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2 John Commentary


I. Content of the Chapter


Love in Truth

A.  The greetings of love (v.1-3);

1. Love is for the sake of the truth (v.1-2).

2. Grace, mercy and peace will be with you in truth and love (v.3).

B.  The commandments of love (v.4-6);

1. Keep the truth according to the commandment that was received (v.4);

2. That we love one another is a commandment we have had from the beginning (v.5);

3. This is love that we walk according to His commandments (v.6);

C.  The warnings of love (v.7-11);

1. Look to yourselves that we do not lose those things we worked for (v.7-8);

2. Do not receive him who transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ so as not to share in his evil deeds (v.9-11);

D.  The solicitude of love (v.12-13);

1. Hope to speak face to face that your joy may be full (v.12);

2. Express the greetings of believers in the Lord (v.13);


II. Verse by Verse Commentary


2John. 1The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth,

YLT: “The Elder to the choice Kyria, and to her children, whom I love in truth, and not I only, but also all those having known the truth,”

Meaning of Words: elder”: senior; elect”: chosen, Kuria (a female name); lady”: Mrs., the address of the church; children”: sons and daughters; truth”: reality, verity; “know”: understand, realize; 

Literal Meaning:the Elder, To the elect lady”, “elder”, there are two meanings of it in the original: 1) the older people; 2) the overseer of a local church ---- both of them become John. And the apostle Peter had also been the elder of a certain local church (see 1Pet. 5:1). “The elect lady” also includes two meanings: 1) a lady who named Kuria; 2) the church that was chosen; both explanations are supported by many Bible scholars. And the spiritual teachings of this epistle are suitable for both individual believers and the whole church.

“And her children”, it contains two meanings: 1) the children of the lady Kuria (their father might have passed away); 2) believers of the local church;

“Whom I love in truth”, “love in truth”: love for the sake of the truth (see v.2);

“And not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, “have known”: obtain personal knowledge through experience; the perfect tense shows that the knowledge is not transient but permanent. “All those who have known the truth”, those who have right knowledge about the person of Jesus Christ and the word of salvation;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Let believers love by the love out of a pure heart, or there will be undesirable consequences.

2)     The heresies are characterized by the apparent love without any foundation of truth. For instance, believers of the Unification Church are willing to be dominated by the hierarch to marry unacquainted believers of the opposite sex; and a female Mormon are even ready to share her husband with others.

3)     If love is not based on the truth, it will have no difference from the worldly love, which love starts dynamically but turns to be sluggish finally because of the change of environment.

4)     The unconditional love will be yielded among Christians after they have experienced the salvation of truth. We love believers because of the fact that the gospel of truth has become a part of their life, not their good personality or conversation.

5)     The extent of love is as wide as that of the fellowship of faith.


2John. 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:

YLT: “because of the truth that is remaining in us, and with us shall be to the age,”

Meaning of Words: truth”: reality, verity; because of”: on account of;abide”: dwell;be with”: accompany;

Literal Meaning:because of the truth”: love all those who have known the truth because of the truth;

“Which abides in us, here the “truth” is personified, for the Lord Jesus is the truth (see John 14:6). Once we have believed the Lord and are saved, the Lord Jesus abides in us in truth (see Eph. 4:24).

“And will be with us forever”, here it suggests that the truth believers have received or that abides in believers contains the following characteristics: a) which is living; 2) which never changes; 3) which is able to produce and manifest love; 4) which proves the reality of love;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Since we Christians’ love is obtained by the truth, our love shall be according to the truth and the truth shall be in no wise sacrificed because of love.

2)     Man cannot decide the standard of love according to himself, for the standard of love is the truth of God. If love is not according to the enlightenment and guidance of the truth, it loves wrongly.

3)     The more our love is governed by truth, the more truth shall he know. The word of God is truth (John 17:17), and the Spirit is the truth (John 16:13). Therefore, we have to get more knowledge of God’s word and the Holy Spirit.

4)     Knowledge may not be the truth. Knowledge is dead letter, but truth is living spirit. Knowledge is accumulated in man’s mind and the truth abides in man’s heart. The former is objective, and the latter is subjective.

5)     Since the truth abides in us forever, love out of the truth is also changeless. All changeable love is natural love.


