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Bible Commentaries
2 John 1

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ ΚΑΘΟΛΙΚΗ ΔΕΥΤΕΡΑ [448] [448] ιωαννου β̅ א ; ιωανου β̅ B; επιστολη ιωαννου β̅ P, 96; ιωαννου καθολικη δευτερα 99; ιωαννου επιστολη καθολικη β̅ K, 101, 106; του αγιου αποστολου ιωαννου του θεολογου επιστολη δευτερα L; του αυτου αγιου ιωαννου του θεολογου επιστολη δευτερα 95; επιστολη δευτερα ιωαννου του επι στηθους 4.


Verse 1

2 John 1:1 . ὁ πρεσβύτεπος , see Introd. pp. 159 ff. ἐκλεκτῇ Κυρίᾳ , see Introd. pp. 162 f. οὕς , constructio κατὰ σύνεσιν , because τὰ τέκνα were or included sons, not “weil an Gemeindeglieder gedacht ist” (Holtzmann). ἐγώ : according to the Greek idiom, when a man speaks of himself in the third person, he passes immediately to the first. Cf. Plat. Euthyphr . 5 A: οὐδέ τῳ ἂν διαφέροι Εὐθύφρων τῶν πολλῶν ἀνθρώπων , εἰ μὴ τὰ τοιαῦτα πάντα ἀκριβῶς εἰδείην . Soph. Aj. , 864 65. The construction is found in loose English; cf. Thackeray, Barry Lyndon , chap. xviii. “I was a man who never deserved that so much prosperity should fall to my share”. ἐν ἀληθείᾳ (see note on 1 John 1:8 ) defines the Elder’s love for Kyria as fellowship in Christian knowledge and faith, in view perhaps of heathen accusations of licentiousness. His affection for her and her family was not merely personal; it was inspired by her devotion to the common cause and was shared by all the Christians in his extensive διοίκησις . Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:18 : οὗ ὁ ἔπαινος ἑν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ διὰ πασῶν τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν . τὴν ἀλήθειαν , “the Truth just mentioned”.

Verses 1-3

2 John 1:1-3 . The Address. “The Elder to elect Kyria and her children, whom I love in Truth, and not I alone but also all that have got to know the Truth, because of the Truth that abideth in us; and with us it shall be for ever. Yea, there shall be with us grace, mercy, peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father in Truth and love.”

Verse 2

2 John 1:2 . μένουσαν ἐν ἡμῖν , not merely apprehended by the intellect but welcomed by the heart. μεθʼ ἡμῶν , nobiscum, bei uns , as our guest and companion.

Verse 3

2 John 1:3 . ἔσται μεθʼ ἡμῶν , not a wish (1 Peter 1:2 ; 2 Peter 1:2 ) but a confident assurance. χάρις the well-spring in the heart of God; ἔλεος , its outpourings; εἰρήνη , its blessed effect. They are evangelical blessings: (1) not merely “from God” but “from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father” who has interpreted Him and brought Him near, made Him accessible; (2) not merely “in Truth,” enlightening the intellect, but “in love,” engaging the heart.

Observe the high tribute which the Elder pays to Kyria: (1) He testifies to the esteem in which she is held; (2) he recognises her as a fellow-worker as though she were a fellow-apostle the three-fold “us,” not “you”; (3) he is about to speak of the danger from heretical teaching, but he has no fear of her being led astray: “You and I are secure from the deceiver. The Truth abideth in us; with us it shall be for ever; yea, there shall be with us grace, mercy, peace.”

Verse 4

2 John 1:4 . The Occasion of the Epistle. “I was exceedingly glad because I have found some of thy children walking in Truth, even as we received commandment from the Father.”

