1 John

Jerome (On Galatians VI.10) tells us that in his later years, when the Apostle John was too frail to preach, he used to exhort the congregation at Ephesus by addressing them thus: 'Little children, love one another.' When asked why he always gave them the same message, he would reply, 'Because it is the Lord's command, and if this is all you do, it is enough.' 1 John is a circular letter, though unaddressed, unsigned and without any of a letter's usual characteristics of style. It was probably sent from Ephesus to the congregations of Asia Minor which were under John's special care, towards the end of the first century. John remained in Jerusalem as one of the pillars of the early church (Gal 2:9). We may surmise that he remained in the city until the conflict of the years immediately preceding the destruction of the temple, the city and the Jewish nation, by Titus in AD70. The destruction of Jerusalem follows quickly on the heels of the first fierce blasts of persecution under the Roman emperor Nero in the mid 60s, when Peter and perhaps Paul were martyred. As Christians fled from Jerusalem and Rome, Ephesus - the greatest of all the Asian trade cities - became the natural centre for the growing churches. The church had been founded by Paul in about AD 55, and had probably been pastured by Timothy (1 Tim 1:3). Its location and importance made this church a natural focus for the churches of Asia Minor but it was a church in a pagan city and one given over to idolatry and superstition. The huge religious industry, centred on the vast temple of Artemis (Diana), was a source of enormous material wealth characterized by gross immorality and bizarre rites of eastern pantheism (see Eph 5:1-21). Clearly connected to this was the city's addiction to magic and sorcery, on which many of the founder members of the church had turned their backs (Ac 19:19). Unsurprisingly, John emphasizes right moral behaviour as the touchstone of a true Christian faith. Christians cannot continue to live in darkness (1:6), to love the world (2:15), to believe every spirit (4:1) or to have anything to do with idols (2:15).

As with many of the NT letters John's were written primarily to correct false teaching and its resulting distorted behaviour, to combat heresy and immorality. But the opponents John is dealing with were sophisticated and subtle in their presentation of error. Their heresy was evolving with time and needed strong counteraction. 1 John is directed to a specific situation in the churches, where false prophets have separated themselves and their followers from the main body of believers (2:19) and so divided the church. They appear to claim to have a special 'anointing' [chrisma] of the Holy Spirit, by which they had been given true knowledge of God (2:20,27). This knowledge [gnōsis] became the centre of the distinctive beliefs and lifestyle which was to become known as 'gnosticism'. John's concern is to emphasize and define what is a true knowledge of God. 'We know' is one of his favourite, recurring assertions. One of the Gnostic teachers active in Ephesus at this time was a man called Cerinthus. A Jew, from Egypt, he sought to combine OT ideas with Gnostic philosophy, rejecting all of Paul's letters and accepting only parts of Matthew and Mark from the NT writings. Two major strands of Gnostic belief are relevant here. One is the exaltation of the mind and of speculative knowledge over faith and behaviour. The second is the conviction that matter is essentially evil because the physical world is the product of an evil power. Those infected by such Gnostic teachings first denied the incarnation of Christ (2:22; 4:2-3). They reasoned that matter was evil so God could not be united with an impure physical body as a man and must have only appeared to have a human form (a theory known as docetism, from dokein, to seem). Others accepted the reality of Jesus' body but believed that Christ withdrew at the passion and therefore undermined the efficacy of Christ's suffering and the resurrection of the body. John describes such teachers as 'liars' (2:4,22; 4:20). To the Gnostics to describe the eternal Son as having flesh and blood was unthinkable; to John is was the heart of our salvation (5:5-6; 1:7; 2:2; 3:16; 4:10). False teaching always leads to false living and here the claim of the false teachers was to have attained moral perfection through their superior enlightenment. They were above sinning and despised ordinary Christians who remained ignorant, in the darkness. John responds by examining the nature of true light and darkness, and links real spirituality with love for all Christians in an unbreakable chain (4:20-21). His own affection for his readers is obvious in his choice of the terms 'little children' [teknia] and 'beloved' [agapētoi]. Gnostic teaching struck at the root of OT and NT. It denied that God was the creator of the material universe, denying that it was 'very good' (Ge 1:31) and claiming that it was evil and inferior. This led them to deny the reality of Christ's incarnation, atoning death and bodily resurrection, and with that to redefine sin and redirect Christian behaviour. This frontal attack is seen by John as no less than the spirit of the antichrist (4:3).

