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Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

Introduction to II John

The one chapter epistle of II John was written, of course, by the Apostle John, who also wrote I John and III John, as well as the gospel of John and Revelation (see the introductions to these books). It was written probably from Ephesus sometime in the decade from A.D. 85 to 95.

This epistle is addressed by “the elder” to “the elect lady.” The word “elder” (Greek presbuteros can refer either to a pastor of a church or to an elderly person. In connection with the Ephesian church, John was both, but the nature of this letter suggests he was probably using the term in the latter sense in this case.

Commentators have differed over whether the phrase “elect lady and her children” (II John 1) refers to an actual family, or is a metaphor for a local church to which John had ministered, with its members. Though this is a matter of opinion, the over-all message of the epistle might seem more appropriate for a church than for a family. Perhaps it could apply to either one, and John intentionally left it open, so that it could be used for either purpose, as appropriate. The warnings and admonitions of John are important to heed for families, but even more so for churches. The closing greeting from “the children of thy elect sister” (II John 13) would be perhaps more appropriate as coming from a sister church, but again it could be interpreted either way. It is the message that is important. Do not encourage any who would pervert the true doctrine of Christ by allowing them to teach their anti-Christian doctrines and practices either in one’s home or church (II John 7-11).

1 elder. “The elder” is, of course, the beloved disciple John. The vocabulary, tone and content of this short epistle clearly prove that it was written by the same author as John’s gospel and his first epistle. He evidently called himself “the elder” both because he was an old man by this time and also because the various churches of Asia (to whom his letters were undoubtedly circulated) all acknowledged him as entitled to this official designation. Uniform tradition holds that he was the presiding elder, or bishop, of the church at Ephesus in particular, but all these churches honored and respected him as holding apostolic authority.

1 elect lady. Although a number of modern writers believe John was writing to a particular woman leader of one of the churches, it seems more likely that he was personifying the church under the figure of a gracious lady (compare II Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27,32). No other canonical epistle is addressed to an individual, unless that individual is addressed by name (e.g., III John 1). Some have suggested that “lady” is actually a proper name (Greek kuria), but the adjective “elect” is never elsewhere used as an individual appellation (e.g., “the wellbeloved Gaius,” III John 1). Another obvious problem is that this lady was assumed to have considerable authority in the church, whereas the Apostle Paul had made it plain that, in the church, no woman was “to usurp authority over the man” (I Timothy 2:12).

1 children. The “children” so addressed, as well as other children that had moved away (II John 4), were evidently those who had been won to Christ through the ministry of this church. Perhaps, since John did not mention its location, this church was addressed as representing all the churches of the region.

2 For the truth’s sake. The word “truth” occurs more in John’s two one-chapter epistles than in any other New Testament book except John and I John. Thus, one of the great themes in all of John’s writings is truth.

4 walking in truth. This is one of only three references in Scripture to “walking in truth” (see also III John 3,4), but this indeed should always characterize our daily “walk.” Similarly, we are told to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), to “walk in love” (Ephesians 5:2), to “walk in wisdom” (Colossians 4:5), and to “walk in the light” (I John 1:7).

7 entered. This means, literally, “gone forth” into the world, evidently from the domain of Satan, seeking to undermine and destroy any true church.

7 in the flesh. This is the specific test by which to distinguish true teachers from false teachers (I John 4:1-3). Actually the verb “is come” could be rendered “is coming.” That is, Jesus Christ is coming back to this world, and it will again be “in the flesh,” but His body is now made of glorified and immortal flesh.

7 deceiver and an antichrist. Literally, “the deceiver and the antichrist.” This is indeed the doctrine taught by Satan and his coming Antichrist, but already there are “many antichrists” (I John 2:18), as well as “many deceivers” that have “entered into the world.”

9 transgresseth. This means, “goes beyond,” trying to put esoteric extrapolations of a pseudo-spiritual nature on the plain teachings of Christ and His Word.

9 doctrine. The “doctrine” of Christ (which word actually is “teachings” in the Greek) must include all the teachings of Christ, everything He said and did, covering all the Scripture and all His purposes.

10 your house. The “house” is the church, probably then meeting in a house. No false teacher is to be allowed to teach in the church.

10 God speed. “God speed” (Greek chairo) means essentially “good cheer!” It is any expression of fellowship and good will, and should not be used to encourage a false teacher.

13 elect sister. The “elect sister” probably was the church from which John was writing, the “sister-church” of the “elect lady” (II John 1).

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