Survey of 2 John

Book Type: General Letter, also called a “catholic epistle,” meaning a general letter. One of the apostle John’s five books, 24th book of the New Testament.

Author: The apostle John is the traditional author of this book, though the text does not specifically name him, except for calling him “the elder” (2 John 1:1).

Audience: Second John is one of five New Testament books written by the apostle John. The others are the Gospel of John, 1 John, 3 John, and Revelation. This letter is phrased as if addressed to a woman (2 John 1:1), though the content seems to be addressed to an entire church. The letter uses the terms “lady” and “children,” so this may be addressed to a literal woman and her family. More likely, based on the full context of the letter, John is writing to a church. This may be a church meeting in a particular woman’s home, a local church, or the church in general. The reference to the woman and her children is probably the church and those impacted by it, likely other local churches.

Several themes are included in this short letter. John urges his readers to watch out for deceivers who taught that Jesus rose spiritually but not physically. Christians were to have nothing to do with such false teachers. John also focuses on the themes of truth, mentioned five times, and love, mentioned four times.

Date: Unknown, though it was likely written around the same time as John’s Gospel and the letters 1 and 3 John, AD 80–95.

Overview: This short letter of 13 verses includes only one chapter and is the second shortest book in the New Testament. Other single-chapter books in the New Testament include Philemon, 2 John, and Jude. Second John begins with an introduction to “the elect lady and her children,” a focus on truth, and a brief greeting (2 John 1:1–3).

Verse 4 offers praise and encouragement for those walking in the truth. This key verse stands as a theme in the letter. Truth is mentioned twice in verse 1, and again in verses 2 and 3.

Verses 5 and 6 then focus on the commandment to “love one another.” Love is said to consist of walking according to God’s commandments.

Verses 7–11 then focus on concerns related to false teachers. John mentions “many” who claim Jesus did not come in the flesh or physically. He calls them “the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7). Believers were to guard against these lies (2 John 1:8) and have no part in the evil work of such people (2 John 1:10–11).

Verses 12 and 13 conclude this short letter. John wants to visit in person, and concludes with a statement about the children of “your elect sister.” This is most likely a reference to the church where John was located when he wrote the letter.

Key Verses (ESV):

2 John 1:6: “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

2 John 1:8–9: “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”


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