Love and Truth – 2 John

Love and truth are foundational to Christian life. But in 2 John we’re forced to ask whether we have them in the right balance as a whole local church.

As a church, we sometimes have visiting preachers here. We’re to have fellowship with like-minded churches but be separate from anywhere that teaches falsely. Fair enough. We also have people from outside the church involved in things like serving refreshments at Tots. Is that ok?

What’s it to be? Separation or integration? How can we balance?

2 John helps us think that through in a church context – and we end up with some surprisingly challenging and relevant questions.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Love sister churches (1-6)

Read 2 John 1:1.

The NLT has added the word “John” for clarification. The language and themes are so connected with 1 John that it’s safe to identify “the elder” as John. But who’s the “chosen lady”? Who are her “children”?

  • Read 2 John 1:13. 
  • Whoever the chosen lady is, her sister and her children send greetings!
  • At the end of 1 Peter 5, Peter writes “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings”
  • It seems the early Christians referred to local churches as “she”. Local churches were sisters.
  • And if you were part of a local church, you were one of her children. 
  • And to be even clearer, after his introduction whenever he says “you” it’s plural – he’s writing to a specific local church

So read 2 John 1:1 again. He loves them. John is an apostle, and it seems he knows the church well, so he’s bound to love them.

But we remember the opening of 1 John 1:3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. His love for the church is deeper than just knowing them and liking them. He has fellowship with God. All believers do. We are children of God. And children of the Father will love what the Father loves: His children.


So read 2 John 1:2. What truth? The truth about Jesus, our “right Lord”.

  • The Son of God, eternal creator, who became human.
  • Jesus who died as a sacrifice of atonement.
  • His death pays the price of wrath against your sin, cleansing you from all guilt and iniquity forever.
  • His resurrection life means he is, today, your Advocate in heaven before the Father.
  • That’s “truth [that] lives in us and will be with us forever”.

So John gives his greeting: Read 2 John 1:3. It sounds like a familiar Christian greeting in the New Testament. But notice the mention of “truth and love” in particular. It’s his theme.

So he comes to the main part of his letter: Read 2 John 1:4.

  • “Living according to the truth” – lit. “walking in truth”
  • What truth? The truth about Jesus. Right Lord.
  • What commands from the Father? Right Living, Right Love:
    • Jesus commanded us to love one another, and his commands were passed on from the Father.
    • The Father spoke at the Mount of Transfiguration (as heard by John): “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
    • And 1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us..


John is very happy to see the evidence of faith in some of the church he’s writing to: He could see their love for other Christians; he could see a desire for holiness of life. You need to ask whether he would see those in you.

Let me tell you a secret. This is one of the greatest heart-aches of every preacher and pastor:

  • It’s incredibly distressing to preach something with utter clarity, then have people acknowledge the truth of it, and then for those same people not to apply it to themselves.
  • In all the things we’ve looked at about loving other Christians in recent weeks, have you done one thing differently?
  • It’s no surprise that John was so happy. They were living truth out. Many people never apply a sermon to themselves. So there’s no change, no growth.

So read 2 John 1:5-6.

It seems pretty familiar to us, after 1 John. But he doesn’t say, “you should love one another.” He says, “we should love one another.” He’s writing from one church to her sister church and saying, “we should love one another.” And we know from 1 John, that means something tangible.

Verses 4-6 are connected by truth and love. Churches are sisters – bound by a shared truth in Christ to a shared love for one another.

Truth and love equally

What happens to a church that focuses on love, but is willing to compromise a bit on truth? Ecumenism; liberalism; sometimes emotion without discernment. There are plenty of current examples.

What happens when a church focuses on truth (sound doctrine)? Separation from those who differ; pride; intellectual without emotion. To call a spade a spade, this can be true of some Brethren or even FIEC churches. Maybe us.

But John isn’t asking for a fine balance between truth and love. He expects both. Be devoted to the truth about Jesus and be extravagant in your love for his people.

