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2 John 1:1. The elder, &c.— The word elder, whether considered as a name of office, or taken in its literal sense, as implying age, will very well suit the character of St. John, who was above 90 years old when this epistle was written, and had the direction and government of the Asiatic churches. There can hardly be stronger internal arguments, that the three epistles now commonly ascribed to St. John, were the production of the same author, than may be derived from that remarkable similarity of sentiment and phraseology which appears in them. Whom I love in the truth, means, "Whom I love truly and sincerely;—on those principles which the gospel, the great system of truth, requires, with respect to those who so remarkably support and adorn it."
2 John 1:4. I rejoiced greatly, that I found of thy children, &c.— "In testimony of the sincerity of my love towards you, I can assure you that my soul was warmed with exceeding joy, (οτι, ) because upon good evidence, I was well satisfied that, of the children which God has graciously given you, there are some at least, who have received Christ and the truth of the gospel with faith and love to influence their hearts and lives; insomuch, that wherever they go, their conversation is answerable thereto, in obedience to the holy commandment, which we, the apostles of Christ, have received from God the Father, with a commission to declare it." It is probable, that on one occasion or other, some of her sons had travelled abroad, as the word περιπατουοι may signify; and that the apostle had met with them, and seen their excellent spirit and deportment to be as became the gospel of Christ; and therefore spoke of them as persons whom he had found walking in the truth.
2 John 1:6. And this is love,— That is, "the love which God the Father, by Christ his eternal Son, has enjoined upon Christians one towards another," as appears from the connection. The exhortations to mutual love among Christians, and the use of that phrase from the beginning, are so common in St. John's first epistle, that we need not refer to particular places. However, the parity between this and the first epistle appears remarkably in these instances.
2 John 1:7. For many deceivers— "I exhort you to walk in the truth, and keep the commandment which you have had from the beginning, because many deceivers are gone out into the world, who, by their novel doctrine, pervert the truth, and render the old commandment of none effect, &c." All the sentiments and phrases in this verse are found in the first epistle.
2 John 1:8. Look to yourselves, &c.— "Beware therefore of them; look about you; stand upon your guard; and take heed that your own faith and practice be not corrupted by them; that so neither you yourselves, nor we, the ministers of Christ, may lose the good fruit of our ministry, which was instrumental in gaining you over to Christ, not only in profession, but, as we trust, in sincerity and truth: but, after all the attempts of deceivers to pervert you, hold that fast which ye have, that no man take your crown (Revelation 3:11.), and that we, together with you, may reap the whole of the blessed reward, answerable to the utmost of our hopes and desires, which God, for Christ's sake, has graciously promised to his faithful servants that turn many to righteousness (Daniel 12:3.), and to all them that love him (James 1:12.)"
2 John 1:9. Whosoever transgresseth,— Instances of expressing the same thought, both negatively and positively, abound in the first epistle of St. John; (see ch. 2 John 1:5.) and not only the sentiments, but many of the words of this verse are contained in the first epistle. The doctrine of Christ means the pure Christian doctrine mentioned, 2 John 1:7.
2 John 1:10. If there come any unto you,— If any one come unto you. Doddridge. Polycarp is said to have reported, that St. John, on going into the bath at Ephesus to washhimself,seeingCerinthusthere,he immediately hastened out of the bath; saying, "that he was afraid the bath should fall down, when Cerinthus, the enemy of truth, was there;"and Polycarp himself is reported to have treated Marcion with no more civility. Whence we may learn what caution the apostles made use of to avoid intercourse or commerce with those who adulterated the truth. The Jews were forbidden by their rabbis to say, "God speed" to, or to come within four cubits of, a heretic or excommunicated person. Our apostle, however, must not here be understood as excluding the common offices of humanity to such persons; for that is contrary to all the general precepts of benevolence found in the gospel: but, to have received a seducing teacher into their houses, and have given him suitable accommodations, would have been shewing him such regard, and affording him such countenance, as indeed in some measure would have made them answerable for the mischief he might do in the church; such favours being not merely offices of common humanity, but of patronage and friendship; and in the general, at least, a testimony of their approbation, as well as kindness. See 2 John 1:11.
2 John 1:12. Having many things to write— Perhaps this lady, or her children, might have several difficulties to propose to the apostle, which he could answer more directly and largely in conversation; or there might be several particulars with respect to the names, characters, behaviour, and doctrine of the false teachers, which St. John might not think proper to commit to writing. When he had said enough in this letter to guard against the present danger, he deferred saying more, till he had an opportunity to visit and converse with them.
2 John 1:13. The children of thy elect sister greet thee.— Brother and sister very commonly, in the New Testament, mean fellow-christians; but in that sense the word sister would have been too general and indeterminate in this place, and therefore we must understand it of a sister by blood or relationship. The word elect, in this and the first verse, denotes, that these sisters were choice or excellent Christians.
Inferences.—Let us observe the delineation of a love truly Christian, given in this chapter; the love which the apostle, and all who knew the truth, are said to have had towards this excellent lady, for the truth's sake which dwelt in her. Adored be that grace, which preserved her in so high a rank of life, from temptations, which could not fail to surround her! that grace, which rendered her an example of wisdom and piety, great and eminent in proportion to her exalted situation!