2John. 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

YLT: “there shall be with you grace, kindness, peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”

Meaning of Words: grace”: graciousness, pleasure, thanks; “mercy”: compassion; “peace”: quietness, rest; “love”: charity, love-feast;

Literal Meaning: “grace, mercy, and peace”, “grace”: graciousness, the profit that God gives to men freely; the greatest grace to man is to obtain and enjoy God Himself; “mercy”, God gives His grace upon to us in His mercy, even though we are so unworthy of the divine grace. “Peace” refers to not only peaceful environment but also inner rest. In other words, peace is a kind of mood because of the peace between God and men and among men after man has enjoyed the divine salvation.

  “Will be with you”, it means “grace and mercy and peace” will be with us in truth and love. That is to say, only when we are in both truth and love, shall God be with us.

“From God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father”, here God the Father and the Son are mentioned together, which shows that God and the Lord Jesus are one and different. God the Father is the source of grace and mercy and peace. His Son Jesus Christ is the advocate for grace and mercy and peace.

“In truth and love, “and”, it is “kai” (which means “that is”) in the original. Therefore, here the truth refers to the truth concerning love. And in the following verses, keeping the commandment of love is regarded as keeping truth.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     That we have received the grace of God is out of the mercy of God. Without the divine mercy, we are by no means worthy of God’s grace, so grace is due to mercy.

2)     The grace of God relates to our life, which makes those who have received grace born again. And the peace of God refers to our daily life, which makes those who have received grace enjoy peace in daily life. Grace leads to peace, and peace proves grace.

3)     Mercy is between grace and peace, for mercy is not only the beginning of grace and peace but also the factor of receiving more grace and peace.

4)     Believers enjoy the blessings of grace and mercy and peace in truth and love. The more we keep the truth and love, the more will we be blessed from God.

5)     “Truth and love” can also be translated as “truth is love”. The nature of truth is love. The more believers seek the truth, the more our love will be increased. If our love decreases, there may be a problem with the truth we seek.


2John. 4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.

YLT: “I rejoiced exceedingly that I have found of thy children walking in truth, even as a command we did receive from the Father;”

Meaning of Words: as”: just like; receive”: obtain, take;commandment”: precept;walk”: keep, do;greatly”: very;

Literal Meaning: “rejoiced greatly”: extraordinary joy;

“I have found some of your children”, “have found”: the perfect tense shows that the face still exists without change; “your children”: the children of that lady, or believers of the local church;

  “Walking in truth as we received commandment from the Father”, “commandment from the Father”, here it does not refer to a particular commandment of God, but all the commandments of God; “walk in truth”: walk in the truth continually;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     God’s will is that we shall walk in truth. That is to say, His truth is constituted in us (see v.2) that it is manifested in our conversations.

2)     If the children of God keep the teachings in the Bible and walk worthily of the truth, it is the most thing that makes the servants joyful.


2John. 5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.

YLT: “and now I beseech thee, Kyria, not as writing to thee a new command, but which we had from the beginning, that we may love one another,”

Meaning of Words: now”: at present, soon; plead”: beseech, ask, intreat; love”: the divine love (agapao); new”: fresh; beginning”: start; 

Literal Meaning: “and now I plead with you, lady”, “now I plead”: this is a kind of official request to emphasize the balance between truth and love.

  “Not as though I wrote a new commandment to you”, in terms of time, it is not a new commandment (see John 2:7).

  “But that which we have had from the beginning”, “we”: both the writer and recipients, namely, the apostle John and believers; “from the beginning”: from the beginning of the church on the earth; “that which we have had”, the commandments the Lord has given to us in the Bible and in our hearts through the Spirit and His servants that we have to love one another;

  “That we love one another”, “we”, it shows that no one is exceptional. “Love one another”, this is the commandment of the Lord Jesus to us (see John 13:34).

  It is mentioned previously the commandment of God the Father is keeping truth (see v.4). Here it mentions that the Lord’s commandment to us is to love one another. The commandments of God and the Son are keeping truth and love in balance.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The commandment of God the Father is that we have to walk in truth (see v.4), and the commandment of the Son is that we shall love one another. Only when we have keep truth and love in balance, can we be counted as normal witnesses of the Trinity.

