Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Flyover Country: 2 John

What we think of Christ is the most important thing about us.

Our relationship with God depends on thinking rightly about his Son, who came into the world at the Father’s behest to save sinners. Heaven’s gate is forever closed to those who do not come to love the Lord Jesus. Moreover, true Christian fellowship is impossible for us to maintain with anyone who does not think accurate, biblical thoughts about the Savior of the world, just as the apostles and writers of the New Testament taught.

The apostle John wanted the Christians he knew and loved to hang onto the truth about their Lord with every fiber of their being. So he wrote them a letter about it.

One Sentence Summary: The vital importance of the Incarnation.

A brief letter, but a letter all the same.


In addition to being one of the two shortest books in the Bible, 2 John is also one of the very last written. The faith had been delivered to the saints, and the beloved apostle was not about to add any new wrinkles at this point.

The letter is addressed to “the elect lady and her children”. Whether this refers literally to a Christian household or figuratively to a local body of believers is uncertain, but the mention of an “elect sister” who also has children in the letter’s last verse seems to rule out the church universal.


John stresses the importance of holding onto the most fundamental apostolic doctrine: that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. The word “Jesus” reminds us he is a historical person. The word “Christ” reminds us he is God’s anointed. The phrase “coming ... in the flesh” tells us that he existed before his incarnation and was genuinely human. Packed into that single, pithy sentence is pretty much everything you need to know to be orthodox in your Christology.

John does not restate the claims made by the Lord in his gospel (“I am the way”; “No one comes to the Father except through me”), but the fact that Christ is the only way to God is implicit in subsequent statements that “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God” and that “Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”

There is no other way to a right relationship with God than through Jesus Christ. God cannot be known apart from him. As John puts it, those who teach otherwise are “the deceiver” and “the antichrist”. Not only are they not Christian, but they are absolutely opposed to the faith. John reminds the believers not to receive professing Christians into their fellowship if they deny this fundamental truth.

Organization and Content

The letter begins and ends with greetings, bracketing verses 4-11, which convey the importance of holding on to the truth of Christ, and warning against fellowship with deceivers.

Value to Modern Readers

Various heresies about the person of Christ have been propounded in the churches over the centuries since this letter was written: Adoptionism (belief that Jesus only became God’s Son by adoption after living a supremely virtuous life); Arianism (denial of his true divinity); Docetism (belief that the Lord’s physical body was an illusion); Monophysitism (belief that the Lord’s divinity overwhelmed his humanity); Psilanthropism (belief that Jesus was merely human); and numerous others. Many of these are still around in one form or another, particularly in the pseudo-Christian cults. Rightly understood, John’s reference to “the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh” is the antidote to each one, though naturally the implications of his statement may require some unpacking and reinforcement from the Gospels to be fully processed.

The warning not to receive a false teacher into your house or give him any greeting may be interpreted too broadly (or perhaps not broadly enough). You can read more about that here.

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