ἐχάρην , of a glad surprise ( cf. Mark 14:11 ). He had been too often disappointed in lads like these (see Introd., p. 155). They had profited by the nurture of their godly home, the best equipment for the battle of life. “No man should ever leave money to his children. It is a curse to them. What we should do for our children, if we would do them the best service we can, is to give them the best training we can procure for them, and then turn them loose in the world without a sixpence to fend for themselves” (Cecil John Rhodes). εὕρηκα , “I have found”. He sits down at once and writes to Kyria. How glad she would be that her lads, far away in the great city were true to their early faith! ἐκ τῶν τέκνων , “some of thy children” (a tenderer word than “sons,” υἱῶν ), “members of thy family,” not implying that others had done ill; the lads who had come to Ephesus. περιπατοῦντας , κ . τ . λ ., ambulantes in veritate, die in der Wahrheit wandeln , “ordering their lives according to the precepts of the Gospel”. See note on 1 John 1:6 .

Verse 5

2 John 1:5 . ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς , “from the beginning of our Christian life”. See note on 1 John 2:7 .

Verses 5-6

2 John 1:5-6 . The Comprehensive Commandment. “And now I ask thee, Kyria, not as writing a new commandment to thee but the one which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love that we walk according to His commandments; this is the commandment, even as ye heard from the beginning that we should walk in love,”

These counsels are just a summary of the doctrines expounded at large in the first Epistle. There is here a sort of reasoning in a circle: The commandment is Love; Love is walking according to His commandments; His commandments are summed up in one Love.

Verse 6

2 John 1:6 . ἡ ἀγάπη , “the love just referred to”. περιπ . κατὰ τὰς ἐντ . αὐτ ., regulating our lives by their requirements; περιπ . ἐν ἀληθείᾳ (2 John 1:4 ), keeping within the limits of the Christian revelation and not straying beyond them not προάγοντες (2 John 1:9 ). αὐτῇ , i.e. , “love,” not “the commandment” (Vulg.: Hoc est mandatum, ut … in eo ambuletis ). περιπατεῖν ἐν ἀγάπῃ is synonymous with περιπατεῖν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ , since Love is Truth in practice. Cf. the story of R. Hillel: A mocking Gentile promised to become a proselyte if he would teach him the whole Law while he stood on one foot a gibe at the multitudinous precepts, reckoned at 613. “What is hateful to thyself,” said the Rabbi, “do not to thy neighbour. This is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.” Yalk. Chad. , lix. 2; “qui justum cibat frusto, perinde est acsi totum Pentateuchum servasset”.

Verse 7

2 John 1:7 . ὅτι explaining ἐρωτῶ σε : “I ask you to obey the old commandment because seducers are at work”. ἐξῆλθον εἰς τὸν κόσμον , see note on 1 John 4:1 . οἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες , a definite and well-known sect. See note on 1 John 2:4 . ἐληλυθότα (1 John 4:2 ) of the Advent, ἐρχόμενον of the continous manifestation of the incarnate Christ. Cf. John 1:14 , where σὰρξ ἐγένετο corresponds to ἐληλυθότα and ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν to ἐρχόμενον .

Verses 7-8

2 John 1:7-8 . A Warning against Heretical Teaching. “Because many deceivers went forth into the world even they that confess not Jesus as Christ coming in flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist. Look to yourselves, that ye may not lose what we wrought, but receive a full wage.”

Verse 8

2 John 1:8 . μισθόν , cf. Matthew 20:8 ; James 5:4 . St. John here addresses not only Kyria but her family and “the Church in her house”. He views them as his fellow-labourers in the Lord’s vineyard: “We have worked together ( ἠργασάμεθα ): see that you do not forfeit the reward of your labour. Get a full wage. Be not like workmen who toward the close of the day fall off, doing their work hadly or losing time, and get less than a full day’s pay.” ἀπολέσητε … ἠργασάμεθα … ἀπολάβητε : “We have been fellow-workers thus far, and I mean to be faithful to the last; see that you also be so”. Their danger lay in taking up with false teaching and losing the comfort of the Gospel in its simplicity and fulness.

Verse 9

2 John 1:9 . Progress in Theological Thought. “Every one that ‘progresseth’ and abideth not in the eaching of the Christ hath not God; he that abideth in the teaching this man hath both the Father and the Son.”

