2 John


Author and Date

The author is "the elder" which is almost certainly the Apostle John writing near the end of the first century AD (for fuller explanation, see 1 John Author).

Audience, Occasion, and Background

The “chosen lady and her children” to whom this letter is addressed most likely refers to a local congregation and its members (see Commentary for explanation). John writes to respond to false teachings because "many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who don't confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh." John may have been responding to early Gnostic thought that emerged in the late first century AD. The Gnostics taught that the spiritual realm was good but that the material realm was bad and therefore denied the incarnation and humanity of Jesus. There was also pressure to compromise from the synagogues and from their culture with pagan thought and values.

Purpose and Message

John emphasizes and embodies the kind of love that he urges them to walk in. He stresses the active nature of that love, "that we should walk according to his commandments." A love that is in accordance with "the truth," that is Jesus Christ. He draws out an implication from this that addresses their situation and directly applies to us today: as Christians, we must resist and reject false teachings and false teachers out of a commitment to live in accordance with Christ "in truth and love."

Key Themes

Love: John addresses them in love and urges them to obey the commandment that they had from the beginning, that they "love one another." When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, and with all you mind" (Mat 22:37 // Deut 6:5) and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mat 22:39 // Lev 19:18). Love is a defining characteristic of a true Christian community because love is a defining characteristic of God: "God is love" (1 Jn 4:16). Christ's self-sacrifical love is typified at the cross, and he challenges us to follow his example saying, "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mat 16:24; See also Phil 2:5-11).

Truth: John emphasizes the importance of truth and holding on to the sure "teaching of Christ." Believing and living according to the truth brings real freedom, joy, and peace. Therefore, our faith, far from being unreasonable and untrue, accords with the truth. Paul demonstrates the seriousness of this conviction when he says, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable" (1 Cor 15:17-18), but we can confidently come to Jesus knowing that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6) because "If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32; See also 1 Jn 1:8; 5:20; Prov 30:5; Eph 4:15).

Walking in truth: Although it is vital that we hold on to what is true, that truth should be allowed to change our hearts to reflect Jesus so that we "walk in truth." Paul demonstrates this pattern of knowing the truth and then walking in it: "Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report: if there is any virtue and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Do the things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me, and the God of peace will be with you" (Phil 4:8-9).

The Father and the Son: Despite this letter being less theologically focused, it is apparent that John's thinking is thoroughly entrenched with a Trinitarian view of God (vv. 3, 7-9; See also Jn 1:1).

Structure and Outline

The Second Epistle of John is a conventional NT epistle with an opening salutation, body, and conclusion. It is one of the shortest books in the Bible consisting of only thirteen verses.

I. Salutation (1-3)
II. Practicing the Truth in Love (4-6)
III. Caution: Deceivers and Apostacy (7-9)
IV. Instruction to Reject False Teachers (10-11)
V. Closing (12-13)



F. F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).


Gregory Goswell, The Johannine Corpus and the Unity of the New Testament Canon, JETS 61.4 (2018), 717-33.


Andrew Coleman, 2 John Expositional Sermons.

Stuart Olyott, 2 John with Staurt Olyott.