In format, this brief book is a conventional NT epistle, consisting of a salutation, a body, and a conclusion. As in most epistles, the body of the letter consists of mingled instruction and commands, and although readers do not find the concentrated list of commands that comprise the familiar paraenesis (set of ethical commands) of NT letters, 2 John 8–11 has affinities with that conventional motif.
John writes to “the elect lady.” This more likely refers to a congregation than to an individual, because much of 2 John is written in the second-person plural. It is also questionable whether John would write to a female Christian that he and she should “love one another” (2 John 5); the phrase makes better sense if addressed to a church. There are three additional reasons why “elect lady” may refer to a whole congregation. First, the word “church” in Greek is feminine in gender, and “lady” would go along with that. Second, the church is depicted as “bride” elsewhere in John’s writings (Rev. 21:2, 9; 22:17). Third, the Greek word kyria (“lady”) referred to a social subunit in the Greek city-state. John may use this word for a local congregation instead of the more common feminine word ekklēsia.
2 John 13 suggests that John writes to one congregation from another, which he terms “your elect sister.”
Taken from the ESV® Study Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2008 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For more information on how to cite this material, see permissions information here.