The elder unto the elect lady and her children
By the "elder" is meant the writer of this epistle, the Apostle John, who so calls himself either on account of his age, he being now near an hundred years of age, having outlived all the apostles: or on account of his office, being a bishop or overseer, not only of the church at Ephesus, but of all the Asiatic churches, which is the same with an elder; nor is this incompatible with his being an apostle; see ( 1 Peter 5:1 ) , the elect lady is the person he writes unto; by whom is designed not the church of Christ, since such a way of speaking is unusual; and besides, he speaks of coming to see her face to face, and of the children of her elect sister: but some particular person, some rich, as well as gracious woman of John's acquaintance; and these words, "elect lady", are neither of them proper names of the person: some think that the word "Kyria", rendered "lady", was the name of the person, as "Domina" with the Romans, and answers to the Hebrew word "Martha"; for as (rm) , "Mar", signifies lord, so (atrm) , "Martha, lady"; and then the inscription runs, "to the choice" or "excellent Martha"; and the Syriac and Arabic versions read, "to the elect Kyria": and others think that the word rendered elect is a proper name, and that this person's name was "Electa", as "Electus" F4 is a man's name; and then it must read thus, "to the lady Electa"; but her sister also is so called, and it can hardly be thought that two sisters should be both of a name; neither of them are proper names, but characters and titles of respect and honour: she is called a "lady", because she was a person of distinction and substance, which shows that God sometimes calls by his grace some that are rich and noble; and also that titles of respect and honour, where flattery is avoided, may be lawfully given to persons of dignity and wealth; so Nazianzen F5 calls his own mother by the same title; and it was usual to call women by this name from fourteen years of age F6: and this person also is said to be "elect"; either because she was a choice, famous, and excellent person, not only for her birth, nobility, and riches, but for her virtue, grace, and good works; or because she was chosen unto eternal life and salvation; and which the apostle might know without a special and divine revelation, by the Gospel coming with power to her; by the grace that was wrought in her; by the faith of God's elect, which she appeared to have, seeing it worked by love; and which may be, and ought to be concluded in a judgment of charity, of everyone that professes faith in Christ, and walks according to it; and this also makes it appear that election is of particular persons, and not of nations, communities, and churches, as such; nor is it unusual to salute single persons under this character; see ( Romans 16:13 ) , this epistle is inscribed not only to this lady, but also to "her children"; who were not infants, but grown up, and had made a profession of the truth, and walked in it, ( 2 John 1:4 ) , and both the mother and the children the apostle represents as the objects of his love:
whom I love in the truth;
either as being in the truth and faith of the Gospel; for though all men are to be loved as men, and to be done well to, yet they that are of the household of faith, or are in the faith, are in and especial manner to be loved and respected; see ( Galatians 6:10 ) ( Titus 3:15 ) ; or the sense is, that the apostle loved this lady and her children sincerely and heartily, without dissimulation; not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth, ( 1 John 3:18 ) :
and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;
either the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the truth; not with a notional knowledge, but with the knowledge of approbation and affection; with a fiducial and appropriating one: or the Gospel, the word of truth; not with a speculative, but with a spiritual and experimental knowledge of it: and this is not to be understood of every individual person then living, which had such a knowledge of the truth; for it cannot be reasonably thought that every individual person should know this lady and her children; but of all such persons who had any knowledge of them; for such who are born again by the word of truth, love not only him that begot them, but all those who are begotten of him: this shows in what sense the word "all" is sometimes taken.
F4 Herodian. Hist. l. 1. c. 51, 52, 53, 54.
F5 Epist. ad Basil. 4. p. 769. vol. 1.
F6 Epictet. Enchirid. c. 62.