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2 John: Love and Deceit

This is a study of 2 John. The purpose of 2 John is to remind us to love one another and warn us to watch out for deceivers. First, I will talk about the context. Then I will read the letter verse by verse, making comments on it as I read it. Watch the video or scroll down to read a transcript.

Transcript:

Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This is a study of the Second Letter of John. 

In this study I’m going to start by talking about why 2 John is in the Bible. Then I’m going to talk about the authorship, the historical context, and the geographical context. Then at the end I’ll read through the text of 2 John, making comments on it as I go through the book. 

As you know, the Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

The New Testament is generally divided into five different groups. There are the Gospels which tell us about the life of Jesus. There is the book of Acts which tells us what the apostles of Jesus did after Jesus rose from the dead and went back to heaven. Then there are the letters that were written by the Apostle Paul. Then there are what we call general letters which were written by various men. The last book of the New Testament is the book of Revelation which tells us what’s going to happen in the future. 

2 John is one of the books in the group we call the general letters. 2 John is the fourth from the last book of the Bible. It is the second shortest book of the Bible. 

Let’s think about why 2 John was written, and why it is in the Bible. 2 John is a letter. There are essentially two things the author wanted to communicate in his letter. 

The first is found in verse five where the author told the recipients of his letter to love one another. The verses surrounding this command give more information about this command to love one another. 

The second is in verse seven where the author warned his readers that many deceivers had gone out into the world. The verses surrounding that warning give more information about the deceivers and about the warning. 

Again, there were two reasons this letter was written. First, to tell people to love one another. Second, to warn people about deceivers. 

Now let’s talk about the authorship. The first verse of 2 John tells us it was written by the elder, and that it was written to the chosen lady and her children. We don’t know who the elder was. Nor do we know who the chosen lady and her children were. 

That’s not a problem, other than we need to know how that affects our study of the book. The fact that we don’t really know who wrote it limits how much information from other books of the Bible we can add to our understanding of this particular book. 

For example, if we’re reading a book that was written by the Apostle Paul, as we read that book, there’s information in other books of the Bible, particularly the book of Acts, that tell us about Paul, his life, and his ministry. Sometimes, these facts found in other books of the Bible help us to understand things in the particular book we are currently reading or studying. 

We can’t do that with 2 John because we don’t really know for sure who wrote 2 John. Again, that’s not a problem, it’s simply something we need to be aware of as we read, study, and seek to understand 2 John. 

Let’s look at the historical context. This is a timeline of world history. On the left is 4000 BC. That’s roughly when the universe and everything in it was created. Off to the right is 2000 AD which is roughly when you and I are living. 

The Old Testament tells us about people and events from around 4000 BC up to about 400 BC. The New Testament tells us about people and events from the 1st century AD. Let’s look closer at the 1st century AD.

The Old Testament tells us about people and events from around 4000 BC up to about 400 BC. The New Testament tells us about people and events from the 1st century AD. Let’s look closer at the 1st century AD.

This is a timeline of the 1st century. On the left is 0 AD which is roughly when Jesus was born. On the right is 100 AD. Jesus lived on earth from about 0 AD up to the mid 30s AD. We read about His life and ministry in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

Then we have the book of Acts. Acts tells us what the apostles of Jesus did after Jesus rose from the dead and went back to heaven. The book of Acts tells us about people and events from roughly the mid 30s AD up to about the mid 60s AD. 

The rest of the New Testament is a collection of letters and documents which were written after 35 AD and before the end of the first century. The book of 2 John is one of these letters that was written in the latter half of the first century AD. We don’t know for sure when it was written, nor do we need to know an exact date to understand the book.

Now let’s talk about the geographical context. This is a map of the world. On the left side is North and South America. On the right is Asia and Australia. In the middle is Europe and Africa. Also, in the middle is an area known as the Middle East. The Middle East is the area where Europe, Asia, and Africa meet each other. All the events of the Bible took place in the Middle East. 

Let’s take a closer look at the Middle East. This is a map of the Middle East. In the upper left is Italy. In the lower left is Libya and Egypt. On the right is Iran. In the upper middle is Turkey. Below that is Syria. Below Syria is Israel which is on the east side or right side of the Mediterranean Sea. The events of the Old Testament took place in the right half of this map. The events of the New Testament took place in the left half of this map. 

The people and events recorded in the New Testament start with Jesus and His ministry. Almost everything Jesus did took place in Israel. After Jesus rose from the dead and went back to heaven, His apostles started telling the world about Jesus. We read about that in the book of Acts. 

At first the apostles were in Jerusalem, then they started traveling throughout Israel. Then they took the message into Syria and Turkey. Paul took the message about Jesus to Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, and then eventually into Rome. We see that the events recorded in the Book of Acts took place in the left half of this map. 

The rest of the New Testament is a collection of letters and documents that were written as the gospel message was being spread throughout the Roman world. These letters were written to Churches and Christians telling them how to live as followers of Jesus Christ. We don’t know exactly where the author of 2 John was when he wrote the letter. We don’t know exactly where the recipients of his letter lived. We simply know it was written in the context of the gospel message being spread throughout the Roman world. 

With that as some background and context, let’s read the Second Letter of John. 

2 John 1  The Elder to the chosen lady and her children whom I love in truth, and not only me, but also everyone who knows the truth, 2 for the sake of the truth abiding in us, which also will be with us into eternity. 

