2 John – Praise for obedience and warning about false teachers

 The Elder: 

To the elect  lady and her children: I love all of you in the truth—and not only I, but also all who have come to know the truth — because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever. 

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

I was very glad to find some of your children walking in the truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father. So now I urge you, dear lady—not as if I were writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk according to His commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: you must walk in love. 

Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.  This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves so you don’t lose what we have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who does not remain in Christ’s teaching but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t say, “Welcome,” to him; 11 for the one who says, “Welcome,” to him shares in his evil works. 

12 Though I have many things to write to you, I don’t want to do so with paper and ink. Instead, I hope to be with you and talk face to face  so that our joy may be complete. 

13 The children of your elect sister send you greetings. (HCSB)

I’ll be dividing this lesson into four parts.

  • Introduction – verses 1-3.
  • Christians must practice the truth – verses 4-6.
  • Christians must protect the truth – verses 7-11.
  • The farewell – verses 12-13.


Before we start a deeper look at this epistle, let’s take a look at some introductory information.

  • The letter was sent to Christians in the general area of Ephesus.
  • It was written around or just after 1 John was written.
  • The theme is very similar to 1 John; encourage and strengthen Christians to walk in love with others and resist false teaching.
  • Emphasizes obeying God’s commands.
  • It is a highly personal letter reflecting John’s affection and concern for these believers.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at these three verses.

  • The overarching idea in the first three verses is “May God’s blessings be upon the people I love, people who let the truth live in them.”
  • John starts with the term “elder.”
    • The Greek word for elder is presbyteros.
    • The title of elder was used for someone in a position of authority and responsibility.
    • In the context of the letter, it indicated that John had authority and responsibility for the recipients of the letter.
    • The use of elder instead of John’s name is a further reflection of the relationship between the author and the recipients.
  • One word that John hammers home is the word “truth.”
    • It occurs four times in these three verses, highlighting its significance to John’s message.
    • The Greek word for truth is aletheia, which means “in truth,” “upon truth,” and “according to truth,” pertaining to being a real or an actual event or state.
    • It means reality as opposed to mere appearance.
    • Jesus is “the truth.” John 14:6 – Jesus told him, “I am  the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 
    • God’s Word is truth. John 17:17 – Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.
    • The Spirit of Truth teaches us. John 16:13 – When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.
  • John used the theme of “truth” at the beginning of this letter because there were false teachers leading the sheep astray.
    • John never tolerated false teachers.
    • There is a deadly difference between truth and error, and John would not tolerate error.
    • The truth would appeal to the minds of the readers.
  • The other important word in these verses is “love.”
    • It occurs twice in this section.
    • The Greek word used here is agape.
    • It means to have a love for someone or something based upon sincere appreciation and high regard.
    • Love would appeal to the hearts of the readers.
  • The next issue we need to discuss is the identity of “the elect lady and her children.”
    • Among scholars and theologians, there are three main interpretations of this phrase.
      • It is a figurative reference to a local church and its members. If this is true, then verse thirteen would also be a reference to a local church.
      • It is a reference to the universal church of believers.
      • The recipient is an individual lady and her children.
    • The majority believe the first choice is the correct one. It’s a metaphorical or symbolic way of identifying a local church and its members.
      • The term “lady,” or kuria in Greek, is the feminine form of “lord.”
      • This hints at the idea of the church being the bride of Christ.
      • This idea also meshes well with verse thirteen; churches are “sister” of each other.
      • Those who come to faith in a local church are the “children” of the “elect lady.”
  • John concludes this section with words common in ancient Christian greetings; grace, mercy, and peace.