In his later life as the only remaining apostolic link with the earthly ministry of Jesus, John would have experienced exceptional authority.



1 1That which was from the beginning [archēs], that which we have heard, that which we have seen [oraō] with our eyes, that which we saw [theaomai]

'Expresses the calm, intent, continuous contemplation of an object which remains before the spectator'.

, and our hands touched, concerning the Word [logou]

Can refer to the Christian message (2 Tim 4:2; Ac 15:7). But the verbs heard, seen, looked at and touched in verse 1 suggest more than this.

of life [zoēs] 2(and the life [zōē] was revealed [phaneroō], and we have seen, and testify [martyreō], and declare to you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father [pros ton patera], and was revealed [phaneroō] to us); 3that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship [koinōnian]

Used in classical Greek as a favourite expression for the marriage relationship. Also meant participating or sharing in a more general sense, for instance a business partnership or a joint tenancy.

with us. Yes, and our fellowship [koinōnia] is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4And we write these things to you, that our joy [chara] may be fulfilled [plēroō]. 5This is the message [angelia] which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship [koinōnian] with him and walk [peripateō] in the darkness [skotei]

The huge religious industry, centred on the vast, magnificent temple of Artemis (Diana), was a source of enormous material wealth - and of spiritual bankruptcy, characterized as it was by immorality and the bizarre rites of eastern pantheism (cf. Eph 5:1-21).

, we lie, and don't tell the truth. 7But if we walk [peripateō] in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship [koinōnian] with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses [katharizō] us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive [planaō] ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess [omologeō] our sins, he is faithful [pistos] and righteous [dikaios] to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse [katharizō] us from all unrighteousness [adikias]. 10If we say that we haven't sinned, we make him a liar, and his word [logos] is not in us.

2 1My little children [teknia], I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor [paraklēton] with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous [dikaion]. 2And he is the atoning sacrifice [hilasmos]

Found only here and in 4:10 in the NT and in Eze 44:27 in the LXX where it is used to translate the Hebrew word for 'sin offering'.

for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world [kosmou]

Used to indicate those presently outside of Christ. At other times John uses the word to mean the earth, or human race, but most frequently it carries the connotation of the world in rebellion against Christ.

. 3This is how we know that we know him: if we keep [tēreō] his commandments [entolas]. 4One who says, "I know him," and doesn't keep [tēreō] his commandments [entolas], is a liar [pseustēs], and the truth isn't in him. 5But whoever keeps [tēreō] his word [logon], God's love [agapē] has most certainly been perfected [teleioō] in him. This is how we know that we are in him: 6he who says he remains [menō] in him ought himself also to walk [peripateō] just like he walked [peripateō]. 7Brothers [agapētoi], I write no new commandment [entolēn] to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment [entolē] is the word [logos] which you heard from the beginning. 8Again, I write a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you; because the darkness [skotia] is passing away, and the true light already shines [phainō]. 9He who says he is in the light and hates his brother [adelphon], is in the darkness [skotia] even until now. 10He who loves [agapaō] his brother [adelphon] remains [menō] in the light, and there is no occasion for stumbling [skandalon] in him. 11But he who hates his brother [adelphon] is in the darkness [skotia], and walks [peripateō] in the darkness [skotia], and doesn't know [oida] where he is going, because the darkness [skotia] has blinded his eyes. 12I write to you, little children [teknia], because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. 13I write to you, fathers, because you know [ginōskō] him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, little children [paidia], because you know the Father. 14I have written to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word [logos] of God remains [menō] in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 15Don't love [agapaō] the world [kosmon], neither the things that are in the world [kosmō]. If anyone loves [agapaō] the world [kosmon], the Father's love [agapē] isn't in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust [epithymia] of the flesh [sarkos], the lust [epithymia] of the eyes, and the pride [alazoneia] of life, isn't the Father's, but is the world's [kosmou]. 17The world [kosmos] is passing away [paragō] with its lusts, but he who does God's will remains [menō] forever. 18Little children [paidia], these are the end times, and as you heard that the Antichrist [antichristos]

