Bible Commentaries
2 John 1

Caton's Commentary on the Minor EpistlesCaton's Commentary

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Verse 1

Verse 1. The elder unto the elect lady.

The first thing that attracts attention is the designation the writer applies to himself. Peter and Paul both call them-selves apostles. John nowhere calls himself an apostle. The Vulgate has the word "ancient" in the place of elder. I can not think, as some do, that John would have us under-stand that he occupied the position of an official by his use of the term elder ; but that he simply alludes to his age, and it may be, that thereby he desired to leave the impression on the mind that he was the only one of the chosen twelve who then survived, if, in fact, he did not mean that he was the only surviving personal disciple of the Lord.

Elect lady.

The person addressed was a member of the church and one whose Christian deportment met with the commenda-tion of the aged writer. So much is certain. Some have thought that the words here used, "elect lady," were intended as the proper name of a person, while some hold that it meant a church. The better and safer thought, I think, is simply to regard it as a proper name, that view of the case being more in keeping with the scope of the letter. This idea is further enforced from the deduction necessarily to be drawn from the last verse, "The children of thy elect sister greet thee." This view is taken even by the annotator of the Vulgate. His words are "Some conjecture that Electa might be the name of a family, or of a particular church, but the general opinion is, that it is the proper name of a lady, so eminent for her piety and great charity as to merit this epistle from St. John."

Whom I love in the truth.

Both the lady addressed and her children are objects of that affection of the apostle which is enjoined by the truth that is, the teaching of the gospel. This affection for the lady and family is not confined to the writer, as he informs us, but extends to and embraces all that are of like faith.

Verse 2

Verse 2. For the truth's sake.

Those that love, as enjoined by the gospel of truth, love because they love the truth, and such love is for the truth's sake. Being true to the gospel, this love of truth dwells in the believer and will continue so to dwell for all time, and will also extend into eternity.

Verse 3

Verse 3. Grace be with you, mercy, and peace.

This verse contains a benediction which is common in all apostolic writings.

Verse 4

Verse 4. I rejoiced, greatly.

It was a source of great satisfaction to the writer that the children of the lady addressed were walking in the truth. They were observing the commandment of the Father. This word commandment, being in the singular number, must refer to one single command, and taking into view the whole scope of the letter, we conclude that the command was love. In this their whole duty was summed up.

Verse 5

Verse 5. And now I beseech thee, lady.

The exhortation is earnest. "I beseech thee." The reason for this was, the fear and anxiety entertained by the apostle that, as false teachers were abroad, danger menaced the lady and her family, and to guard them against all possible evil influences that might arise, he here shows his great solicitude.

Not as though I wrote a new commandment.

Do not misunderstand me. I do not wish you to think that I have a new injunction to impose, or a new revelation to impart. It is the same we had from the very first procla-mation of the word of life, "That we love one another." This includes everything. It is very broad and full. It embraces all Christian duties, the observance of which insures the continued favor of the Father.

Verse 6

Verse 6. And this is love.

We know one possesses this love whenever we see its demonstration. One, therefore, who knows by acts that he loves, shows at the same time that he walks after the commandments. We hear the Lord when we obey what he commands, and no other love is acceptable to the Father on high. This commandment was given, and was heard at the very beginning, in order that it might be observed along the pathway of life.

Verse 7

Verse 7. For many deceivers.

The reason for the earnestness of his exhortation to stability in the faith is here brought to the front. There are deceivers in the world not one, but many. These must be guarded against, that no apostasy is caused, and the worthy lose their reward.

Who confess not that Jesus Christ.

These deceivers refuse to confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh ; that is to say, these persons whom I designate as deceivers. You may know them by their state-ments. They say that the Jesus foretold by the prophets, and who was born at Bethlehem, baptized of John; who taught in Palestine, healed the sick, cast out devils, gave sight to the blind, and speech to the dumb, and raised the dead ; who was crucified, dead, and was buried in Joseph's tomb ; arose from the dead, ascended on high, sent down the Holy Spirit, commissioned his apostles, of whom I am one, to preach the gospel that all these things did not occur; that there is no truth in all this ; Jesus has not yet come, and we refuse to obey this Jesus that John his apostle preaches. Of these, and such as these, the writer affirms deceiver, antichrist opposer of Christ.

Verse 8

Verse 8. Look to yourselves.

With relation to these deceivers, this antichrist, be careful ; be on your guard as to their specious stories, their plausible speeches ; be led not astray by them ; cling to the faith of Christ. You have already begun your work for the reward of the righteous ; this you do not want to lose ; continue faithful and the full reward assured to all the finally faithful is yours.

Verse 9

Verse 9. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not.

Plain, it must be, that a life of transgression can not be pursued, and one so acting be in Christ ; on the contrary, one so doing is not in Christ that is, does not abide in Christ; and as all blessings are in him, the danger of loss or failure of reward is apparent. One not in Christ hath not God ; that is, God's favor and presence. One abiding in Christ, observing his doctrine, possesses both Christ and the Father, the favor and presence of both.

Verse 10

Verse 10. If there come any unto you.

Such as described, who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, receive them not into your house. He may claim to be a brother ; but no difference, give him no welcome as such, extend to him no such hospitality ; and further, extend to him no wish for his success, and no encouragement in his work of deception. In short, such are not to be fellowshiped in any manner by the brethren.

Verse 11

Verse 11. For he that biddeth him God speed.

In wishing a deceiver success, or offering to him encour-agement and aid in his false and wicked course, you become a partaker of his evil deeds to the extent of the help given and aid afforded.

Verse 12

Verse 12. Having many things to write unto you.

The apostle closes his epistle by the statement, that he withheld many things he desired to tell her, but the sub-jects were of such a nature he preferred not to impart them by pen and ink ; having a hope to meet her soon, such things could await a personal interview. At such interview all restraints from conferring upon her full knowledge con-cerning the false teachers in his possession would be removed, and he could then more fully point out the insid-ious methods of their attacks, and the better fortify her and her children against their approaches. They could rejoice together the lady at her escape, and the writer that he had preserved her from apostasy.

Verse 13

Verse 13. The children of thy elect sister.

The children of a sister to whom the letter was addressed resided at the place from whence John wrote, and he, pos-sibly at their request, sends the good wishes, a common salu-tation at that time. The speculation afloat about this elect lady and her elect sister scarcely warrant attention. It is claimed by some that their election was far back even before time began ; God of his own free will foreknew them and elected them to life eternal. If this be true, either John did not know it although an inspired man or he was grossly derelict in his duty, in failing to communicate that fact for the benefit of future ages and the millions of people yet unborn. And so of all other inspired writers. None of them have recorded the fact that so important an election had ever occurred. The truth is, they were elected just as were all the saints that have become elect since the day of Pentecost, when the proclamation of a risen Savior was first made known to man. All are required to hear the gos-pel, believe it with the whole heart, turn away from their former course in life, confess with the mouth the faith believed, be baptized in obedience to the command of the Author and Finisher of the faith ; and being thus inducted into the body of Christ, which is his church, they are thus elected, and thereafter are entitled to be designated as elect. There happens to be no other way disclosed by God's blessed book by which this election takes place, and with this all God-loving and God-fearing people ought to be content.

Bibliographical Information
Caton, Nathan Thomas. "Commentary on 2 John 1". Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles. 1916.