2 and 3 John

An overview of the way that John and Diotrephes act as Adam in 2 and 3 John.

The second and third epistles of John are tantalizingly short windows into the world of the early Church. They seem to deal with intimately personal troubles, one or two men causing an issue to a specific church. These books are easy to pass over due to their length, but we miss the incredible amount of theology in these books when we pass by too quickly.

A. The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
-B. I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.
–C. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
—D. For many deceivers have gone out into the world,those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
–C’. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.
-B’. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 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.
A’. Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you.

The A sections are linked as greetings and salutations. The B sections are linked by those who are walking in the truth, who are revealed as having both the Father and the Son. The C sections are linked by the command: the command is issued in C, and then a warning to persist in the command is given in C’. The commands to love and persist in love surround the false teacher, the False Davidic King, the Antichrist. The book turns on the charge for the Church to identify the anti-Christ.

When John sees an issue in the Church, he does not look at it in a vacuum. Rather, John sees each Church issue in light of the grand narrative of Scripture. Seeing it this way, John can solve each issue with the wisdom handed to him from the entirety of Scripture.

The situation that John addresses in 2 John is clearly a situation akin to the one that Adam and Eve found themselves in. Because Adam and Eve were married, and Adam was the covenant head of humanity, Adam was to protect Eve until humanity became mature enough to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By protecting Eve, Adam would guarantee the safety of the remainder of the human race. His new family, under the protected Eve, would spread across the earth with the praise of Yahweh, cultivating the Garden of Eden until the boundaries of the earth. After Adam became mature enough to take the Fruit of the Tree, he and Eve would have entered into a marriage covenant with God. Their union would be blessed with the incarnation of the Logos, most likely, who would reign over humanity with the original couple at his side. John knows this story well, and crafts his Gospel, epistles, and Apocalypse around it. The main picture of John’s Gospel and his Revelation is Jesus ascending Jacob’s Ladder, choosing a Bride, defending her from Satanic Rome and Herodian Jerusalem, and eventually marrying her. Just as Eve was built out of the side of Adam, John is careful to show that the Church is built off the water and blood that flows from Jesus’ side. Just as the Serpent came after Eve, John shows that the Church comes under attack from a false-Trinity in Revelation. The Serpent, now a full-fledged corporate Dragon (thanks to Mike Bull), comes with the might of the nations to tempt the Bride, the new Jerusalem, away from Phineas, her Warrior-King-Groom. Jesus, the new Adam, defends his bride and brings her to the Bridal feast victorious over Lady Folly, Beastly Jerusalem-in-the-flesh.

John, united to Christ, is a new Adam who must protect his Bride while she matures to be able to marry God. The Elect Lady (Lady being the female form of Lord) has already been constructed out of the side of Christ and given unto the protection of the apostles (2 Corinthians 11:1-2) until her husband returns and finds her in her full maturity (Ephesians 5). A series of false teachers has arisen outside of the Church and from within the Church: these teachers deny the incarnation of God in Christ and are leading people away, quite possibly murdering them (I John 3:10-12). They call the Church into false teaching, telling them that they can reign over the earth by denying the physical and embracing the spiritual. The false teachers have turned their eye on the Elect Lady, acting as the serpent did in the Garden by targeting the Bride rather than the husband (Revelation 12:4). The Serpent knows that the man is the covenant head of the family, so he can’t risk attacking the head. The Body becomes an easy target when the Head is complacent. John, unlike Adam, is not complacent and steps in to protect the Bride from the attack, telling her that the only way to be safe and be united to the Father and the Son is to “love one another”. For John, not loving one another is paramount to denying the incarnation and resurrection of Christ.

Notice that this is not a new commandment, but one “as [they] have heard from the beginning”. God told Adam that he would surely die if he partook of the fruit, but by telling the Bride to walk in love and in the Son, they are walking in life. The love that they have for one another is the fruit that God is looking for. This command is increased to give the Bride more agency: the Lady is not even supposed to let these false teachers into the Church, like a true Adam would not let the Serpent stay in the Garden.

How does the Bride gain victory? By loving one another and casting out the false teacher. Adam teaches her how to act, but now the Bride has the agency needed to do the job herself.

3 John

A. The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
-B. Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
–C. Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
—D. I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us.
–C’. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
-B’. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
A’. I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to facePeace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

The A sections are linked by the greeting and salutations. A’ is a Booths reference, where John, taking the place of God, dwells physically with Gaius. The B section is about the same, except backwards of what we might expect. There is a singular example in B’ of someone who is walking in the truth, Demetrius. He is one of the people commended for “doing good” and being noted as one who is from God. In B, John hears that the entire Church is walking in truth which brings joy to his soul. Gaius is sending out brothers in C, doing a good work; in C’, Gaius is contrasted by Diotrephes, who refuses to accept the brothers. The book turns on Diotrephes’s refusal to note the authority of the church, grasping at authority on his own and making himself a king.

3 John is also a warning against repeating the sins of Adam. Diotrephes wants “to put himself first” and “does not acknowledge authority” by resisting the apostles who represent Christ himself. Adam similarly wanted to exalt himself by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil too quickly and did not acknowledge the authority of God by listening first to the serpent. John then focuses on the other men in the church who are doing their duty of creating missionaries and welcoming brothers, true Adams. The book has a focus on hospitality: those who focus on accepting the brothers and sending them out are commended as those who know God, and those who accept power for themselves and refuse to accept brothers do not know God.

Application: 

As Solomon teaches us, “There is nothing new under the sun.” When we learn to read the Bible with the eyes of the Spirit, who teaches us how to read Scripture in light of Scripture, we learn how to read the world around us as well. John, knowing the Scriptures intimately, was able to see that the issue with the newly arisen Gnostic Anti-Christs and Diotrephes were similar to God’s issue with Adam in the Garden. John, having fully consumed Genesis and the Psalms, having lived with Jesus and written a Gospel about him, knew what Adam should have done in his situation. He saw the Church as a new Eve, one who must be taught and defended, but one the one who brought glory to her Husband. John, as Adam, could respond with the whole of biblical counsel toward Adam to Eve, the Elect Lady, and free her from the serpentine attacks.

When we learn to read the world around us through Scriptural eyes, we can make connections with biblical narratives and instructions which guide the way that we respond to certain situations. Prayerfully read the Scriptures, bringing your cares before God, and he will show you how he has instructed his saints to act before in similar situations.

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2 thoughts on “2 and 3 John

    1. Ah, of course. This makes sense considering this relates to how we relate to “brothers” in the Land rather than the Garden. Not only that, but John has already referenced Cain in terms of those who murder brothers.

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