What Does 2 John 1:5 Mean?

Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.

2 John 1:5(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

It is a spirit of godly love that perfumes the path of believers who are walking in the truth and obeying Christ's command to love each other as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. Love is a subject that threads its way through the writings of John, who is often referred to as 'the apostle of love'. It is the intermarriage of truth and love that weaves its message throughout all of John's writing.

It is the same kissing couplets of truth and love that are the focal point of John's second epistle as he writes to 'The Elect Lady' and her children whom he loves in truth. This elderly disciple of Jesus, who heard his Master declare, "I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life," and saw Him stretch out His arms of love on the Cross, cannot contain his joy that some of the elect lady's children are walking in the truth of the gospel - in keeping with a command they had received from the Father from the beginning - to love one another.

John does not separate truth from love nor does he promote love without the accompaniment of truth. It has been said that 'truth without love is brutality while love without truth is hypocrisy'. The cold light of academic truth without the warming heart of godly love is a far cry from the command that Christ gave to his disciples to love one another as He loved us.

Paul accurately describes the divorce of truth from love in his first epistle to the Corinthians, when he writes, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."

The love about which John is speaking in his second epistle is a love that is described, superbly, in first Corinthians - a love that is: "Patient and kind; it doesn't envy and isn't boastful or conceited; it doesn't act improperly towards others and is not selfish; it is neither easily provoked nor keeps a record of the wrongdoing of others."

The quality of love to which John referred in his letter is a love that rejoices in the truth; a love that "bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things - a love that never fails." And he rejoiced that the elect lady's children were walking in the truth - in keeping with a command received from the Father from the beginning - to love one another; to love each other as Christ loved us - to love others with a sacrificial love that is ready and willing to love the truth and to speak the truth in love.

John was not introducing a new concept of love. He was not instituting a new commandment but restoring one which we had from the beginning. He was not initiating a different directive on love or promoting an emotional response. He wanted this lady and her children to stand firm on the teaching they had originally received: "Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love - that we walk according to His commandments."

From the beginning, we discover that "love does no wrong to a neighbour therefore love is the fulfilment of the Law." During His ministry on earth, the Lord Jesus instructed His followers to love the Lord their God with all their heart, and soul, and mind, and strength: "This is the first and great commandment," He reminded them, "and the second is 'you shall love your neighbour as yourself.' And the entire truth of God's Word hangs upon the Law and the Prophets." 

"What is truth?" was Pilot's question as Christ, the embodiment of TRUTH stood before him. And the same query about love can be answered in the same way, for Christ is the personification of LOVE.

The love of Christ is imperfect if divorced from the truth of the gospel: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

The truth of the gospel is dependent on God's love for us and the distinguishing mark of a child of God should be our love for one another. If God loved us so dearly - should we not obey His command and love one another?

May we endeavour to fulfil God's command which was given to us all from the beginning - to 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, that you should walk in it." 

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You that You loved us so much that You sent Jesus to die for the sin of the world. How I praise and thank You that He was willing to stretch out His arms of love, on the Cross, for my sake so that by faith in Him I might not perish but have everlasting life. Help me to live by faith and to walk in love, and enable me to love others as You have loved me. Help me to always speak the truth in love with gentleness and respect. May my loving conduct bring glory to You, bring edification to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and bring many to a saving understanding of Jesus. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Picture courtesy of John Heseltine & Pam Masco

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