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As usual, with a new book I start by looking at the wikipedia page. With respect to authorship, it says that the language is similar to 3 John so they are likely to have been written by the same person, and in fact the traditional view is that all 4 book supposedly written by John were in fact written by the same person.
The beginning and end of this book mention a lady, which are typically interpreted to mean the church. Another view is that it is addressed to a specific lady named Kyria, however that seems to not be terribly popular.
Greeting (v. 1-3)
Basically just a greeting to "the elect lady and her children", which again, according to the wikipedia page is about the church and the congregation.
Walking in Truth and Love (v. 4-11)
The most important commandment is to love one another and John is happy that he sees many people following this commandment.
This sounds pretty good. Also, from the language used here, I think it is pretty likely that the interpretation of the lady being the church and the children being the congregation makes the most sense.
Many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not preach that Christ has come in the flesh. Be careful listening to them so you don't lose your reward. Whoever is with God has both the father and the son, if anyone comes without this message, do not invite them into your house or give them any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in their wicked works.
So much for the message of spreading love. If someone disagrees with your religion, you are supposed to shun them. Terrible. It's really amazing to me that this is an obvious message of hate but it claims to be a message of love. It reminds me of people who want freedom of speech, but only for those who agree with them. We don't need to protect speech that is popular, in the same way you don't have to tell people to love those who they already love.
This should be fun, let's see how the Christian commentaries try to get out of this, obviously terrible, message. Let's start with Guzik. He starts by saying that it is not talking about shunning them altogether, but just having no religious connection to them. We should not let them speak in the church. On the other hand, he quotes Boice who points out that giving them hospitality is helping them spread their false words, and therefore we shouldn't do it. He also says that
John means greets in a much more involved context than our own. In that culture, it meant to show hospitality and give aid.but then he follows it up with
Yet, for the weak or unskilled believer, it is best if they do not even greet (in the sense of speaking to) those who promote a false Jesus (like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses).Seems that he is just trying to have it both ways.
Ray Steadman says that Christians are not supposed to simply slam the door in the face of any non-Christian, they should accept the strangers into their homes, but make the theological differences clear. This certainly sounds better, but it doesn't seem to mesh very well with the command to not even give them a greeting. He further says that if you continue to let them into your home you are endorsing their doctrine. So I guess in his mind you should help them out but only for a short time.
Gill doesn't even try to justify it. He says
their ministry should not be attended on in the church, or house of God; and they should not be entertained in private houses, and much less caressedHe goes on to say that you shouldn't even bid them God speed, going on to explain
The meaning is, that with such no familiar conversation should be had, lest any encouragement should be given them; or it should induce a suspicion in the minds of other saints, that they are in the same sentiments; or it should tend to make others think favourably of them, and be a snare and a stumbling block to weak Christians.One more comment here, the bit about the reward. I have seen a lot of talk about morality lately, but if your entire reason for doing things is for personal reward then it isn't really about morality, just selfishness on a longer timescale.
Final Greetings (v. 12-13)
I have much to say but would rather do it in person.
Sounds good, doesn't help us though.
For the overview post (If you think I should add or remove stuff from this list please let me know, I think it would make good conversation)
2 John 5,10-11 Love those who agree with you, hate those who don't
"love one another"
"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works."