Words to the Chosen Lady

Study #1 (2 John 1-2)

Words to the Chosen Lady

The Apostle John appears to have been the author of five New Testament books: the Gospel that bears his name, the book of the Revelation, and three epistles. The second and third epistles of John are very brief letters which were not intended to present completely new teachings, but are very valuable demonstrations of loving pastoral guidance.

Since these letters are not long, and contain little new material, they are not quoted much by the early church writers, but they have always been accepted as inspired Scripture. Since not much information is given concerning the exact recipients of these letters we must presume that God considered them important for us down through the ages, and present important lessons for us as we strive to carry out our responsibilities to God and to the family of believers. This will be the focus of this series of studies.

The letter was written by “the Elder” to “the elect lady and her children.”

2 John 1-2
1. The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,
2. because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

The writer identifies himself as “the elder”. There is good reason to accept the common understanding that it was the Apostle John.

The term “elder” [“presbuteros” (πρεσβύτερος)] has two basic meanings. It primarily means a person who is old in age and respected for his wisdom, learning, and experience. It also means an ordained officer of the church. The Hebrew word for “elder” was used for the ordained officers of ancient Israel.

John was both. He had been a follower of Christ at least 30 years before likely putting him above 50 years old. He was also an Apostle. Jesus Christ had personally given him this special ecclesiastical authority. Some believe he was the only Apostle still alive the time of this writing.

Since he does not name himself he was well known to the recipients. His style, vocabulary, and topics are similar to John’s other letters, and the church from the earliest records understood them to be written by the Apostle John. There is no supported reason to doubt that conclusion.

This letter was written to a “lady” who was “elect” and to her “children”. There are three key words here that effect our understanding of who received the letter.

The word translated as “lady” is the Greek word “kuria” (κυρία) which is the feminine form of the word “kurios” (κύριος) which is usually translated as “lord” in the New Testament. This is a more respectful term than simply “woman”, which is usually a translation of “gunae” (γυνή) in the New Testament books. Often this more respectful term was used of widows in the culture at that time. At least it shows that John had high regard for her.

Some have suggested that “lady” is actually her name. “Kuria” was a name which was used at that time. However, if that was the case then her sister in verse 13 had the same first name, which is unlikely. The grammar would also have been a little different than it is in the Greek text. There is little support for this idea.

Some see “lady” as a figurative reference to a church John was addressing. It’s true that the church was often referred to as a “bride”, a “wife”, and the normal word for “church” in the Greek New Testament is a feminine noun. There is no clear support for this figurative interpretation.

John addresses her as the “elect” lady. This term is a translation of the Greek word “eklektos” (ἐκλεκτός) which means “chosen”. It’s the word used throughout the New Testament of those specially chosen by God to be redeemed by the Savior. Jesus, Paul, Peter and John regularly used this term in that way. This would be a very comforting reminder to begin this tender letter.

John shows the tender relationship he has with this recipient

1. … whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,

John expresses his love in truth for this lady and her children.
Love a rather empty word when it only means a passing emotion. What the world thinks of as love is something fallen into and out of. It might be here today and gone tomorrow. That kind of love gives and cares only as long as it gets what it wants from the other person. It might seem to be self-sacrificing, but it is motivated by the feeling of doing something good, or the satisfaction and security it produces by having someone return appreciation. Many failed marriages show that the love the couple felt melted away when the partner disappointed in some way.

The kind of love John has for this elect lady is defined by God’s truth. It’s this kind of love that impels him to write.

Since this love is founded upon truth as revealed by God it has real meaning attached to it. It’s a love defined with specific standards. It comes from an abiding truth inside a redeemed person, the implanted truth of God. It lasts as long as the truth of God lasts from which it flows.

The Bible tells us how to love, and how to recognize artificial substitutes. The word “love” is often connected with the commandments of God in the New Testament. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). 1 John 2:3-4 says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,”

The kind of love that’s based on revealed truth tells us how to treat those we truly care about. It’s motivated by our gratitude to God for his promises, redeeming grace, and great mercies. It’s something we do rather than just something we feel. When we truly care about someone we will want to treat them as God says we should. When the feeling disappears for a time, we can still do loving things until the blessing of the inner emotion returns by God’s outpouring of goodness to us.

The word “truth” occurs four times in these three opening verses. In John’s writings truth is put in direct contrast with falsehood. Falsehood is deception about reality as God created it. Falsehood persecutes where love endures, is patient, and forgives.

John includes all who “know the truth”

1. … whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,

These other believers share this genuine love John has for this Christian family. The whole church ought to be concerned about every legitimate member of it. This love is evidence of the truth of Christ in them. 1 John 2:5 tells us, “but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:”

This love is the true mark of the true Christian. John had reported what Jesus said in his Gospel in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It’s important for us to rejoice in the good evidences of God at work in others. It’s a sign of a regenerate heart. Those who love and treasure God’s truth in themselves, should also love the love they see in others.

John’s love and this letter which it produced are anchored in God’s truth.

2. because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Truth as God knows it and reveals it to us has been a target of evil ever since its confrontation with Eve in Eden. One of the main warnings in this letter is about how we should deal with deceivers. Those who hold to God’s truth and love it need to stand by it and promote it for the glory of God.

Some have debated which we should be more concerned about as individuals and as churches. Those who say that doctrine is just an unimportant intellectual distraction ignore what God has said. They say all we need to do is to love one another. But without knowing God’s revealed truth (doctrine) we can’t know what actions and attitudes are really what we should call “love”. But to go to the other extreme is also dangerous. If we just debate doctrine but show no sincere concern for others, we are missing one of the main teachings (main doctrines) of the Bible. This is a dangerous distinction that denies the true nature of both.

Christians and the church as a spiritual family ought to be concerned to love according to truth, and to hold the truth in love for God and for all who are in the family of Christ. Since truth and legitimate love are ours by God’s grace, we are assured that these amazing provisions together will be with us forever.

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Bob Burridge ©2017
Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted

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