John is the only biblical author to use this expression though cf. Mt 24:24 and 2 Thes 2:3-4. Two ideas are predominant in the use of the term. The first is of a rival to Christ, who claims to possess all the power and ability of Christ. The second is of opposition to Christ, deliberately standing over against Jesus.

is coming, even now many antichrists [antichristoi] have arisen. By this we know [ginōskō] that it is the final hour. 19They went out from us, but they didn't belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us. But they left, that they might be revealed that none of them belong to us. 20You have an anointing [chrisma] from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge [eidō]. 21I have not written to you because you don't know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22Who is the liar but he who denies [arneomai]

An indicator of Gnostic teaching was the denial of the incarnation of Christ (cf. also 4:2-3). John describes the false teachers as 'liars' (2:4, 22; 4:20). John's Jesus is a flesh-and-blood Jesus (5:5-6; 1:7; 2:2; 3:16; 4:10). One of the Gnostic teachers active in Ephesus at this time was an Egyptian Jew named Cerinthus.

that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist [antichristos], he who denies [arneomai] the Father and the Son. 23Whoever denies [arneomai] the Son, the same doesn't have the Father. He who confesses [homologeō] the Son has the Father also. 24Therefore, as for you [hymeis]

'You' is at the beginning of v24 to contrast emphatically with the liars of vv22-3.

, let that remain [menō] in you which you heard from the beginning. If that which you heard from the beginning remains [menō] in you, you also will remain in the Son, and in the Father. 25This is the promise which he promised us, the eternal life [zōēn]. 26These things I have written to you concerning those who would lead you astray [planaō]

The Greeks contrasted the planets, which they observed to 'wander', with the stars which remained fixed.

. 27As for you, the anointing [chrisma] which you received from him remains [menō] in you, and you don't need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing [chrisma] teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie [pseudos], and even as it taught you, you will remain [menō] in him. 28Now, little children [teknia], remain [menō] in him, that when he appears [phaneroō], we may have boldness [parrēsian], and not be ashamed [mē aischynomai] before him at his coming [parousia]

Play on words with parrēsian, 'boldness', earlier.

. 29If you know that he is righteous [dikaios], you know that everyone who practices righteousness [dikaiosynēn] is born of him.

3 1See [idete], how great [horaō potapēn]

Potapos originally means 'of what country?' It is a word that expresses surprise in encountering something foreign (cf. Mt 8:27).

a love [agapēn] the Father has bestowed [dimōmi] on us, that we should be called [kaleō] children [tekna]

In Roman law, as in ours, an adopted child was entitled to all the rights and privileges of a naturally born child.

of God! For this cause the world [kosmos] doesn't know [ginōskō] us, because it didn't know him. 2Beloved [agapētoi], now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know [oida] that, when he is revealed [phaneroō], we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies [agnizō] himself, even as he is pure [agnos]. 4Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness [anomian; Heb. Torah]. Sin is lawlessness [anomia]. 5You know [oida] that he was revealed [phaneroō] to take away our sins, and in him is no sin. 6Whoever remains [menō] in him doesn't sin. Whoever sins hasn't seen him, neither knows [ginōskō] him. 7Little children [teknia], let no one lead you astray [planaō]. He who does righteousness [dikaiosynēn] is righteous [dikaios], even as he is righteous [dikaios]. 8He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed [phaneroō], that he might destroy [luō]

Means, at root, to untie and so to set free, and is used of the colt which was released for Jesus' use (Mt 21:2) and Lazurus' grave clothes being unwound (Jn 11:44). But it also came to be used of breaking something up into its component parts, tearing down a building, for example, and so destroying it.