ὁ προάγων : the Corinthians (see Introd. pp. 156 f.) boasted of their enlightenment. They were “progressives,” “advanced thinkers”. τῇ διδαχῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ , the teaching which recognises Jesus as the Christ (see note on 1 John 4:1-2 ), i.e. the Messiah, the Saviour. Θεὸν οὐκ ἔχει , i.e. according to His true nature as the Father manitested in the Son ( καὶ τὸν Πατέρα καὶ τὸν Υἱόν ). It is necessary not merely to believe in God but to believe in Him “through Christ” (1 Peter 1:21 ).

St. John does not here condemn theological progress, which is a necessity of living and growing faith. A doctrine is a statement of Christian experience, and since there is always more in Christ than we have ever experienced, our doctrines can never be adequate or final. Theology is to God’s revelation in Grace as Science is to His revelation in Nature; and just as Science is always discovering more of the wonders of the First Creation, so Theology is always entering more deeply into the glory of the New Creation and appropriating more of the treasures which are hidden in Christ. Even the inspired Apostles did not comprehend all His fulness. Each saw only so much as was revealed to him, and declared only so much as he saw. Each approached the infinite wonder along the lines of his temperament and experience. St. John saw in it a revelation of Eternal Life; St. Paul the Reconciliation of sinners to God, the satisfaction of humanity’s long desire and the completion of its long discipline under the Law; the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews the rending of the Veil and the opening of free Access to God. St. John does not condemn theological progress; he defines its limits: “abide in the teaching of the Christ”. (1) We must never break with the past; the new truth is always an outgrowth of the old. A theology which is simply old is dead; a theology which is simply new is false ( Cf. Matthew 13:52 ). (2) We must maintain “the teaching of the Christ”. Jesus is the Saviour, and no interpretation of Christianity is true which eliminates Redemption or obscures the glory of the Cross.

Verse 10

2 John 1:10 . φέρει , not “endureth” ( cf. Romans 9:22 ; Hebrews 12:20 ), but “bringeth” as a precious boon ( cf. Revelation 21:24 ; Revelation 21:26 ). εἰς οἰκίαν ( cf. Mark 2:1 ; Mark 3:19 ), zu Hause; cf. “to church,” “to town,” “to market,” “to bed”. See Moulton’s Winer , pp. 148 ff. χαῖρε , like ave, salve , was used of both the salutation at meeting and the farewell at parting. The former is its prevailing use in N.T., but here, as in 2 Corinthians 13:11 , the latter. “Zum Abschied, wenn der Abgewiesene weiter ziehen muss” (Holtzmann).

Verses 10-11

2 John 1:10-11 . Treatment of Heretical Teachers. “If any one cometh unto you and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and bid him not farewell. For he that biddeth him farewell hath fellowship with his works, his evil works.”

Verse 11

2 John 1:11 . κοινωνεῖ , cf. 1 John 1:3 . An unholy κοινωνία . τοῖς ἔργ . αὐτ . τοῖς πον ., cf. 1 John 1:2 : τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον . The adjective is an emphatic afterthought.

