1 The Elder,
“The Elder” is believed to be John the Apostle. The title used by John here in reference to himself implies he is older in age. In gymnastics a person in their late teens can be over the hill. A 30 year old football player is approaching the twilight years of their career. A baseball player may last until 35. But in the church, age is an asset. John was around 100 years old when he wrote this short letter.
The Bible says wisdom belongs to the aged (Job 12:12). The inspired psalmist spoke of work to do even when one got old (Psalm 71:18-19) and being fruitful for the Lord into one’s later years of age (Psalm 92:12-14). The Bible says the elderly should be respected and not cast aside (Leviticus 19:32). Gray hair is a crown of glory for the aged (Proverbs 16:31; 20:29). God promises to strengthen people of age (1 Corinthians 1:8-9; Philippians 1:6; Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Abraham and Sarah were around 100 years old when their son of promise arrived (Genesis 18:9-15; 21:1-7; 24:1; 25:7-8). Moses was called by God at age 80 (Exodus 3-4; Deuteronomy 34:7). Faithful and courageous Caleb was killing giants and taking ground in the Promised Land when he was a senior (Joshua 14-15). Even Paul was used by God into his later years of life (Philemon 9). Age does not disqualify a person from being used by God. In many ways it makes them better prepared. Seek the Lord to see what He might have planned for you. Don’t put limitations on God. He has a way, even a preference at times, to use those the world would cast aside.
To the elect lady and her children,
“The elect lady and her children” could refer to an actual individual person and her children or it could be a personification of a local church and its members. “Elect” (Greek adjective eklektos) refers to those who have by faith fit into the parameters of God’s elect body of believers, i.e. they have received God’s forgiveness of sin as a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ; been born again spiritually – regenerated by the Holy Spirit who indwells them; are living for Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit (e.g. Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7; Romans 8:9-10; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Galatians 5).
whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:
John the example of truthful love. John right from the start lays out his personal example as one who can say, “I love in truth.” “Truth” (Greek noun aletheia) means that which is truth, dependability, free from error, integrity. Truth is simple something that is what it says it is. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). He also said, “I am the way, the truth, the life” (John 14:6a). He said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). The truth John is speaking of is a truth that is found in God’s word and in Jesus Himself. Love that is truthful is love that loves like Jesus would love and how the word of God defines love to be (e.g. 1 Cor. 13).
Every Christian should be an example of truthful love. This loving in truth John speaks of here is to be a characteristic of all those who name the name of Jesus. John states, “and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: . . . .” When you become a Christian and the Holy Spirit indwell you, He brings His love to you and produces it in you (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-24). And that love stays with the Christian “forever.” The love of God in Christ that is put in the believer is reliable and enduring.
3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
“Grace” (Greek charis) is undeserved favor. It is getting what you don’t deserve. We are products of God’s grace (1 Cor. 15:10). “Mercy” (Greek eleos) is mercy, kindness, good will. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We deserve judgment for our sins but God has mercifully provided a way of deliverance from our deserved penalty for sin through the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Peace” (Greek eirene) means peace, prosperity, quietness, rest, quietness. Before we accept Jesus as Savior we are at war with God. But when we surrender to God through faith in Jesus we are no longer at war with God but at peace; the struggle is over as far as who is in control of our life – God (cf. Romans 5).
Grace, mercy and peace are always in this order. Because of God’s grace He acts merciful to us and when we receive His gospel of grace and mercy it results in peace with God.
The Source of grace, mercy and peace is God who acts in truth and love. Grace, mercy and peace come “from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, . . .” Grace, mercy and peace are from God. And God provides grace, mercy and peace “in truth and love.” The message and Messenger of God Jesus is one filled with truth and love. In truth Jesus is the way of salvation from sin (Romans 3). In love God devised His plan of redemption for the lost (Romans 5:8).
