In this short letter, the Beloved Apostle refers to himself as, the Elder. This could be how he referred himself to the churches he corresponded too or to individuals. This brings up a question, not of authenticity, but of who or whom this letter was addressed.
John introduced it with the greeting, “To the elect lady and her children,” (verse 1). Commonly there are at the LEAST a couple of theories as to what this means. One is that John is addressing the “Church, the Bride of Christ,” as a whole or at the least a local church he was familiar with, with the intent that the letter reach other churches. Another theory is that he addressed it to an unnamed Christian woman and her children who were considered part of the elect of God and of Christ Jesus.
Churches however were often referred to as “sisters” in the faith and especially by the Apostle John and most likely due to the fact that the TRUE Church is the betrothed Bride of Christ with Christ Jesus as the Bridegroom. Many bible scholars believe that this letter was written to an actual individual woman and I am by no means a bible scholar, but the flow and the substance of the letter leads me to believe it was addressed to a particular church with the intent of being read elsewhere. The children could easily refer to other churches that were branches of the main, for in the days of early Christianity at the time John would have written this, the norm was NOT to establish mega-churches or congregations, but smaller ones, making disciples of others so that they could go out and spread the gospel and establish churches, many times, home churches, in other areas.
Two main themes are strongly emphasized within this short letter; to follow Christ’s commandment to obey God, the Father and to love one another in so doing and then to warn against the extreme danger of false teachers. False teachers during John’s time was as big a problem as it is today in our time. This is what makes John’s writings so timeless and proves the unchanging veracity of God’s Word. The extreme danger of false teaching is that the heresy taught could and can, seriously harm believers for eternity!
When it comes down to it, whether the letter was written to a specific woman and her children, to a local church and its offshoots, or to the Body of Christ as a whole, its Spiritual Principles stand through the centuries to all who will take the time to take them to heart.
2 John 1:1-3, “THE ELDER, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”
I want to start out by mentioning a couple of things that I didn’t touch on in the introduction and one of them being the Apostle, the last remaining disciple of Jesus Christ, living at the time this was written, refers to himself as Elder. The significance of this to me shows that at the approximate time this letter was written, about 90 A.D. it is estimated, the Christian churches has already begun to take root in their establishment. Remember, the Temple and in fact, Jerusalem itself, had been destroyed about twenty years earlier in 70 A.D. and Judaism was not the only established religion by this time.
It is not surprising then, that the Beloved Apostle would refer to himself as “the Elder” due to his maturity, age and experience and his experience especially with Jesus Christ in person. Even today, it is common for those who have ministered, or as the word means, to have served, in the Word of God and to their/our brothers and sisters, to truly be considered an Elder. It is not, as it was not back in John’s time, a term that was or even today, is lightly or frivolously given.
It is not that an Elder is above the rest of the flock, standing on a pedestal looking down upon the congregation, but rather in humility is in the midst of the flock or congregation, on the same level and the only distinguishing factor is the experience and maturity. It shows to others that when it comes to the knowledge of the Word of God, they can be relied upon to continue to SERVE. Yes, I emphasize that word serve, because too many who claim to be ministers today, have forgotten that we are servants to our brothers and sisters and not overlords! We live in an age and have for a while now, when the word servant is discarded as to belittling! Yet, I would argue that it is one of the greatest areas to occupy ourselves than most others!
Today, many occupations and careers that involve serving others, have had title changes to remove the stigma associated with serving others, thus, in their own minds at least, those doing that kind of work can “feel” better about themselves or to some extent, even above others!
Anyway, the term, Elder, denotes one who has maturity and experience when it comes to serving others and especially in regards AND application of the Word of God. Today, it can designate someone like a bishop or an overseer in the scheme of church organization, but in truth, to me, it is the highest form of compliment you can give one who serves or has served.
We’ve discussed in the introduction the possibilities of who or whom John has addressed the letter too, but continuing on, he writes, “whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth.” John loves the church and those within the church. The true Church is one of John’s greatest loves after Christ Jesus. But he goes on to say, “and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth.”
To me this phrase alone tends to cause me to doubt that he was writing to an individual woman rather than a church he was familiar with. However, it should be noted that even individuals can be recognized and known for the truth they walk in. It is just that to me, it would be a peculiar way of addressing an individual. Whoever he is addressing, they are known for walking in and living in the truth. Did you catch that? They are KNOWN for it! To be known for a character trait like that, you have to be living it. That is the ONLY way you will be known for something such as truth.
It IS God’s truth that binds hearts that would never even be considered, one of another. When we are born-again in Christ Jesus with His Holy Spirit abiding in us, we have found ourselves in a wonderful type of fellowship or communion with others that never would have been possible without that spiritual regeneration. Our common love for God, our Heavenly Father, His love AND the truth have afforded us a spiritual bond the world cannot and does not comprehend!
When I am on social media and often times in my teaching and writing, I often write, brothers and sisters and make an effort to put that down. When I speak, I often speak of my brothers and sisters and I don’t do it lightly, for to me, one of the greatest treasures AND blessings the Lord has given us in this natural life, is the fellowship with those who ALSO love the Lord in an intimate way.
The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Romans, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” – Romans 8:16-17.
