Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: John's letters Studies|
2 & 3 John
INTRODUCTION TO JOHN 2 & 3
The Same Writer?
Why are these letters attributed to John the apostle? Well, as we have seen in 1 John, there are a number of very clear similarities between 1 John and John's Gospel . The subject matter and style could only have come from the same person.
When we compare 2 John with 1 John we find again, even in such a brief letter, many similarities, e.g. his frequent references to the truth (v.1x2, 2,3,4), “not writing a new command” (v.5), the command to love, reference to antichrist deceivers (v.7), etc. etc.
When we compare 3 John with 1 John we find the same thing, e.g. references to the truth (v.1,3x2,4,8,12) etc. They styles are so similar that they could only come from one person.
Differences and Purpose
The specific purpose of each letter is, however, different. The first letter is a general letter to the whole church, the second letter is to an unnamed lady, and the third letter is to a man named Gaius. The unnamed lady of the second letter may be a specific person or it may refer, as some have suggested, to a specific local church that John did not wish to name.
The overall objective of 2 John seems similar to that of 1 John, being to:
The overall objective of 3 John is:
Lessons for Us?
What is the point of such short letters? Can they help us in any way? Are they worth reading? Well the point of the letters is that they were historical communications between one of the Church's main leaders and his friends. As such they are important in that they show us the thinking of this pillar of the church. The show us the pastoral heart and they show us the problems that the early church had to deal with. In that they link us to the earliest church. Church life is just the same today, we still have the same problems, so let's learn from John.
Chapter: 2 John
Passage: 2 John 1-3
A. Find Out:
1. From whom does this come? v.1a,c
2. To whom is it sent? v.1b
3. How does John describe ‘the truth'? v.2
4. What does he want for them? v.3a
5. From whom does it come? v.3b
6. In what sort of ‘environment'? v.3c
This letter comes from “the elder” indicating John's role in the church at that time, a very senior figure. To the “chosen” lady and her children. As we said in the Introduction, possibly a lady and her family, possibly a local church and its planting out. “Whom I love in the truth”? Truth here probably meaning ‘in Jesus' or ‘in the faith'. But John also says he writes from “all who know the truth”, meaning he writes as from the whole church, i.e. he writes as a main leader speaking basic truths of the faith. He also says he writes “ because of the truth”, so he is saying the love he has for her is because of the One who lives in him, it is Jesus who inspires him to write.
Then he moves on to his blessing, but it isn't the same as Paul writes, it is not a desire but a statement of what is! This blessing “ will be with us”; this is not merely his desire for them but what God will give them. Note first that this blessing comes “ in truth and love”, they are the environment in which grace, mercy and peace come. It is because God IS truth and love that He conveys grace (His unmerited goodness), mercy (His unmerited compassionate judgement) and peace (His assurance and security) to us. How wonderful!
Chapter: 2 John
Passage: 2 John 4-6
A. Find Out:
1. Why has John had joy? v.4a
2. Why had they been doing that? v.4b
3. What was he now giving? v.5a,b
4. What was it? v.5c
5. How did he define it? v.6a
6. When had that command come? v.6b
We now find John moving into an area we found him writing about in his first letter. He first says he is blessed by seeing some of her children walking the Christian life or, as he describes it, walking in truth. That is because Christianity is all about truth, about what has really happened (not made up stories but historical incidents) and what really is (about the existence of God and about His relationship towards us). When we live lives that are directly relating to all of that in the way that God has said and in the way that He leads, we are walking in truth.
Then he reminds her of the command they had from Jesus in the beginning, before he died, to love one another (see Jn 15:12 ,17 again). Now we do this as direct obedience and when we do this we also show that we love Him. Love, as an expression from us to God, is real when we obey Him.
Do you see the links here. God has spoken and given us a means of salvation and a way of living and that is truth. Incorporated in that is His love for us expressed in the sending and death of Jesus for us. When we obey the truth we are expressing our love for Him. Also love for one another is the expression of our obedience to His commands, the truth. There is no separating these things.
Chapter: 2 John
Passage: 2 John 7-13
A. Find Out:
1. Who has come and how are they described? v.7
2. What are we to watch against and for? v.8
3. Who doesn't and who does have God? v.9
4. Who are you not to welcome? v.10
5. What do you do if you do welcome them? v.11
6. What did John hope to do? v.12
As with his first letter, John now moves into a warning phase. He warns about two sorts of people (who probably are one and the same) that we are to reject and not allow into our homes.
The first group of people are those who deny that Jesus has come in the flesh, or those who reject Jesus as the son of God who came and lived on earth in a human body. John is speaking against the Gnostics of his day (see earlier note) but for us it is any religion, cult or sect that denies that the person who came in the flesh two thousand years ago in a human body is the Son of God from heaven.
The second group of people are those who deny the teaching of Jesus Christ. This means the teaching about Christ (who he was and what he did and the teaching from Christ (what he said). “Anyone who runs ahead” can be taken to mean anyone who adds to the canon of Scripture with some additional teaching. The Book of Mormon would come into this category as a writing additional to Scripture that the adherents of that group consider essential. No, it is the bare Scriptures, the teachings of Jesus (about and from) that are to be on our hearts.
Such people are to be avoided for they can lead you astray so that you lose even the truths you first believed in.
Chapter: 3 John
Passage: 3 John 1-4
A. Find Out:
1. How does John describe Gaius? v.1
2. For what does he pray? v.2
3. It gave him great joy to hear what? v.3
4. What is John's greatest joy? v.4
As you've just seen, there are certain similarities with 2 John as we noted in the Introduction to these two letters. Again it comes from “The elder” and again there are references to the truth.
Gaius is clearly someone that John knows well, clearly a Christian and clearly someone who is going on in the faith. Note first of all, there is a very practical note: John prays for Gaius's health. Is that perhaps a clue that Gaius is elderly as well, in a time when his health might be declining. He obviously lives some distance away from John, as some other Christians have come and told John what was happening to Gaius. It would appear that John was instrumental in bringing Gaius to the Lord, or that at least he saw himself in a fatherly role in respect of him (v.4). It may even be that Gaius had not known the Lord long, as John refers to his soul “getting along well”.
Four times in these four verses John refers to “the truth” which must, in this context, refer to the whole Christian faith, the facts about Jesus and his calling on our lives. Again and again John shows us that the Christian life is not a nebulous wandering through life doing what we think might be good, but it is responding to a body of truth as revealed in the New Testament, about God, about Jesus, about ourselves. Faith is responding to declared truth. There is a certain amount of truth stated in the Bible for us to respond to. Do we?
Chapter: 3 John
Passage: 3 John 5-8
A. Find Out:
1. How did John describe Gaius's activity? v.5
2. What had he heard? v.6a
3. What did he advise? v.6b
4. Why had they gone out? v.7
5. What ought we to do? v.8a
6. Why? v.8b
From a general commendation for walking in the truth, John moves on to a specific commendation for the way that Gaius had been looking after some travelling ministries.
We see, first of all, a picture that we find in a number of other places in the New Testament, that of a travelling ministry team; note not just one itinerant minister but of a team travelling together. They have obviously come to the area where Gaius lived and he has put them up and looked after them.
Gaius's hospitality had obviously been commented upon in the church and this had somehow come back to John who was pleased. Gaius was expressing his (perhaps) new found Christianity in a very practical way. Have you ever opened your home to travelling ministries? Does it have to always be the leaders who look after such men or women? It does require a thoughtful caring and a sensitivity to the needs of those away from home. John encourages Gaius to finish the job off well and send them off well, presumably with provisions for the journey. A sense of being loved and cared for in the small things is invaluable when you are the travelling minister, to help overcome tiredness or loneliness or the strange surroundings.
Chapter: 3 John
Passage: 3 John 9-10
A. Find Out:
1. Who had John written to? v.9a
2. Yet who wouldn't have anything to do with him & why? v.9b
3. What had he been doing? v.10a
4. What also had he been doing? v.10b
5. What further had he been doing? v.10c
Our temptation, perhaps, would be to merely glance over these verses and if we did that we would miss some important lessons. First of all, note the way John describes Diotrephes: “he loves to be first”. He is obviously a leader and he revels in his leadership. Jesus had some words to say on this, see Mt 20:26-28. What happens when a leader holds onto their “position” in such a way, is that they then become very defensive of that position and feel threatened by anyone who might be seen to criticise what they are doing. Such, we suspect, was the position of this leader, Diotrephes who now acted defensively. How did he do it?
