Second John cautions about receiving heretics and has much in common with First John regarding the danger of false teachers that deny the incarnation of Jesus Christ; it was written to urge discernment in supporting travelling teachers, otherwise someone might unintentionally contribute to the propagation of heresy rather than truth (NIV Study Bible).
A study of 2 Jn.1:1-13
The first section of this letter instructs us to Abide in God’s Commandments <2 Jn.1:1-6>, and John, in his opening remarks <2 Jn.1:1-3>, addresses his readers – “To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth” <2 Jn. 1 (NIV)>: some Bible scholars take the statement “chosen (elect) lady and her children” literally as referring to a specific person and her children; others prefer to take it figuratively as describing a local church (Nelsons).
He then continues to say: “all who know the truth—because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever” <2 Jn.1-2 (NIV)>: those who know the Truth are those who have had a personal relationship with The Lord Jesus Christ; He is the Truth <see Jn.14:6a; 18:37b-38a>; and those who have accepted The Truth have The Truth forever, He is with us “forever” wherever we go.
“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” <2 Jn.3 (NIV)>: grace and mercy was a common greeting but here it is used to remind us of God’s grace and mercy expressed to us in the person of Jesus Christ God’s Son, who will be with us forever; this is the true grace, mercy and love of God.
John continues to instruct us to “Walk in Truth” <2 Jn.1:4>. “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” <2 Jn.4 (NIV); 3 Jn.4>: it was gratifying to John that those converted under his preaching were continuing in the faith. It is unfortunate that in some cases, believers get lured away and refuse to comply with God’s word, they follow non believing partners and friends in rebellion to what God’s Word teaches and God sometimes has to deal severely with them. This is what happened to God’s chosen people who were sent into exile: “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.’ Therefore hear, O nations; observe, O witnesses, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law.” <Jer.6:16-19 (NIV); cf. Prov.13:20; Heb.10:25>. A warning to us that when we need to know God’s will in making decisions, we should never question what God’s Word teaches.
He further reminds us to “Walk in Love” <2 Jn.1:5-6>; and is reminding his readers that this is not a new command, it is Christ’s teaching and refers back to Old Testament times <see Jn.13:34-35; cf. Lev.19:18; Matt.22:39-40; Rom.13:8-10>; and he further defines what true love is: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” <2 Jn.1:6 (NIV)>; living our lives in obedience to God’s command is how we walk (live) in true love, for if we are not living in obedience to God’s command, our “so-called-love” for others is meaningless since we do not practice what we say. True love for others is not self-satisfaction but effectively loving others as we love ourselves; and this love originates from God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the love that defines a believer in Christ!
John continues to instruct us “Abide Not with False Teachers” <2 Jn.1:7-13>, reminding us of the “Doctrine of the False Teachers” <2 Jn.1:7-9>. He cautions his readers of the danger of false teaching carrying on from his previous instructions; “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.” <2 Jn.1:7 (NIV); cf Jn.1:14>; referring again to the Gnostic heresy that was creeping into the Church. Such a person, John declares, is a deceiver or antichrist <2 Jn.1:7b>; should not be considered as a true disciple of Christ, and should not be allowed to teach such heresy in the Church. All believers in Christ must be extremely careful of what we accept as doctrine in our churches today as the heresy of Gnosticism is still being taught, we must be students of the Scriptures so that we can identify false teachers. John here warns of the result of accepting false teaching: “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.” <2 Jn.1:8 (NIV)>; since our acceptance of false teaching will rob us of our reward that Christ will hand out to each of us at His return <see 2 Pet.2:1-3; Rom.14:11-12; 2 Cor.5:10; 2 Tim.4:7-8>. John concludes his warning by comparing the false teacher to the true believer; “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” <2 Jn.1:9 (NIV); cf Gal.1:10>. We should always strive for a better understanding of the revelation given to us in Christ, but we must never go beyond what the Scriptures reveal!
We must stay away from the “False Teachers” <2 Jn.1:10-11>. John closes with a final warning regarding “travelling teachers”; those that were going from city to city preaching and teaching the gospel. He is cautioning the believers that their hospitality could give public approval to the wicked work of false teachers. He is not condemning hospitality to strangers for general conversation, but we should be careful to compare their teaching with what the Scriptures teach: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” <2 Jn.1:10-11 (NIV)>.
In his closing remarks he says “…. I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.” <2 Jn.1:12-13 (NIV)>; it was his desire to be able to make a personal visit the church to discuss his teachings with them. “Chosen sister” could be a reference to another local church.
Detecting heretical doctrine is very important to all believers in Christ, and our discernment of false teaching will only be possible if we are true disciples of Jesus Christ having a personal knowledge of what the Scriptures teach.