This word starts with the author identifying himself as the elder (πρεσβύτερος), and this has been traditionally assigned to the apostle John (Jobes, 440). Having the form of a letter instead of a sermon (which is more appropriate for 1 John), 2 John starts with John offering a greeting to his audience. He refers to his audience as “the elect Lady” (vs. 1 CSB) and closes the letter with a greeting from the “elect sister” (vs. 13 CSB). These two titles are loaded with theological impact. By using the word elect (ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ meaning chosen lady), John is personifying the church as a whole (as opposed to an individual person) and could mean a local church (Ephesus) or the universal church (Stott, 203-204). John is expressing his love for the ἐκκλησία and links himself with the truth.
The letter itself has a very positive tone. The thesis of the letter is vs. 5-6 – love God in the light of obedience. Wright states that the author is pleased with the signs of life within the church (Wright, 174) – “children walking in truth” and “keeping with a command we have received from the Father” (vs. 4 CSB). The thesis of the letter comes around in vss. 5-6 with the author exhorting the church to “love one another” (vs. 5 CSB) and “walk according to his commands… walk in love” (vs. 6 CSB). The implication here is that loving God necessarily means that there is love for others – this is genuine godly love and not a counterfeit (Barker, 363).
John follows his exhortation with a warning in vs. 7. Harkening to 1 John 2:18, 27, and 4:1-3, some have abandoned the faith and are determined to take others with them (Ibid). The key to this warning is in the denial of Jesus. John will have a lot more to say about the antichrist in Revelation, but the antichrist is the denial of Jesus for this letter. That is the gospel’s truth that causes John to love the audience so much (Jobes, 441). The warning of John is to stay in that truth and not “lose what we have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward” (vs. 8 CSB). Going outside of the truth (Christ’s teaching vs. 9a) loses their relationship with God (vs. 9b). However, staying in the truth means having a relationship with the Father and the Son (vs. 9c) – which is precisely what the false teachers have lost (Barker 365). Ending the passage is the final warning on how to treat those who have gone into apostasy. Disassociation is the key to vss. 10b – 11. Hospitality must not be shown to these individuals as that would imply sharing in evil works (vs. 11b).
John’s ending is as sweet as his introduction. He longs to see his people face to face so he won’t belabor writing them a long letter. Indeed, this reunion will be marked with joy (vs. 12). Finally, the ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ is greeted through John by an unknown body of believers simply referred to as ἀδελφῆς σου τῆς ἐκλεκτῆς your elect sister (vs. 13).
Barker, G. (1981). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Logos ed., Vol. 12). (F. Gaebelein, Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Christian Standard Bible. (2020). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Jobes, K. (2011). Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Stott, J. (1988). The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 19, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Logos ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Wright, T. (2011). Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John, and Judah (Logos ed.). Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox Press.