First he didn't want contact with any senior figures in the church who might speak into his life, so he ignored John's contact.
Second, because others had heard of it, he spoke negatively about that authority and tried to poison the minds of the church against John.
Then he refused contact with travelling ministries when they arrived in the area.
Finally he banned his own church members from that contact as well.
We might describe such behaviour as ISOLATIONISM and it always describes a defensive attitude coming from leaders. We need to work and pray against it when we see it.
Chapter: 3 John
Passage: 3 John 11-14
A. Find Out:
1. What does John say we are to imitate? v.11a
2. How does what a person does show who he has come from? v.11b
3. Who speaks well of Demetrius? v.12
4. What did John want to do? v.13
5. So how did he hope to do it? v.14a
6. What was his final blessing? v.14b
In verses 5-8 John commended Gaius for the way he had looked after travelling ministries and then, in verses 9 & 10 he had remarked about Diotrephes who had opposed those ministries. Now, by way of contrast, John says don't you be like that, but you imitate what is good. Verse 11 is similar to verses found in the previous two letters (see 1 Jn 2:29 , 3:6,10, 4:7,8,20, 5:12 , 2 Jn 9): if you know God it will influence how you live, it will determine how you behave. This is one of the central messages that keeps coming from John.
Then he gives an example of another man, obviously known to all because he doesn't describe him. He simply says that Demetrius is well thought of by everyone, including them, and the truth of the Christian message can be seen to be proved in him (“even the truth itself”) by the way he lives. What a testimony to have: everyone thinks well of him!
Finally, in the same way he ended the second letter, John says he has much more he wants to say but doesn't want to write it. The pastoral heart always wants to impart more and more blessing, and that through personal contact. Is that a mark of us?
RECAP: "Second & Third letters" - 2 & 3 John
In this final group of 7 studies we have seen :
It's fascinating reading other people's letters, it tells so much about them as well as about the people they write to. Do you ever receive those Christmas “news letters” which so often seem so self-centred. John's letters are the exact opposite. They are all concern for the person he writes to. These are pastoral letters par excellent.
Matters of concern for John? The same as before: to walk in the truth, not to be put off by false teachers, and to walk in love. These are the key issues for John, even to his friends.
1. For the Christian, truth is all important
2. Truth means we have a distinct set of beliefs from God to live by
3. At the heart of that truth is love, to love one another
4. Deceivers will try to turn us away from the truth
5. We are to avoid such people
6. We are to have concern for one another's well being
7. We are to care especially for those who travel in the Lord's service
Ask the Lord to help these lessons be established in you. Thank Him for His love for you.
The following may be a suggested breakdown of what we have read:
As we have gone through these letters of John, the following characteristics are perhaps some of the things we should note:
This is a concept that is important to John - 1:6,8, 2:4.8,20,21, 3:18 ,19, 4:6, 5:6. Near the end of his life, John is concerned that the church holds onto the truth and does not get led astray. The Christian faith is built upon historical facts, upon things that actually happened, upon revelation from God. In a world where “image” and media manipulation become ever more important, truth is a commodity to be held onto.
Because he is concerned about the truth, John also points out again and again that this truth is something that leads us to KNOW. Our religion is not based on blind faith. It is based on facts of history and revelation from God that is available to all Christians, not just special people - 1Jn 2:3,4,5,11,18,20,21,29, 3:1,2,5,10,14,15,16,19,24, 4:8,13, 16, 5:2,13,15,18,19,20 - over 26 times he says we can know things! This knowing is for all Christians, not just an educated elite. This “knowing” comes as we read the Bible and experience God daily.
John also speaks about light and darkness speaking of God as light, Jesus as light and us walking in the light - 1Jn 1: 5, 7, 2: 8, 9,10 He uses light to portray goodness and darkness is the opposite. We are to ensure that we live in goodness. Because there is truth that we can know, that is to have a profound effect upon our lives. They are to conform to the truth and they are to portray goodness. Goodness and righteousness are to be characteristics of our lives.
Again and again John says, “Love one another” and we do that because He first loved us. God is love and as He lives in us, so we will express love one to another. If love is not being shown, it perhaps indicates that He is not being allowed to live through us and be the genuine Lord of our lives. We are to be a community