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Sprinting Through the Book of Second John March 16, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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I recently read through the Second Epistle of John with the aid of a commentary by Matthew Henry. My aim in this endeavor was to comprehend this epistle as a whole and compare it with 1 John.

On a related note, “sprinting” appears in the title of this post as this epistle consists of a single section in the NIV translation; thus, this journey will be more of a sprint than a leisurely stroll.

Here are my thoughts on 2 John.

Summary: John begins by introducing himself as one who is old in holy service; he then greets a noble Christian and her family, whom he sincerely loves. Indeed, all of their Christian acquaintances sincerely love them, as she practices true religion. He pronounces the following apostolic benediction over them: that they would receive divine favor, forgiveness and tranquility of spirit from God – the fountain of blessedness – and His Son – the Author and Communicator of these blessings. These blessings will continually preserve true faith and love in them.

John then tells the noble Christian that he is joyful because some of her children are also practicing true religion. Now he requests that she and her family continue to practice Christian sacred love, as this is a divine command that is as old as natural religion. Christian sacred love entails urging others to walk in holiness.

Now John makes this request as there are seducers who make at least one error concerning the person of the Lord Jesus – deluding souls and opposing the name of the Lord Christ. Thus, the noble Christian and her family must not allow these seducers to cause them to lose any part of that glory that they currently stand to gain. He illustrates the importance of his request by stating those who revolt against the Gospel message have departed from God, while those who retain the Gospel message are united to God. Thus, they should neither hospitably entertain any of these seducers who may travel to their house nor recommend their work to God for His blessing. If they support these seducers in any way, then they will share in their iniquities.

John notes that there are some things that he wants to tell them in person, as their communion will produce mutual joy.

John concludes by stating that their near relatives also extend pious overtures to them.

Thoughts: John writes this letter to a female Christian and her family. Henry offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary:

Here we find a canonical letter written, principally, not only to a single person, but to someone of the softer sort (the chosen lady). And why not to one of that gender? Regarding the privilege and dignity of the Gospel and redemption, “there is neither…male nor female”; they are “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Our Lord himself neglected his own meal in order to commune with the woman of Samaria, to show her the fountain of life; and when he was dying on the cross, he chose to leave his blessed mother to the care of the disciple whom he loved and thereby instructed him to respect female disciples in the future.

Henry later notes that this woman and her family were eminent and pious. That is neat, and I am definitely looking forward to meeting them in the next life and learning more about them. Where did they live, and why were they eminent? Did this woman inherit a large sum of money, or did she build her fortune? How did she and her family come to hear and accept the Gospel message? How did their piety influence their handling of their eminence? Did they have any enemies, and if so, how did they treat them? While this short letter does not provide many details in this regard, it does whet my appetite for the time when I will meet them.

In verses 10 and 11, John states that believers should not offer any support to false teachers. Henry offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary:

Bad work should not be consecrated or recommended to God for a blessing. God will never be a patron of falsehood, seduction, and sin. We ought to bid Godspeed to evangelical ministering, but regarding the propagation of fatal error, if we cannot prevent it, we must not countenance it.

I thought about how believers support both short-term and long-term missionaries with prayers, donations and letters. Since we are not physically present when missionaries are carrying out their duties, in some sense we trust that God is actually working through them to spread the Gospel message. Now if it turns out that they are actually false teachers, how will God view our support of them before we learned that shocking news? What if we never learn that they are false teachers? Now I think we can assume that most, if not all, missionaries make a concerted effort to honor God in their daily lives, and so most believers will never need to address this hypothetical situation.

In some sense, one can view this letter as a condensed version of 1 John. Here, John touches on some of the points that he hammered home in that letter:

  • having fellowship with God entails obeying his commands
  • the most important command entails seeking the good of others
  • one must discern truth from error – especially as it pertains to Jesus Christ.

I am certainly eager to sprint through 3 John at this point and compare/contrast it with this letter.

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