the works of the devil. 9Whoever is born of God doesn't commit sin, because his seed [sperma] remains [menō] in him; and he can't sin, because he is born of God. 10In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the devil. Whoever doesn't do righteousness [dikaiosunēn] is not of God, neither is he who doesn't love [agapaō] his brother [adelphon]. 11For this is the message [angelia] which you heard from the beginning, that we should love [agapaō] one another; 12unlike Cain, who was of the evil one, and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because his works were evil [ponēra], and his brother's righteous [dikaia]. 13Don't be surprised, my brothers [adelphoi], if the world [kosmos] hates you. 14We know [oida] that we have passed out of death into life [zōēn], because we love [agapaō] the brothers [adelphous]. He who doesn't love [agapaō] his brother [adelphon] remains [menō] in death. 15Whoever hates his brother [adelphon] is a murderer, and you know [oida] that no murderer has eternal life [zōēn] remaining [menō] in him. 16By this we know [ginōskō] love [agapēn], because he laid down his life [psychēn] for us. And we ought to lay down our lives [psychas] for the brothers [adelphōn]. 17But whoever has the world's goods [bion tou kosmou], and sees his brother [adelphon] in need, and closes his heart of compassion [kleiō ta splagchna] against him, how does the love [agapē] of God remain [menō] in him? 18My little children [teknia], let's not love [agapaō] in word [logō] only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth. 19And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade [peithō] our hearts before him, 20because if our heart condemns [kataginōskō] us, God is greater [meizōn] than our heart, and knows all things. 21Beloved [agapētoi], if our hearts don't condemn [kataginōskō] us, we have boldness [parrēsian] toward God; 22and whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep [tereō] his commandments [entolas] and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. 23This is his commandment [entolē], that we should believe [pisteuō]

In John's writing, pisteuō used with the dative, as here, usually means 'believing that something is true, and so credible', rather than 'making a personal commitment to someone' (pisteuō eis; believing into).

in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love [agapaō] one another, even as he commanded [didōmi entolēn]. 24He who keeps [tēreō] his commandments [entolas] remains [menō] in him, and he in him. By this we know that he remains [menō] in us, by the Spirit which he gave us.

4 1Beloved [agapētoi], don't believe [pisteuō] every spirit, but test [dokimazō] the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets [pseudoprophētai] have gone out into the world [kosmon]. 2By this you know [ginōskō] the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses [omologeō] that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [sarki] is of God, 3and every spirit who doesn't confess [omologeō] that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist [antichristou], of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world [kosmō] already. 4You are of God, little children [teknia], and have overcome them; because greater [meizon] is he who is in you than he who is in the world [kosmou]. 5They are of the world [ek tou kosmou]. Therefore they speak of the world [kosmou], and the world [kosmou] hears them. 6We are of God. He who knows [ginōskō] God listens to us. He who is not of God doesn't listen to us. By this we know [ginōskō] the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. 7Beloved [agapētoi], let us love [agapaō] one another, for love [agapē] is of God; and everyone who loves [agapaō] is born of God, and knows [ginōskō] God. 8He who doesn't love [agapaō] doesn't know God, for God is love [agapē]. 9By this God's love [agapē] was revealed [phaneroō]

Cf. 1:2 where the same verb is used to describe the coming of Christ, the life. Here the death of Jesus is seen as the public appearance of God's love.

in us [en hēmin]

Lit. 'in us' or 'to us'; possibly, 'in our case'.

, that God has sent his one and only [monogenē]

Used in Jn 3:16 and in Heb 11:17.

