2 John 1

1 John opened this letter addressing himself as "elder" instead of "apostle." This, most likely, was a personal letter to a person or people who already accepted his authority as an apostle. "Elder," therefore, emphasizes John's ministry rather than his authority.

There is some discussion about the term "elect lady." Some see this as a metaphorical term for either a local body of believers. Some have suggested that the discussion in the letter appears to address an individual audience rather than a group. Some have suggested that the woman's name may have been Eklecktos ("elect") or Kuria ("lady"), although this same thinking could not be applied to the last verse of this letter. The lady may have been a hospitable woman who had a church meet in her house.

The emphasis of this letter is on truth and love. Our love for people is to abound, but love has its boundaries. The boundary that will be discusses in this letter is truth.

John assures the lady that he loves both her and her believing children. The love that John is discussing is godly love which cares about a fellow Christian's spiritual and physical well being regardless of the cost to one's self. All believers are to love one another, not based on emotion, but based on the truth that God gives us. We are all following the same Lord, Jesus, and we have all been adopted as children into the Father's household. God loved us enough to send Jesus to die for our spiritual well being and attain eternal life with Him for all who would believe.

2 When we love one another in truth, the truth becomes clearer to those involved in the relationship and to those who do not know God. The truth of the Gospel stays with the Christian both now and forever, and is enhanced when we love each other in the boundaries of it. If someone loves (or hates) a fellow believer outside the boundaries of the truth, the truth itself is not diminished (since truth is eternal), but the expression of it becomes unclear. An unclear expression of truth make a Christian look hypocritical to those who do not know God, and can be very hurtful to those fellow believers the Christian has fellowship with.
3 God loves all people, despite the fact that each person has sinned and separated from Him. We had no way to return to Him because He is holy and people are sinful. God, however, had mercy and made a way for us to return to Him. In the transaction mediated by faith, our sins are placed on Christ and His righteousness is credited to us. This is the unmerited favor called grace. It is by grace that we are saved (Eph 2:4-5, John 3:16-17). When we believe, we can be assured of our salvation because God is truthful and faithful to His promises. This gives us peace regardless of whatever circumstances we might be living in.
4 John had apparently run across some of this lady's children. In their conversation, it became clear that they had been taught the Gospel correctly, and they were living according to it.
5 People can take extreme positions in the church. Some are legalists who hold so strictly to the law presented in the Scripture that they do not have mercy and forgiveness, which is also commanded. Some might hold a position of sentimental permissiveness where self-esteem becomes more important than the righteousness of Christ. Neither of these positions is correct. We are commanded to both encourage and exhort. We must encourage all Christians to be obedient to Christ and allow mistakes to be repented of and forgiven. We are to help, not harm one another. This is the love that God gives us and commands us to give to our fellow Christians.

John emphasizes that this is a known command. Some people first hear about godly love when the first hear the Gospel. If the lady had been familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, she would have heard of it there.

6 Obedience is our expression of love for Christ (John 14:15), but it is also our expression of love for one another. Many of Christ's commands govern our interaction with other people. When we love God and His children, our spiritual siblings, we will practice it not only in our actions, but also in our hearts. To use an example that Jesus gave, the Law says, "do not murder," but it implies more than the physical act of killing an innocent person. We are not to even think about harming someone or hold a grudge. Instead, we are to seek reconciliation. This may involve confrontation and punishment, for example, but the desire is to make, preserve, and restore relationships among Christians.
7 There are those who do not walk according to the words of Christ. John gives a specific example of one form of Gnosticism in which the person does not believe that Jesus came as a man in the flesh. Their teaching is deceptive because some of the arguments sound reasonable, and can mislead those who do not care to investigate matters for themselves. Such teachings are contrary to the evidence, and as such are unmerited speculation.

An antichrist is anyone who distracts people away from the Gospel as recorded in the Bible. An antichrist may either be against the teaching of the Scriptures or try to convince people that he himself is Christ. This kind of person may thrive on charisma and generate much sentimental emotion, but this must not be mistaken for godly love. Love from God is always within the borders of truth, and seeks to bring people closer to God. False teachers lead people away from God, so in God's evaluation they are neither truthful nor loving.

8 A true Christian can not lose his salvation, and an alert believer will not be fooled by false teachers. However, if a Christian allows himself to be identified as sympathetic to a false cause, he risks losing all that he has accomplished in his faith. His testimony comes into question. His previous commitment to truth becomes doubtful, and he begins to appear like a hypocrite. He will appear as a confused man following any philosophy or popular opinion. He will probably alienate himself from those who continue to hold to the truth, and he may intentionally or inadvertently lead others down the wrong path.
9 The Gnostics claimed to have knowledge that was superior to the Gospel. Today, also, many people feel that Bible-based Christianity is old fashioned. They have gone beyond what is right and have rejected the truth of the Gospel. Despite the fact that they feel their philosophies is superior to the Gospel, they are actually below it.

No philosophical or religious pursuit devised by man will ever be superior to the Gospel developed by God. Only faith in the Gospel allows a person to have fellowship with God. Anything less, anything "more," or anything else is not the Gospel, and will not result in salvation or a good relationship with God.

10 Apparently, the lady was one who practiced hospitality. The Scriptures teach us to be hospitable to strangers and even more hospitable to our fellow Christians. There were not many preachers in the early days if Christianity, so they would travel around from town to town to both preach as pastor (take Paul, for example). Instead of having them pay to stay in a crowded inn, families would take them into their homes during their visit (e.g., Luke 10:5-9).

The crux of this letter, though, is how one is to respond to a preacher who is not preaching the Gospel. We are told not to extend hospitality to such a person. We are not even to give them a greeting!

11 Why should we not be hospitable to false teachers? One reason is that we would support someone who is hostile to the Gospel, has already refused it, and is teaching others to reject it as well. We become guilty by association if we do such a thing. Even a cheerful greeting will encourage them, so we are to refrain from it. We are to apply this for anyone who claims to be a Christian but refuse to be obedient to Christ (1 Cor 5:1-2, 1 Tim 1:20).

Note that Christians are not to respond in violence or berating words. We are not to return evil for evil. We are simply to refuse them fellowship in our homes and Christian gatherings. Such excommunication is not to be viewed as an end in itself. It is to be hoped that the straying person will see their error and return to the truth of the Gospel (2 Cor 2:6-7 probably speaks to this). We are to love our enemies, but we are not to encourage or support ungodly behavior. Helping people have a good relationship with God is the greatest expression of love. Sometimes it is necessary to punish those who turn away, but if they respond correctly and turn to God, then the goal of love is accomplished.

12 There were other instructions John wanted to give, but he preferred to discuss them in person. This was probably the most important issue that was brought up in conversation with the lady's children, and he wanted to address it immediately rather than wait until he could travel to tell her personally.

The objective of teaching is to make people joyful. The more we understand about God, truth, and love, the more joy we have. When we do not understand the ways of God we stumble around and hurt others and ourselves. Knowing how to obey God is neither burdensome nor restrictive. It is freeing because we can know for sure that we are pleasing God when we obey Him. Everything we say and do can be with complete confidence when we are living in obedience to Christ.

13 As with the lady of this letter, it is not exactly clear what "chosen sister" is meant to represent. This may indeed be the lady's sister, with whom John was staying at the time. It would not be unusual then for the lady's children to be visiting their aunt. However, it could be metaphorical for a sister church in another town.

In any case, we are to extend greetings to our fellow believers whenever we communicate with them. They may be in our own household, at work, or in a church far away. We are to extend the love of Christ to them in truth in whatever way is appropriate for the circumstances.