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3John (web)

I. The Commendation of Gaius

1:1 The elder to Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth.
1:2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be healthy,
even as your soul prospers.

1:3 For I rejoiced greatly, when brothers came and testified about your truth,
even as you walk in truth.

1:4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear about my children walking in truth.
1:5 Beloved, you do a faithful work in whatever you accomplish
for those who are brothers and strangers.

1:6 They have testified about your love before the assembly.
You will do well to send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God,
1:7 because for the sake of the Name they went out,  taking nothing from the Gentiles.
1:8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

II. The Condemnation of Diotrephes

1:9 I wrote to the assembly, but Diotrephes,
who loves to be first among them, doesn't accept what we say.
1:10 Therefore, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does,
unjustly accusing us with wicked words.
Not content with this, neither does he himself receive the brothers,
and those who would, he forbids and throws out of the assembly.
1:11 Beloved, don't imitate that which is evil, but that which is good.
He who does good is of God. He who does evil hasn't seen God.
1:12 Demetrius has the testimony of all, and of the truth itself; yes,
we also testify, and you know that our testimony is true.

1:13 I had many things to write to you, but I am unwilling to write to you with ink and pen;
1:14 but I hope to see you soon, and we will speak face to face.
Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

Discussion Questions

Hearing what would give you the greatest joy?
Where else is Gaius mentioned in the New Testament?
How can we practice hospitality today?
What things did Diotrephes do wrong?
What is John's conclusion about him?
What edification is there in face to face communication vs. simply writing?


vs 1-4 John first expresses his affection for Gaius in view of his spiritual maturity. In view of the fact that John identifies him as one of his children, it is possible that he lead him to Christ. But perhaps not, for Paul mentions in 1Cor 1:14 of baptizing a man called Gaius. Perhaps John played a major role in discipling the man.

vs 5-8 John commends Gaius for his hospitality. This may have been the same Gaius that Paul mentions in Romans 16:23 "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings." who was originally from Derbe and traveled some with Paul. He was persecuted in Ephesus according to Ac 19:29 "And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre." But he continued with Paul after this according to Acts 20:4. Though there is some doubt that it is the same Gaius given that John implies here that he led him to Christ, whereas Paul had baptized Gaius. (1Cor 1:14) But if he was the same Gaius, he had experience as an itinerant evangelist and this may explain his zeal in offering hospitality to such people. But John also reminded him to provide financial support to the full time Christian workers. I suspect that since Paul was a "tent maker" missionary (self-employed not requiring financial support), and since Paul often discouraged the idea of accepting money for ministry, that Gaius previously may not have given much thought to providing such support. The fact that he was asked to indicates that he held down a secular job, or was independently wealthy.

Notice also that these men refused to seek support from the pagans. Why would they have received help from the pagans anyway? They would have appeared simply as beggers appealing to the pagan's social concerns. Today there are evangelists and ministers desperate for money making pleas for financial support beyond the Christian community even to the pagans. But John implies that this is not particularly virtuous. For he commends the brothers in accepting help only from the Christian community.

vs 9-11 "Diotrephes" literally means "Zeus-nursed". It was customary when one became a Christian for one to abandon their pagan name, but Diotrephes wouldn't. John implies that he doesn't believe that Diotrephes knows God, calling his behavior "evil". This is an application of his writings in 1John 3:10 "In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." What was Diotrephese doing wrong?

But this arrogant attitude is not uncommon among church leaders. Robertson, in connection with his discussion of this man's character, says that he wrote an article for a denominational paper on Diotrephes, and the editor told him that twenty-five deacons stopped the paper to show their resentment against being personally attacked.

vs 12 "everyone" probably doesn't include Diotrephes. One can only speculate as to why John singles out Demetrius for commendation. It would be ironic if this was the same Demetrius as that in Acts 19:24,38. Stranger things have happened, as in the case with Paul's conversion.

vs 13-14 As in the letter of 2John, he again affirms the value of personal face to face contact with people, just as Jesus practiced.

Additional Comments

Loving in Truth

3John 1:1
THE ELDER, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:

This letter of 3rd John is much like a particular application of the principles of 2nd John. For it deals with two kinds of people - Gaius and Demetrius on the one hand, and Diothrephes on the other - one kind being commendable, and the other rebuked.

Notice also the similarity with which he started off 2John "The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth." So one idea from this is that when writing others, consider starting off by expressing your attitude towards them, and particularly towards those you love.

Praying for Good Health

3John 1:2
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Now here's a convenient application. Just cut and past that quote in your next email to your friend. But if you do, realize that it's a prayer that you claim to be praying. So remember to pray it as well.

And though I don't know many of you personally, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you in accordance with how it's going with your soul.