Christians Must Practice the Truth

  • The overarching theme in verses four to six is, “It is a joy that some of you are walking in the truth. We are commanded to love one another and to walk in obedience to God’s commands.”
  • In this section, we find another word that repeats itself. The words “walk/walking” occurs three times in this section.
    • In the original Greek, this would convey an action beyond simply understanding truth. It would require acting on the truth.
    • It’s not enough for believers to know the truth. We must demonstrate the truth through our actions wherever we are.
    • When someone “walks in the truth,” it means they are obeying the truth and allowing it to control their lives.
    • John 14:15 – If you love Me, you will keep My commands.
  • John is “very glad” that some of the believers are walking in the truth.
    • Although not apparent from the English rendering, John had met some of the members of the church during his travels and observed their obedience. John wasn’t saying that only a portion was walking in obedience.
    • It also makes the Father “very glad” when His children walk in obedience to His Word.
    • Shepherd leaders are also “very glad” when members of their flock walk in obedience to God’s Word.
  • Another word that occurs repeatedly is “command.”
    • Command occurs four times in these three verses.
    • The commands are given by the Father.
      • Each commandment is an expression of love.
      • The will of God is the revelation of God’s heart. Psalm 33:11 – The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.
      • Obedience to God’s Word is a revelation of our love, not an expression of fear. 1 John 5:3 – For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden.
      • False teachers try to make God’s commandments appear harsh and difficult, offering their followers “true” freedom, which is really false freedom. 2 Peter 2:19 – They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.
      • The greatest freedom is obedience to God’s perfect will.
      • Those who are true followers of Christ and love God would never think His commandments are harsh or unbearable.
  • John now moves on to the command to love one another.
    • Loving others is not a new command; it goes back to the Old Testament, where Jews were told to love both their neighbors and strangers.
      • Leviticus 19:18 – Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.
      • Deuteronomy 10:19 – You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
    • However, what is new is that with the incarnation of Jesus, there is a new emphasis on brotherly love, agape, as demonstrated in Jesus’ life, and the expectation that we follow His example and love others in the same manner. 
    • A reasonable question to ask is, “is it possible to command love?” The short answer is yes! But we need to understand what defines Christian love.
      • It’s not a feeling or special kind of “religious emotion.”
      • It’s an act of will that enables us to interact with and accept others.
      • Christian love is treating others in the same way God treats you.
      • It’s possible to extend love to others even when we really don’t like them.
        • People can be rude to us, but we can be kind in return.
        • People may persecute us, but we can pray for them, and when the opportunity presents itself, we can be kind to them.
        • If we followed our feelings, we would retaliate.
        • But if we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, we can act like Jesus would have acted in Christian love.
    • Love and obedience go together.
      • We can’t separate our relationship with God from our relationship with others.
      • If we say we love God, but we hate our brothers or sisters, how can we say we love God?
      • If we walk in obedience to God, His love is made perfect in us toward others.
  • When we look at these three verses together, we see the themes of truth, love, and obedience blended.
    • Believing in the truth, Christ, and the Word leads to our salvation.
    • The evidence of salvation is love and obedience.
    • Love and obedience are strengthened as we grow in the knowledge of the truth.
      • Ephesians 4:15 – But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.
      • John 7:17 – If anyone wants to do His will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God or if I am speaking on My own.
    • Obedience allows us to learn more truth, and the more truth we learn, the more we love Jesus, who is the truth.
    • Instead of living in a vicious circle of defeat, we live in a victorious circle of love, truth, and obedience.

