The second epistle of John is a brief note of warning on the dangers of entertaining false teachers and those promoting Docetism, a heresy which disputed the physical existence of Jesus. After writing elaborately to caution believers about the heresies that had crept into the Church in his first letter, John continues his second Epistle in the same tempo. Only, this is a much shorter letter and John, now an old man well advanced in age, chooses the title ‘Elder’ and addresses ‘the elect lady’ and her children. This letter of John has been dated between 80 and 100 AD and is supposed to have been penned by the Apostle while at Ephesus.
Whether 2 John was a personal note written to a certain lady of position in the Church or to an entire congregation of believers is an unsettled issue. There is no clue as to the identity of ‘the elect lady’ and it has been speculated that this is a term John used, not to address an individual but a particular Church congregation. It is not uncommon to attribute the female gender to Churches and so this proposition cannot be ruled out. Further, John’s final words in this epistle, conveying greetings from the children of the ‘elect sister’ could again refer to the Church where John now ministered in.
Though the identity of the recipient(s) of this letter is uncertain, it is impossible to miss out John’s eagerness to oust false doctrines and the influences of those propounding such teachings from the Church. John begins the letter by alluding to the ‘truth’ (Vs 2), which alone could help believers win the war against false theology. He reminds ‘the elect lady’ to abide by God’s word and proceeds to undo the work of impostors who refute the ‘truth’ about Jesus Christ.
The early Church was accustomed to host and provide for the needs of the Apostles and Church leaders. False teachers who often pretended to preach Christ had begun to enjoy this privilege as well. In this letter, John specifically addresses the issue of being hospitable to those propagating heresies. He sternly warns of the condemnation of anyone entertaining such persons and cautions ‘the elect lady’ and her children not to lose out on God’s reward for the faithful by engaging in such hospitality.
2 John assumes the role of a preparatory note for John’s intervention against perpetrators of false doctrines. Instead of going into further details in his letter, John chooses to keep his writing short but deliver further instructions in person.
John’s warning in this letter rings out alarm bells for believers today much as it did for ‘the elect lady’ and her children. The Church today is continuously attacked with false teachings and 2 John reminds us that “Because of the Truth which lives and stays in our hearts and will be with us forever”(vs 2) alone can we prevail against corrupt doctrines.