2)     Truth and love should be kept in balance. Truth without love leads “legalism”. And love without truth leads to “liberalism”.

3)     Many preachers are fond of innovating some new items or words or sayings to cater for men’s curiosity. In fact, true truth is given from “the beginning”. Most of the so-called “new truth” is heresy.

4)     The Lord Jesus said, “but from the beginning it was not thus” (Matt. 19:8). Let believers consider this verse well if they hear some new words.

5)     Loving one another is a commandment, which shows that the love of Christians is of one’s own will. Whether the brother or sisters are lovely or not, we have to love them.


2John. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

YLT: “and this is the love, that we may walk according to His commands; this is the command, even as ye did hear from the beginning, that in it ye may walk,”

Meaning of Words: according to”: in light of; walk”: tread, do; love”: kindness (agape, the divine love); walk”: keep; 

Literal Meaning: “this is love, that we walk according to His commandments”, “His commandments” refer to all the commandments of God in the Bible; “this is love”, here it mentions the two characters of love: a) the obedient love ---- “according to His commandments”; 2) the practical love ---- “walk”;

  “This is the commandments, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it”, “as you have heard…you should walk in it”, here it emphasizes the practice of love again; “the commandments”: the commandment that you have to love one another (see John 13:34);

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Love is not a kind of uncontrollable emotion. True love should “be according to His commandments”. That is to say, love shall be wrought according to the standard and in the sphere of God’s commandment.

2)     True love in the Bible should be governed by all the commandments of God. Any work against the truth or moral standard of God is not love.

3)     Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1John 3:18).

4)     To love one another is to love with the Lord’s love. And to love with the Lord’s love is to keep the Lord’s commandments.

5)     Let us be doers of word, not hearts only (James 1:22). If we hear and do the word, we shall be blessed in our doings (James 1:25).


2John. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

YLT: “because many leading astray did enter into the world, who are not confessing Jesus Christ coming in flesh; this one is he who is leading astray, and the antichrist.”

Meaning of Words: world”: system; many”: a lot of, plenteous;deceiver”: misleader;go out”: leave, depart from;confess”: acknowledge, assent;antichrist”: the opponent of Christ;

Literal Meaning: “for many deceivers have gone out into the world”, “for”, the following words indicate why we shall love according to the commandment of God without any disobedience to the truth (see v.4-6); “deceiver” refers to the heretical teacher, who is purposed to deceive believers into turning aside from the sound faith in Christ.

“Who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh”, it means that they do not confess Jesus Christ came in the flesh as the Son of God. That is to say, they confess only His humanity, but not His divinity.

There are also some heresies declaring that the Lord Jesus obtained the divinity transiently ---- when he was baptized the Spirit came upon Him, but left Him before his crucifixion. However, the Lord Jesus is both God and a man all the time ---- He is a perfect God and a perfect man.

“This is a deceiver and an antichrist”, if someone refuses to confess the divinity of Jesus Christ, he is a deceiver and an antichrist. Such heretical teachers may not openly deny the divinity Jesus Christ in words, but deny in mind or attitude or conduct.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Mark Twain said, “When the truth puts on the shows, lies have already walked through the whole world”. The fallen man is apt to believe lies and resist the truth of God, so let us watch.

2)     We can know from this verse that we believers need not to love the false heretical teachers who deceive.

3)     “Deceiver”, such men live with evil purpose, so let us not include all unbelievers into them. To unbelievers in the world, we shall preach still preach the gospel to them in love and bring them to the Lord.

4)     The New Gospel only confesses the goodness of Jesus and teaches the great love of the Lord Jesus. They are the deceiver and the antichrist.


2John. 8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.

YLT: “See to yourselves that ye may not lose the things that we wrought, but a full reward may receive;”

Meaning of Words: look to”: be careful; lose”: destroy, perish;work”: labor;full”: abundant;reward”: wages;

Literal Meaning: “look to yourselves”, it means that one has to be sober so as not to be deceived.

“That we do not lose those things we worked for”, in some ancient scriptures, it is “you” worked for; “we worked for”, it means the common believers lose the works for salvation due to the knowledge of the truth (see Phil. 2:12); “you worked for”, it refers to the works the apostles had done on believers (see 1Cor. 9:1).

“But that we may receive a full reward”, “reward”: the wages because of the works we have done (see 1Cor. 3:8); “full reward”, it means that the reward we have obtained does not suffer loss but becomes full (see 1Cor. 3:14-15).

Note: some Bible expositors think “the full reward” does not refer to the reward in future, but the reward that we can enjoy now on the earth, for God Himself is our greatest reward (see v.9).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    If believers keep steadfast in faith and faithful in the ministry of the Lord and fulfill the works entrusted to them, they will receive the reward of the Lord (see Eph. 6:8).

2)    The life condition of the saints whom a preacher serves is his fruit of works, which are closely related to the reward they have received (see Phil. 4:1; 1Thess. 2:19-20).


2John. 9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.

YLT: “every one who is transgressing, and is not remaining in the teaching of the Christ, hath not God; he who is remaining in the teaching of the Christ, this one hath both the Father and the Son;”

Meaning of Words: transgress”: violate, go contrary to, advance beyond; doctrine”: teaching;abide”: dwell;have”: possess, obtain;

Literal Meaning: “whoever transgresses … in the doctrine of Christ”, “the doctrine of Christ”: the doctrine concerning the being and works of Christ, namely, the teachings concerning the person and salvation of Christ.

  “And does not abide … does not have God”, he who does not closely keep the right faith or truth cannot take part in God Himself and His salvation.

“He who abides in the doctrine of Christ”, “abide”: keep oneself all the time to make him stay in right doctrines; “the doctrine”: the doctrine concerning Christ;

“Has both the Father and the Son”, “the Father”: because Christ is the only way for us to God (see John 14:6); if we abide in the doctrine of Christ, we have obtained God the Father. “And the Son”, he who has the Father also has Christ, for the Father and the Son are one (see John 10:30).

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     The heretics often regard them “advanced”. However, their advancement is not toward the goal Jesus, but toward the opposite direction.

2)     Any doctrine that “advances beyond” has actually returned back to the step of “no God”. It is better for a normal Christian to be mocked as a “conservative fundamentalist” instead of moving forward to be “a modernist”.

3)     Whoever denies the Son has not the Father (1John 2:23). Jesus Christ is the content and way of the gospel created by God. Without Christ, the salvation becomes nothing (see Acts 4:12).


2John. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;

YLT: “if any one doth come unto you, and this teaching doth not bear, receive him not into the house, and say not to him, `Hail!'”

Meaning of Words: bring”: take; receive”: accept, bring;house”: home;greet”: salute, be cheerful;

The Background: at that time, the Roman Empire occupied a larger domain. For the purpose of stability, many military camps were set in all the important fortified points. And there was convenient traffic between the camps to support the defense. The commercial dealings were thus fostered and the gospel was also widely preached. Therefore, many inns rose in response to that time and conditions. However, most of the inns also did pornographic business and most of the customers committed fornications. And the inns become a den of vice and were unsuitable for the saints to dwell in. Therefore, many local churches encouraged believers to open their houses to receive the workers who went out to work for the Lord. And the heretical teachers also held the banner of working for the Lord to cheat believers for eating and drinking and dwelling everywhere and even also deceive believers everywhere into errs.

Literal Meaning: “if anyone comes to you”, “someone” refers to any heretical teacher;

“And does not bring this doctrine”, “bring”, it is not only oral preachment but also testimony in walking; “doctrine” refers to the right doctrine concerning Christ (see v.9);

“Do not receive him into your house”, do not open your house to receive him; “receive”: the present tense suggests that the receiver may have even received such man and now he has to restrain right now.

“Nor greet him”, “greet” carries the positive meaning, like wishing God to bless etc. Therefore, greeting has spiritual meaning, namely, positive and cordial participation and fellowship;

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     Entertaining strangers is an expression of love (see Heb. 13:1-2). However, it is definitely not toward the preachers of falsehood, for the love against the truth is not true love.

2)     It is easy for Christians to declare, “Say yes to God and say no to Satan”. However, when a man stands before you with decent smile, you may not say “no”. At this time, you need spiritual judgment and decisive power to overcome human affection.


2John. 11for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

YLT: “for he who is saying to him, `Hail,' hath fellowship with his evil works.”

