Handfuls on Purpose

by James Smith, 1943


This is a private personal letter from the aged Apostle John, addressed to an unknown Christian woman, and her pious family. This is the only Epistle in the New Testament addressed exclusively to a lady. There is a tradition that the lady addressed was Martha of Bethany. "The Greek Hyria (Lady, verse 1), answers to the Hebrew Martha," wrote Bengel. If this be true, the "sister" referred to in verse 13 would be Mary. It was written specifically to warn this lady and her family of some false teachers (verse 10).


2 John 1:1, 2

The word "truth" is met with five times in this short Epistle of but thirteen verses, and forms its key-word.

I. The Source of Love. Truth. Most versions print truth with a capital "T," Truth. Certainly this is one of the Lord's Names, and He is the source of all true love.

II. The Reality of Love. That is, the nature of love commended here is true love, love that is no mere pretense or make-believe.

III. The Breadth of Love. Love cannot be confined to one. The Elder (John must have been about 90 years old when he wrote this Epistle) not only loved "The elect lady," but also "her children," and this pious family was not only loved by the aged apostle, but also by "all they that have known the truth."

IV. The Realization of Love. R. gives "understand" for "known" in verse 1. This is to say, those who have realized truth and the love of God in Christ to themselves love others.

V. The Inwardness of Love. "Which dwells in us," God's love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Is it truth or love that is meant here? Well, He is both Truth and Love, and as both dwells within us and with us.


2 John 1:3

This is a very unusual form of the apostolic salutation in the New Testament, only found in the Pastoral Epistles and here (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4). You will observe that "Mercy" is added to the usual salutation, "Grace—Peace." What is the significance, and what is the teaching?

Well, read Luke 10:37 with Genesis 39:21. Who showed mercy? The Good Samaritan. What is showing mercy? Binding up wounds and bruises, etc. But what had "mercy" to do with Joseph in prison? Ah, there are more dangerous wounds than those of the body—there are wounds and bruises of the spirit. Joseph's reputation had been challenged; he had been cast into prison on a false charge. His spirit was bruised and bleeding. But the Good Samaritan came when all doors were shut, barred, and bolted, and ministered comfort and consolation to the distressed one. The Lord's servants frequently require the Lord's gracious Good Samaritan ministry.


2 John 1:4

1. Is given to walk in (verse 4), not merely to admire.

2. This is one proof of our love to God (verse 6), for love manifests itself in ready obedience.


2 John 1:7, 11

False teachers were traveling (verses 7 to 11) among the churches, and John warns this lady against even entertaining them (verses 10 to 11), much less their false doctrines. Then the aged Apostle gives an infallible test of truth.

1. The reality of the humanity of our Lord in His earthly life. "That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh."

2. The reality of the humanity of our Lord in His second advent. "Comes in the flesh" (R.V.).

Apply this test to some popular religious movements of our day, and the result is startling. Christian Science, Spiritism, Russellism, and other similar movements are unmasked, and shown to be against Christ, and utterly wrong—of the Devil.