1 It is a striking fact that John never appeals to his apostleship in his epistles. In this short note, as well as in the next one, he is simply an elder. This accords with the private character of this missive, yet it undoubtedly reflects the waning authority of the twelve apostles as the apostasy of the chosen nation developed. They are not given any place in Jerusalem in the latter part of the book of Acts.
4 The main characteristics of the Circumcision epistles reappear in this brief letter. There is the emphasis on conduct and the physical aspect of truth. The very brevity of the letter tells us that the elder much preferred to convey his message in person. Even if we should take the lady as a type of Israel, the tie which is recognized is a physical one. In all this, there is a great contrast with the latest ministry of Paul.
6 The difference in viewpoint between John and Paul is seen in their attitude toward the law. In one case "he who is loving another has fulfilled law" (Ro.13:8). In the other love is the motive that they may be walking according to His precepts. In one case there is emancipation from law. In the other there is ability to fulfill law. God will write the law on their hearts, under the new covenant (Heb.8:10). We are not under law, but under grace (Ro.6:15). We were exempted from the law. . . so that it is for us to be slaving in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter (Ro.7:6).
7 The principal object of this letter seems to be a warning against those who spiritualize the coming of Christ, and deny His physical appearance in the future. In the first epistle it is "having come" (4:2) . Here the present participle is used–"coming"–and can refer only to His manifestation in the day of the Lord. (See Mt.16:28, 24:30, 26:64; Mk.13:26, 14:62; Lu.21:27.) This involves the great truth of His physical resurrection and ascension, and confirms the literal understanding of the prophecy that" And His feet stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem from the east" (Zech.14:4).
Truth is emphasized in this as love is emphasized in the third epistle. The many deceivers cause grave concern. Truth is imperiled and is now to be made a test of fellowship and a condition of offering hospitality (10). It will not be a time of recovery of truth but of its perversion. The test of fellowship in the present is conduct and not doctrine.