Saints and Scoundrels in the Church (2 John; 3 John)

Scripture reading – 2 John; 3 John

As noted in my observation regarding the authorship of The First Epistle of John, the brief letters in today’s Scripture reading are believed to have been authored by the same disciple who penned The Gospel of John. The Second Epistle of John and The Third Epistle of John were most likely written prior to the book known as “The Revelation,” and near the end of John’s life. This devotional will offer a brief introduction to 2 John and 3 John.

The Second Epistle of John

Though not by name, the introductory verse of 2 John identifies the letter’s recipient: “The elder [John identifying himself as a pastor\elder of the church] unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth” (1:1).

The identity of the “elect lady and her children” has been cause for debate. Many suppose the phrase, “the elect lady,” is a reference to the Church in general. Others believe John was writing to an individual believer (“elect”), one who was beloved by all believers, and respected for her testimony among them (1:1b).

Another strong reason to suppose 2 John was written to a specific “elect lady and her children,” are the closing verses of 2 John where the apostle greets her sister’s children:

2 John 12–1312 Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.

The Third Epistle of John

In his third letter, John introduces himself as “The Elder” (1:1), and the word could have served as a description of not only his office as an “elder\pastor” (John served as the elder\pastor of the church in Ephesus), or an older pastor. The epistle is addressed to a believer named Gaius, whom John speaks of as “the well-beloved,” and writes of him, “I love in the truth” (3 John 1:1)

John’s affection and admiration of Gaius as both his friend and brother in Christ is undeniable. Remembering the apostle’s challenge to love the brethren “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18), and “love one another” (1 John 3:7, 11), John’s third letter effuses sincere agape’ love (3 John 1:1-8).

Of course, not all in the church are loving, and John identified one named Diotrephes who was anything but loving (3 John 1:9-11). The apostle spared no words identifying Diotrephes’ hypocrisy, exposing the man for self-promotion (1:9), spiritual insubordination (1:10a), and for criticizing, accusing, and opposing John’s leadership as an apostle and elder (1:10). John leaves no doubt regarding the fate of Diotrephes, and identifies him as one who “doeth evil [and] hath not seen God” (1:11).

The third epistle closes with a note of affirmation for a believer named Demetrius, of whom John writes, “Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true” (1:12).

I close noting that, though times have changed, people have not!

There are the loving “elect ladies” (2 John 2:1), Gaius’ who encourage the hearts of pastors and believers (3 John 1:1), and the Demetrius’ who have testimonies of being faithful and true (3 John 1:12). Nevertheless, there are always some of Diotrephes’ stripe who in words and examples desire the preeminence, even to the destroying of faithful pastors with “malicious words” (3 John 1:9-10). Of such a one, the church must recognize them by their works and words, and cast them out (3 John 1:10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith