Who wrote it?
2 John does not directly name its author. The tradition from the earliest days of the church states that the author was the apostle John. There have been various conjectures over the years that another disciple of Christ named John may have been responsible for this letter. However, all the evidence points to the author as John the beloved disciple who also wrote the Gospel of John.
When(ish) was it written?
2 John would most likely have been written at about the same time as John’s other letters, 1 and 3 John, between AD 85-95.
Why was it written?
2 John is an urgent plea that the readers of John’s letter should show their love for God and His son Jesus by obeying the commandment to love each other and live their lives in obedience to the Scriptures. The book of 2 John is also a strong warning to be on the lookout for deceivers who were going about saying that Christ had not actually risen in the flesh.
Some Key Verses
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
– 2 John 6
Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
– 2 John 8-9
A Quick Summary
2 John is addressed to “to the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1:1). This could either have been a lady of important standing in the church, or a code which refers to the local church and its congregation. In those days when Christians were being persecuted such coded salutations were often used.
The book of 2 John is largely concerned with an urgent warning concerning deceivers who were not teaching the exact doctrine of Christ, and who maintained that Jesus did not actually rise in the flesh but only spiritually. John is very anxious that true believers should be aware of these false teachers and have nothing to do with them.
Old Testament Ties
John describes love not as an emotion or feeling, but as obedience to the commandments of God. Jesus reiterated the importance of the commandments, especially the “great and first commandment,” love for God (Deuteronomy 6:5), and the second, love for one another (Matthew 22:37-40; Leviticus 19:18). Far from abolishing the Old Testament law of God, Jesus came to fulfill it by providing the means of its fulfillment in Himself.
What does this mean?
It is extremely important that we check everything we see, hear, and read that claims to be “Christian” with the Scriptures. This cannot be too strongly emphasized because one of Satan’s greatest weapons is deceit. It is very easy to be taken in by a new and exciting doctrine that appears to be based on Scripture but which, if examined closely, is in fact a departure from the Word of God. If what appears to be happening does not line up explicitly with Scripture, then this is false, not of the Spirit, and we should have nothing to do with it.
Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from 2 John. What verses or ideas stand out to you from this passage? What questions do you have? What “next step” are you considering as a result of your interaction with God’s Word?
As followers of Jesus, we strive to communicate in truth and love. Do you tend to emphasize more truth or more love when you interact with others? How does this emphasis affect your relationships?
2 John focused on how to deal with false teaching in the church. What are some “Jesus + _______ saves you” things we hear today? What effect does this have on the church? What is John’s instruction in how to deal with false teachers?
Who are you praying for to become a follower of Jesus? Take time to pray for those people and for opportunities to share the Gospel with them in truth and in love.