If your love for certain doctrines keeps you from ever loving another church – filled with God’s children – you’re not living as Christ intends. That is something you need to repent of, and change from.

But now:

Watch out! (7-11)

One reason churches in Christ need to be strong together is that there is so much false teaching around.

Read 2 John 1:7. Remember how John layers his ideas and connects them. So when he says “they deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body” it’s reasonable to include what sits behind that: That Jesus is eternally God’s Son, and his body is a sacrifice of atonement, and so on. “The truth” of earlier on.

Anyone robbing Christ of any of this glory, of denying or diminishing this truth, is a deceiver and an antichrist. Antichrist is someone leading you away from Christ, or leading you to an imitation (“instead”)

So watch out! Read 2 John 1:8.

Don’t let false teachers (antichrists) rob you of what you have!

  • The love and fellowship between believers
  • The joy of Christ’s glory, in his incarnation, atoning sacrifice, ascension, rule and reign.
  • The joy of being a child of God in Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
  • Watch out, and don’t let anyone deceive you!

Because, read 2 John 1:9. “Wanders away” is literally “runs ahead”! Rather than “walking in truth” (v4) they “run ahead” of it!

But you already have all the truth you need. Beware anyone adding anything to it. God communicates himself to you in Christ alone. A false gospel based on a false Christ has no relationship with God – it can’t, because it’s not based on truth. But for those in truth, in Christ, you have relationship with the Father and the Son. Glory to him!

Relating to false teachers

So if you’re to love other Christians, how are you to relate to people with this false teaching about Jesus? Read 2 John 10 & 11.

As you read Paul’s letters, it’s obvious he travelled around and received hospitality from various churches. It was normal for travelling teachers and preachers to get hospitality like that.

  • If he turned up here, we’d be expected to provide a place to stay. It was normal.
  • Travelling teachers would then become associated with the church they were staying at: “You don’t know me, but I’m with Bromborough Evangelical Church…”
  • But what if a travelling teacher then started teaching things about Jesus that aren’t true? V11 “Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.” A church must shun false teachers, not sponsor them

Remember this letter is about churches (to the “lady”). If you have a JW, Mormon, or any other kind of false teacher in your family, this isn’t prohibiting you from having them in your home.

It’s telling us never to have them represent us in any way. That seems sensible enough.

But then: What about non-church helpers at church events? Would we also have non-church people help lead services (e.g. as a musician)? What’s the difference? The critical point is whether they are portrayed as representing the beliefs and values of the church – “the truth”.

In summary

So 2 John has led us into some challenging thinking:

  1. All Christians are children of God and ought to love all his children. Specifically, this church should love other local sister churches (in truth and in love – both equally).
  2. But we are not to entertain anyone who might represent us in a way that isn’t true – even if only by association with us.
  3. And yet we are to remain open to every sinner who comes in the door, that we might lead them to Jesus, to truth and love in him!

He has one final remark:

Better in person (12-13)

Read 2 John 1:12-13.

We’re all very much aware of this. We’ve loved the technology that’s kept us connected in this pandemic. It’s great that some can watch from home. But we all know that it’s better to be together in person.

  • Zoom is amazing and really helpful.
  • An older member couldn’t quite hear on Zoom he bought a little ‘loop’ system that worked with his hearing aid – amazingly simple technology!

And yet, whether it’s John’s “paper and ink,” Zoom, YouTube, WhatsApp or anything else, there’s no substitute for being in person. There is still a need for some people to join us from home.

But no-one should do that out of choice or convenience.

But even more, remember that John is writing from one sister church to another. He’s not even writing to his own church! The Wirral Gospel Partnership gives opportunities for you to show your love to other local brothers and sisters in Christ – in person.

It’s time for all this stuff to affect you, for you to do something different. Love the Lord Jesus Christ; love his people, here and across Wirral. Practically, actually, in person where possible.