This is a private letter of the Apostle John addressed "to the elect lady and her children," probably members of one of the congregations in Asia Minor. It may be that the word which is translated "lady" is a proper noun and should be retained as Kuria. John, calling himself an elder or presbyter, just as Peter did, 1 Pet. 5, 1, expresses his joy that the addressee and her children are known for their consistent Christian conduct. He beseeches her to walk in accordance with God's commandments, loving God and her fellow-Christians, warns against false teachers who deny the mystery of godliness, and announces an early visit. The entire letter breathes the spirit of brotherly intimacy and affection which characterized the relation among the early Christians.

Address and salutation: V.1. The elder 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, v.2. for the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us and shall be with us forever. V.3. Grace be with you, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. The address shows the affectionate regard which the aged apostle bore to all his spiritual children: The elder to the elect lady (or, to elect Kuria) and to her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all that know the truth, through the truth which abides in us and will he with us forever. The name which John here employs to designate himself is one that shows how little hierarchical tendencies were apparent in those days. He calls himself simply the presbyter, or elder, one of those active in the ministry of the Gospel. Although he was an apostle, yet he was perfectly content to perform the functions of the ordinary minister of the Gospel and to bear the name which this office had had since the early days in Jerusalem. He addresses this letter to the elect lady and her family. The apostles habitually call all true Christians elect; they include them all in that gracious decree by which God from eternity appointed them unto faith and unto salvation. Hypocrites, Christians in name only, are not included in this honoring designation. John states that lie is united with the persons to whom he is writing by that true brotherly love which flows from the one saving truth, which is kindled in the hearts of the believers through the Gospel. And he is not alone in this brotherly regard, but is joined by all the other Christians that have come to the full knowledge of the truth of the Gospel, of salvation in Christ Jesus. This truth has found a lasting abode in all true Christians and serves as the bond of fellowship and union among them, in time and in eternity.

St. John's salutation is the apostolic greeting: There will he with us grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. This is a blessing in the form of a definite assertion, such as only true faith and trust in God as the merciful heavenly Father can give. The blessing thus becomes a promise, an assurance. Grace will be with us, that grace which remits the sentence of damnation as righteous justice passed it upon sinful men; mercy, which, in benevolent, fatherly kindness, pours out the riches of God's favor upon a world redeemed by the blood of Christ; and peace, the blessed effect of God's love in the revelation and redemption of His Son. All these wonderful spiritual blessings come down upon us not only from the reconciled Father, but also from Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, coequal with Him in divinity and possessing with Him all the attributes of the Deity. These gifts come to us in truth, when we believe in the saving truth of the Gospel- message, and in love, when our entire life is a manifestation of the regeneration which has been wrought in our hearts. This assurance is in force for, and therefore concerns, the Christians 0f all times.

Exhortation to walk in truth and love: V.4. I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. V.5. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. V.6. And this is love, that we walk after His commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. The letter proper opens with a word of appreciation: I was exceedingly glad because I found some of thy children walking in truth, as we received the command from the Father. There seems to lie in the words of the apostle a confession that he may often have been disappointed in children whom he had seen grow up in Christian homes. But in this case there was occasion for joy only; for the children of this Christian mother had profited by the nurture of their godly home, making use of their Christian training in the battle of life. He does not imply that some of the children had gone wrong, but is referring to the ones whom he has met, probably in Ephesus. These young men were conducting themselves in accordance with the truth which they had learned in their childhood and youth, they were ordering their lives according to the precepts of the Gospel, they were observing the command, the holy will, of the heavenly Father. What a splendid bit of testimony, a report which all young people may well strive for!

But the achievements of the past should serve as a spur for the future: And now I beg thee, lady, not writing thee this as a new commandment, but which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. This admonition is a summary of the larger epistle, which was probably written about the same time, and whose principal theme was brotherly love. In love, the bond of perfection, all Christians should stand shoulder to shoulder, in affectionate sympathy toward one another, in mutual help against their enemies from without. The apostle's plea is at the same time a commandment of the Lord, not one that has just been revealed to him for the first time, but one of which the converts were told, which they were taught, from the very beginning of their Christian life. This commandment has been unchanged, and will he unchanged as long as the Gospel-truth remains.

For the sake of emphasis the apostle explains: And this is love, that we conduct ourselves according to His commandments; this is the commandment, that, as you have heard from the beginning, you live your lives in this. The apostle is here reasoning in a circle, but that fact gives his argument a peculiar force. Christians will show their love toward their' heavenly Father by living and conducting themselves so as to be in agreement with His holy will at all times. That is the attitude of love at all times, to please those whom we love in every way that we know of. And the entire will of God with reference to our conduct may be summed up in the one precept that we live in agreement with the doctrine which we heard from the beginning. That is the essence and summary of brotherly love, that we walk according to the precepts of God, that we conduct ourselves in deed and in truth as it pleases our heavenly Father.