Nor can we forbear reflecting, how happy, in consequence of this, she herself was, possessed of grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and Jesus Christ our Lord, in truth and love! What were all the secular honours by which she was distinguished? What the possession of riches, which in their own nature, and unimproved to the pious and charitable purposes to which she improved them, are empty and unsatisfactory; what are these, when compared with such important blessings! We cannot but rejoice, at this distance of time, and ignorant as we are of the named situation, and history, of this worthy lady, that her children walked in the truth. It was a singular joy to St. John, and may be so in a degree to all; and may teach us to lift up our hearts to God in prayer, that all Christian parents, especially pious mothers, and more particularly those whose character in life is so eminently distinguished, may enjoy this happiness, and see the seed that they are, with such commendable industry, sowing in the minds of their tender offspring, growing up, and bringing forth much fruit.
We have, in the beloved apostle, an excellent pattern of a becoming care, to make a correspondence with our Christian friends useful; which we shall do, if, like him, we are exhorting them to the cultivation of mutual love, and to a constant uniform care in keeping the commandments of God; if we continue warning them against the prevailing sins and errors of the day, and urging them to a holy solicitude, that they may not lose what they have already attained; but may receive a full reward for every work of faith, and labour of love, in consequence of a course of resolute and persevering piety.
Persons of the most distinguished goodness have need to be cautioned against that excess of generosity and hospitality, which might sometimes make them partakers with seducers in their evil deeds, by giving them their audience, and wishing them good success, while, by their fair speeches, they impose upon the simplicity of open and upright hearts, who, because themselves are void of fraud, are often void of suspicion too. But there is a prudent caution to be observed upon this head; and it is the part of faithful friendship to suggest it; for many deceivers are come out into the world. For our security against them, let us be always upon our guard, and take care to continue in the doctrine of Christ: that so we may have the Father, and the Son; and if we are interested in their favour, we shall stand in need of nothing, and shall have nothing of which to be afraid. Amen.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, St. John opens his epistle,
1. With the inscription. The elder, John, now far advanced in age, and by office an older, as well as an apostle, unto the elect lady, whom I need not name, as her excellent Christian graces render her so gloriously distinguished; and to her children, heirs with her of the same promise; whom I love in the truth, unfeignedly, and for the sake of him whose image they bear; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth, and are personally acquainted with them, or have heard of their character in the churches, and cannot but respect and delight in those who adorn so eminently the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; for the truth's sake which dwelleth in us, which renders the professor more respectable than all riches, birth, or titles; and shall be with us for ever; as if he had said to them, So deep is the truth, as it is in Jesus, grounded in your mind and heart, that I indulge a holy confidence that the relish of it will never be lost, be the remaining years of life ever so many, or the events of them ever so trying.
2. We have the apostolic benediction. Grace be with you, in all its happy fruits and effects, of pardon, strength, and consolation, with mercy and peace, and every blessing that we can ask, or the Lord hath promised to give, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we are indebted for all, and who is the Son of the Father,—may these graces animate you to walk in truth, and in universal love, according to the tenor of that glorious gospel with which the Lord has favoured you.
3. His congratulation. I rejoiced greatly, that, in some of those excursions which I made for the service of the gospel, I found of thy children walking in the truth, as it is in Jesus, and in their spirit and conduct, a credit to the holy profession which they make, guided by the oracles of God, as we have received a commandment from the Father. Note; (1.) It is a singular joy to ministers, to behold the rising generation ornaments to religion. (2.) We then walk in the truth, when we make God's word a constant rule of conduct.
4. His request and exhortation. And now I beseech thee, lady, as the chief design of my epistle, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another, out of a pure heart fervently, from the divine principle of faith which worketh by love. And this is love, the infallible test of true love to God and man, that we walk after his commandments, with universal and conscientious respect to all his holy will. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it, under the influence of this great law of love. Note; Kind exhortations are in general preferable to authoritative commands, and usually much more available.
2nd, The apostle proceeds,
1. To warn and guard this honoured family against the wiles of seducers. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, breaching the most fatal and heretical doctrines, as that Jesus Christ assumed not the real human nature, but lived and died in appearance only; or that he who was born at Nazareth, was not the true expected Messiah. This is a deceiver and an antichrist, an avowed enemy to the Redeemer's glory and gospel, and a destroyer of the souls of men. Therefore look to yourselves with holy jealousy and watchfulness, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, and be at last disappointed of our hope of you; while you come finally short of eternal salvation, and, after all the most promising appearances and experiences, be seduced by the error of the wicked; but hold fast the truth, and, whereunto ye have already attained, walk by the same rule, mind the same things, that we receive a full reward; that, you persevering and abounding in the grace of God, both we and you may receive the ample reward which, through divine grace, is laid up for us, if faithful unto death. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God, is not influenced by his Spirit, and hath now no part in his salvation: he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, with regard to his divine Person, real incarnation, mediatorial offices, and the complete salvation which he bestows upon all his faithful people, professing boldly his faith in defiance of all opposition, he hath both the Father and the Son, is admitted into a holy and happy communion with them, and has a most blessed interest in their love and favour.
2. They are enjoined not to give the least countenance to these seducers. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, nor afford him ought of that hospitable entertainment which you kindly give to the faithful ministers of Christ; neither bid him God speed, nor wish the least success to such ungodly attempts as the propagation of these poisonous errors: for he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds, and an abettor of his wickedness. Note; We need be very cautious, not only to keep from evil ourselves, but to avoid being partakers of other men's sins.
3. He concludes with informing the lady, that he hoped shortly to have a more full personal conference with her on this subject. Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink; but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, more at large; that our joy may be full, and we may be happy together in the experience of the true grace of God, and be preserved from all deceivers. The children of thy elect sister greet thee! How happy is it where grace thus diffuses itself through a whole family, and those who are united by the ties of blood are thus more nearly united in the bonds of God's love! Amen. Would to God that this were the case in every family!
*.* The Reader is referred to the different Authors mentioned often already.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 John 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany