About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This commentary is based
on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.
Chapter titles correspond with the NIV chapter titles to make for
John most likely wrote
this personal letter somewhere around 80 to 95 AD.
We don’t know much about the lady who he writes to, other than
what he says about her in the letter. It is quite possible that John wrote
a number of these letters and only this one and two others
In verse 1 John calls
himself, “the elder”. In
the early church each city had one church with a number of elders, not
just one elder. Was John one
of these elders? John says
that he was, although some claim that John was some sort of lead elder, or
bishop of a large area. Tradition
says that John was an elder, or possibly the lead elder in
As I said, many people,
because of church tradition, believe John was a head elder.
I think that is somewhat debatable.
If this is so, the tells me that there had been a transition in
church structure from a body of elders, to a body of elders with one chief
elder, something I do not see the apostle Paul teaching, and Paul is the
one who has laid out church structure in the New Testament.
John is writing this
letter to a lady and her children that he loves in the truth.
He also notes that others love this lady and her children as well.
She must have been a prominent person,
or at least a very helpful person in the sake of the gospel.
John mentions the word
truth 3 times in the first 2 verses. Remember,
this was the time in church history where splits were beginning to take
place. Cerinthus was the cause
of one of these splits. John
stressed in his first letter the importance of the truth and he is doing
the same here.
John said that he loved
this lady, but he did not leave it at that.
He loved her in the truth. Therefore
the love spoken of by John should not be confused with a natural love
between a man and a woman. He
loved this lady in the purity of the Lord.
In verse 2 John says that
the truth “lives in us and will live with us forever”.
The truth is the understanding of the gospel of Jesus, and
especially who Jesus is. This
understanding is eternal.
John said that the truth
lived in us. Jesus called
Himself the way and the truth and the life.
Jesus is truth, and He by His Spirit lives within the believer.
Truth in our modern
church is something that seems not to be as important as it once was.
We're becoming post-modern in
our approach to the Bible, and that means we don't take Biblical truth
seriously as we should. John
took truth seriously. There's
no doubt about that. I'll just
say at the outset to this commentary that "truth matters'.
In verse 3 John says,
“grace mercy and peace from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ, the
Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and in love”.
Right away John addresses the fact that Jesus is God, the
Father’s Son. This speaks to
the Deity of Christ which was now in question by Cerinthus and others.
The Deity of Christ is one of the most fundamental Biblical truths
Christians hold to. If we
stray on this point, we'll stray on every other Biblical truth.
The Deity of Christ is one of those doctrines Christians cannot
compromise on, but in some cases today, we are doing just that.
So John says that grace,
mercy and peace will be from the Father and Jesus, but it will be in love
and truth. Once again we see
the connection between love and truth.
The two go hand in hand. God's
love is based on truth. Our
Love must be based on truth as well, but so often it isn't.
If our love is not based on truth, it is not God’s love.
God’s love is not “sloppy agape”, as we used to say years
ago. Love based on truth means that the truth of any situation must play a
part in how you express love. You
don't simply express love indiscriminately without thought.
In verse 4 John expresses
the joy he has had over the fact that some of this lady’s children were
walking in the truth. The
Greek sentence structure suggests the word “some” to mean more than
less. It thus appears that
many of this lady’s children were “walking in the truth”, that is,
living out the truth as God the Father commands.
Any elder in the Lord feels this joy when those he cares for are
living as they should in Jesus. One
can't experience a more real joy than this
Again, we make note of
the word “truth”. This is
why I first became a Christian in the first place.
I have discovered Jesus to be the central truth of the universe,
and once understanding this, I have no other logical choice to make than
to give myself to Him. This
means that I did not become a Christian for any benefit that I’d derive
from my choice.
I feel John may be
thinking along the same lines here when he uses the word truth.
He has come to
understand the central truth of the universe to be found in Jesus and that
is why he is living the way he does. Then
to see others, especially the next generation, living the same way makes
him very happy. That would
make us very happy as well.
Verse 5 is reminiscent
of John’s first letter. He
says that he is writing this letter to remind this lady of the command to
love one another. The church
was going through some trying times as John wrote these words.
It would have been very easy not to love another in the midst of
these trials. Stress and
pressure can cause division even among friends.
This lady might well be experiencing this pressure, and maybe in
her own family. John states
that some of her children are walking with the Lord.
That means some aren't living for Jesus.
This would cause family problems that would bring much stress to
this lady if this were so.
We should note the use of
the word “we” in verse 5. John
did not say “you should love one another”.
He said, “we should love one another”.
John is not saying that this lady is lacking in love.
What he is saying is that the church as a whole should be learning
to love as they were told by God their Father.
In verse 6 John qualifies
what kind of love he is talking about.
He is talking about God’s love.
He says that the love that he is speaking of is in fact obedience
to God. Jesus once said,
"if you love me, you will obey me”.
