The second and third letter that bear John’s name are the shortest of the entire New Testament. They were written by “the elder”. Because of the writing style, the place in the canon, and the content, the apostle John is most likely the author of these letters. John calls himself an “elder”. In the young Christian congregations, these elders provided leadership. John probably wrote these letters at the end of his life, when he was working in Ephesus.
2 John is addressed to “the elect lady and her children”. With these words, John probably means a local congregation because in the letter he often uses the plural, as in 2 John 1:5 “let us love one another”. In addition, the metaphor of a woman as Christ’s congregation is common in the Bible. John wrote the letter from another congregation: “the children of your elect sister greet you” (2 John 1:13).
Truth and love are central in 2 John, as they are in John’s Gospel and John’s first letter. The “lady” is called to walk in truth and in love. She should be very careful not to be drawn away from the truth by deceivers who have gone out in the world. These deceivers do not share the teaching of Christ and do not have God with them. The lady must not welcome such deceivers, lest she runs the risk of being influenced negatively. John has much more to say, but he prefers to do so verbally rather than on paper. Therefore, he concludes the letter with the greeting that was already mentioned.
The third letter of John found in the Bible is addressed to Gaius. The second letter contained a general message, but this one is full of references to specific people and situations. Unfortunately, we do not know who Gaius was or the circumstances he lived in. Nevertheless, we can learn some important issues from this letter. John first praises Gaius for welcoming itinerant missionaries. In doing so, he is supporting the cause of the Gospel: “Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 1:8).
However, there are also people working against the truth, such as Diotrephes who slanders the sincere apostles with wicked nonsense. John warns against Diotrephes, but he commends Demetrius to Gaius. Finally, also in this letter John writes that he wants to come soon to see Gaius: “I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.” (3 John 1:13-15).
Lessons for us
- Hospitality is a Christian duty, but be careful not to bring deceivers into your home.
- Truth, obedience and love must always go together in a Christian life.