Son into the world [kosmon] that we might live [zaō] through him. 10In this is love [agapē], not that we loved [agapaō] God, but that he loved [agapaō] us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice [hilasmon] for our sins. 11Beloved [agapētoi], if God loved [agapaō] us in this way, we also ought to love [agapaō] one another. 12No one has seen God at any time. If we love [agapaō] one another, God remains [menō] in us, and his love [agapē] has been perfected [teleioō] in us. 13By this we know that we remain [menō] in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14We have seen [theaomai] and testify [martyreō] that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world [kosmou]. 15Whoever confesses [omologeō] that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains [menō] in him, and he in God. 16We know [ginōskō] and have believed [pisteuō] the love [agapēn] which God has for us. God is love [agapē], and he who remains [menō] in love [agapē] remains [menō] in God, and God remains in him. 17In this love [agapē] has been made perfect [teleioō] among us, that we may have boldness [parrēsian] in the day of judgment [kriseōs], because as he is, even so are we in this world [kosmō]. 18There is no fear [phobos] in love [agapē]; but perfect [teleia] love [agapē] casts out [ballō] fear [phobon], because fear [phobos] has punishment. He who fears [phobeō] is not made perfect [teleioō] in love [agapē]. 19We love [agapaō] him, because he first loved [agapaō] us. 20If a man says, "I love [agapaō] God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn't love [adelphon] his brother [adelphon] whom he has seen, how can he love [agapaō] God whom he has not seen? 21This commandment [entolēn] we have from him, that he who loves [agapaō] God should also love [agapaō] his brother [adelphon].

5 1Whoever believes [pisteuō] that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whoever loves [agapaō] the Father [gennēsanta] also loves [agapaō] the child who is born of him [gennaō]. 2By this we know that we love [agapaō] the children of God, when we love [agapaō] God and keep [tēreō] his commandments [entolas]. 3For this is the love [agapē] of God, that we keep his commandments [entolas]. His commandments [entolai] are not grievous [bareiai]. 4For whatever is born of God overcomes [nikaō] the world [kosmon]. This is the victory [nikaō] that has overcome the world [kosmon]: your faith [pistis]

This noun not found elsewhere in the letter or in John's Gospel.

. 5Who is he who overcomes [nikaō] the world [kosmon], but he who believes [pisteuō] that Jesus is the Son of God? 6This is he who came [outos estin ho erchomai]

Relates to the messianic title 'he who comes', cf. Mt 21:9; Jn 12:13; Jn1:15,27; Lk 7:19.

by [dia] water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies [martyreō], because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three who testify [martyreō]

Cf. witness of two or three according to Jewish law; Dt. 17:6; 19:15; see also Jn 5:31-37; Heb 6:17-18.

: 8the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three agree as one [eis to en eisin]. 9If we receive the witness [martyrian] of men, the witness [martyria] of God is greater [meizōn]; for this is God's testimony [martyria] which he has testified concerning his Son. 10He who believes in [pisteuō eis]

Used on over forty occasions in John's gospel as his favourite description of saving faith.

the Son of God has the testimony [martyrian] in himself. He who doesn't believe [pisteuō] God has made him a liar, because he has not believed [pisteuō] in the testimony [martyrian] that God has given [martyreō] concerning his Son. 11The testimony [martyria] is this, that God gave to us eternal life [zōēn], and this life [zōē] is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has the life [zōēn]. He who doesn't have God's Son doesn't have the life [zōēn]. 13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know [oida] that you have eternal life [zōēn aiōnion], and that you may continue to believe [pisteuō] in the name of the Son of God. 14This is the boldness [parrēsia] which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he listens to us. 15And if we know [oida] that he listens to us, whatever we ask, we know [oida] that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. 16If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life [zōēn] for those who sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I don't say that he should make a request concerning this. 17All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. 18We know [oida] that whoever is born [gennaō]

This verb is regularly used to describe the second birth of Christians. The relationship began in the past with a continuing effect in the present.

of God doesn't sin, but he who was born [gennaō]

Expresses a once-for-all fact. Refers to the eternal Son.

of God keeps himself, and the evil one doesn't touch him. 19We know [oida] that we are of God, and the whole world [kosmos] lies in the power of the evil one. 20We know [oida] that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding [ginōskōmen], that we know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life [zōē]. 21Little children [teknia], keep yourselves from idols.

