The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 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. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 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. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
The children of your elect sister greet you.
- John identifies himself as the elder.
- The letter is written to the elect lady and her children.
- John loves in the truth the elect lady and her children.
- All those who know the truth love the elect lady and her children.
- Grace, peace and mercy from God would be with John, the elect lady and her children.
- Grace, mercy and peace were from God the Father and Jesus Christ.
- Jesus Christ is the Father’s Son.
- Grace Mercy and Peace in truth and love will be with John, the elect lady and her children.
- John was glad that some of the elect lady’s children were walking in the truth.
- Some, not all, of the elect lady’s children were walking in the truth.
- The Father had commanded John the elect lady and her children to walk in the truth.
- John asked the elect lady to love others.
- Love is walking according to God’s commandments.
- Loving each other is not a new commandment.
- The commandment to love each other had been given from the beginning.
- There are many deceivers.
- The deceivers that John is referring to are those who do not confess Jesus has come in the flesh
- If someone denies that Jesus has come in the flesh, they are an antichrist.
- It is possible for the elect lady to lose what she and John has worked for.
- The elect lady was to watch herself so she did not lose what she had worked for.
- The elect lady should receive a full reward for which she had worked.
- Anyone who does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God.
- Anyone who continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
- If anyone comes with a different teaching other than Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.
- Do not bring them into your home.
- Do not welcome them.
- Anyone who welcomes someone teaching anything other than Jesus Christ shares in his wicked ways.
- John has a lot more to say than was written in the letter.
- John would rather way everything else he has to say in person rather than in a letter.
- John hoped to talk to the elect lady soon.
- When they spoke face to face their joy would be complete.
- The children of the elect ladies chosen sister sent greetings to the elect lady.
John addresses this letter to “the elect lady and her children” Who the elect lady actually was we do not know. Some think this is a reference to the church at large. To support this claim they point to verse 6 the addressee is referred to in a second person plural verb. This is repeated in verses 8, 10 and 12. However verse 13 uses the singular. This can be resolved by the plain reading of the text. In verse 1 John says he is writing to the elect lady and her children. This a group of people which explains the use of the plural and he singles out the elect lady which explains the singular. The difficulty in saying the elect lady refers to the church is this is the only place in scripture where the church is referred to as an elect lady or even a lady, though scripture does refer to the church as a Christ’s bride. This makes the idea that the letter is addressed to a local congregation or the church at large unlikely.
The introduction to the letter fits the standard form of greeting for a first century letter. But in the greeting contains a reassurance. This reassurance would be needed in the face of the serious Christological challenge represented by opponents to the church and their teaching.
John states that he is not giving a new commandment rather restating a commandment that has already been given, “that we love one another.” This is the same commandment that is repeated in 1 John 2:7-11. Matthew 22:34-40, Mark12:28-31, John 13:34-35, and John 15:12 to mention a few. Obviously this is not a new commandment.
Even in the early church there were those who denied Jesus had come in the flesh. The docetists taught that Jesus did not really come in the flesh. He only appeared to have a body. They were proclaiming a false gospel. John states very emphatically that we should not even show hospitality to those who teach falsely. This is for the protection of the church. Paul mentions the same thing in I Corinthians 5:1-13. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” And, “Purge the evil person from among you.” In Corinthians Paul is talking about a sexually immoral brother. Here, John is referring to false teaching about Jesus Christ. Both relate to the idea of love in that it would be unloving to support or passively condone, even in the most moderate way, any type of sin. The reason for the separation is to call the sinner to repentance (2 Corinthians 2:5-11) and to protect the congregation (1 Corinthians 5: 1-13.) Love is not accepting a person as they are. They are sinners separated from a holy god, destined to hell. Love is walking according to the commandments of God and calling the sinner to repentance.
Care should be given to not misunderstand John when he says “Watch out, so that you do not lose the things we have worked for, but receive a full reward.” John is not referring to losing one’s salvation. We know this for two reasons. First, in verse 2 John says the truth (Christ) abides in us and will be with us forever. Second, John is referring to, “the things we have worked for.” Paul makes it very, very clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we do not work for our salvation. It is a gift from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” John is more likely referring to pastoral and missionary efforts undertaken by himself and the elect lady in their own community. If the opponents with their false teaching are allowed to go unopposed in the community, all the effective work accomplished up to this point would be in danger of being lost.
The idea of not associating with those who teach falsely may seem harsh. In fact, it is completely contrary to our contemporary idea of love. Our contemporary view of love is total acceptance simply accepting a person as they are. But to not be willing to confront a brother or sister who is in sin, to be without concern for their eternal soul is the opposite of love. An equivalent physical example would be watching someone sit the rail road track while a train is coming and doing nothing. If you have any compassion at all would you would do all you could to warn that person that a train is coming. The false teachers are the ones who are telling them to sit there and relax they have had a hard day. They deserve to relax awhile.
The loving and humane thing to do is not to allow someone to mislead the person sitting on the track into thinking they are safe and should enjoy the comfort of relaxation. NO! Rather the humane thing to do would be to stop and oppose the false teacher. We should not support them in anyway. If we support them we are as guilty of the death of our brother as they are.