(Inclusion in this list does not necessarily entail complete endorsement. Those volumes that I recommend for purchase are marked with an *.)
Barker, G. W. 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981. This is an evangelical and conservative treatment of the Johannine epistles that is designed for those without a knowledge of Greek. It tends to be too brief at times.
Boice, James Montgomery. The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979. This commentary is based on Boice's sermons. Although not a detailed interaction with the text, it is theologically and homiletically helpful.
Brooke, A. E. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles. ICC. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1912. Although the ICC series tends to be more liberal in outlook, Brooke's volume is excellent. He has numerous detailed studies of issues in the Greek text that are worthy of careful study. However, if one has the volumes by Brown and Smalley, Brooke is somewhat superfluous.
Brown, R. E. The Epistles of John. The Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1982. This volume is by one of the leading Catholic scholars of our day. It is deep and detailed and has become the standard by which all other commentaries on John's letters are judged.*
Bruce, F. F. The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970. This is one of the first commentaries on John's letters that I read. As always, Bruce is precise in his explanation of issues. It is brief but worthy of your study.
Burdick, Donald W. The Letters of John the Apostle, An In-Depth Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1985. This volume is similar in approach and perspective to Hiebert (see below). Very helpful.
Burge, Gary M. Letters of John. The NIV Application Commentary. True to its name, this volume is excellent on application and its attempt to find the contemporary relevance of John's theology. It is easy to read, yet doesn't shy away from tackling difficult issues. Highly recommended.*
Carson, Donald A. Although not yet available, the volume by Carson in the New International Greek Testament Commentary will undoubtedly prove to be the standard evangelical work on the Johannine epistles. By all means, when it is released, get it! **
Grayston, Kenneth. The Johannine Epistles. The Century Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984. Like most volumes in this series, this one is brief but helpful.
Hiebert, D. Edmond. The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary. Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1991. I always find Hiebert's NT commentaries helpful and this one is no exception. He is somewhat fundamentalist in his approach but is always fair in handling controversial topics. He interacts with the Greek text but not in such a way that English readers fail to benefit.*
Jackman, David. The Message of John's Letters. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove: IVP, 1988. Although I have not used this commentary much, most in the BST series are evangelical in theology and quite helpful.
Johnson, Thomas F. 1,2, and 3 John. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. This series is generally evangelical but brief in scope.
Kistemaker, Simon J. Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986. Kistemaker is solid and stable, but not very exciting. It is Calvinistic in perspective.
Kruse, Colin G. the Letters of John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. This is the most recent contribution to the Johannine literature. Kruse is solid and evangelical, though at times too brief. The book contains several helpful special studies on important theological themes in the letters. Kruse also has a listing of the most recent periodical literature on the Johannine epistles. Highly recommended.*
Law, Robert. The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1914 (reprinted by Baker Book House, 1968). Law's commentary is built around the understanding that John is setting forth three "tests" by which one may know if he/she is saved. Law's work was highly influential in Stott's approach to the epistles.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. Life in God: Studies in 1 John. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1995. These are transcribed sermons on 1 John contained in five volumes. Lloyd-Jones is always practical and challenging. This is not an exegetical commentary but a theological and homiletical one.
Marshall, I. H. The Epistles of John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978. Marshall writes from an Arminian perspective. His commentary is second only to Stott for evangelical readers. It is thorough and always fair in its treatment of controversial issues. Highly recommended.*
Schnackenburg, Rudolph. The Johannine Epistles: Introduction and Commentary. Translated by Reginald and Ilse Fuller. New York: Crossroad, 1992. Schnackenburg is deep and technical, somewhat liberal, but worth digging into for detailed exegetical insights on the Greek text and theologically important matters.
Smalley, Stephen. 1, 2, 3 John. Word Biblical Commentary 51. Waco: Word Publishers, 1984. Smalley's volume is excellent and is designed for those with a working knowledge of Greek. It is generally evangelical in approach and is especially helpful in presenting detailed arguments both pro and con on controversial issues.*
Smith, D. Moody. First, Second, and Third John. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1991.
Stott, John R. W. The Epistles of John. The Tyndale NT Commentary Series. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964. This is far and away the best commentary that Stott has written on any NT book. It is also the first commentary that I would recommend for the student to purchase. It was revised and expanded in 1988 to take into account more recent studies of the Johannine literature. Although he interacts with the Greek text, this commentary is accessible to students of the English Bible as well. Get it!**
Strecker, Georg. The Johannine Letters. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1995. Most of the commentaries in the Hermeneia series tend to be liberal in outlook. This is a detailed interaction with the original text which, while helpful in that regard, is not deeply theological or practical.
Thompson, Marianne Meye. 1-3 John. The InterVarsity Press NT Commentary. Downer's Grove: IVP, 1992. Although brief and non-technical, Thompson has helpful insights. It is not as good, however, as Stott or Marshall.
Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Epistles of St. John, The Greek Text with Notes. 3rd ed. 1892. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950 (reprint). As the title suggests, Westcott is quite technical in his treatment of the Greek text. Very helpful.