Christians Must Protect the Truth

  • The theme for this section is that believers must not be led astray by the world’s deceivers, those who don’t acknowledge Jesus. We shouldn’t help them in any way, which would be assistance to those practicing evil.
  • In this section, John warns about the deceivers in the world.
  • In the context of this letter, it addresses the false teaching of docetism or proto-Gnostics who denied the incarnation of God the Son.
  • The Greek word for deceiver is planos, and it means more than just teaching false doctrine.
    • It does mean teaching false doctrine.
    • It also means to lead people astray or to lead them into wrong living.
    • John had already taught that what we believe determines how we act. Wrong or false doctrine will lead to wrong living.
  • Where did the deceivers come from?
    • They came from inside the church.
    • They professed faith in Jesus but were false believers.
      • Jude 3-4 – Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly,  turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord
      • 1 John 2:19 – They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us
      • Acts 20:30 – And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them.
  • John also warns there are many deceivers.
    • 2 Peter 2:1-2 – But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them
    • These deceivers are also the “antichrists” John warned about in 1 John 2:18-23.
  • To protect the truth requires a faithfulness to the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.
    • The deceivers had departed from the truth and church fellowship.
    • The deceivers were dangerous.
  • John points out three dangers the church and its members face from the deceivers.
    • The danger of losing what we have worked for.
      • John warns the readers to “watch yourselves.”
        • The deceivers will try and falsely offer something you don’t have.
        • In reality, they will take away what you do have.
      • Satan is a thief, and so are his minions.
      • The full reward John is talking about is an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom.
        • Believers will receive rewards in heaven. Both John and Paul talk about that in Scripture.
          • Revelation 4:10 – The 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne,  worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say.
          • 1 Corinthians 9:25 – Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away
          • 2 Timothy 4:8 – There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing
    • The danger of going beyond what Scripture says.
      • The Greek term for “goes beyond it,” proago, means to go beyond the established boundaries of teaching or instruction, failing to obey properly.
      • The false teachers will try and come off as “progressive” in their thinking.
      • However, the progress they push actually abandons the doctrine that Jesus is God the Son, who came in the flesh.
      • We all know of examples today where pastors, churches, or denominations have “gone beyond” what is contained in Scripture to promote a “kindler, gentler, all inclusive” Gospel.
        • Same-sex marriages and non-binary genders are two of the more recent examples.
        • However, both go “beyond Scripture,” which is clear that God created male and female and that marriage is between a man and a woman.
      • Learning is good, but anytime it leads us away from the fundamental doctrines of the person and work of Jesus Christ, then we are on dangerous ground.
  • The danger of welcoming or receiving false teachers.
    • As we consider verse ten, we need to view it in the context of first-century practices of hospitality.
      • As opposed to today, there weren’t many inns for travelers to stay. This was especially true for traveling Christians who tried to stay away from the evil influences in the world.
      • Christians were encouraged to open their homes to visitors.
        • Romans 12:13 – Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
        • Hebrews 13:2 – Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.
      • Believers who showed hospitality to servants of God were helping those who were spreading the truth, the Gospel.
    • Those who were showing hospitality to false teachers were sharing in their evil works.
    • The true doctrine of Christ is a test of truth, a foundation for fellowship, and a bond for mutual cooperation.
    • The same principle applies today.
      • We may have Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses come to our door, spreading their false doctrine.
        • We should never be rude to them; see the section above about love.
        • But, we should point out their false teaching and show them the truth contained in Scripture.
        • One additional method of trying to limit their damage is to take as many of their resources as possible and then burn them so they won’t do any harm.
      • There are also false teachers on television, radio, youtube, etc., who spread false teaching. We need to be alert so that we don’t inadvertently aid them in any way.
    • Why was John so focused on not accidentally helping the wrong people?
      • It would give the false teacher the impression their heretical teaching was acceptable.
      • It would be possible to become influenced by them.
      • It would provide the false teacher with ammunition on their next stop that you supported them. Our disobedience could lead to someone else’s destruction.
    • John was not saying that only believers could/should enter your house.
      • Engaging the lost is required to lead them to Christ.
      • Often, a comfortable setting such as our home is a good place to do that.
    • John is saying we shouldn’t receive, enable, or encourage false teachers who represent antichristian groups.

The Farewell

  • John now closes this letter much in the same way he will close 3 John.
  • There are several points in these last two verses.
    • John emphasizes the importance of Christian fellowship.
    • John is saying we should experience joy when we gather with other believers.
    • Receiving letters from fellow believers is important but not as important as face-to-face meetings.
    • The letter that John wrote doesn’t contain all the things he wanted to discuss with them.
    • John was planning on visiting this family or church in person.
  • John concludes the letter by saying the children of their elect sister send greetings.
    • As previously discussed in the first section of this lesson, this most likely refers to a church and its members.
    • This demonstrates that Christian churches in the first century were concerned about other churches; there wasn’t any competition or disunity.


  • John commended the recipients of the letter for walking in the truth but also commanded them to walk in the truth. Examine your walk. Do you walk in the truth? Do you walk in love, which means following the commands the Father has given us? If you do, keep doing it. If you don’t, pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to walk in God’s power and love others just as God loves us.
  • Be watchful for false teachers around your home, in your workplace, in your community, and your church. If you find some, don’t enable them in any manner. Confront them with the truth of the Gospel. Warn your spiritual brothers and sisters, so they don’t fall victim to their heresy. As believers, we must always confront and correct false teaching.
  • Engage in fellowship with other believers. While written and voice correspondence is important, they will never replace the importance of face-to-face meetings. We should meet often with fellow believers to encourage and support each other.
  • Pray for the other churches around you, regardless of their denomination or demographics. The one caveat is that they are a church that teaches the truth and doesn’t compromise to be socially acceptable in a fallen world.

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