John wrote his Second Letter in relation to the same false teaching as he opposed in his First Letter (2 John 7). The teaching was a kind of Gnosticism, a heresy that distorted the truth of Christianity by
trying to harmonize it with current philosophies. (For details of the false teaching see background notes to 1 John.)
This false teaching was not confined to the church addressed in the earlier letter, but was being spread around the region by travelling preachers. The short letter of 2 John was sent to a particular group of Christians, either a church or a large family, partly to encourage the believers and partly to warn them not to allow the teachers of false doctrine into their gathering (2 John 10-11).
CONTENTS OF THE LETTER
The ‘elect lady’ whom John mentions in his opening greeting could have been an individual known to John, but the expression seems more likely to refer to a church. If this is so, ‘her children’ would be the church members. Whoever they were, John addresses them in a way that shows the respect and love he has for them. They are united with John and with Christians everywhere through the truth of Christ that they hold in common and the love of Christ in which they all share. Truth and love are inseparable from the gospel by which they have been saved, and do not change to suit current trends and popular philosophies (1-3).
John is thankful that his readers have maintained their loyalty to the gospel, but he wants them to remember that they must also maintain their Christian love. Those who claim to live according to God’s truth will show it in their love for one another and in their obedience to God’s commands (4-6). In this way they will strengthen themselves and so will not be easily deceived by those who give wrong teaching concerning Christ. One error that some of the travelling preachers were spreading around was that Jesus Christ did not have a truly human body. John warns that if they are allowed to preach such things in the church, their erroneous ideas will soon destroy all the good work that the church has done (7-8).
The false teachers think that their teaching about Jesus is advanced, but actually it destroys all hope of salvation. By refusing to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God who became a man, they are refusing God himself, for no one can have the Father without having the Son. Christians must not listen to such teaching nor give any encouragement or help to the teachers (9-11).
As John hopes to visit the believers soon, he will write no more at present. The group of Christians from which John writes (possibly the church in Ephesus) joins him in sending greetings (12-13).