Five times in the first four verses of John’s very brief letter to “the elect lady,” he emphasizes the role truth must occupy in a Christian’s life. He first notes that his love for this “elect lady” is rooted in truth, vs. 1.
(The recipients of this letter, whom John addresses as the “elect lady and her children,” are thought by some commentators to be an actual sister in Christ and her family. Those who hold this view generally assign her either the name Kuria or Electa, literal translations of the words “lady” and “elect.” A more commonly-held view in recent years supposes that John is addressing a specific congregation and its members, rather than an individual Christian sister and her family. There IS a biblical precedent for this view, as Peter refers to the congregation in Rome as “she” in 1 Peter 5:13. Regardless of which view we take concerning the identity of John’s original readers, the truth and applicability of his message does not change in the slightest degree.)
No relationship at all would likely exist between John and the recipients of his letter but for the common ground they occupy because of “truth.” John expands this theme by including all others who share this common ground – “all they that know the truth” – and in the process he moves our thoughts from a generic image of things that are true to the very specific context of God’s message about judgement, salvation, and eternity: THE truth.
At verse 2 he again expands the image of truth by further pointing out that the love these Christians share is absolutely rooted in the message (“truth”) that lives within them. In other words, God’s truth is the animating force of the love they share, and because His truth abides forever (cf. Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:23) so shall the love it produces (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Unlike many of Paul’s letters, John’s opening “benediction” at verse 3 does not express a prayerful desire for God’s grace, mercy, and peace on behalf of his readers; rather, he emphasizes these qualities as common consequences that necessarily result from the presence of truth and love in the heart of every Christian. The practice of everything God’s truth requires (“walking in truth” according to the Father’s commandments, vs. 4) thus becomes a source of great joy for John because their common practice of God’s will is a clear demonstration that they – like he – are united together by the motive, values, and purpose of the Father.
John defines the commandment for Christians to love one another (vs. 5) by describing the practice of Christian love in verse 6 – Christians are to “walk” (a metaphor for the overall conduct of our lives) according to the commandments God has given. Much as Paul and Peter urged Christians to “be of the same mind” (cf. Romans 12:16; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:1), John’s words here reflect the common motive and perspective all Christians should share. The presence of “deceivers” and “antichrist” in the world (vs. 7) – who contradict the reality of Jesus’ incarnation – challenges all Christians to pay attention to what we believe and how we “walk,” lest we be led astray by their error (vv. 9-11) and lose the benefits/blessings we have obtained. We must recognize the connection John makes between truth in vv. 1-4, the commandments of vv. 5-6, and the doctrine of Christ in vv. 9-11.