Warning against false teachers V.7. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist V.8. Look to yourselves that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. V.9. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. V.10. If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God- speed; v.11. for he that biddeth him God- speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Here the warnings of the longer letter are summarized: Because many deceivers went forth into the world that do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; this is the deceiver and the antichrist. These words are addressed to the entire family to whom this letter was sent, and give the reason why they should obey the old commandment, namely, because seducers are at work, men who were acquainted with the Gospel-truth, but deliberately denied it and went forth with the intention of deceiving souls. The principal heresy of the deceivers, the foundation of all their antichristian teaching, was this, that they denied Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, the Savior of the world. So each and every one of them was, in truth, a deceiver and an antichrist; every one of them was busily engaged in attempting to dethrone Christ.

The apostle's warning, therefore, is specific and personal. Look to yourselves, lest you lose what you have worked for, but rather receive a full reward. We Christians must ever be on our guard and hold fast that which we have. The treasure of our faith, although given us without any merit or worthiness on our part, causes us many an hour of tribulation and battle; it is too precious to lose lightly. We must cling to our Christian belief, and all that it includes, with all the power at our command. For only if we are faithful to the end, shall we receive, as a merciful reward, the crown of life, Rev. 2, 10. That, indeed, is a full, a wonderful reward, the bliss of everlasting salvation before the face of the Lord.

There certainly is danger in taking up with false teaching and risking the loss of the Gospel's comfort: Everything that is "progressive" and does not remain in the doctrine of Christ has not God; he that remains in the doctrine, this one has both the Father and the Son. The false teachers of Asia Minor were fond of boasting that they alone were progressive, advanced thinkers; they alone were making the Gospel fit new situations, just as the false prophets of our day are always advertising, with a pitying side glance at the poor benighted Bible Christians that still cling to its doctrines of sin and grace. The old teaching of Christ, of salvation through His blood, had been set aside by them as not agreeing with the demands of an enlightened people. But St. John's judgment upon such teachers is short: They have not God. Every one to this day and hour that denies the manifestation of the Father in the Son for the salvation of the world by His suffering and death thereby denies the true, revealed God. No teaching is true, no teaching has a right to exist, which eliminates the redemption or obscures the glory of the Cross. On the other hand, every teacher, 'every believer that clings to that old doctrine of salvation through the blood of Christ, to the fact that God the Father sent His Son into the world that men should live through Him, has both the Father and the Son, is united with them by the bonds of the closest union, in faith.

There was need of caution in those days: If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house, and do not greet him, for he that greets him becomes a partaker of his wicked works. There was need of such caution and discrimination in receiving the receiving "apostles and prophets" of those days, who not only went from congregation to congregation, but also from house to house, trying to gain adherents for their false doctrines. St. John, therefore, gives the very good rule and precept that such people should be forbidden the house and that no one should wish them good luck in their undertaking, wish them well in their work. To this day the wandering preachers that are trying to gain proselytes for their false teaching should be treated in the same way: they should be refused admittance to the houses and should certainly not receive our good wishes in their evil work. But to carry this admonition out to such an extent as to deny even a civil greeting or the courtesies of charity to members of a false church is to transgress against other passages of Scriptures, such as Matt. 5, 43-48; Gal. 6, 10.

Conclusion: V.12. 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. V.13. The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen. The apostle here announces his visit, to be expected in the near future: Having much to write to you I did not want to do so by paper and ink; but I hope to get to you and speak to you face and [to] face, that our joy may be complete. St. John has by no means exhausted his fund of doctrine and admonition; his heart was so full that he might have committed many more thoughts to paper. But he felt that writing was a poor medium of communication. It is easy to state general principles, but their application to individual cases is a delicate task, demanding a knowledge of the special circumstances in each case. But when he should see them face to face, he would be able to give them such information as would be of the greatest value to them. In this way both his own joy and theirs would be fulfilled. They would be sure of their proper conduct under all circumstances and would have a perfect joy in the Lord, knowing that they were walking in the paths of His righteousness, in the ways of His will.

In concluding, John sends greetings to the entire family to whom his letter was addressed from the addressee's own sister, who lived at Ephesus, who desired to be thus remembered to her. The early Christians did not forget the obligations of relationship and of spiritual fellowship, thus affording a lesson to us also in this respect.