THE MESSAGE OF 2 JOHN
The First Epistle of John has ever been a delight to pious readers of Holy Scripture. Wonderful intimacy with the Father and the Son is found therein, with precious fruit resulting, wrought by the indwelling Spirit. The epistle is the suited supplement to Johns Gospel. In the Gospel we have life, eternal life, manifested on earth in the person of the Son; in the epistle we have the same life manifested in those who believe.
Johns line is essentially different from that of Paul. Paul carries us up to heaven, and shows us our standing before God, in Christ risen. John brings heaven to us down here. When Paul speaks of eternal life, he has in mind the final result, and so speaks of it as future (Rom 6.22). With John it is a present possession, to be enjoyed here and now in the knowledge of the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He had sent (See Jn 17.3).
The preservation of truth
But although Johns first epistle may be viewed as a supplement to his Gospel, it also is supplemented. Two short letters to individuals follow it, both of the greatest possible value and interest to all who love the truth. The theme of the second epistle is the preservation of truth and of the third, the propagation thereof. "Receive not", is the keynote of one; "receive", is the keynote of the other. In other words, the elect lady was charged to close the door upon false teachers; Gaius was encouraged to keep wide open the door to all who brought the truth.
Satans opposition to God and to His truth is unceasing. With tireless energy the antagonist and deceiver has flung himself across the divine path in all ages. How soon were our first parents led astray, and how quickly did the people of Israel corrupt themselves. No sooner had the Son of God ascended on high, than the malignant enemy set himself to oppose the testimony of the Spirit to the absent One. First, the opposition took the form of violence; then of corruption. The craft of Satan is more to be dreaded than his open rage.
The citadel of the faith
The person of Christ is the citadel of Christianity. His essential deity and His equally real humanity are the vitals of the Christian faith. If either were surrendered redemption is impossible, and in that case no divine counsel is capable of fulfilment, and blessing for sinners is unthinkable. Accordingly, whatever forbearance may be exercised concerning details of general Biblical interpretation, when the person of Christ is assailed the sternest response is demanded of us.
Johns second epistle makes this plain. It is addressed, not to an assembly, nor to a fellow labourer, but to a Christian family. No name is given, as it is in the case of the woman who anointed the Lord (Jn 12.3), for it is not a matter of putting on record an imperishable deed of love, but of establishing for all time the duty of saints when false teachers are abroad. Even women and children may not excuse themselves from taking action if the evil comes before them. The fact that no husband is mentioned suggests that the elect lady was a widow, but even widows may not plead their helplessness and their forlorn condition when the truth of God is at stake. If any special reason be required why John should address this epistle to a woman, it is sufficient to remind ourselves that it was through a woman that Satan got in at the beginning.
To love in the truth
John loved the elect lady and her children "in the truth", and not John only, "but also all they that have known the truth". To "love in the truth" does not mean to love truly or sincerely. It is a love that is characterised by truth. Where truth is sacrificed natural agreeableness may be found, but not what God calls "love". Let us beware of counterfeits!
In reading v.3 the margin should be observed. It is not a prayer, as so frequently in the epistles of Paul, but apostolic assurance. "Grace shall be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love". A threefold divine sustainment for the soul, unfailing and true; precious God-given provision for the conflict that we must needs endure. John now goes straight to the point. In his travels he had found some of the children of the elect lady walking in truth, and he rejoiced greatly because of it. This was his hearts desire for the lady and for all. Yet he reminds his readers at this juncture that we should love one another. Why is this? Surely it is because stern disapproval does not indicate a lack of love.
Love is proved by obedience
A stern attitude is often regarded as being incompatible with love. But, in reality, love is proved by obedience. "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments" (v.6). No words could be more wholesome for our day. Every form of evil is excused under the banner of "love". But such "love" is mere honey, for which there was no place in the offerings of Jehovah (Lev 2.11). Let none who belittle error speak of love. They know not what they affirm.
Though the dispensation was young, the times were strenuous. Satan was labouring to dishonour the Son. The fact that this was permitted before apostolic energy ceased has resulted, in the wisdom of God, in our having divine instructions as to how to act now that the last days are upon us. The false teachers denied "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" (v.7). It is his first coming that is in view. It is the denial of His person, as stooping from the Godhead glory to take to Himself "the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom 8.3).
The tactics of the Adversary
In what form the traducers of that day stated their deceits we know not, and it need not concern us. Satans tactics vary but his aim is always the same - to get rid of the true deity or the true humanity of the Lord Jesus.
In our own day we have to deal with some who would deny to Him all the Divine attributes after His incarnation: and with others who see nothing human in Him but the body of flesh and blood. The one is a virtual denial of His deity and the other of His manhood. Whatever may be the personal character of those who so teach, they are deceivers of men and antagonists of Christ.
In Johns day persons of this type went forth from the assembly, and pursued their evil work outside. Now many wish to be recognised as "Christian" and some to fill pulpits in order to undermine all that is dear to God and His people.
Receive a full reward
"Look to yourselves," cries the apostle, "That we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward" (v.8). Both here and in 1 John 2.28 the meaning is that the faithful worker desired to see his work standing well in the day of the Lord Jesus. Then, with energy he affirms, "Whosever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" (v.9). To "transgress" in this connection is to "go onward". It is the restlessness of the human mind which is not content with divine revelation, but must needs explore forbidden territory, and seek to explain in man-made terms what cannot be explained. Reason thus supplants faith and sorrow ensues. Such transgressors have not God, for He will never be with them in their dishonour of His Son.
Now comes the solemn duty of all to whom Christ is precious not to receive these false teachers into our homes nor to help them on their way (vv.10-11). The language is admittedly stern, and faint hearts may shrink from obedience to it. In Matthew 12.30 the Lord lays it down that where His interests are concerned neutrality is hostility. In Johns second epistle we learn that indifference is aid. It is not necessary to go as far to wish the false teachers success in their work in order to be guilty.
The last days are upon us. The conflict between truth and error will become the more fierce as the days pass. He is worthy for us to put His interests above every other consideration. Only close attention to the Scriptures, pondered in dependence upon the Spirit, can enable us to distinguish between truth and error. Nothing should hold us back in defence of the truth when the very vitals of the Faith are at stake.