reading 2 John/ 3 John

Background for Reading the Prophecy of 2 John, 3 John
Taken from “How To Read The Bible Book by Book” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart

[2 John]

  1. Content: “The elder” warns against false teachers who deny the incarnation of Christ.
  2. Author: The same author who wrote 1 John, who calls himself “the elder”; a solid historical tradition equated him with the apostle John.
  3. Date: Probably in the late 80s, early 90s A.D.
  4. Recipients: The ‘lady chosen by God’ is either a single, local congregation or a woman who hosts a house church; ‘her children’ are the members of the believing community.
  5. Occasion: John is concerned that after the defection of the false prophets from his community, they might spread their teaching in another community of faith.
  6. Emphases: Similar to 1 John. That Jesus who came in the flesh is the Son of God; that Jesus showed God’s love for us through his incarnation and crucifixion; that true believers love one another as God loved them in Christ; that God’s children do not habitually sin, but when we do sin, we receive God’s forgiveness; that believers can have full confidence in the God who loves them; that by trusting in Christ we now have eternal life.

[3 John]

  1. Content: To borrow the words of New Testament scholar Archibald M. Hunter, 3 John is all about “the Elder, who wrote it; Gaius, who received it; Diotrophes, who provoked it; and Demetrius, who carried it.”
  2. Author: The same author who wrote 1 John, who calls himself “the elder”; a solid historical tradition equated him with the apostle John.
  3. Date: Probably in the late 80s, early 90s A.D.
  4. Recipients: Gaius, a beloved friend of the elder who lives in another town; other believers are to be greeted by name (v.14).
  5. Occasion: An earlier letter to the church had been scorned by Diotrophes, who also refused hospitality to the elder’s friend(s) and disfellowshipped those who would do so; consequently John writes to Gaius, urging him to welcome Diotrophes.
  6. Emphases: The obligations of Christian hospitality, especially toward approved itinerant ministers.

These letters give us a snapshot into the life and struggles of the early church, and the concern for the apostles for the new communities of faith. Not only did they face persecution from non-Christians, they were also in great danger of false teachers from within. There is nothing new under the sun. Both letters remind us that the most important thing is the grace, love and hospitality of God that is experienced in, and expressed by, the community of Jesus.

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