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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
2 John 1

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NTBurkitt's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

Observe here, 1. The person writing and directing this epistle, St. John, styling himself The Elder, partly with respect to his age, he being, as it is thought, the only person at that time living upon the earth who bore the name of an apostle; and partly with respect to his office in the church: the word elder being a name of honour and dignity, we find both St. Peter elsewhere, and St. John here, making use of it.

Observe, 2. The person to whom the epistle is directed, The elect Lady and her children; either some particular church, with its religious members according to some; or some honourable person of eminent piety and usefulness in the church, according to others; and to her children, who had been religiously educated by her.

Observe, 3. The solemn profession which he makes of the sincerity of his love to herself and her children, together with the ground and attractive cause of that his cordial affection to her and her's. Whom I love in the truth, and for the truth's sake.

Mark, St. John here loved the lady for the truth's sake; but how many in our days love the truth for the lady's sake; I mean for sinister ends, and by-respects. It is a blessed thing when religion, and the grace of God shining in the lives of Christians, is the special loadstone of our love and affection toward them. The elder to the Elect Lady, whom I love in the truth. She had embraced the truth of the gospel, and he was confidently persuaded that she would continue in the profession and practice of it for ever.

Observe, 4. The salutation sent to her and her children; namely, increase of grace, and an abundance of mercy and peace from God the Father, and Christ the Redeemer; earnestly wishing that they may continue steadfast in the profession of the truth, and in the exercise of love one to another: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in truth and love.

Verse 4

Observe here, 1. the person rejoicing, St. John, the apostle and minister of Christ Jesus, I rejoiced greatly.

2. The mercy rejoiced in, their walking in the truth.

It was not their speculative knowledge of the truth, and their taking upon them a bare profession of Christianity, that he rejoiced in, but their walking in the truth, and framing their conversation according to the commandment which they had received from the Father.

Christianity is not a speculative science, but a practical art of holy living; and the most exalted knowledge is insuffucient to salvation, without a suitable and correspondent practice; therefore, says St. John here, I rejoiced greatly to find of thy children, not barely professing of the truth, but walking in the truth.

Observe, 3. The persons rejoiced for, or in the behalf of; the youth in that church or family to which he now wrote, I rejoiced to find thy children walking in the truth; the hopes which the holy apostle had of a succession of saints, and that the children in his time would walk in their religious parents footsteps, was matter of singular joy and rejoicing to the blessed apostle.

Yet observe, 4. With what caution, restriction, and limitation, our apostle speaks, I rejoiced greatly to find of thy children; that is, some of them, perhaps many of them, it is to be feared not all of them; to have seen all was no doubt the apostle's desire, but to find any was questionless matter of exceeding joy: I rejoiced greatly to find of thy children walking in the truth.

Learn hence, That there is no greater joy to the ministers of Christ, than to see the youth, or rising generation, in their day, walking in the paths of holiness and religion, and treading in their religious parents' footsteps.

Verse 5

Observe here, The duty required, together with the profession of the gospel; namely, to love in unity and peace, in amity and concord, one with another. This he calls a commandment, in the singular number, to intimate that in this one commandment all the rest are contained, and in keeping this we keep all: and he tells them, it is no new commandment, but an old one from the beginning; it is as old as Moses, yea, as old as Adam, being a part of the law of nature written in Adam's heart; yet, in some respects, love may be called a new commandment, because urged from new motives, and enforced by a new example; and because it is never to wax old, but to be always fresh in the memories, and found in the practice of Christ's disciples, to the end of the world: I write no new commandment, but what we had from the beginning, that we love one another.

Verse 6

As if our apostle had said, "By this we shall make it evidently appear that there is the true love of God in us, if we endeavour to frame our lives according to his commandments;" and this, he assures them, was the great commandment, which they heard from the beginning, when the gospel was preached unto them, namely, that they should believe in Christ, and love one another, and constantly persevere in the practice of these duties.