This counsel recalls the story of St. John’s behaviour to Cerinthus (see Introd. p. 157), and it was cited by Irenæus (i. ix. 3) as inculcating intolerance of heretics. If so, it is certainly an unChristian counsel, contrary to the spirit and teaching of our Lord ( cf. Mark 9:38-39 ; Luke 9:51-56 ; Matthew 13:28-29 ). Heretics are our fellow-creatures; Jesus died for them also, and our office is to win them. If we close our doors and our hearts against them, we lose our opportunity of winning them and harden them in their opposition. There are two thoughts which may well teach us forbearance and humility: (1) The patience of the Lord. A Jewish fable tells how Abraham thrust an aged wayfarer from his tent because he asked no blessing on his food and avowed himself a fire-worshipper. And the Lord said: “I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonoured Me; and couldst not thou endure him for one night?” (2) The mystery of the things of God and the blindness of our intellects. “Illi,” says St. Augustine ( Contra Epistolam Manichcæi , 2), “in vos sæviant, qui neseiunt cum quo labore verum inveniatur, et quam difficile caveantur errores”. This counsel of the Apostle must be read in the light of local circumstances. There was need of caution and discrimination in receiving the itinerant “apostles and prophets” who went from church to church, lest they should prove “false apostles” ( ψευδαπόστολοι ) and “false prophets” ( ψευδοπροφῆται ). See Didache , xi. xii., where the test is given: οὐ πᾶς ὁ λαλῶν ἐν πνεύματι προφήτης ἐστίν , ἀλλʼ ἐὰν ἔχῃ τοὺς τπρόπους Κυρίου . It is not until the second century that there is any appearance of buildings set apart for worship. The primitive ἐκκλησίαι met in private houses ( cf. Romans 16:5 ; 1 Corinthians 16:19 ; Colossians 4:15 ; Philemon 1:2 ); and when St. John warns Kyria against “receiving into her house” a heretical teacher, it is not showing him hospitality that he forbids, but affording him an opportunity to unsettle the faith of the brethren. She must neither let him pervert “the church in her house” nor send him on his way to a neighbouring church with the recommendation of her confidence and goodwill. This is expressed, though somewhat vaguely, by Clem. Alex.: “Hoc in hujusmodi non est inhumanum, sed nec conquirere vel condisputare cum talibus admonet qui non valent intelligibiliter divina tractare, ne per eos traducantur a doctrina veritatis, verisimilibus inducti rationibus. Arbitror autem, quia et orare cum talibus non oportet, quoniam in oratione quæ fit in domo, postquam ab orando surgitur, salutatio gaudii est et pacis indicium.”

Verse 12

2 John 1:12 . Explanation of the brevity of the letter. ὑμῖν , i.e. , Kyria, her children, and the church in her house. γράφειν connected ἀπὸ κοινοῦ with ἔχων and ἐβουλήθην . χάρτης , a sheet of papyrus, like those exhumed at Oxyrhynchus (see Deissmann, New Light on the New Test. , pp. 12 ff.), the common material for letter-writing. μέλαν , atramentum ; in N. T. only here, 3 John 1:13 , 2 Corinthians 3:3 . γενέσθαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς ( cf. John 10:35 ; Acts 10:13 ; 1 Corinthians 2:3 ; 1 Corinthians 16:10 ): he was planning a visitation (see Introd. p. 155). στόμα πρὸς στόμα , “mouth answering mouth”; cf. LXX. Numbers 12:8 ; Jeremiah 32:4 (Jeremiah 39:4 ).

Why would he not write all that was in his mind? It was a deliberate decision ere he took pen in hand: this is the force of οὐκ ἐβουλήθην . His heart was full, and writing was a poor medium of communication (Beng.: “Ipsa scribendi opera non juvat semper cor affectu sacro plenum”); he was an old man, and writing was fatiguing to him (Plummer). The reason is deeper. The “many things” which he had in his mind, were hard things like his warning against intercourse with heretics, and he would not write them at a distance but would wait till he was on the spot and had personal knowledge. It is easy to lay down general principles, but their application to particular cases is a delicate task, demanding knowledge, sympathy, charity. (1) The sight of people’s faces appeals to one’s heart and softens one’s speech. (2) When one meets with people and talks with them, one’s judgment of them and their opinions is often modified. Writing from Ephesus, St. John might have condemned a teacher in a neighbouring town whose teaching he knew only by report; but perhaps, if he met the man and heard what he had to say, he might discover that there was nothing amiss, at all events nothing which called for excommunication. Dr. Dale of Birmingham was at first inclined to look with disfavour on Mr. Moody. He went to hear him, and his opinion was altered. He regarded him ever after with profound respect, and considered that he had a right to preach the Gospel, “because he could never speak of a lost soul without tears in his eyes”. St. John shrank from hasty condemnation that there might be no after-regret ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡμῶν πεπληρωμένη ᾖ .

Verses 12-13

2 John 1:12-13 . The Conclusion. “Though I have many things to write to you, I would not by paper and ink; but I hope to get to you, and talk face to face, that our joy may be fulfilled. The children of thine elect sister salute thee.”

Verse 13

2 John 1:13 . See Introd. pp. 162 f.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 John 1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/2-john-1.html. 1897-1910.
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