The two short epistles of 2 and 3 John refer to the word “truth” 11 times in 27 verses. Why did John place such a great deal of emphasis on the truth?
The epistle (letter) called 2 John tells us it is from “the elder.”
Most scholars accept the long tradition that “the elder” mentioned in the opening verse was the elderly apostle John, as the writing reflects a voice of loving authority, and therefore suggests that the author is more than a local elder or member of the Church of God.
“The letters we call 2 and 3 John are similar in words, style, ideas, and character to 1 John, and must have been written by the same author, who refers to himself simply as ‘the elder’” (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 754—see 2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1).
Some note that the brevity of the book can actually be a sign of its authenticity.
“The very shortness of these two letters [2 John and 3 John] is the best guarantee of their genuineness. They are so brief … that no one would have gone to the trouble of inventing them and of attaching them to the name of John. A standard papyrus sheet measured ten by eight inches and the length of these letters would each take up almost exactly one sheet” (Barclay’s Daily Study Bible: The Letters of John and Jude, 1976, p. 127).
The elect lady and her children
The book of 2 John is addressed to the “elect lady and her children.”
Who is this “lady”?
There is a difference of opinion on this point. Some assume that this is a reference to a church congregation and its spiritual children, while others contend that it is a particular lady who was a member of the Church of God.
The Greek word for “lady” is kuria, which is a feminine form of the masculine kurios, which means “master” or “lord.”
“First, it is unclear whether John is referring specifically to an individual or metaphorically to an entire congregation,” according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. “Most modern commentators, however, conclude that ‘the Elect Lady’ is a general reference to an entire congregation, so that ‘her children’ are the individual members of the congregation” (revised edition, pp. 513-514).
This view that John is addressing a congregation is further supported by the fact that in some verses (6, 8, 10, 12) the plural is used when addressing the kuria, and therefore it is most likely a reference to a church rather than a specific person.
Outline of 2 John
- Greetings to the elect lady (verses 1-3).
- Love is walking in God’s commandments (verses 4-6).
- Warning against religious deceivers (verses 7-11).
- Farewell greeting (verses 12-13).
Purpose of 2 John
John was concerned that the members were being deceived into rejecting the truth of God and replacing truth with human-devised dogmas. As a result, he encouraged them to continue walking in the truth, thereby renouncing false teachers attempting to introduce beliefs contrary to the true doctrines Christ established in His Church.
The apostle states: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide [continue, remain, endure] in the doctrine [teachings] of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9, emphasis added throughout).
John places a great deal of importance and emphasis on preserving the biblical truth within the Church.
Walking in the truth
As Christians, we are to endeavor to actively walk in obedience to God’s commandments with our whole being, trusting in Him to help, support and mercifully forgive us upon repentance when we realize we have fallen short.In this short epistle of 13 verses, John uses the word “truth” five times and “love” four times. The word “commandment(s)” is used four times; and the active verb “walk” or “walking,” three times.
As Christians, we are to endeavor to actively walk in obedience to God’s commandments with our whole being, trusting in Him to help, support and mercifully forgive us upon repentance when we realize we have fallen short.
The truth that originates with God is not a temporary, passing phenomenon, but is “the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2).
“Such truth ‘will be with us forever’ because it comes from the ‘Spirit of Truth’ [which] will ‘be with you forever’ (John 14:16) and because its acceptance leads to eternal life” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, revised edition, p. 514.)
What is truth?
In a prayer to His Father before His crucifixion, Jesus Christ stated, “Your word is truth,” a clear reference to the inspired Word of God—the Bible (John 17:17). And it is through the truth that true Christians are “sanctified” (John 17:19), which means “the setting apart of the believer for God” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).
To “walk” in truth before God means striving to follow and imitate the example Christ set: “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). The patriarchs of old “walked” with God. This includes Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Noah, who “was a just man … [and] walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).
Abraham, the father of the faithful, walked with God in truth
The Bible states that God commanded Abraham to “walk before Me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). Abraham enthusiastically responded to God’s command. The Bible says, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Genesis 26:5).
This demonstrates Abraham’s willingness to walk with God in truth. He became known as “the friend of God” (James 2:23; Isaiah 41:8), taking his rightful place among the biblical examples of living faith (Hebrews 11:8-10).
Do these examples apply to us in the 21st century?
Old Testament incidents and examples have been recorded for our benefit (Romans 15:4; 16:26; 1 Corinthians 10:11).
John “rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.” He also wrote, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it” (2 John 4, 6).
By faithfully and steadfastly walking along this way, we are doing “those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
Claiming “I know Him”
How does God refer to individuals who claim “I know Him” but refuse to “walk” in His ways?
God calls such people “liars” because the truth is not in them (1 John 2:4). Other New Testament writers agree: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22; see also Romans 2:13).
Then what really pleases God?
“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He [Christ] walked” (1 John 2:6). This is the test and challenge confronting true Christians!
For further study, read the articles in the section “General Epistles.”
For a quick link to all the other books of the Bible, see “Books of the Bible” on the Learning Center.