4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
Truthful love produces great joy. John says he greatly “rejoiced” (Greek verb echaren: Aorist/Passive/Indicative of chairō) meaning rejoice, glad, good day. Joy is that deep settling, life stabilizing, assurance that God is in control. When John discovered that the children of this elect lady or this church were “walking in truth” or living in truth and following the commandments of the Father, it fueled a burst of joy in him.
When we see others walking in truth it is encouraging. When others walk in truth it reaffirms that truth. When we walk in truth and see others also waling in truth it unites us and gives us joyful peace because we know they are headed in the right direction. It’s comforting to see others living out God’s truth.
5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
Truthful love should be encouraged in others. John uses the word “plead” (Greek verb eroto: Present/Active Indicative of erotao) which means here a continuous ask, request, beseech, challenge to those he is writing to. John is pleading with the church to keep on with the original commandment which they were given from the beginning “that we love one another.” This love is defined by “His commandments.” When we look at the Ten Commandments for instance, they really are expressions of love to God (the first four) and to others (the last six). We “walk in” love and fulfill God’s commandments (e.g. Romans 10:13). Like John we should be encouraging each other to walk in love.
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
The reason we need to encourage others to walk in truthful love is that there are many deceivers who pervert truthful love. John warns of “many deceivers.” “Deceivers” (Greek adjective planoi) refers to deceivers, misleading, imposters. A deceiver is not truthful. They present themselves as something they are not. A deceiver is an imposter; they are not actually Christians but only present themselves as “Christians.”
Such deceivers are described as those “who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” This could be a reference to Gnostics who denied the bodily incarnation of Jesus based on their dualistic beliefs. They would claim that Jesus only appeared to be in human form (i.e. Docetism). John further describes such deceivers as “an antichrist” or one who comes in the place of Jesus Christ. They are pseudo-Christs or a false Christ who presents themselves as like Jesus but in reality or an imposter who uses an outward likeness to Jesus only to deceive and counter the truth of Jesus.
But this could also be a reference to those who not only deny the incarnation of Jesus but His future bodily return as well. The word “coming” (Greek verb erchomenon: Present/Middle/Participle of erchomai) means coming, going, appearing. This could be a reference to the promised return of Jesus. John was inspired to devote an entire book (i.e. Revelation) to the End Times and culmination of all things including the return of Jesus to set up His earthly Kingdom. While its likely that the primary measure of the Gnostic heretic was their denial of the incarnation of Jesus, it could also extend to a denial of the return of Jesus.
John warns, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” John is concerned that some would lower their guard and be stray off track of the truth they had thus far received. These deceiving antichrist figures were a threat to the readers in that if they succumbed to their false teaching they might jeopardize their “full reward.”
“Look” (Greek verb blepete: Present/Acts/2nd Person Plural of blepo) means continuously see, notice, watch, beware of, perceive, behold. John calls them to watch “yourselves.” It’s important to watch for false teachers, but it is even more important to watch yourself that you aren’t duped by the false teaching. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive to Jesus (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Deceptive antichrist types of false teachers come with craftiness and deceit and they try to sneak into your heart and mind through sly and confusing deceitful teaching (e.g. 2 Cor. 4:1-6). We need to watch out for them and we need to watch ourselves that we aren’t duped by their deception.
“Lose” (Greek verb apolesomen; Aorist/Active/Subjunctive of apollumi) which conveys the idea of possibly destroy, ruin, kill, lose, perish, put to death. John was concerned that much of the ministry work he had done with these people as well as their own personal spiritual growth would be lost or ruined by the false teaching of these antichrist figures. He was also concerned that the readers would lost part or all of their heavenly rewards (not salvation).
There are those who redefine love as something different than God’s revealed love. They usually would use God’s love as an excuse to manipulate Christians into supporting them or doing things for them. There is nothing wrong with supporting ministries and ministers, but when ministers manipulate and use God’s love to do it, such love ceases to be love because it is not truthful.
