This letter and that which follows it are but brief epistles, yet there can be no doubt that the Holy Spirit had a purpose in inspiring the holy apostle to pen them, and seeing to it that they were included within the canon of Scripture.  Carefully examined, I am certain that we will find they contain much that is useful and profitable to the people of God.  If nothing else, we will see the spirit of a true minister of Christ flowing from John’s pen, and those who stand in teaching offices will find much that is worthy of their imitation.

John styles himself “the elder,” neglecting to name himself as the author, which is his custom in his gospel and three epistles.  Though some scholars with too much time on their hands may debate the authorship, the similarity of style between these three epistles and the gospel of John, as well as the Revelation, seem to my mind to readily confirm the long established belief of the church that John is indeed the author of all five books.  It is no doubt well for us to notice that John does not claim any grandiose titles, but one that could be applied to the foremost officer in any of Christ’s churches.  He does not even insist upon his apostleship, which doubtless he had a right to do.  He does not style himself a cardinal, or one who writes with the authority of the apostolic See.  In no way does he attempt to overwhelm his readers by the authority that he wielded as a commissioned apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is content to place himself as a fellow laborer along with all the other elders of Christ’s churches at any time, and trusts the people of God will recognize and hearken to him as such.

He addresses this brief letter to “the elect lady and her children.”  It has long been a hotly contested debate, whether he is writing to an individual Christian woman and her family, or to a church which he addresses under the title of “elect lady.”  While it is probably impossible to establish the point beyond a shadow of a doubt at this late date, I rather lean towards the latter position.  John writes in this epistle with the same type of language that he employed in his first epistle, which seems to have been a general letter of instruction and warning sent out to the several churches in which he exercised influence.  In short, the admonitions and warnings of this epistle seem to me to fit better with a church that is under attack by false teachers, more so than with an individual and her family.  Moreover, it seems more probable to my mind that the “elect sister” mentioned in the final verse of the letter is a sister church, perhaps the church where John was presently located, rather than the physical sister of the lady to whom the letter is addressed.  But I would not be overly contentious about the point, since it does not seem to do any damage to the way we interpret the epistle, whichever side of this particular debate we take.  I offer these personal conclusions only in order to explain why I will speak as I do in my following remarks upon this brief epistle.

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