As I said earlier, the text tells us in the very first verse it was written by the elder to the chosen lady and her children. It does not tell us who the elder was. Nor does it tell us who the chosen lady and her children were. This is not a problem, we just have to be aware that this limits the amount of information we can bring in from other parts of the Bible in order to illuminate our understanding of the text of 2 John. 

Notice at the end of verse one the word truth. Then in verse two it says, “for the sake of the truth”. We live in a culture that does not value truth. Unfortunately, our culture values emotions and feelings more than truth. This verse in 2 John indicates truth is important. The elder wrote this letter for the sake of the truth. He did not write for the sake of feelings or emotions. Instead, he wrote for the sake of truth. 

The elder also wrote at the end of verse two that truth will be with us into eternity. This lends credence to the idea that truth is important.

2 John 3 Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father will be with us in truth and love.

Notice the word truth at the end of verse 3.

2 John 4  I was very glad because I found some of your children walking in truth just as we received commandment from the Father. 

Here, the author wrote that he was glad because some of the chosen lady’s children were walking in truth. Again, this reinforces the idea that truth is important.

2 John 5 And now I ask you, lady, not as writing a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we should love one another. 

I said earlier this is one of the main ideas the author wanted to communicate in this letter. He wrote to tell the chosen lady and her children to love one another. The elder went on to write that this was not a new commandment. This is a commandment they had from the very beginning.

In the Gospel of John we read that Jesus told His disciples to love one another. We see this in John 13:34, 15:12, and 15:17. The author of 2 John merely repeated that command, reminding his recipients that we should love one another.

2 John 6 And this is love, that we are walking according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you heard from the beginning, and you should be walking in it.

In verse six the elder defined love. Love is walking according to the commands of Jesus. Notice he did not define love as a feeling or emotion. He defined love as obedience to Christ. Again, this was not a new idea. Jesus told His disciples that if they loved Him, they would obey His commandments. We read about that in John 14:15. The author of 2 John was merely repeating that definition of love. Love is walking according to the commandments of Jesus. 

In the second sentence of verse 6 the author reminded his readers that this was a commandment they had from the beginning.

2 John 7  Now many deceivers went out into the world, the ones not acknowledging Jesus Christ coming in flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 

This is the second main idea the author wanted to communicate in this letter. He warned his readers that many deceivers had gone out into the world. He defined deceivers as people who did not acknowledge Jesus Christ coming in the flesh. He called these people deceivers and also the Antichrist.

2 John 8 Watch yourselves, so that you do not lose the accomplishments, but instead receive a full reward. 

The elder warned the chosen lady and her children to watch themselves. They needed to watch themselves because of the many deceivers. He wanted them to make sure they didn’t fall for the deception and lose their reward.

2 John 9 All the ones going and not abiding in the teaching of the Christ do not have God. The one remaining in the teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. 

Notice the contrast in verse nine. There’s a contrast between the one not abiding in the teaching of Christ, and the one remaining in the teaching of Christ. The one not abiding does not have God, but the one abiding in the teaching of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 

We live in a culture that is trying to deny the reality of absolute truth. Part of that is our culture is trying to deny that any moral issue is black and white. They are trying to deny that there are any issues where there are only two options. However, we see here that a person either has God or does not have God. This issue is black and white. There are only two options.

2 John 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house and do not give a greeting to him. 

Notice the command in verse ten. The chosen lady and her children were not to greet or receive anyone who did not bring this teaching. The teaching the elder was referring to is the truth mentioned in verse seven that Jesus Christ came in flesh. Keep in mind this command was given in the context of a warning about false teachers. In other words, the chosen lady and her children were not to greet or receive anyone who claimed to be a follower of Christ and yet denied that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.

Let me clarify one thing about the greeting. Some cultures have very formal practices for greeting one another. I believe it is a formal greeting that the elder was referring to. For anyone like myself who lives in a society that does not have formal greetings, this does not mean we can ignore this command. We still have to be careful and hesitant about how we interact with those who claim to be Christians and yet deny that Jesus came in the flesh.

2 John 11 For the one giving a greeting to him participates in his evil works.

This is a strong statement. It is a warning that anyone who greets a deceiver or receives him into his house is actually participating in the evil work of the deceiver. Obviously, we should not do that. The warning to us is we have to make sure we don’t do anything that gives legitimacy to anyone who claims to be a Christian and yet denies that Jesus came in flesh.

2 John 12  Though having much to write to you, I do not want to do so through paper and ink. Rather, I hope to be with you and to speak face to face, in order that our joy might be full.
2 John 13  The children of your chosen sister greet you.

That is the end of 2 John. 

As I said before, there were two main points the elder wanted to communicate in this letter. The first point is in verse five.

2 John 5 And now I ask you, lady, not as writing a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we should love one another. 

The second point is in verse seven and eight.

2 John 7  Now many deceivers went out into the world, the ones not acknowledging Jesus Christ coming in flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you do not lose the accomplishments, but instead receive a full reward.

Let me review some of the things you and I should be thinking about after we read this book. 

First, truth is important. We live in a culture that values feelings and emotions over truth, but we see in the first several verses of 2 John that truth is important.

Second, we should love one another and love means obeying Jesus. Love as defined by the Bible is not a feeling or emotion, it is obedience to Christ.

Third, there are deceivers in the world and we need to watch out for them. Deceivers are those who claim to be followers of Christ and yet deny that Jesus came in flesh.

Fourth, we need to be very careful how we interact with deceivers. We should not host them in our houses. We must not do anything that gives legitimacy to their false message.

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