A Lifestyle of Truth

3John 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth

This is what John meant in the previous verse by "even as your soul is getting along well." A soul's health is visible on two levels. First it's visible by what the person says - that is the truth in you. And secondly it is visible by what the person does - that is the truth is you applied. The first without the second is hypocrisy.

We should rejoice in such Christians who believe and walk according to the truth. And may we all be reckoned among their number.

No Greater Joy

3John 1:4
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

What is your greatest joy? In other words if you could ask for anything to make you the most happiest, what would you ask for? Well for John it was hearing that those he raised in the faith are walking in the truth.

Faithful Hospitality

3John 1:5  Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers,

Here's a testimony we'd all like to be worthy of. Are we neglectful or otherwise halfhearted in what we do for other people - be they Christians or non-Christians? The Bible says, "Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, But who can find a faithful man?" Pr 20:6 So let us keep in mind our responsibilities - our obligation to love others, and carry that out consistently.

Sending in a Worthy Manner

3John 1:6  who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well,

The Bible says, "Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips." Pr 27:2 So when the opportunity presents itself let us testify of the virtues of fellow Christians who are worthy of such honor.The Lord says, "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Mt 25:45 Practically what he's referring to, as the next verse with imply, is he's advising them to send them off with a financial donation. Paul commends the Philippians saying, "Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities." Php 4:15,16

Take Nothing from the Pagans

3John 1:7 because they went forth for His name's sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles.

John was speaking of paying them. Yet it is interesting that the men he was referring to apparently made no such request but relied up the church to take the initiative.

It's interesting that we never hear of Jesus asking for money for his ministry, though we know that people contributed, and Judas held the money bag. It seems he relied upon others simply taking the initiative to practice generosity.

Luke 10:4-7
"Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages."

1Cor 9:14 "the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."

Be a Fellow Worker

3John1:8  We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.

Jesus said, "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." Matthew 10:40-42

So if you're practicing such acts of hospitality towards ministering Christians, you also are reckoned a partner with them and worthy of their rewards.

Love to be First?

3John 1:9  I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.

This and the next verse indicate that Diotrephes had some kind of influential position in the church. Those who desire to be first often end up pushing aside the humble and yet more worthy in order to grab the first place. And those in the Christian community like Diotrephes will even push aside the apostle's teachings and reckon their own dogma as infallible doctrine and the foundational documents of their particular denomination.

Jesus spoke of those who love to be first in his parable of the lowest seat. which I summarize below.

When someone invites you to a wedding feast
Don't take the best seat, but rather the least
For there may be one more honored than you
Then what do you suppose the host will do?
He'll ask you to give your seat to him
Then your prospects will be rather grim
For you'll have to move to the lowest seat
That's what you'll get for your conceit
But rather you should at first take the lowest place
When the host comes he will then save your face
He will move you to a place which is best
And you will be honor before all the guests
Everyone who exalts himself will be abased
But those who humble themselves will be raised.

Now realize also that many Christians go through a phase of pride - particularly if they are given positions of authority for which they are not mature enough to handle. For example we noted in 1Timothy of Paul's warning concerning assigning overseers. "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil." 1Tim 3:6

And realize also that the apostles fell into this same conceit early on. For "a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest." Luke 22:24 But Jesus said, "if anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." Mk 9:35 So be leery of the desire to be first. And if someone claims to be first - tell him to go buy you a pizza!

Illegitimate Expulsion

3John 1:10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

This affirms that this man Diotrephes had same kind of authority in the church, and yet his behavior is outrageous.

Notice that John does not "turn the other cheek". He does not overlook this trespass against him - this malicious gossiping about him. Paul responds the same way when he confronts his accusers and opponents in Corinthians and Galatians. Why is that? Well for one thing Paul teaches this principle in 1Cor 5:9-13

"I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you."

And so Jesus also taught concerning forgiving fellow Christians, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him."Luke 17:3 And that's what John was doing.

As a Man Does, So He Is

3John 1:11  Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.

Notice what he is implying about this guy. For though he doesn't state it directly he implies that this guy's behavior may indicate that he is not a child of God. For Diotrephes was showing hatred to fellow Christians - even hatred towards the apostle John.

Elsewhere John wrote, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."1John 3:15 and "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10

Replace Evil Elders with Good Ones

3John 1:12 Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.

I think what John is implying here is that he wants Demetrius to replace Diotrephes - much as in the parable of the lowest seat. In the Christian community leaders should be held accountable and not be allowed to lead with impunity.

Face to Face

3John 1:13,14 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

His letter of 2John ended with a similar phrase reminding us of the interpersonal nature of the Christian life. For the main command Jesus left us with is to love one another. So consider how many Christians you know by name.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jan 28,2022