THE SECOND EPISTLE OF JOHN.
WE know not who was the Lady to whom St. John addressed this Epistle, nor in what city she lived; she appears only, by its contents, to have been a woman of great distinction, by her rank and devotion, and by the services which she rendered the church. Some think that the Greek word 'Εκλεκτη, in English Elect, by which St. John address her, was her proper name, like that of Justus, and many others, which were names peculiar to certain persons; though of themselves, by their signification, they indicated qualities which might be common to many. But others, in conformity with our version, conclude the original word to be a title by which St. John thought proper to commend the piety of this woman; and, for the same reason, he has bestowed it upon her sister at the conclusion of the Epistle. He praises her on account of the piety which reigned in her family; and he expressly recommends to her to have no communication with certain heretics of that time, who, being unable to understand the great mystery of the Gospel, the incarnation of the eternal Word, and not choosing to believe any thing at all beyond the compass of their reason, (which is the general spirit and character of heresy,) denied that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, 1 John 5:7. These he calls deceivers and antichrists; and hence we may see how dangerous it is to trust too much to reason in matters of faith, and to determine upon believing nothing in religion but what we can perfectly comprehend.
He exhorteth a certain honourable matron, with her children, to persevere in Christian faith and love, lest they lose the reward of their former experience; and to have nothing to do with those seducers who bring not the true doctrine of Christ Jesus.
Anno Domini 90.
THE apostle, after addressing this letter to a woman of distinction, and her children, and expressing great affection to them on account of their adhering to the truth of the gospel, 1 John 5:1.—declared that he was moved, thus to love them, by the gospel itself, 1 John 5:2.—And as a testimony of his love, he gave them his apostolical benediction, 1 John 5:3.—then told this lady, that he felt the greatest joy when he found some of her children, with whom he had conversed, perhaps at Ephesus, walking in the truth; that is, holding the true doctrine of the gospel, experiencing its power, and behaving suitablyto that doctrine, 1 John 5:4.—From this he took occasion to exhort them, to love all the sincere disciples of Christ, and to do them good offices, according to the commandment which Christ gave to his apostles at the beginning, 1 John 5:5.—and to express their love to Christ by obeying all his commandments; particularly the commandment which they had heard from the beginning, that they should love one another sincerely with a pure spiritual love, 1 John 5:6.—Next, he told this excellent lady, that his joy, on account of her children's walking in the true doctrine of the gospel concerning the person of Christ, was the greater, because many false teachers were going about, who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. Each of these, he told her, was a deceiver and an antichrist foretold to come by our Lord. This account of the false teachers the apostle gave, lest the lady and her children, deceived by their plausible speeches, and their shew of extraordinarypiety, might have been disposed to shew them kindness, supposing them to be the servants of Christ, 1 John 5:7.—He therefore desired them to be on their guard against such teachers, for this, among other reasons, that, if they should be drawn away by them, he should lose the reward which he expected for his having, not only faithfully but successfully,taught them the true doctrine of the gospel: for he wished that his reward might be complete through their continuing in the belief and practice of the truth, 1 John 5:8.—Moreover, he told them, that the teacher who does not abide in the true doctrine concerning Christ, does notacknowledgethetruthof God's testimony concerning the incarnation of his eternal Son. But the teacher who continues to hold that doctrine, acknowledges the Son's testimony concerning himself, as well as the Father's, 1 John 5:9.—Wherefore, if any teacher came to them, and did not bring the true doctrine concerning Christ, he forbade them to receive him into their house, or so much as to give him the common salutation or wish of health, 1 John 5:10.—Because the person who gives any encouragement to false teachers, though it be done inconsiderately, is in some sort accessary to the mischiefs which their pernicious doctrine may occasion, 1 John 5:11.—He then told them, that he had many other things to say to them concerning these impostors, but he would not commit them to writing, because he hoped to come soon and converse with them personally, in a more free manner than he could do by letter, that their mutual joy might be complete, 1 John 5:12.—and so concluded, with giving this lady the salutation of the children of her sister, to whom likewise he gives the appellation of Elect, on account of the excellence of her character, 1 John 5:13.