Meaning of Words: evil deeds”: wicked works; “share”: have part in;

Literal Meaning: “for he who greets him”, “for”: the following words show the reasons why we have to refuse to receive or greet such man.

  “Share in his evil deeds”, “share”: have fellowship with his works;

  The apostle John exhorted the church and believers not to receive heretical teachers and even not to greet, for: 1) it would provide chances for them to preach the heretical doctrines in the church; 2) it would mislead them to think the apostles agreed with them; 3) it would present wrong messages to ignorant believers that the apostles were supporters; 4) it would bring crises to us and our families that they would be easily contaminated by them; 5) the most serious thing was that they would share in the evil deeds in the sight of the Lord.

Enlightenment in the Word:

1)     It is seemingly a matter of human intercourse. However, there is deep spiritual meaning behind. Let Christians watch our words and deeds.

2)     Christians are supposed to have love and courtesy toward men, but Christians’ love and courtesy shall be governed by truth. The love and courtesy out of the domination of truth may easily be utilized by Satan.


2John. 12Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.

YLT: “Many things having to write to you, I did not intend through paper and ink, but I hope to come unto you, and speak mouth to mouth, that our joy may be full;”

Meaning of Words: hope”: expect; face to face”: mouth to mouth;speak”: talk;joy”: delight, cheerfulness;full”: make replete, be fulfilled;

Literal Meaning: “I did not wish to do so with paper and ink”, the reasons may include: 1) time: he had no time to speak everything one by one; 2) economy: it is not easy to buy paper and ink; 3) effect: oral expression is more effective than that in written form;

“But I hope to come to you”, probably, it was difficult to be there for many limitations, e.g.: 1) the ministry and physical condition of the apostle; 2) the resistant attitude toward the apostles of the leading brother in the church who would receive the epistle (see 3John v.9);

“And speak face to face”, it is cordial speaking “mouth to mouth” according to the original;

“That our joy may be full”, the good fellowship brings full joy (see 1John 1:4).


2John. 13The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.

YLT: “salute thee do the children of thy choice sister. Amen.”

Meaning of Words: elect”: be chosen; 

Literal Meaning: “your elect sister”, “sister” has two aspects of meaning: 1) the sister of the receiver in the flesh; 2) the sister church; the former is suitable if the receiver is a certain lady (see v.1), and the latter is suitable if the receiver is a certain local church.

  “The children … greet you”, “children” also carries two meanings: 1) the children of that sister; 2) believers of the sister church; if it is the first meaning, that sister may have passed away, so it only mentions her children’s greeting without hers.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


The Relations of Love with Truth

A.  Love in truth (v.1a);

B.  Love all those who have known the truth (v.1b);

C.  Love because of the truth (v.2);

D.  Grace will be with us in truth and love (v.3);

E.  Loving one another is keeping the truth (v.4-5);


The Normal Attitudes of Christians toward Truth

A.  Let us “know” the truth (v.1);

B.  Let the truth “abide” in us (v.2);

C.  Let us “keep” the truth (v.4);


The Normal Love of Christians

A.  Love with right motivations ---- because of the truth (v.1-2);

B.  Love by the divine grace ---- abide with us (v.3);

C.  Love of keeping the commandments ---- this is love, that we walk according to His commandments (v.4-6);

D.  Love with discernment ---- be able to distinguish and refuse heretical workers (v.7-11);


Principles of Christians’ Walking

A.  Be strict to oneself ---- keep the truth in heart (v.2);

B.  Be obedient to God ---- keep the commandments of the Father (v.4);

C.  Brotherly love ---- let us love one another (v.5);

D.  Be careful of the deceivers ---- do not receive him into house nor greet him (v.7-11);


Two Sorts of Commandments

A.  The commandment of walking in truth (v.4);

B.  The commandment of walking in love (v.6);


Do not Receive Heretical Teachers

A.  How to differentiate false heretical teachers?

1.  They do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh (v.7);

2.  They transgress and do not abide in the doctrine of Christ (v.9);

B.  The results of receiving false heretical teachers:

1.  One may lose those things he worked for and not receive a full reward (v.8);

2.  He who greets him shares in his evil deeds (v.11);


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou