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.
Understanding And Applying the Text
John addresses this letter to “the elect lady and her children” We do not know who the elect lady was. Some think this is a reference to the church at large. To support this claim they point to verse 6. John addresses the lady in a second-person plural verb. He does it again in verses 8, 10 and 12. But verse 13 uses the singular verb. We can resolve any confusion with a 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. This explains the use of the plural form. He then singles out the elect lady which explains the singular. Understanding the “elect lady” as the church causes difficulties. This would be the only place in scripture that refers to the church as an elect lady or even a lady. But scripture does refer to the church as Christ’s bride. The idea John is addressing the letter to a local congregation or the church is unlikely.
The introduction fits the standard form of greeting for a first-century letter. But the greeting contains reassurance. John would need to reassure them in the face of the serious Christological challenge.
John does not give a new commandment. Instead, he restates a previous command, “that we love one another.” We hear this same commandment in 1 John 2:7-11. Matthew 22:34-40, Mark12:28-31, John 13:34-35, and John 15:12.
Even in the early church, there were those who denied Jesus had come in the flesh. The docetists taught that Jesus did have true flesh. He only appeared to have a body. They proclaimed a false gospel. John makes an emphatic statement. We are to not even show hospitality to those who teach false doctrine. This is for the protection of the church. Paul says 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. It would be unloving to support or passively condone, any type of sin. The reason for the separation is to call the sinner to repentance. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11) And It is 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 walks according to God’s commandments and calls sinners to repentance.
When John states, “Watch out, so that you do not lose the things we have worked for, but receive a full reward.” He 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 referring to pastoral and missionary efforts undertaken by himself and the “elect lady.” If the false teachers go unopposed, all the work up to this point would be in danger of being lost.
The idea of not associating with those who teach false doctrine may seem harsh. In fact, it is completely contrary to our contemporary idea of love. Our contemporary view of love is total acceptance. Our culture tells us we are to accept a person as they are. But if we have no care for the welfare of others we are not loving. Not confronting a brother or sister in sin, is to be without concern for their eternal soul. That is the opposite of love. here is an example that makes it clear. You are watching someone sitting on a railroad track. They are comfortable and at peace. Would screaming at them to move be loving? They are enjoying a peaceful lunch. They are happy. You do not want to disturb them by screaming at them. They may think you are a crazy person. You don’t want that. But a train is coming, They are in danger. If you have any compassion at all what would you do? 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.
Tolerating false teaching is inhumane. Allowing someone to think they are safe when they are not is evil. Tolerating false teaching is evil.