2 John

The gospel was continuing to spread rapidly. House churches were springing up throughout the Graeco-Roman world. The expansion of the church and the death of the apostles combined to produce a period of considerable fluidity in the way in which the congregations were governed. Traveling preachers and missionaries were increasing, some of whom claimed new insights, taking them beyond the apostolic testimony, which was caricatured as primitive and unsophisticated. There was a fullness of knowledge and experience into which such teachers had been initiated and which they were willing to pass on to others, at a price. Others resisted the temptation to join this self-defined spiritual élite and wanted to return to the OT, to the purity of the law and the 'essentials', such as circumcision. John was burdened with the question of how these young churches were to be kept strong in the true faith, and how they were to maintain their priorities with both unswerving orthodoxy and vigorous spiritual life.

1 1The elder [presbyteros]

Lit. 'old man'. Probably includes seniority in position as well as age.

, to the chosen lady [eklektē kyria]

Feminine form of kyrios, 'Lord'.

and her children, whom I love [agapaō] in truth; and not I only, but also all those who know the truth; 2for the truth's sake, which remains [menō]

Remains or abides.

in us, and it will be with us forever: 3Grace [charis], mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love [agapē]. 4I rejoice [chairō] greatly that I have found some of your children walking [peripateō] in truth, even as we have been commanded by the Father. 5Now I beg you, dear lady, not as though I wrote to you a new commandment [entolēn], but that which we had from the beginning, that we love [agapaō] one another. 6This is love [agapē], that we should walk [peripateō] according to his commandments [entolas]. This is the commandment [entolē], even as you heard from the beginning, that you should walk [peripateō] in it. 7For many [Hoti] deceivers [planoi]

Related to a verbal root meaning 'to lead astray' or 'to cause to wander' (see 1 Jn 2:26).

have gone out into the world [kosmon], those who don't confess [oimologeō] that Jesus Christ came in the flesh [sarki]. This is the deceiver [planos] and the Antichrist [antichristos]. 8Watch [blepō] yourselves, that we don't lose [apollymi] the things which we have accomplished, but that we receive a full reward [plērē apolambanō]. 9Whoever transgresses and doesn't remain [menō] in the teaching [didachē] of Christ, doesn't have God. He who remains [menō] in the teaching [didachē], the same has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you, and doesn't bring this teaching [didachēn], don't receive him into your house, and don't welcome [lambanō]

The Didache, a manual on church order, dating from the early second century, reads, 'Let everyone that cometh in the name of the Lord be received, and then, when you have proved him, you shall know, for you shall have understanding (to distinguish) between the right hand and the left. If he that cometh is a passer-by, succour him as far as you can; but he shall not abide with you longer than two or three days unless there be necessity.' By contrast, 'if the teacher himself is perverse and teachers another doctrine to destroy these things, hear him not'. However it is less likely that the travelling teachers would be involved in door-to-door work than that they would arrive at a church meeting and ask to speak or participate in open worship. Needless to say, the church would be meeting in a house.

him, 11for he who welcomes him participates [koinōneō] in his evil [ponērois] works [ergois]. 12Having many things to write to you, I don't want to do so with paper and ink, but I hope to come to you, and to speak face to face, that our joy [chara] may be made full [peplērōmenē]. 13The children of your chosen [eklektēs] sister greet you. Amen.

3 John

Both 2 and 3 John occupied a single sheet of papyrus. In both the author identifies himself as 'the elder'. In both he is concerned about traveling teachers and the attitude of the congregation towards them. But whereas 2 John is primarily a warning against welcoming 'deceivers', 3 John is a warning against rejecting those who are true fellow Christians and ambassadors of the gospel. It warns Gaius and his congregation that the possible abuse of hospitality by the heretics is not to become an excuse for failing to show hospitality to true and faithful Christian preachers. If the false teachers were beginning to penetrate the churches, then it was only to be expected that those who were impressed by the new ideas would exercise their authority, whether formally recognized or by force of personality, to keep out the orthodox teachers and promote the 'deceivers'. Clearly this was happening in Gaius' church. He had received the brothers from John, who were true messengers of Christ, and had welcomed, supported and entertained them in love. But the church generally had not done so, although there were those who wanted to. Control seems to have been in the hands of Diotrephes, a dominant personality, who not only rejected John's messengers but also slandered the apostle himself. In contrast, John commends Demetrius. He was probably the carrier of the letter and another representative of John, sent with the apostle's word to the church, in an attempt to put things right before John himself visits.

