Five Minute Devotions: 2 John 1
The apostle John follows up his first epistle with a later letter that narrows his audience and his message to one specific church. He is still concerned about the influence of false teachers within the church. He writes to “the lady chosen by God and to her children” (2 John 1:1) to warn them to watch out for false teachers (2 John 1:8) and resist their influence (2 John 1:10). This is a short letter, as John hopes to visit and discuss these matters face to face (2 John 1:12).
It is interesting to note that John’s first piece of advice in resisting false teachers and false teaching is not to throw out the false teachers. That advice comes second. Instead, John first focuses on building up the church from within. The church cannot attack false teaching if it is not already strong in its belief and in its community. John offers three ingredients for spiritual health: truth, love, and obedience.
John insists that the foundation of the church of God is the truth. He says in verse 2 that the truth “lives in us and will be with us forever.” Our faith is not some blind leap in the dark or a hope or a wish or a fantasy. It is based on actual, historical reality. In John’s specific circumstance, false teachers were denying that Jesus was God come in the flesh (2 John 1:7). John responds simply by saying that it isn’t true. John knows. He was there. John witnessed the humanity of Jesus in his life and death and witnessed his divinity in his miracles and in his resurrection.
The framework of the church of God is love. John says in verse 2 John 1:5: “I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.” The early church protected itself from negative influences and false teaching by engaging in true and genuine community. The early church was known for its community and its love. They were diverse in ethnicity, diverse in economy, diverse in society, diverse in culture, but their common bond was the love of God they had and shared.
The filling of the church of God is obedience. John defines the outworking of love in 2 John 1:6 when he says: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.” Truth and love mean nothing if not put into practice. John’s last admonition to the church is that it show its love for others within the community of believers in a practical and tangible way. How many of us only see our fellow church people for that one hour on Sundays? That’s not the kind of community that John envisioned. That’s not the kind of community that survives false teachers.
2 John is a short letter—second shortest of the NT—written to a specific people in a specific circumstance, but it still holds value for us today. It teaches us to build our communities of faith on truth, love, and obedience and to resist those who deny the essential teachings of the faith.
Father, we find comfort in knowing that the early church suffered through the same problems we face today. Not because of their suffering, but because of the realization that those committed to you will always face opposition. We find comfort in knowing that the answer to their (and our) problems has not changed since the beginning. Thank you for using this ancient letter to teach us modern truth.
What theological error was John combating? How does that error manifest itself today?
Where is the defining line between fellowship and love within the community and the rejection of false teachers? When is it most loving to break fellowship?
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