Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
We all have our Bible book favorites but, sad to say, books like 2 John don’t often make the cut. And further, we struggle sometimes to understand why they’re even in the Bible. In this post, we’re going to look at why 2 John is included in our Bibles, and further, why it’s an amazing book!
Main Theme: Truth & Love
“I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.” (2 John 4)
“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” (2 John 6)
It is believed that the Apostle John is writing this second letter from Ephesus at the same time as his other letters. There have been two theories as to who the recipient might be. Some hold that the letter is personal, as he addresses a “sister”, perhaps a natural sister or a sister-in-the-Lord. Others have believed that John is writing to a church, referring to a specific congregation as a “sister” church. I tend to think that he is writing to a church. At only 13 verses long, the letter is no doubt tiny. Along with 3 John and Jude, these are called by some “the postcard epistles” because of their length. But size does not dictate significance.
(1-3). In the introduction to the letter, John refers to himself as “the elder”, as he is likely the last surviving apostle at this time. With all other apostles gone, the church’s heartrate would have jumped to have received a letter from John, who was himself a personal witness to Christ. In the first 4 verses, we read the word “truth” five times; something that John cares deeply about. With the purveyance of error already creeping into the first-century church, John is careful to set the tone right off the bat.
(4). Immediately, we see John’s pastoral heart, as he expresses delight in finding that “some of your children” were “walking [living] in truth”. When approaching the possibility of error in the fellowship, John recognizes that there are always those who are found faithful, who live their lives according to the truth of God.
(5-6). The next few verses are a sort of snapshot of John’s greater body of work. The Gospel of John centers on faith and love, as taught by Christ; with the command “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Further, John fleshes out the theology of loving God and others in 1 John, and now he’s making reference to it again. This is a theme that just won’t go away! And he restates it: true love is living according to God’s commands.
(7-11). Next, John is careful to warn the church about false teachers. What is astounding about his words here is the fact that the last few verses were all about love, and then he slams the door on false teachers and condemns them! He says that “those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (v. 7) are themselves antichrists. He is no doubt referring to the cancerous Gnostic heresy that emerged at the end of the first century. Even today, there are those who deny the Incarnation, and we must be sure to oppose such heresy with firmness and resolve.
(12-13). The conclusion of the letter returns us to the tenderness of “the elder” as he expresses his desire to see these believers in the flesh. Some have thought that John makes the statement about not wanting to write to them “with paper and ink” because of Roman censorship, but in truth, the bond between believers is so much stronger when they can fellowship face to face.
What Makes This Book So Great:
The joint themes of “truth” (vv. 1, 2, 3, 4) and “love” (vv. 1, 3, 5, 6) are woven throughout the book. But what makes this so beautiful is the tenderness and concern of an aging Apostle who loves Christ’s church deeply. You can almost hear John’s crackling voice speaking each syllable with intentionality and diction, as he considers a church in need of encouragement. Even more astounding than his care and concern is his absolute hatred of false teaching. In fact, he instructs the church “not [to] receive [a false teacher] into your house, and do not give him a greeting” (v. 10)!
As mentioned earlier, the length of this book often deters Christians from reading it, not because it’s challenging, but because it’s deemed insignificant. Imagine for a minute that Jesus Christ sent you a hand-written note; you would read it a hundred times and then frame it on your wall! And yet, most of us have never read 2 John. We would do well to remember that the Holy Spirit saw fit to inspire John to write this letter (2 Peter 1:21) and it has been preserved for us for more than 1,900 years for good reason.
Because of 2 John’s short length, it can be read easily and quickly. Challenge yourself to read this letter a dozen times and note John’s use of the main themes. Then, read 2 John and 3 John back-to-back. And then, for a broader challenge, read all three of John’s letters through. Suddenly, you will notice that this letter is not a needless extra, but rather, an intricate part of John’s theology and nothing less than the inspired Word of God.
- John MacArthur, 1—3 John. Chicago: Moody, 2007.
A verse-by-verse commentary that is helpful for any thinking student.
- John R.W. Stott, The Letters of John. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1988.
A helpful scholarly treatment from a faithful Bible teacher.
- Robert W. Yarbrough, 1, 2, and 3 John. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.
A high-level exegetical study in a top-notch series.
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries