How to live in the truth

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of 2 John

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Ian Mackervoy

This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

 

About this letter

1. Writer

At the start of the letter, the writer calls himself the ‘*elder’. There are three ways that we can use the word ‘*elder’. It could mean that the person was old. It could mean that the people respected him as a mature man. Here it means that the writer is a leader in the church. Each local church had its leaders who were the ‘elders’. But the writer was an *elder over all the churches in a large area.

Much of this letter is like John’s first letter. It seems that the same author wrote both letters. Most people believe that the *apostle John wrote all three of John’s letters. He lived, and was a leader in the church, in the city called Ephesus.

2. The lady whom God has chosen

John wrote to the lady whom God has chosen and to her children. There are two opinions as to who the ‘lady’ was.

Some people say that she was a real person. If so, maybe she was a widow. John does not refer to her husband. She had many children. Some of them lived as Christians (verse 4) and some did not. Perhaps John called her ‘lady’ because she was an important person in her town.

But most Bible teachers say that the ‘lady’ was in fact the local church. The style of John’s letter seems to show that he was writing to a church. It was normal to speak about cities or towns as if they were female. So, the lady whom God has chosen could mean the local church. Her children were the church members. John also writes about her sister whom God has chosen (verse 13). That would mean the church where John was. The house (verse 10) would be the place where the church met. This is because they did not have a separate church building.

We cannot be sure whether the ‘lady’ was a person or the church. But what the letter teaches is good for us all.

3. Background

In the early days of the church, there were teachers who travelled from place to place. As they went, they taught the people about Jesus. It was the duty of the church members to receive these teachers into their homes. The church members gave the teacher whatever he needed. They looked after the teacher until he went to the next place. When he went, they blessed him.

The problem was that some of the teachers taught false things. Many of them had wrong ideas about Jesus. They did not agree that Christ became a real man. They taught that the Christ did not really die for us. They said that Jesus died as a man and not as Christ. They denied the truth that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God.

John said that such teachers were not real Christians. He said that they were against Christ. What they taught about Jesus was not true. They tried to damage the church by what they taught.

4. Purpose

John warned the church about the false teachers. He told the church members not to accept these men into their homes. The church should not allow them to teach. If the church members greeted the false teachers, the church members were helping the false teachers. The church must be careful to obey the true message of Jesus. They must love each other and live in the truth. The word truth means the true message that they had received. They believed in Jesus and what he has done. They must separate themselves from everyone who denied the truth about Jesus.

Shape of the letter

1.

Truth and love

verses 1-3

2.

Truth and how to live

verses 4-6

3.

Truth and error

verses 7-11

4.

Final greeting

verses 12-13

1. Truth and love (2 John, verses 1-3)

v1 From the *elder to the lady whom God has chosen and to her children. I love you in the *truth. I am not the only one who loves you. All those who know the *truth love you. v2 We love because of the *truth, which lives in us. The *truth will be with us always. v3 God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ will be kind to us. And they will have pity on us. The Father and the Son will cause us to be calm. The Father and the Son bless us in *truth and love.

Verse 1 John wrote this letter from the city called Ephesus, where he lived. He was an *elder, that is a leader, in the church there. He was a leader of the churches in that region as well. He wrote to the lady whom God had chosen to belong to God. She and her children knew John well. We know this because John just called himself ‘the *elder’. They knew who was writing to them.

‘The lady whom God has chosen’ was probably a church. ‘Her children’ were the members of that church. John loved that church and its members. He told them that he loved them in the *truth. Jesus is the *truth. All who know Jesus are in the *truth. John loved them because they believed in Christ. They were to John as brothers and sisters. All who knew the *truth of the *gospel loved them as well. All the Christians loved them.

Verse 2 The reason for their love was that the *truth lived in them. The *truth gives people an inner desire to love. They loved each other because of the *truth that they shared.

*Truth is more than what we know. Truth lives in us and it changes us. Truth becomes part of us and it will be in us always.

The *truth is that they knew the *Lord Jesus Christ. They trusted in him. They shared the life that the *Lord gives. He gives it to those who believe the *gospel. This *truth becomes part of them and it lives in them. This is the *truth. Those who accept the *Lord Jesus have *eternal life.

Verse 3 We do not deserve anything from the *Lord. But God will do good things for us, his people. He will show how kind he is toward us. He loves us and he will help us in all our troubles. He is ready to forgive us for our *sins. God will make our hearts calm even when we have troubles. We will have a good relationship with God.

God the Father and his Son will bless us. There is only one God. The Father and the Son are equal persons with the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father. This shows the unity that there is between them. The Father and the Son are two persons in the one God. The false teachers taught that Jesus was less than God. But John shows that Jesus is the Christ. He is God the Son.

All God’s gifts are truthful. God gives his gifts to us because he loves us. To receive God’s gifts we must believe him. We know that he is true. And we must love him.

2. Truth and how to live (2 John, verses 4-6)

v4 I was so happy to find some of your children who are living in the *truth. The Father told us that we should live like this. v5 Now I ask you, dear lady, that we all love each other. I am not writing to you a new command but the one that we have had from the beginning. v6 In order to love, we must obey God. We do what he has told us to do. That is the command that you have heard from the beginning. You must obey that command.

Verse 4 John may have met some of her children. Or perhaps someone had brought news about them to him. (The ‘children’ probably means members of the church.) John was glad to find that some of them were living in the *truth. (That is, they were living their lives loyal to God’s *truth.) But it seems that some did not live in the *truth. Maybe there was trouble in the church and some members had left.

To live in the *truth we must first believe in the *truth. The truth is that Jesus Christ had come to earth as a man. He was God then, and he is always God. But he also became a man. He died for us so we could come to God through him. We must believe this and give our lives to him.

To live in the *truth we must live our lives loyal to God’s *truth. He shows us this *truth in Jesus. To live in the *truth is to obey God. We must do what he has shown to us. *Truth is like a path along which we walk. We would not wander from a good path, so we must not neglect God’s commands.

God the Father has told us to follow the *truth. We must obey the command that he has given to us. His command is that we must believe in Jesus as the Son of God. We must also love each other.

Verse 5 John now comes to the main subject of his letter. This is how they should live in the *truth. He asks them to love each other. But this is a polite command. He expects that they will obey him. He tells them that they must love each other. This rule is for all those who believe in Christ.

If we love God, we must love his people. If we do not love God’s people then we do not love God. Love is the test of the *truth. If we do not love, we are not living in the *truth.

John is not giving them a new command. The command to love was there when they first heard the *gospel. It was also the first command of the old law. A man asked Jesus to select the most important command. Jesus replied that you must love the *Lord your God. And you must love your neighbour as you love yourself (Mark 12:30-31). Jesus did give us as a new command that we should love each other. He told us how we should love. We should love as he loved us (John 13:34).

Verse 6 To love is to obey the command of God. We must express our love by obeying God. If we do not obey God, we do not have real *faith or true love. We should love him and love each other. If we love God, we will obey his commands. When we obey God, we show our love for him.

This is the command that these Christians had heard. They should love God and they should love each other.

3. Truth and error (2 John, verses 7-11)

v7 Many false teachers have gone into the world. They say that Jesus Christ did not come to this world as a man. Such persons do not tell the truth. They are false Christs. v8 Watch and be careful. Do not lose that for which you worked. Instead, make sure that you receive the whole reward. v9 Nobody who adds his own ideas to the message of Christ has God. Instead, continue to live as Christ taught. Then you will have both the Father and the Son. v10 Someone may come to you who teaches a different message. Do not invite that person into your house! Do not even greet him! v11 All who greet such persons share in their evil deeds.

Verse 7 You must love each other because many false teachers are in the world. In the days of John, men told people about Jesus as they went from one place to another. Among these, some were false teachers. They were once members of the church but they had left it. The false teachers acted as if they were true Christians. But they taught against the *truth.

When John wrote this letter, there were many false teachers. These men argued that Jesus was not always the Son of God. They did not think that Jesus was both God and man through his whole life. So they taught that Jesus was an ordinary man. And they taught that Jesus became the Christ only for a short time.

Since John’s letter, there have been many more false teachers in the churches. Some false teachers teach that Jesus was never a real man. They might teach that Jesus was an angel. (That is, a servant of God from heaven. See Hebrews 1.) Some other false teachers do not teach that Jesus died for us. And other false teachers say that Jesus was merely a man. They refuse to believe that Jesus is God.

These are terrible ideas, because they oppose the Bible’s message. If people believe such ideas, they cannot trust Jesus to save them from their *sins. Everyone needs to know the truth about Jesus.

Verse 7 contains a simple test for all teachers in churches. All teachers should teach that Jesus Christ came as a man. This means that:

·     Jesus was a man (Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 2:11). So the devil could test Jesus. But Jesus did not *sin. He always obeyed God (1 Peter 1:19). And Jesus is still a man, in heaven. So Jesus knows our problems and our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). And he cares for us.

·     Jesus is the Christ, whom God appointed to save us from our *sins. But a mere man could not be the Christ. A mere man could not save us from our *sins (Romans 3:10-12). So we know that Jesus is also God the Son (Hebrews 1:3). With God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus created the world (John 1:1). But there are not three Gods. There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). So Jesus is completely God (Colossians 2:9).

False teachers oppose Jesus Christ and speak lies about him. They have become the servants of the devil. They are enemies of Christ. John calls them false Christs.

When the Christians really love each other, they will see who the false ones are. So, their love is like a guard against false Christians.

Verse 8 John warns the Christians about the risks if they accept a false message. They must protect themselves from that danger. They need to test the source of what they hear.

What the false teachers say may sound good. They teach their message so well that it seems to be true. Unless we test it with care, we might believe it as the *truth. If we were to believe it, we would suffer loss. We would lose all that for which the *apostles and teachers had worked. We would not be able to grow in the *truth if we believed lies.

We must believe the *truth about the *Lord Jesus Christ and we must love each other. There are rewards for those who remain true to Christ. John is eager that we should not lose these rewards. He wants us to have *eternal life and all the promises of God. So, we must refuse all that is false. We must receive all that God has for us.

Verse 9 The false teachers thought that they had new knowledge. This replaced what the *apostles taught. The false teachers said that their message was new and different. And their message really was a new idea. But it was a wrong idea. They had added their own idea to the *truth. They had changed the *truth into what is false.

They did not continue to teach what Jesus Christ had taught. They did not believe the *truth about Jesus as the Christ. They denied that Jesus was always the Son of God. And they tried to lead other people away from the *truth by what they taught. They changed the *truth. And they did not do as Christ said. They did not live in *truth and love as he wanted.

Many people, like these false teachers, do not believe what Christ taught. They do not obey what Jesus said. So, they cannot know God. They do not have the life that Christ gives. They do not live with God.

We can come to God only through Jesus Christ. We must believe the truth about him and trust in him. This is how we know the *Lord Jesus. We cannot know the Father unless we know the Son. When we know the Son, then we know the Father as well. This is *eternal life. The *Lord gives *eternal life to those who trust in him.

Verses 10-11. We should give strangers a welcome to our churches and our homes. But we must be careful and not give a welcome to false teachers. The purpose of their visit is to teach errors. So, we should not give them a chance to teach. If false teachers come to the house (or the church), we should not let them in. We should not even greet them. If we greet them, we share in their evil task. If we help them, it is against our own church and against Christ. We should not greet them when they arrive. And we should not bless them when they go.

4. Final greeting (2 John, verses 12-13)

v12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. I am hoping to visit you and to talk with you in person. Then we shall spend time together and have much joy. v13 The children of your sister, whom God chose, greet you.

Verse 12 John had much more that he wanted to say to these Christians. He decided that he would not write these things to them in a letter. He would rather speak about these things when he came. He was hoping that he would be able to visit soon. It would be better to talk about these things when they were together.

There is joy when friends meet each other. John was eager to come to them and to enjoy their company.

Verse 13 ‘The lady whom God has chosen’ (verse 1) probably meant a church. Her ‘sister’ was probably also a church. The members of the church, where John was, sent their greetings. John called these members ‘children’. God chose these people because they believed in Jesus. And God has chosen everyone who believes in the *Lord Jesus. Every Christian is special to God.

Word List

apostle ~ someone whom God sends; especially one of the 12 men that Jesus chose to be his helpers.

baptism ~ a ceremony when a person washes with water as a sign that he wants to obey God.

elder ~ a leader of the church.

eternal ~ without end.

faith ~ when we believe what God teaches.

gospel ~ the good news about Jesus.

Lord ~ name for God in the Bible; name that we use for Jesus when we obey him; a title for Jesus, to show that he is over all.

sin ~ to sin is to do wrong, bad or evil things; not to obey God. Sins are the wrong things that we do or think.

‘truth’ ~ the truth that God has shown to Christians.

Book List

Glen W Barker ~ The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

Stephen S Smalley ~ World Biblical Commentary

J R W Stott ~ The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries

R J Drummond and Leon Morris ~ The New Bible Commentary (IVF)

Exegetical Summaries ~ SIL

W E Vine ~ Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

Bibles:

NIV, RSV, NRSV, KJV, MKJV, ASV, TEV, CEV

A Marshall ~ The Interlinear Greek New Testament

 

© 1997-2005, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

April 2005

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