In 1 John truth and love have been most prominent subjects: and the second and third epistles Illustrate how essential is the proper balance of these two blessed principles. The third epistle shows that the truth must be maintained in love, or cold legality will destroy it. This second epistle, conversely, insists that love must be maintained in truth, or it will degenerate into an insipid toleration of evil.
This is the only book of Scripture addressed to a lady, of course her children also included. It is a letter of such vital importance that it was required by the Spirit of God to be written, even though John was expecting soon to come to speak face to face with them.
The moral suitability of the words chosen here is to be not-iced. In writing to a lady, John does not use the words, "well beloved" and "beloved" as he does to Gaius (3 John 1:1-2; 3 John 1:5; 3 John 1:11). It is certainly not that she was less loved, but John is careful to give no one any occasion for wrong impressions. Yet she is "the elect lady" whom he says he loves "in the truth." her being chosen of God is the reason for his love toward her, a love that is shared by all those who have known the truth. It is a love properly characteristic of every child of God.
But John writes "for the truth's sake," truth being most strongly emphasized, for it is normal that a women should be characterized by warmth of affection, and the kindness of her Christian nature might be such that she would be unsuspecting of people who came to her home professing to be Christians, so that it was imperative that such a profession should be-tested by the truth. Precious it is here to see that the truth dwells or abides in believers: it is not merely an occasional visitor. And it abides with us forever: it is vital and permanent: there is no possibility of a child of God losing it.
In regard to John's message to her, she needed special grace, mercy, and peace: grace to lift her above the level of deceivers, mercy to sustain her in the circumstances that are trying, peace the quiet tranquillity of soul in which to face the trial. The source of all this is the eternal God, manifested to us as Father, in the blessed Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose glory is carefully guarded in the following words, "the Son of the Father in truth and love." In person, in essence, and in nature He Is one with the Father.
Now John records his great joy in finding that there were those of this sister's children who were walking in truth. He does not say "walking in love," for it was the truth that at this time he must emphasize. If this could not be said of all her children, yet of some it was true. and for each one we may well rejoice. This was according to the Father's commandment, not the legal commandments of the law of God, but those applicable in reference to a Father's vital relationship with His children.
And in language, not of law, but of grace, he entreat her to be consistent with the commandment known from the beginning of Christianity in the world, that is the commandment of the Lord Jesus Himself, not therefore new when John wrote. It Is simply that "we love one another." This is true consistency with the divine life implanted in every believing heart.
But with God love and truth are inseparable. Love is not merely an emotional thing, but its character guarded closely in verse 6, as that which involves honest obedience to God, in which in fact the new nature finds true delight.
The lady and her children are in need of the solemn warning that many deceivers had entered into the world, not confessing Jesus Christ as come in flesh. It was 'little children' warned of anti-Christ in1 John 2:18; and here again it is those who would likely be the least suspecting who require the warning. The deceivers of course were those who claimed to be on Christian ground, but did not confess what is vital to all Christianity. "Come in flesh" certainly indicates the reality of the true Man-hood of the Lord. But just as positively it indicates His deity. For who is it who has "come"? Man as such is flesh, not "come in flesh." And Christ is not an angel. The only right interpretation of this is indicated in1 Timothy 3:16: "God was manifest in flesh." one who denies either this, or the true, pure manhood of the Lord, is a deceiver and an anti-Christ. This is what the anti-Christ will do (1 John 2:22), and even now there are, many of the same evil character.
"Look to yourselves," they are told. God wants not one of His own to be contaminated by the slightest association with that which degrades His blessed Son. His would tend to destroy the precious work of God, work wrought among Christians by the diligent devotion of the apostles to the person of Christ. And in the steadfastness of believers, those who labored on their be-half would receive a full reward. In such a matter a, full measure is the only acceptable one, for it involves the fulness of the glory of Christ.
Verse 9 is rightly translated, "Whosoever goes forward, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." Deceivers invariably profess to have advanced farther than others in spiritual knowledge. But only what is "from the beginning" it true: advance on this is impossible. In Christ is the perfect revelation of God; so that a professed advance is regression into false-hood. Such a person has not God. He who abides in God's perfect revelation concerning Christ has both the Father and the Son. Precious, holy abiding place!
If one were to come to the lady's house, bringing a doctrine that was not this doctrine, she was not to receive him into her house, nor even to give him a common greeting (as is the correct translation). Therefore, anyone who comes to the door must be tested as to whether it is truly the doctrine of Christ he brings. If not, he is an enemy of Christ, though he himself may not realize it. Even greeting him is partaking of his evil deeds. It is not that we are to show animosity, but with firm decision in the fear of God to allow no slightest indication that might be taken as countenancing his evil. This certainly would mean taking no literature from him. There is to be no contention, but refusal. The holy word of God requires it.
John had much more that he desired to write, but other things could wait until he came to speak face to face. The matter of which he wrote however could not wait: It was of vital consequence. Certainly today we must have no less watchful refusal of the many deceivers who go from door to door. But fulness of joy in true fellowship remains the blessed property of the children of God, as the end of verse 12 indicates.
The greeting of true fellowship is seen in v.s.13 also. "Thy elect sister" was not evidently present with her children, or she would have been no doubt included in the greeting that John sends on behalf of the children. It seems likely that these children were the actual nephews or nieces of "the elect lady."