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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

2 John 1

Verse 1

2 John 1:1

Truth the Bond of Love.

Consider the moral atmosphere which surrounded, and the motive power which created and sustained, that strong bond of affection which bound the heart of St. John to the Christian lady and her family.

I. The atmosphere of this friendship was sincerity: "Whom I love," not in the truth (there is no article in the original), but "in truth." Not "truly": St. John would have used an adverb to say that. What he means is that truth truth of thought, truth of feeling, truth of speech and intercourse was the very air in which his affection for this Christian lady had grown up and maintained itself. And the word which he uses to describe this affection points to the same conclusion. It does not mean instinctive personal affection affection based on feeling and impulse, such as exists between near relations; still less does it denote that lower form of affection which has its roots and its energy in passion and sense. It stands for that kind of affection which is based on a reasoned perception of excellence in its object; and thus it is the word which is invariably used to describe the love that man ought to have for God. But such a love as this between man and man grows up and is fostered in an atmosphere of truthfulness. It is grounded not on feeling or passion, but on a reciprocal conviction of simplicity of purpose; and being true in its origin, it is true at every stage of its development. It is mortally wounded, this "love in truth," when once it is conscious of distinct insincerity. When once it has reason to doubt the worthiness of its object, when once it falters in its utterance of simple truth, from a secret fear that there is something which cannot be probed to the quick or which cannot bear the sunlight, then its life is gone, even though its forms and courtesies should survive. It may even be strengthened by a temporary misunderstanding when each friend is sincere. It dies when there is on either side a well-grounded suspicion of the taint of insincerity.

II. What was the motive power of St. John's love? St. John replies, "For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever." He adds that all who know the truth share in this affection. Here we have an article before "truth." "The truth" means here, not a habit or temper of mind, but a body of ascertained fact, which is fact whether acknowledged or not by the mind to be so. What is here called "the truth" by St. John, we should in modern language speak of as "the true faith." This was the combining link, as sincerity of purpose was the atmosphere, of the affection which existed between this Christian lady and St. John. Among the counteracting and restorative influences which carry the Church of Christ unharmed through the animated, and sometimes passionate, discussion of public questions, private friendships, formed and strengthened in the atmosphere of a fearless sincerity and knit and banded together by a common share in the faith of ages, are, humanly speaking, among the strongest. One and all, we may at some time realise to the letter the language of St. John to this Christian mother. Many of our brethren must realise it now. They have learnt to love in truth, not by impulse; they have learnt to bind and rivet their love by the strong bond of the common and unchanging faith. All who know anything of Jesus Christ know something of this affection for some of His servants; some of us, it may be, know much, much more than we can feel that we deserve. Such love is not like a human passion, which dies gradually away with the enfeeblement and the death of the nerves and of the brain. It is created and fed by the truth which "dwelleth" in the Christian soul, and which, as St. John adds, "shall be with us for ever." It is guaranteed to last, even as its eternal object lasts. It is born and is nurtured amid the things of time; but from the first it belongs to, and in the event it is incorporated with, the life of eternity.

H. P. Liddon, Easter Sermons, vol. ii., p. 195.

Reference: 2. Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 299.

Verse 3

2 John 1:3

Grace, Mercy, and Peace.

We have here a very unusual form of the apostolic salutation. "Grace, mercy, and peace" are put together in this fashion only in Paul's two epistles to Timothy and in this the present instance; and all reference to the Holy Spirit as an agent in the benediction is, as there, omitted. The three main words, "Grace, mercy, and peace," stand related to each other in a very interesting manner. The Apostle starts, as it were, from the fountain-head, and slowly traces the course of the blessing down to its lodgment in the heart of man. There is the fountain, and the stream, and, if I may so say, the great still lake in the soul into which its waters flow, and which the flowing waters make; there is the sun, and the beam, and the brightness grows deep in the heart of God: grace, referring solely to the Divine attitude and thought; mercy, the manifestation of grace in act, referring to the workings of that great Godhead in its relation to humanity; and peace, which is the issue in the soul of the fluttering down upon it of the mercy which is the activity of the grace. So these three come down, as it were, a great, solemn marble staircase from the heights of the Divine mind, one step at a time, to the level of earth; and blessings are shed along the earth. Such is the order. All begins with grace; and the end and purpose of grace, when it flashes into deed and becomes mercy, is to fill my soul with quiet repose, and shed across all the turbulent sea of human love a great calm, a beam of sunshine that gilds, and miraculously stills while it gilds, the waves.

I. The first thing, then, that strikes me in it is how the text exults in that great thought that there is no reason whatsoever for God's love except God's will. The very foundation and notion of the word "grace" is a free, undeserved, unsolicited, self-prompted, and altogether gratuitous bestowment, a love that is its own reason, as indeed the whole of the Divine acts are. Just as we say of Him that He draws His being from Himself, so the whole motive for His action and the whole reason for His heart of tenderness to us lies in Himself.

II. And then there lies in this great word, which in itself is a gospel, the preaching that God's love, though it be not turned away by, is made tender by, our sin. Grace is love extended to a person that might reasonably expect, because he deserves, something very different; and when there is laid as the foundation of everything "the grace of our Father and of the Son of the Father," it is but packing into one word that great truth which we all of us, saints and sinners, need a sign that God's love is love that deals with our transgressions and shortcomings, flows forth perfectly conscious of them, and manifests itself in taking them away, both in their guilt, punishment, and peril. God's grace softens itself into mercy, and all His dealings with us men must be on the footing that we are not only sinful, but weak and wretched, and so fit subjects for a compassion which is the strangest paradox of a perfect and Divine heart. The mercy of God is the outcome of His grace.

III. And as is the fountain and the stream, so is the great lake into which it spreads itself when it is received into a human heart. Peace comes, the all-sufficient summing up of everything that God can give and that men can need, from His loving-kindness and from their needs. The world is too wide to be narrowed to any single aspect of the various discords and disharmonies which trouble men. Peace with God; peace in this anarchic kingdom within me, where conscience and will, hopes and fears, duty and passion, sorrows and joys, cares and confidence, are ever fighting one another, where we are torn asunder by conflicting aims and rival claims, and wherever any part of our nature asserting itself against another leads to intestine warfare, and troubles the poor soul. All that is harmonised, and quieted down, and made concordant and cooperative to one great end when the grace and the mercy have flowed silently into our spirits and harmonised aims and desires.

A. Maclaren, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 99.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 John 1". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/2-john-1.html.