Love is not pleasing one’s self, but pleasing and obeying God.
You love the way God wants you to love, not the way you want to
John says that this lady
has heard this command since from the beginning.
This would suggest to me that this lady, whoever she may be, was
around Jesus and the disciples when He was alive on earth.
It would be really interesting to know who this lady was.
It is only my guess, but I think that John is not stating her name
in this letter for a reason. Why,
I can't be sure. Maybe because
of reasons of persecution.
One who claims to love,
yet does not obey God in the way he lives cannot rightly say that he loves
God. This is important.
We may claim to love, but if we don't obey God, John says that we
don't love. True Biblical love
then is clearly associated with obeying the truth of God.
In verse 7 John tells us
that “many deceivers” have gone “into the world”.
These deceivers don’t believe that Jesus Christ came in the
flesh. These false teachers do
not believe in the Deity of Christ. John
says that there are “many” of these deceivers around.
About the time that John was writing these words, the second
generation church was coming into existence.
It is a difficult thing, or so it seems, to transfer one’s faith
to the next generation.
Also we note that these
deceivers “went into the world”. As
we’ve seen in John’s first letter, these deceivers left the true
church and went into the world to spread their false doctrine.
If they once believed in the Deity of Christ but no longer do, then
it is clear to me that these people have lost the salvation they once had.
In my opinion there seems
to be an escalation of deceivers trying to deceive Christians these days.
They are coming at both the church and individuals from all sides,
but this is clearly a sign of the end of this age.
Note the words
"Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh".
This phrase, and others like it, clearly show that Jesus, although
not so named, lived prior to coming to earth in a body.
This is another way of stating the Deity of Christ.
In verse 8 John says,
“watch that you don’t lose what you worked for”.
Many of these early Christians went through great trials for their
faith. They were very
committed people. Their faith
was not a part time hobby. John
was concerned that some might follow the deceivers and lose what they
worked so hard for. This work
was not work to be saved. This
work came after salvation. Just
by the use of the word “lose”, to me it seems that John felt one could
lose things pertaining to his salvation.
In verse 9 John compares
one’s walk in faith with running. He
says in verse 9 that if you “run ahead”
and don’t “continue in the teaching of Christ, you don’t have
God” in your life. This also
implies that one can lose his salvation.
If one “runs ahead”, to me, this means that he was once with
the pack of runners, but has taken off on his own.
He has left the pack to do his own thing.
Once you run ahead, John says that you no longer have God.
Running ahead is in
reference to “the teaching of Christ” according to this verse.
If one does not stay in the bounds of who Jesus really is, is
running ahead, and thus loses that which he had.
On the other hand, if one
“continues” in the teachings of Christ, then that person has both the
Father and the Son. The key
word here is “continue”. We
often call our Christian experience “a walk”.
We must keep walking. We
must continue in our trust with Jesus and the teachings relating to Him.
Some suggest, and
especially because of verse 10 that this lady often entertained Christians
passing through her town. John tells her not to welcome anyone into her
home who doesn’t hold to this teaching, that is, the teaching John is
setting forth concerning the Deity of Christ.
We see John’s resolve here to uphold the truth as he knows it.
He is not even willing to entertain one who calls himself a
believer but is in fact a false teacher.
You notice all the men of the New Testament, John included, that
they were men of strong conviction;. We
should have the same convictions. Yet, in our world of relevance, when
conviction is seen in a bad light, it is hard for some to hold to such
conviction. Some people see
this woman as a woman of prominence in the church since John warned her
about these things, and that she entertained visitors, possible apostles
and teachers passing through her area, of which some were false.
Verse 11 is very strong.
John tells this lady that anyone who welcomes such a false teacher
is actually participating in his wickedness. The Greek word “chairo”
is translated as “welcome” here. In
its simplest form the word means “to rejoice”.
It is often used in the since of a greeting or a welcoming of
someone into your presence.
So I believe John is
telling this lady not to accept or welcome any false teacher with open
arms. The same should apply to
us. We should not rejoice
because of their presence. If
we are not to welcome such false teachers, then I would suggest it is up
to us to refute the teaching of these teachers.
In light of present day
trends to accept false teaching, worldly philosophies, and other religious
ways of thinking, into our churches, I
think this verse is important. It
clearly teaches that we should not allow these things into the church as
many are doing. Those of us
who understand this should be speaking out against it.
In verse 12 John tells
this lady that there are many more things that he’d like to say, but he
will do that in person. He
wants to see this lady and by seeing her, his joy in Christ will be
complete. John felt a special
joy when meeting up with Christian brothers and sisters in Christ.
This should be the same with us.
There should be something in us that responds in joy when meeting
John ends by saying,
“the children of your chosen sister sends their greetings”.
Some interpret “chosen sister” to mean the church at