9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
Rely on the truth to define love. John speaks in his characteristic clarity. “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.” There is no grey area or middle ground. False teachers often use compromise to weasel their way into a person’s life. You can’t compromise God’s word. John says clearly and firmly, “Whoever” (Greek adjective pas – all; anyone) who “transgresses” (Greek verb parabainon: Present/Active/Participle of parabaino) meaning turning aside from, breaking, transgressing it a person does not abide in the “doctrine” (Greek noun didache – teaching) such “does not have God.” What a person believes is very important. And John points out that it’s not just that a person talks a good talk initially, if it is seen of them that they do “not abide in the doctrine of Christ” or there is not an ongoing adherence to the teaching of Jesus, they “do not have God.” Some cults will talk in seeming agreement with God’s truth in order to get their foot in the door. But once inside they subtly deviate from God’s truth and promote false antichrist teachings. There must be an abiding ongoing, consistent sticking to the truth of God’s word in gauging where a person is with the Lord.
Give room for time to verify if someone truly is abiding in God’s truth. John says, “He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” John tells us to watch for false teaching and false teachers. And his use of the term “abide” (Greek verb menon: Present/Active Participle of meno) means a continuous remaining in, staying, standing fast, dwelling, abiding, continuing, lasting, enduring. In other words, John is telling his readers to not rely only on a good first impression but to watch over time whether or not a person proves themselves to abide in the teaching of God’s word and Jesus. Don’t be quick to judgement. Discernment at times requires time. People can come and seem to be truthful. But if they are lying, the lie will eventually be exposed. God’s word is a good barometer and measure of truth (e.g. Hebrews 4:12-13; cf. also Proverbs 15:3).
Vance Havner once commented, “The greatest friend of truth is time. Error is always in a hurry, but God's man can afford to await the vindication of time. And if he is not vindicated in his own lifetime, eternity will settle the score.” 
10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
Do not welcome false teachers. We are to minister to and seek to correct those caught up in false teaching. But we are not to invite them into our homes as though they are fellow Christian believers. There is to be no compromise with the doctrines of God. We cannot compromise God’s word. Pastor Chuck Smith in his WFTB study note states:
If there are those who deny that Christ is God and that He was manifested in the flesh then don’t invite them into your house. If they make Jesus out to be less than God, whether they contend He is ‘the Son of God’ and not God Himself 9as the Jehovah’s Witnesses say0; or whether they say He is the spirit brother of Lucifer 9as the Mormons teach, don’t let them in. Don’t let them park in your front yard. And don’t let heretics into your house through the television set either. Shut the door on false teaching. 
“Receive” (Greek verb lambanete: Present/Active/2nd Person Plural of lambano) means continuously take, take hold of, receive. John is instructing this “lady” to be discerning about who she offers support to. The Apologetics Study Bible note on this verse states:
Do not receive him into your home” refers to hospitality that goes beyond a mere greeting and includes the provision of lodging and other necessities. Rudeness is never appropriate. However, we are not to lend aid to false teachers. The prohibition includes exclusion from fellowship as well as the refusal to ask God’s blessing upon such a heretic.
There are many charlatans on television and radio and Internet in our day. We are to be discerning of who we support. Support those ministries which abide in the truth of God’s word. Turn away from those ministries which don’t abide in the truth of God’s word. Don’t be rude to them. But don’t participate in their efforts either.
12 Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
The message of truthful love is best delivered personally. A letter is a good means to communicate, but the best means of communication is in person. John sent a short note ahead of him to make some major points of warning to his readers. But there were some things that were best shared in person. Truthful love is best shared in person. When a person is face to face with another you can see their facial expressions, their tone of voice, their body language and there are simply more ways to discern truth from falsehood.
 Vance Havner, in Repent or Else, Revell, p. 73. http://gracequotes.org/?topic=truth-defended&author-quote=&s=
 Ibid. Chuck Smith, p. 1625
 Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1877). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.