A handful of tips: 2 & 3 John

The letters of 2. and 3. John are among the most neglected books of the Bible. In fact, many people only know the gospel of John and are surprised to learn that the former son of thunder wrote 3 more letters and the only prophetic book in the New Testament.

While 2 & 3 John are small and neglected, the nicely complement John’s other literature, especially his gospel and the letter we call 1. John. The books are short and can be read in well under five minutes. It is clear that John meant these letters to be a preparation for a future visit (2. Jn 12, 3. Jn 13). When reading these two letters, read them together and see how they complement each other. Here are 5 things to look out for that have helped me:

  1. Notice the contrast between the letters: 2. John is a passionate appeal to all lovers of truth to guard their hearts, homes, and churches to influences that promote a different gospel. 3. John is a passionate rebuke against those who close their hearts, homes, and churches against those who promote the true gospel.
  2. Notice the interwovenness of truth and love in both letters, and how that dynamic influences Christian participation in the gospel. While a bond of love on the basis of the common truth of the gospel unites those who know the truth and moves them to support those who labor to spread the truth (2. Jn 4-6; 3. Jn 5-8, 11-12), that same bond of love based on truth, moves us to reject falsehood and those who oppress the spreading of the truth (2 Jn 7-11; 3. Jn 9-10).
  3. Observe John’s Christology: Jesus is the incarnate God, and the Son of the Father (2 Jn 3, 7). No one who does not arrive at a sound answer to the question of who Jesus is is in a right covenant relationship with God (2 Jn 9).
  4. Observe John’s soteriology: Walking in the truth and imitating God’s character are a sign of abiding in God and having seen God (2 Jn 4, 3 Jn 11).
  5. Read between the lines, and see John’s pastoral care as the oldest living Apostle (2 Jn 1, 3 Jn 1) striving to preserve love and truth among the church, while his heart overflows with joy, love, and truth for his readers and hearers (2 John 1, 4, 12; 3 John 1-4, 13-14).

As always, more could be said. But these five points hopefully serve to illustrate that no matter how short of a book of the Bible you’re reading, it is always deeper and richer and better than you expect.

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