and carefully to avoid the delusions of false teachers. But chiefly the apostle beseeches her to practise the great commandment of Christian love and charity.
- The apostle salutes the elect lady and her children. (1-3) Express his joy in their faith and love. (4-6) Cautions them against deceivers. (7-11) And concludes. (12,13)
Verses 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.
Verses 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 copy 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.
Verses 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.
Verses 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.
2 John 1:1-13 ADDRESS: GREETING: THANKSGIVING FOR THE ELECT LADY'S FAITHFULNESS IN THE TRUTH: ENJOINS LOVE: WARNS AGAINST DECEIVERS, LEST WE LOSE OUR REWARD: CONCLUSION.
1. The elder--In a familiar letter John gives himself a less authoritative designation than "apostle"; so 1 Peter 5:1
lady--BENGEL takes the Greek as a proper name Kyria, answering to the Hebrew "Martha." Being a person of influence, "deceivers" ( 2 John 1:7 and her children from the faith [TIRINUS], whence John felt it necessary to write a warning to her. (But see my Introduction and 1 Peter 5:13 A particular Church, probably that at Babylon, was intended. "Church" is derived from Greek "Kuriake," akin to Kuria, or Kyria here; the latter word among the Romans and Athenians means the same as ecclesia, the term appropriated to designate the Church assembly.
love in the truth--Christian love rests on the Christian truth ( 2 John 1:3 but "I love in THE truth."
all--All Christians form one fellowship, rejoicing in the spiritual prosperity of one another. "The communion of love is as wide as the communion of faith" [ALFORD].
2. For the truth's sake--joined with "I love," 2 John 1:1 who love in the truth, also love on account of the truth."
dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever--in consonance with Christ's promise.
3. Grace be with you--One of the oldest manuscripts and several versions have "us" for you. The Greek is literally, "Grace shall be with us," that is, with both you and me. A prayer, however, is implied besides a confident affirmation.
grace . . . mercy . . . peace--"Grace" covers the sins of men; "mercy," their miseries. Grace must first do away with man's guilt before his misery can be relieved by mercy. Therefore grace stands before mercy. Peace is the result of both, and therefore stands third in order. Casting all our care on the Lord, with thanksgiving, maintains this peace.
the Lord--The oldest manuscripts and most of the oldest versions omit "the Lord." John never elsewhere uses this title in his Epistles, but "the Son of God."
in truth and love--The element or sphere in which alone grace, mercy, and peace, have place. He mentions truth in 2 John 1:4 FAITH and love; for faith and truth are close akin.
4. I found--probably in one of his missionary tours of superintendence. 2 John 1:12 ; 3 John 1:10 3 John 1:14
of thy children--some.
in truth--that is, in the Gospel truth.
as--even as. "The Father's commandment" is the standard of "the truth."
5. I beseech--rather (compare Note, request thee," implying some degree of authority.
not . . . new commandment--It was old in that Christians heard it from the first in the Gospel preaching; new, in that the Gospel rested love on the new principle of filial imitation of God who first loved us, and gave Jesus to die for us; and also, in that love is now set forth with greater clearness than in the Old Testament dispensation. Love performs both tables of the law, and is the end of the law and the Gospel alike (compare Notes,
that we--implying that he already had love, and urging her to join him in the same Christian grace. This verse seems to me to decide that a Church, not an individual lady, is meant. For a man to urge a woman ("THEE"; not thee and thy children) that he and she should love one another, is hardly like an apostolic precept, however pure may be the love enjoined; but all is clear if "the lady" represent a Church.
6. "Love is the fulfilling of the law" ( Romans 13:10 fulfilling of the law is the sure test of love.
This is the commandment--Greek, "The commandment is this," namely, love, in which all God's other commandments are summed up.
7. As love and truth go hand in hand ( 2 John 1:3 2 John 1:4 it needful to give warning against teachers of untruth.
For--giving the reason why he dwelt on truth and on love, which manifests itself in keeping God's commandments ( 2 John 1:6
many--( 1 John 2:18 ; 4:1
are entered--The oldest manuscripts read, "have gone forth," namely, from us.
confess not . . . Jesus . . . in the flesh--the token of Antichrist.
is come--Greek, "coming." He who denies Christ's coming in the flesh, denies the possibility of the incarnation; he who denies that he has come, denies its actuality. They denied the possibility of a Messiah's appearing, or coming, in the flesh [NEANDER]. I think the Greek present participle implies both the first and the second advent of Christ. He is often elsewhere called the Coming One (Greek), Matthew 11:3 ; Hebrews 10:37 manifestation in the flesh, at His first coming, and of His personal advent again, constitutes Antichrist. "The world turns away from God and Christ, busily intent upon its own husks; but to OPPOSE God and Christ is of the leaven of Satan" [BENGEL].
