2 and 3 John are very short and very personal. One commentator observes:
“these are notes snatched from the everyday correspondence of an Apostle.” (1.)
These are short messages John sent and we get to see them.
“You must recall that John is the apostle who writes of the family of God. Paul writes of the church of God, while Peter writes of the government of God. (2.)
Each of these letters details facets of fellowship:
- 1 John: Have fellowship with the Apostles and then with God the Father. If you don’t know that God chose to give the message of Christ through the Apostles, you won’t understand the message of Christ.
- 2 John: Don’t have fellowship with false teachers.
- 3 John: A charge toward the right kind of fellowship in the right way.
John’s 2nd letter is addressed to a chosen lady and her children who are undergoing similar temptations. John wastes no words in making his point: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house, nor greet him” (2 John 10). Though John commends love as a necessary ingredient of the Christian life, it must not sentimental embrace those who willfully seek to destroy the truth. To do so is to diminish the proper love which Christians must have for one another. John’s warning is stern, but he knows a letter is not the best place to elaborate. He promises to deal more fully with the problem when he makes a personal visit. (3.)
2 John is a letter of encouragement, exhortation, and admonition in a culture that, not unlike today, does not like to be corrected or fact-checked.
The Main Idea
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” 2 John 7-8
Important in John’s language: “antichrist” means a false teacher. The audience would’ve heard clearly: if you’re deceived by this culture and these false teachings, you’ll lose some of the gains you’ve had.
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” 2 John 10-11
This seems harsh within our culture! In the Old Testament economy, the “shalom” greeting was a greeting of fellowship and a common relationship. It isn’t a casual greeting, it held a sense of personal connection.
3 John reminds readers that truth, love, mission, and hospitality were pillars in the church of the late first century.
James Sweeney characterizes 3 John as “a brisk note of encouragement to a trusted and well-grounded colleague” (Yarbrough, 1–3 John, 364). The Elder writes to commend Gaius for his commitment to the truth of the gospel and his reception of “a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself” (3 John 1:12). He exhorts Gaius to press on in this same path (3 John 1:11). (5.)
“Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.” 3 John 11
These words sound so hard, but we’re not talking about separatism, we’re talking about heresy.
1. Fellowship is not friendship with the world.
Fellowship is an alliance (cf 2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Cor 5:9-10), it’s a common ground and intimate relationship with God and man.
I hope you and I both have non-Christian friends, but we ought to be wary of who we choose to keep closest to us—who are your best friends? Are we aware that the people around us will influence us? Be in the world, not of the world. In your sphere of influence should be people who don’t love the Lord.
Christian fellowship welcomes us into the family of Christ. You ought to be loving and friendly to those not in Christ, but your core community ought to be fellow believers.
God isn’t saying to be separatistic. He’s saying not to associate with false teaching that’s going to corrupt your thinking and others.
The balance and the hope is to be in the world, but not of it.
2. Brotherly love is maintained by abiding in truth.
Perhaps a bit analytical, but this is insightful: if we are to remain in brotherly love, we must stay grounded in the truth. We have to have a biblical mooring.
Truth is always true.
The only way to maintain a loving relationship between believers is to abide in the truth. When we separate from truth, what do we get? Pride, arrogance, arguments, separation.
John illustrates with a positive and a negative example:
Gaius is noted as walking in the truth and John writes, I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth (3 John 4).
Diotrephes is a negative example. John observes that he “loves to be first, unjustly accused others with wicked words.”
If we’re abiding in truth, we’re going to be loving. If we’re not, we’re disposed to pride, anger, self-righteousness.
Keep your rope tied to Scripture short
“This brief letter has an important message for the church in our day.
First, we are not really abiding in the truth if we fail to demonstrate love for our brethren in physical, financial ways. We may know the truth intellectually without knowing it experientially. We must not only have the truth in our grip, but the truth must also have us in its grip.
Second, our activities reveal our true attitudes. We can see if our attitude is loving or selfish, not by examining our emotions, but by examining our activities. Do our actions demonstrate love or selfishness? This is a very practical and helpful test that we should use on ourselves regularly.” (6.)
Do you know that you know that you know who Jesus is?
It’s the most important thing you’ll ever know. Trust Him. He’ll carry you, He’ll give you meaning and purpose in life. In Him, you’ll learn life isn’t all about you and find a joy you’ve never known before.
- G.G. Findlay, Fellowship in the Life Eternal, p. 4.
- J. Vernon McGee, “The Second Epistle of John,” in Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5:821.
- Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 490.
- Wilkinson and Boa, 495.
- James P. Sweeney, “John, Third Letter of”.
- Adapted from G. Campbell Morgan, Living Messages of the Books of the Bible, 2:2:177-93.