Second John: Beware False Teachers

second john

The apostle John had seen Truth and Love firsthand – he had been with Jesus. So affected was this disciple that all of his writings, from the Gospel to the book of Revelation, are filled with this theme – truth and love are vital to the Christian and are inseparable in the Christian life. Second John, his brief letter to a dear friend, is no different. John says to walk in the truth and obey God (verse 4), watch out for deceivers (verse 7), and love God and each other (verse 6).

False teachers were a dangerous problem for the church in which John was writing. His warning against showing hospitality to false teachers may sound harsh and unloving to many today.  Yet these men were teaching heresy that could seriously harm many believers – for eternity.

Second John will take just a few minutes to read, but its message should last a lifetime. As you reflect on these few paragraphs penned by the wise and aged follower of Christ, recommit yourself to being a person of truth, of love, and of obedience.

Writer of Second John

Although the early testimony concerning the authorship of 2 and 3 John is not as strong as that of 1 John, they are nevertheless linked with John by vocabulary and general subject matter. In both 2 and 3 John, the writer identifies himself as “the Elder,” suggesting that he was older than the other Christians and that his personal knowledge of the faith went back much farther than theirs.

Date Written

During the Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A. D. 40’s). Possibly written from Jerusalem, since the apostles were headquartered there during the Great Scattering.

To Whom Written

To “the elder unto the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1:1).

Purpose of Second John

Second John is concerned with the relation of Christian truth to hospitality extended to those teachers traveling from church to church. Such hospitality was often abused. False teachers, probably from the same group in 1 John, were confusing the fellowship of believers. John, therefore, gave instructions concerning which itinerant teachers to welcome and which to refuse. Genuine Christians, who could be recognized by the orthodoxy of their message, are worthy of aid; but heretical teachers, especially those who denied the incarnation, are to be rejected. John also commands “the elect lady” for walking in the truth.

Historical Setting of Second John

First John has none of the usual features of an epistle: no salutation or identification of author; no greetings; and no references to persons, places, or events. Ironically, although its format is impersonal, like a sermon or a treatise, its tone is warm and personal. This suggests that it was written to a broad audience (probably in and around Ephesus) that was very dear to the author.

Theological Contribution

Like the Gospel of John, the epistles of John are built on the foundation blocks of love, truth, sin, world, life, light, and the Holy Spirit. The epistles of John emphasize the great themes of knowing, believing, walking and abiding. The keystone in the arch of the gospel is that God has appeared in human form. The incarnation is life; and this life is available ion the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Fellowship with God is realized by knowing God and abiding in Him: joined to Him in righteousness, truth, and especially love.

Special Consideration in Second John

Many Christians wonder about John’s declaration, “Whoever abides in Him [Jesus Christ] does not sin” (3:6). This does not mean that if someone sins he is not a Christian. Indeed, in these epistles we are told that Christ came to forgive sins; and we are admonished to confess our sins to Him. The statement means that Christ has transferred us from death to life and has caused us to share in the nature of God. Consequently, we are no longer confined to darkness, because Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin in our lives.

Scripture Study Resources

ESV Study BibleStudy Bibles give you a deeper understanding of God’s Word with tools for life application like commentary, maps, charts, concordance, and study notes. Search our popular translations- NIV, ESV, NKJV, KJV and more!

Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition – A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture. Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture.

The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible – The best concordance for word study! This exclusive new edition of a legendary classic puts generations of biblical research at your fingertips. A valuable tool for pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible. 

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – This classic word study resource allows you to study the meaning of biblical words in the original languages without spending years learning Greek or Hebrew. A great resource for students, seasoned pastors, and anyone who enjoys biblical word studies–even if they have little to no formal training in Hebrew or Greek.

Halley’s Bible Handbook – The beloved and classic Bible companion has been thoroughly updated, while retaining its time-honored features and Dr. Halley’s highly personal style, to offer even greater clarity, insight, and usefulness.


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