1 1The elder [presbyteros]

See note on 2 Jn 1.

to Gaius [agapētō Gaiō]

A common Roman name. Gaius had received the brothers from John but the church generally had not, although some would have wanted to. Control seems to have been in the hands of Diotrephes (v9-10), a dominant personality, who not only rejected John's messengers but also slandered the apostle himself.

the beloved, whom I love [agapaō] in truth. 2Beloved [agapēte], I pray that you may prosper [eudoō] in all things and be healthy, even as your soul [psuchē] prospers [eudoō]. 3For I rejoiced [chairō] greatly, when brothers [adelphōn] came and testified [martyreō] about your truth, even as you walk [peripateō] in truth. 4I have no greater joy than this, to hear about my children walking [peripateō] in truth. 5Beloved [agapēte], you do a faithful [piston] work in whatever you accomplish for those who are brothers [adelphous] and strangers [xenous]. 6They have testified [martyreō] about your love [agapē] before the assembly [ekklēsias]. You will do well to send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, 7because for the sake of the Name [onomatos; Heb. HaShem]

Only this letter in the NT does not mention Christ by name although clearly 'the Name' was that of Jesus Christ. The early church used 'the Name' as a synonym for Christ (see Ac 5:41), encompassing within that the Hebrew tradition that the name expresses the nature. Cf. 1 Cor 12:3; Rom 10:9.

they went out, taking nothing from the Gentiles [ethnikōn]. 8We therefore ought to receive [hupolambanō] such, that we may be fellow workers [sunergeō] for the truth. 9I wrote to the assembly [ekklēsia], but Diotrephes [Diotrephēs]

The picture drawn of this domineering man is horrific: destroying unity, flaunting authority, making up his own rules to safeguard his position, spreading lies about those whom he had designated his enemies, and cutting off other Christians on suspicion of guilt by association. Was this a power struggle between a local church leader and an outside authority figure, John the elder or apostle? Was Diotrephes one of the first local bishops, ruling the church and superior to the other elders? Was he striking a blow for the independence of the local congregation in resisting the elder's authority? If he wanted the church to be autonomous, it was not for the church's benefit, but for the glory of his own ego. Above everything else, Diotrephes wanted to be in charge, and this all-consuming ambition had led him to break off relations with John. He refused to accept John's authority; he would not receive him in fellowship.

, who loves to be first [philoprōteuō] among them, doesn't accept what we say. 10Therefore, if I come, I will call attention to [hypomimnēskō] his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing [phlyareō]

Usually means 'babble incoherently'. It is characteristic of those whose only concern is for their own personal power to denigrate their opponents by any means possible.

us with wicked words [logois ponērois]. Not content with this, neither does he himself receive the brothers [adelphous], and those who would, he forbids and throws out [ekballō] of the assembly [ekklēsias]. 11Beloved [agapēte], don't imitate [mimeomai]

From which we have the word 'mimic'. The verb bears witness to the way in which others' attitudes can colour and change our own.

that which is evil, but that which is good. He who does good is of God. He who does evil hasn't seen God. 12Demetrius [Dēmētriō]

Perhaps the carrier of the letter and another representative of John, sent with the apostle's word to the church, in an attempt to put things right before John himself visits. (He was well known as a Christian, and if John was writing from Ephesus it is tempting to conjecture whether he might not be the same Demetrius who had made silver shrines of Artemis and who had raised the uproar against Paul in the city, ended his ministry there after two years (Ac 19)).

has the testimony [martyreō] of all, and of the truth itself; yes, we also testify [martyreō], and you know that our testimony [martyria] is true. 13I had many things to write to you, but I am unwilling to write to you with ink and pen; 14but I hope to see you soon, and we will speak face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name [kat' onoma]

Perhaps a conscious echo of the only other use of the phrase in Jn 10:3.

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