Now, too many times, we look at this Scripture, or read it and pass it by without giving it a thought and yet through the years, the Holy Spirit has blessed me with something to me that is profound. I get a thought, not always just a Spiritual Principle, but here I am applying it to the spiritual, and in that thought, I tend to think it through from a starting point to a point where it ends in a practical application.
Paul tells us that “the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit.” Okay, first and foremost we are in COMMUNION with Him. This doesn’t always mean communication like some think, you know, hearing voices and such, BUT, it IS a more intimate type of relationship. Communion is fellowshipping with one another. It is sensing one another’s presence, their state of being with you and not always verbally with words. I have walked with the Lord long enough now, to know when His presence is making Himself known to me.
Another Scripture, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6. I have been with the Lord long enough, or I should say He has been with me, that in my younger days when I would be rebellious or let hurt cause me to wander, I was STILL aware of His presence in my life! When God tells His child or His children that He will NEVER leaven them nor forsake them, NEVER means just that! But that is communion.
But back to Paul’s writing; the Holy Spirit lets us know “that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs.” He doesn’t just let us know His presence is with us, but He witnesses or testifies to our hearts and spirit that we ARE His children and thus heirs of His. But, His witness or testimony goes even further, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ within us, then we “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We are heirs of God, but we are heirs JOINTLY with Christ Jesus. But here’s the thought I want to make concerning our fellowship or communion with God AND with one another as brothers and sisters.
It would stand to reason that if we know, by the Holy Spirit’s witness, that we are children, individually a child, but as a whole, God’s children, then we just aren’t brothers and sisters of one another, we will KNOW through the witness of the Holy Spirit who truly is our brother and sister!
It doesn’t come right out and say this, but, if the Holy Spirit which abides within us, bears witness with our spirit, is in communion, then our spirit is alive and able to communion with Him as well, and that means that if your spirit is being witnessed too by the Holy Spirit that you are also God’s child, then that witness of the Holy Spirit extends to you and I. That same spirit SHOULD testify or witness that we are brothers and sisters, CO-HEIRS with Christ Jesus AND with one another. In other words, our spirit should witness with one another also, that we belong to Christ as brothers and sisters.
I brought all this up to confirm what the Beloved Apostle wrote concerning loving those who walk in and have known and know the truth! The Holy Spirit bears witness of this very fact! This also leads to the last part of that second verse, “because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever.” We, as John does, can love one another IN truth because we are part of those who know and have known the truth and that truth ABIDES within us and will abide in us forever!
Remember, the Holy Spirit is also called, the Spirit of Truth. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” – John 16:13. When the Holy Spirit abides in you, then the Spirit of Truth abides in you and all that John is stating here is confirmed by the Word of God, itself.
Here is an interesting side thought; that “truth which abides in us will be with us forever.” The Bible tells us that in the last days there shall be an apostasy. The turning away from the truth back into the darkness from which we originally repented. I have always stated that apostasy, in its most spiritual form is the opposite of repentance. Repentance is doing a 180 degree turn from darkness into the Light of Christ Jesus. Apostasy, in principle, is doing a 180 degree turn from the Light of Christ Jesus, back into the darkness! BUT, here is my point; the Apostle John wrote that “the truth will be with us forever.” This means just what I have suspected for years. The people that turn from the Light back into darkness will do so knowingly and willingly because the truth or at least the KNOWLEDGE of the truth is still within. This is what makes the sin of apostasy so eternally devastating. Now to my brothers and sisters who cling to Calvinistic teaching, I know this creates controversy and dissension, but I will not debate this point. The Scriptures, in their context, point that their will be apostasy and in truth we are already witnessing it. Explain it however you feel comfortable with, the truth is, it is spiritually and eternally devastating; and of that we can agree upon.
Now to finish off the Beloved Apostle’s greeting as found in verse three, let me just say this; we know that Grace is unmerited or undeserved favor. Those who receive grace actually deserve the opposite and that is what makes grace the Spiritual Attribute that it is. Mercy is pity and compassion shown upon those who are guilty and don’t deserve the grace. Mercy and Grace often go hand in hand, mainly because God, our Heavenly Father bestowed Grace upon us out of His Mercy for us. Peace is the harmonious relationship that results from God’s Grace and Mercy. When we experience true Spiritual Peace, it is because of the knowledge we have of God’s Grace and His Mercy.
Now all three of these attributes are “from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” God is the source of the Spiritual Attributes of Grace, Mercy and Peace. All things come from the Father, THROUGH the Lord Jesus Christ. He is like the channel from which we receive these gifts from the Father.
We go to the Father, THROUGH Christ Jesus and Jesus shows us the Father, in return, we receive from the Father, THROUGH Christ Jesus. This was Christ’s mission to mankind. He is, as it were, the conduit for which we are able to once again commune with the Father. One of my favorite Scriptures actually demonstrates this and it was the leading Scripture that led me to Salvation through Christ Jesus.
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 2:3-5.
God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. When you are born-again, spiritually reawakened and regenerated you gain the knowledge of the truth through the abiding of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. This is all done THROUGH Christ Jesus! Our communion with God and God with us is through Christ Jesus and always will be.