Learn hence, That obedience is the natural effect and necessary product of love, so is it the best evidence, the surest mark and sign of it. This is the love of God; that is, the surest evidence that we love him, if we keep his commandments.

Learn, 2. That it is not sufficient that we profess love to God and our neighbour, but we must walk in love, and be found in the exercise, yea, in the persevering exercise, of that grace and duty: This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

Verse 7

Having exhorted them to perseverence in the faith before, he subjoins a reason for that exhortation now, because many deceivers are entered into the world, & c. Many imposters were gone forth abroad, who denied, some of the divinity, others the humanity of Christ, and so razed the very foundations of Christianity, and thus discovered themselves to oppose Jesus Christ.

Learn hence, That even from the beginning our Lord Jesus has had those who have disowned his natures, and denied his offices, the divinity of his person, the meritoriousness of his satisfaction; these are antichrists, persons maliciously set against Christ, and they shall find him righteously set against them in the day when they shall be summoned by him solemnly to appear before him.

Verse 8

Here our apostle resumes his exhortation to them to constancy and perseverance in the faith and obedience of the gospel, from this argument, lest they should lose the fruit of their faith professed, the profit of their afflictions which for the sake of Christianity they had suffered, and their works of piety and charity which they have performed; but continuing faithful to the death, might receive a full reward, even a crown of life.

Learn hence, That it is both lawful and needful, even for the best of saints in what they do in the service of God, to have an eye to the promised reward, by way of encouragement to them in the course of their obedience. We may with Moses have respect to the recompence of reward, but not only or chiefly, yet as a spur to provoke us to duty.

Perseverence in goodness has its reward belonging to it; that reward has a fulness of compensation, and a fulness of satisfaction, and that it is both lawful and laudable to have an eye in our working to this full recompence of reward.

Verse 9

Observe here, 1. The character given of the gospel, it is the doctrine of Christ: that is, the doctrine relating to Christ, and the doctrine taught by Christ.

Observe, 2. What is affirmed of those that apostatize from, and abide not in, the doctrine of Christ, they have not God; that is, say some, they have not God to be their Father, nor the Spirit to be their guide and sanctifier; they have, say others, no knowledge of God, no interest in God, no influences of grace and holiness derived from God.

Observe, 3. The happy condition of those that abide in the doctrine of Christ, they have both the Father and the Son: he that has one, hath both; and he that has not both, has neither: and this having may admit a threefold interpretation, thus; he has the Father and the Son: by way of abode and inhabitation; he dwelleth in God, and God in him; they have the Father and the Son with them by way of society and communion, We will come unto them, and make our abode with them.

Lastly, They have the Father and the Son, by way of assistance and approbation; they have God to assist them, to accept them, to reward them.

Verse 10

In these words our apostle directs them how to carry themselves towards those wicked apostates and heretical seducers, that deny the gospel, or any essential part of Christianity; by no means to give any countenance or encouragement to them, or to hold any familiarity or communion with them, nor to entertain them, nor so much as courteously to salute them, but, by showing them disrespect, manifest a dislike and disapproving of their errors. This form of interdict, Bid him not God speed, seems to be an imitation of the Jewish practice towards excommunicated persons, who were not only excluded from all commerce, but also from all kind of common civilities, and ordinary salutation.

Learn hence, That even civil courtesy, and common respect, is not, ought not, to be paid to those that seduce others, or attempt to seduce us, from the Christian faith.

Verse 12

Here our apostle concludes his epistle with an apology for the brevity of it, declaring, that he hoped to come shortly to them, and see them.

And though he had many things to write, yet all things were not fit to be written: but, besides, a lively voice affects more than a written letter and he hoped that they should be filled with mutual joy at the sight of, and converse with, each other. Presence of friends, and familiar converse with each other, is preferable to all writing to each other.

By the children of the Elect Sister, some again understand the members of another church, who now sent salutations to them.

The concluding word, Amen, imports his sincerity in what he had written to them, and his hearty wishes for the happiness and welfare of them.

Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 2 John 1". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/2-john-1.html. 1700-1703.
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