This is a, &c.--Greek, "This (such a one as has been just described) is the deceiver and the Antichrist." The many who in a degree fulfil the character, are forerunners of the final personal Antichrist, who shall concentrate in himself all the features of previous Antichristian systems.
8. Look to yourselves--amidst the widespread prevalence of deception so many being led astray. So Christ's warning, Matthew 24:4 Matthew 24:5 Matthew 24:24
we lose not . . . we receive--The oldest manuscripts and versions read, "That YE lose not, but that YE receive."
which we have wrought--So one oldest manuscript reads. Other very old manuscripts, versions, and Fathers, read, "which YE have wrought." The we being seemingly the more difficult reading is less likely to have been a transcriber's alteration. Look that ye lose not the believing state of "truth and love," which WE (as God's workmen, 2 Corinthians 6:1 ; 2 Timothy 2:15
a full reward--of grace not of debt. Fully consummated glory. If "which YE have wrought" be read with very old authorities, the reward meant is that of their "work (of faith) and labor of love." There are degrees of heavenly reward proportioned to the degrees of capability of receiving heavenly blessedness. Each vessel of glory hanging on Jesus shall be fully happy. But the larger the vessel, the greater will be its capacity for receiving heavenly bliss. He who with one pound made ten, received authority over ten cities. He who made five pounds received five cities; each according to his capacity of rule, and in proportion to his faithfulness. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:41 half reward of the saints. It is either lost altogether, or received in full; in full communion with God" [BENGEL]. Still no service of minister or people shall fail to receive its reward.
9. The loss ( 2 John 1:8 not having God, which results from abiding not in the doctrine of Christ.
transgresseth--The oldest manuscripts and versions read, "Every one who takes the lead"; literally, "goes," or "leads on before"; compare John 10:4 Compare 3 John 1:9
hath not God--( 1 John 2:23 ; 5:15 in the oldest manuscripts, but is understood in the sense.
He--emphatical: He and He alone.
10. If there come any--as a teacher or brother. The Greek is indicative, not subjunctive; implying that such persons do actually come, and are sure to come; when any comes, as there will. True love is combined with hearty renunciation and separation from all that is false, whether persons or doctrines.
receive him not . . . neither bid him God speed--This is not said of those who were always aliens from the Church, but of those who wish to be esteemed brethren, and subvert the true doctrine [GROTIUS]. The greeting salutation forbidden in the case of such a one is that usual among Christian brethren in those days, not a mere formality, but a token of Christian brotherhood.
11. By wishing a false brother or teacher "God (or 'good') speed," you imply that he is capable as such of good speed and joy (the literal meaning of the Greek), and that you wish him it while opposing Christ; so you identify yourself with "his evil deeds." The Greek of "partaker" is "having communion with." We cannot have communion with saints and with Antichrist at the same time. Here we see John's naturally fiery zeal directed to a right end. POLYCARP, the disciple of John, told contemporaries of IRENÆUS, who narrates the story on their authority, that on one occasion when John was about to bathe, and heard that Cerinthus, the heretic, was within, he retired with abhorrence, exclaiming, Surely the house will fall in ruins since the enemy of the truth is there.
12. I would not write--A heart full of love pours itself out more freely face to face, than by letter.
paper--made of Egyptian papyrus. Pens were then reeds spliterally
ink--made of soot and water, thickened with gum. Parchment was used for the permanent manuscripts in which the Epistles were preserved. Writing tablets were used merely for temporary purposes, as our slates.
face to face--literally, "mouth to mouth."
full--Greek, "filled full." Your joy will be complete in hearing from me in person the joyful Gospel truths which I now defer communicating till I see you. On other occasions his writing the glad truths was for the same purpose.
13. ALFORD confesses that the non-mention of the "lady" herself here seems rather to favor the hypothesis that a Church is meant.