Introduction to the Epistle of 2 John

The book of 2 John Teaches Us Not to Encourage False Teachers

2 John
Mary Fairchild

Introduction to the Book of 2 John

The book of 2 John, the second shortest book in the New Testament (after 3 John) continues John's warnings from the book of 1 John about false teachers. It urges believers to love one another, while instructing them on how to show wise Christian hospitality.

Only one chapter long, this epistle is divided into 13 verses. Eight of these verses are almost identical to verses in 1 John.

Some scholars argue that John was addressing the letter to a specific person: "the lady" (NIV) or "the elect lady" (ESV).  However, the use of pronouns makes it likely John was using a symbolic metaphor instead and speaking to a specific church and its individual members.

In the first century, John, Peter, and Paul taught missionaries the authentic gospel, then sent them out to teach others and plant churches. Common practice was for believers to take these teachers into their homes, providing them with food, lodging, and supplies for their next trip. In 2 John, the apostle cautions Christians to be discerning about whom they take in.

Gnostic teachers, spreading a false gospel, were a serious threat to the early church. They denied the concept that Jesus was Christ, the Son of God. John warns believers against helping them, which would have led to confusion over Jesus Christ's true message of salvation.

The lesson for believers today is that only by knowing true Christian doctrine are we able to recognize false doctrine and those who teach it.

John closes the letter expressing his longing and hope to see them soon face to face and a greeting from his own congregation.

Author of 2 John

The Apostle John is the author of this epistle.

Date Written

Written about 85-95 A.D.

Written To

John wrote to an unnamed church and its members, along with all future Bible readers.

Landscape of 2 John

John was a pastor to the church at Ephesus and probably traveled to some of the other churches in western  Asia Minor. This letter was likely written after John wrote his Gospel and before he wrote the book of Revelation.

A specific concern of John's was that all believers stay rooted in sound doctrine by not showing hospitality to false teachers and not allowing these men to stay in their homes.

Themes in 2 John

The apostle of love, John repeats his theme that Christians should love one another. Christians should support genuine evangelists, thus helping them spread the gospel, but believers should shun "deceivers," who were teaching heresy.

Thus, showing love has its limits when it comes to housing those who refuse to acknowledge Christ and who spread a false gospel.

Key Characters in the Book of 2 John

The "elder," John's title for himself; Jesus Christ; and "antichrists," or false teachers.

Key Verses

2 John 5-6:
And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.  And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

(NIV)

2 John 7:
Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. (NIV)

2 John 9:
Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (NIV)

Outline of the Book of 2 John:

  • Greetings and a commendation to recipients - 2 John 1-4.
  • Instructions on love and warnings against heretics - 2 John 5-11.
  • Promise of a visit and a closing greeting - 2 John 12-13.