STUDY TWENTY-ONE: 2JOHN & 3JOHN

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022

A. 2JOHN

John, who calls himself ‘the elder’, wrote this short letter to ‘the chosen lady and her children’. No one knows for sure who this ‘lady’ is, or whether John is addressing an individual ‘lady’ and her children, or a ‘church’ and its members. He calls her ‘chosen’, which identifies her as a believer.

A.1 The truth – verses 1 – 4
In his first few verses, John draws attention to ‘the truth’.

Verse 1: John says that he, and all who know the truth, love this lady ‘in the truth’.

Verse 2: He says that this is ‘because of the truth’ and says that the truth ‘lives in us and will be with us forever’.

Verse 3: He says that ‘grace, mercy and peace ... will be with us in truth and love’.

Verse 4: He says that it gives him ‘great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth ...’

For John ‘the truth’, which believers know, defines and determines everything:

It defines the love John and other believers have for this lady.

It is the reason that John and the other believers love this lady, and the reason John is writing to this lady.

This truth is permanent – it will be with believers forever.

It determines the certainty and assurance of the grace, mercy and peace believers have from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son.

It goes hand in hand with love.

To know people are walking in the truth is a source of great joy.

A.2 The command to love – verses 4 – 6
Walking in the truth goes hand in hand with the Father’s command to walk in love. The two cannot be separated.

To walk in the truth is to walk in love.
To walk in the truth is to do what God commands.
What God commands is that we love one another.
To love one another is to obey God’s commands.

Whichever way it is written, walking in the truth is obeying God’s commands which is loving one another. This John says, as he did in his first letter, is not a new command, but a command that believers have had ‘from the beginning.’

A.3 Many deceivers – verses 7 – 11
From what John says to this ‘lady’ it would seem that the false teachers had not yet arrived at her location. John appears to be warning her in advance that they are on the move, and will most likely turn up there shortly.

What does John say about the nature and work of these ‘deceivers’?
Verse 7

Verse 7

Verse 9

Verse 10

Verse 11

John warns the lady that:

‘Many’ deceivers have gone out into the world.

They ‘do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh’.

All of these people are ‘the deceiver’ and ‘the antichrist’.

They do not continue in the teaching of Christ, but ‘run ahead’ of that teaching, leaving it behind.

Because of this, ‘they do not have God’.

Their work is ‘wicked’.

John is clearly warning her of the same false teachers that he wrote about in his first letter. They have the same denial of Jesus Christ and the same departure from the apostolic message. Their alignment is similarly with the deceiver (Satan, the evil one) and the antichrist, not with God the Father. Because they have rejected Jesus the Son of God, they simply ‘do not have God’. What they do, although it has the appearance of religion and spirituality, is ‘wicked’.

A.4 Instructions on how to deal with these deceivers if they arrive – verses 8 – 11.
John anticipates that the false teachers will arrive at the lady’s location and attempt to seduce the Christians away from the truth. Fully expecting that they will arrive, John gives the lady some warnings and instructions:

Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for – verse 8. John’s instruction is literally ‘watch yourselves’. It is the same phrase that Jesus used in Mark 13:23, which the NIV translates as ‘be on your guard’, in relation to ‘false Christs’ and ‘false prophets’. John points out that it is the individual Christian’s responsibility to personally be on guard against the deceptive persuasions of false teaching. [It is also the responsibility of church leaders, but that is not what John is talking about here.] If someone gave in and accepted the false teaching, rejecting the real Jesus in a final way and accepting a false Jesus, that person would reveal that they had never really received the real Jesus.

It is those who continue in the teaching of the apostles who have both the Father and the Son – verse 9. The integrity of their profession of faith in Jesus Christ will be demonstrated by their continuing to hold to the teaching of the original gospel.

If anyone comes with a different teaching, don’t take him into your house or welcome him – verse 10. On the surface this sounds very judgemental and unloving. It would certainly be called that today. But John, along with the other apostles, does not have the same attitude about assessing people and their teaching as Christians today. John is the apostle of love; his first letter and this one, put heavy stress on loving our ‘brother’, on loving ‘one another’. But these false teachers are not ‘brothers’, they are not the fellow-believers inferred in ‘one another’, they are not God’s children – they are ‘the deceiver’ and ‘the antichrist’, and so they are not to be welcomed, they are not even to be allowed to enter the homes of believers. That is how important it is to have nothing to do with them.

Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work – verse 11. Welcome infers acceptance and agreement. To fellowship with someone implies participation with them in their work, which John calls ‘wicked work’ – the work of deceiving, the work of corrupting, the work of leading the world astray, even as the evil one, whom they serve, leads the whole world astray.

For further information about how to deal with false teachers go here: https://www.godswordforyou.com/how-to/deal-with-false-teaching/292-obey-the-biblical-commands.html
John closes his second letter with reference to his proposed visit, and greetings.

 

B. 3JOHN

John, again calling himself ‘the elder’ wrote this letter to his dear friend, Gaius, whom he also loved ‘in the truth. Their common allegiance to the truth was the basis of their friendship.
This letter is not as intense as the first and second letters; although John makes reference to the truth, and to people walking in the truth, he does not say anything about false teaching. The issues he raises have to do with various believers who attract either his approval and support, or his criticism.

B.1 Greetings
John tells Gaius that he is praying that he will enjoy good health and that all may go well with him – as well as his soul is getting along. In the midst of all of his concerns about spiritual matters (that dominated his thinking in his first and second letters) John has a loving concern for his friend’s well-being in the ordinary aspects of life and health.

B.2 Joy
As he did in his letter to the lady, John expresses his joy in hearing that Gaius was faithful to the truth and continuing to walk in the truth. Nothing, he says, gives him greater joy than hearing that kind of news.

B.3 Showing hospitality
In contrast to denying false teachers entrance into believers’ homes, John here praises Gaius for the hospitality he has shown to visiting believers who were strangers to him. These brothers were engaged in the work of Christ, who went out from their church ‘for the sake of the Name’. Just as showing hospitality to the false teachers would have been to ‘share in their wicked work’ (2John 11), so now he tells Gaius that to show hospitality to the servants of Christ is working together with them for the truth (3John 8).

B.4 A problem person – Diotrephes
With no qualms at all about being called ‘unloving’ or ‘judgemental’ John refers to a letter in which he had written to the church about Diotrephes. From what John says, Diotrephes would have nothing to do with John and his associates, and, more that than, was ‘gossiping maliciously’ about them. In addition, he had refused to welcome ‘the brothers’, and stops anyone else from welcoming them. It does not seem that the issue concerned the truth. John would have exposed it strongly if it was. It seems that the issue was Diotrephes’ personal attitude, possibly a grasping for a position of power in the church.
John says that, if he comes to the church, he will call attention to what Diotrephes is doing.

B.5 Doing what is good
With the bad example of Diotrephes in mind, John says to his friend ‘Do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.’ Then he says ‘anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.’ John, by these words, is possibly warning his dear friend Gaius not to be impressed by Diotrephes’ behaviour. Diotrephes might look powerful ... but that kind of behaviour does not come from God, so don’t follow his example.

If Gaius wants an example to follow, he should look at Demetrius, who is spoken well of by everyone. Even, John says, by the truth itself. Demetrius’ behaviour is endorsed by the truth, and by John and his associates. His life expresses the truth that he believes.

John closes his letter, mentioning his desire to visit Gaius soon, and sends the greeting of ‘peace’ to Gauis and the friends there.