Summary: 2 John seems to have been written hurriedly to warn a woman of the danger of walking in love without also walking in truth and thus aiding and abetting those who taught error. This study looks at this little "postcard."
A Panic Postcard
Series: New Testament Postcards
January 20, 2013
TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to 2 John.
In one of his sermons titled What About the Foundation?, Ravi Zacharias tells this story:
A few weeks ago, I did a lectureship at Ohio State University. As I was being driven to the lecture, we passed the new Wexner Art Center. The driver said, “This is a new art building for the university. It is a fascinating building designed in the post-modernist view of reality.”
The building has no pattern. Staircases go nowhere. Pillars support nothing. The architect designed the building to reflect life. It went nowhere and was mindless and senseless.
I turned to the man describing it and asked, “Did they do the same thing with the foundation?” He laughed.
You can’t do that with a foundation. You can get away with the infrastructure. You can get away with random thoughts that sound good in defense of a world view that ultimately doesn’t make sense. Once you start tampering with the foundations, you begin to see the serious effects. Yet the foundations are in jeopardy; the foundations of our culture do not provide coherent sets of answers any more. (Source: Ravi Zacharias, “If the Foundations Be Destroyed,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 142.)
I think something like this was on John’s mind when he wrote a letter to a lady in a book we know as 2 John.
John says in verse 12 he had more to discuss with her, but was saving that for another time. So why does he write this and not just save it until then? You get a little bit of a feeling that John has some urgency here. Apparently he had received a report that some false teachers had crept in and John felt . the work this woman was associated with was threatened.
I have the feeling that he felt there was no time for a long, detailed, thought-out letter. Something valuable might be lost and John did not want his efforts in her life and the life of her family or her house church to go down the drain.
Illus. – When in seminary, I’d been working on an extensive project for one of my classes. It’s fair to say I’d spent hundreds of hours in research and now was almost done, putting the finishing touches on it when…[PAUSE]…my hard disk crashed! Suddenly I was frantic, thinking all the hard work I’d put in on this project was lost forever.
I rushed my computer to a technician, praying as I had never done before that somehow, someway everything could be recovered from my hard disk because not only was my paper on it, but EVERYTHING. The bad news the technician had to give me was that the disk was dead in the water. He could recover NOTHING; it was TOTALLY destroyed. The good news is that in my frantic panic about the hard disk crash, I had forgotten that a week before then, I had created a full backup! Yes, I had lost the last week’s work, but most of the work on the project had been done before that, and most everything else on my HD was pretty much up-to-date.
That fear that everything I’d worked for might be lost must have been what John was talking about in verse 8 where he says, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”
I think this is the purpose of John’s letter: He feared that the foundations of this woman’s ministry were in danger and he needed to tell her—QUICK.
The structure of this little “postcard” is very simple.
• Introductory Greetings in verses 1-3
• Walk the Three Walks in verses 4-6
• Don’t Aid and Abet False Teachers in verses 7-11
• Parting Words in verses 12-13
Let’s use that as our guide through this little book:
I. IN VERSES 1-3 JOHN ARE JOHN’S INTRODUCTORY GREETINGS.
• Verse 1a – “The elder unto the elect lady and her children,…”
The writer simply calls himself “the elder”. Since the earliest circulation of this book, “the elder” has been identified as John the Apostle, who also wrote the Gospel of John, two other letters that bear his name, 1 and 3 John and the Revelation. 2 John certainly bears all the marks of John’s writing style, so there’s no reason to doubt his authorship.
John calls himself “the elder” probably to emphasize his advanced age as the last remaining apostle and thus establish his spiritual authority.
The recipient of the letter is an unnamed lady whom he refers to at “the elect lady.” This doesn’t mean that God chose her for salvation while choosing others to perdition or to be passed over without hope, a doctrine known as Calvinism. Jesus Christ is “the Elect One of God,” and humans become one of the elect only by virtue of being united with the Elect One upon salvation.