Who was the “Elect lady” that John wrote to in the short letter we know as 2 John? Down through the years there have been many ideas. Some believe strongly that it is either the Lord’s church as a whole or that it refers to a local congregation of the Lord’s people. It seems to me that you are required to do lots of twist and turns to make the book fit as a letter to the church. His reference to her children, her sister and her hospitality toward those who were false teachers all seem out of place for the local church. It seems far more likely that John is writing to a godly member of the body in one of the congregations where he has served as an apostle and as an elder in the church. She was likely an older member who had been there for a long time and had shown hospitality toward John and others who came as preachers and teachers of the gospel. Why didn’t he give us her name? Since there isn’t anything that gives any clear indication as to why, it would simply be a guess, even if it is a good one. It could be that John was having the letter hand delivered to her and saw no reason to include her name. To address her as “The Elect Lady” was complimentary and demonstrated John’s respect for her. It also shouted the message that even though he had some correction in the book he didn’t see it as something that put her outside the faith or outside God’s grace. She was one of God’s chosen, as an “Elect Lady.”
Her life and her children had produced joy in the heart of John. But even an elect lady needed some instruction and some correction. In verse five he begins, “And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” Why do you suppose John said so much to her about love? Surely as an elect lady she knew clearly the teaching of the Lord about loving each other. He had indeed shown the love we have for each other in Christ is the best way to demonstrate to the world our discipleship to Jesus.(John 13:34-35) I suspect she felt she was truly following this command in all our dealings with disciples of Jesus. As a Christian demonstrating hospitality toward people who stopped by on their way to other places to preach the good news of Jesus she was a great representative of the hospitality all Christians should have. I’m sure she felt great about the whole thing.
But John’s purpose in laying this out first was that he wished to take this major plank in the foundation of Christianity and demonstrate that it could be abused and that she needed to take a close look at the people she was accepting into her home and even listening to as they shared their beliefs about Jesus and His kingdom. “I say this because many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teachings of Christ does not have God, whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” Here was a huge point and it dealt with a massive problem for then and forever. There have been two major false teachings about Jesus from the beginning. One of these is the notion that Jesus is a great man, maybe even the best man ever to live, but he is still just a man. John started his gospel account with “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) In verse 14 he added, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” To deny the deity of Christ was to be “AntiChrist”. “In Him dwelt all the fullness of deity, bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)
But there was another group of teachers going about during the latter part of the first century that John referred to as “AntiChrist.” These teachers didn’t deny his deity, but his humanity. They said he looked like a human being, but he wasn’t really. Some said that if you tried to shake his hand or embrace him your hand would pass right through his. Tied closely to this was the notion that he wasn’t really crucified for us so we can be saved through his blood. It was all an allusion or it was actually someone else on the cross. John said these folks were going right past the teachings of Christ and were antiChrist in the process. The result was they neither had the Father or the Son. While pretending to be the enlightened teachers of Christianity they were actually antiChrist and were doing tremendous harm to the cause.
But what did that have to do with the elect lady? She was showing these false teachers who were really antiChrist Christian hospitality. As she received them into her house and listened to their false teaching it gave them credibility among the people in the church who knew and trusted her. Listen to what John told her: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching do not take them into your house of welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.” (Verses 10-11)
We need to be people of love and hospitality but we can be too open and too hospitable. We must show care that we aren’t deceived by wrong teaching ourselves and we must be careful that our listening to what is mistaken doesn’t open the door for others to listen to them and be led into false teaching that is actually opposed to Christ rather than for him. Any teaching that doesn’t elevate Christ as God in the flesh, as one of us and one with the Father at the same time, is completely wrong and dangerous. Be openminded but not too openminded. We can be so openminded that the truth runs right out as the error flows in. It matters what we believe. It matters what we teach others. Our beliefs and our teaching can be fatal to us and those who hear us if it is against Christ Jesus our Lord.