Friday, June 1, 2012

The Elect Lady in II John

1.      John opens his second epistle by referring to the elect lady and her children.  In verse 13 John closes his letter with a very similar phrase; “The children of your elect sister greet you.” It is usually thought that these two references are to a literal woman and her children. For example, my Reformation Study Bible says these two verses cannot refer to churches, but refer to real women for whom John had pastoral care. It is possible that John is referring to two blood sisters that he knew. However, it is more likely that this is a reference to two churches, especially when we examine his use of the term “children.”  John’s uses the term “children” frequently in I John (See I John 2:1, 12, 13, 18, 28, 3:1, 2, 7, 10, 18, 4:4, 5:2, 21).  The only place where it is possible he is referring to real children is 2:12-13, but even here it is not likely.  So here in II John, where children is used three times (vs. 1, 4, 13), it is likely John is referring to disciples, not to literal children. This means the phrases “elect lady” at the beginning and “elect sister” at the end are probably referring to two churches.  Paul frequently sends greetings from one church to another (See Romans 16:23, I Corinthians 16:19, II Corinthians 13:13, and Philippians 4:21-22). John is doing the same thing here though using different language. 

2.      This also has some bearing on John’s command in verse 10 about avoiding false teachers.  He tells the church that if someone does not teach that Jesus came in the flesh (vs. 7) they are to not “receive him into your house or greet him.”  We usually interpret this as meaning we should not allow a person teaching this doctrine into our home. However, if the letter is to a church, it is more likely that “house” here means the church. John is exhorting them to make sure they do not give these false teachers any welcome or any opportunity to teach in the church. It might have application in our homes. But the more direct application is that churches and denominations should not give any forum to false teachers. 

3.      The term for “lady” in verses 1 and 5 is, kuria, the feminine form of lord, kurios. It is only used in II John.  This is not just any woman. She is a queen who sits beside her Lord. 

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8