April 20, 2000

3 John

This is another personal letter, as was 2 John. 2 John was to a lady, and this letter is to a man. It is a letter of encouragement to his friend, Gaius.

Vv. 1, 2

It should be noted that John does not identify himself as "the Apostle who leaned upon Jesus' breast," or as "the one who took care of Christ's mother," &c. Rather, he simply identifies himself with other elderly pastors, who by their years in the Lord's service should gain the respect of all Christians. He makes no effort to exalt himself. His words are quite different than what we have today — it seems that for a pastor to have any kind of "authority," he needs a Dr. in front of his name. Peter had the same attitude, as John, for both learned from the same Teacher, Matthew 18, 1 Peter 5:1.

John honours another person with a personal letter, only he mentions this person by name, Gaius, where he did not call the elect lady by name.

John opens with almost identical words as he opened his letter to the elect lady, i.e., The elder, John, to Gaius, whom I love in the truth. In all three of these "Johns," the emphasis is on love. However, that love is not a worldly nor sensual love, but a love as defined by the truth. John opened both of these letters by professing his love for the one to whom he writes.

Of course, true Christian love is love in the truth of Christ and the gospel. If a minister will gain love, he must show love.

I wish above all things... Our greatest desire for others should be their spiritual and physical health.

Prosper... the greatest blessing this side of heaven is prosperity of the soul. And along with that prosperity, it is good to have good health.

Prosper... I have heard this verse used in preaching the "prosperity" gospel. I do not know that this word is referring to prosperity as the world defines prosperity.

Vv. 3-8

This section complements Gaius in his faithful Christian walk.

Vv. 3, 4, John received a report from the brethren who had evidently visited that church that Gaius was continuing in the Christian faith, despite the efforts of Diotrephes. In the midst of abounding errors concerning the Christian faith, there is nothing that "joys" a pastor's or leader's heart like hearing that his "children" continue in the truths they learned from him.

Walk in the truth... Gaius lived the truth day by day. See 2 John 1:4. Christian love should result in Christian works. That report caused John to rejoice, as it would any Christian leader.

My children probably refers to John's influence upon others.

V. 5, Gaius evidently had shown good hospitality to the brethren of v. 3. But not only to brethren, but he acted the same toward strangers, whom he did not know. These people, the brethren and the strangers, must have been preachers or evangelists, for they went out for his name's saketaking nothing of the Gentiles, i.e., unsaved, v. 7. When they came back to John with the report of their activity, they made a point of telling how well Gaius treated them.

Moreover, v. 6, Gaius' charity, i.e., love – was a testimony to all the church. His testimony was quite apposite of Diotrephes'.

We are warned in Hebrews 13:2 to entertain strangers, for a stranger may be an angel. Gaius treated both known and unknown brethren as though they were angels on a mission from their Master.

Vv. 7, 8, because that for his name's sake. The people he entertained were going forth in the Lord's name, evidently preaching the gospel. Entertaining such men makes the "entertainer" a fellowhelper. Maybe one cannot preach, but they can support those who do preach, and they become co-labors with the "preacher."

Though the time frame was different, the Lord told his disciples that as they went out preaching the gospel of the kingdom, they were to seek out those who are worthy, and stay with them, Matthew 10:5-15. Since the resurrection, however, he told them go prepared with purse, money and for self defense, Luke 22:35-38. We can assume, though, that those who went out in the name of the Lord still could expect to find Christian brethren to host them while they were in a particular city.

Gaius was known for and complimented by the elder John for his hospitality towards those representing Christ.

Though these "preachers" did not take anything of the Gentiles, they could expect to receive support from God's people. (1 Cor. 9:14.)

We are partakers in their efforts when we receive and help those who preach the truth. Likewise, receiving those who do not preach the truth makes us partakers in their errors, 2 John 7-11.

Vv. 9-11

John had probably written to the church in the past, but in some way, Diotrephes withstood John's words, and would not submit to his authority; in fact, he undermined John's authority. He had also influenced the church to reject those sent to it by John. (This problem was typical in all the early churches – Dioterphes was a Judaizer, and typical of the Judaizers, worked to combine the new Christian religion with Judaism, which had been strictly forbidden by Christ, Mat. 9:17, Mk. 2;22.) Dioterphes, evidently, was a man of some influence in the church. Though we have no way of knowing his position or office, his description fits well some pastors I know, though he could have simply been a layman. Regardless, he held a great sway over the people. And his sway was NOT based in the word of God, but in his winning personality.

Dioterphes had enough influence that he was able to determine who to allow in the church to speak, who to allow to be welcomed by the brethren, and even to remove those who disagreed with him from the church. Note that John said that followers of Christ will do good, spoken in the context of being a servant one to another. And those who do evil, hath not seen God. In other words, those who do not live like children of God are not of God. He is soundly rebuked by John for his pride.

Implied also is a condemnation of those who followed Dioterphese, giving him his power. Also implied is that the church would have followed John's instructions (the word of God) if it had not been for Dioterphese's influence.

Diotrephes prated against John – that is, he uttered nonsense, idle, malicious and false words against John. But he was not content with words, but he used his influence to not only stand against those who came in Jesus' name, but to remove from the church those who would accept those who came in Jesus' name. John said he would remember what was done against him, his messengers (actually against the Lord) when he came unto them, and would take appropriate action, discipline of some kind.

Observe that on one hand, Gaius made himself a servant to those who came to him in the name of the Lord; on the other hand, Diotrephes wanted others to be his servant. Gaius is held up by the Apostle as the example to follow – follow not evil, but follow good. John commends Gaius for not yielding to Dioterphes' evil influence.

Might we also be a good example in our words and conduct both inside and outside the church.


Three men are mentioned in this letter: Gaius, Dioterphes and Demetrius. Though only once mentioned, Demetrius' name lives forever in the word of God. A good name is one's most precious possession. (Pro. 22:1, Ecc. 7:1.)

Of all men. Our Lord, however, warned about all men speaking well of us, (Luke 6:26) yet here all men spoke well of Demetrius. Evidently, he lived a life above reproach. (1 Timothy 3:7.) That is, no one, saved or unsaved, could point an accusing finger at him.

Of the truth itself. A man can have no higher praise than for others to say he lines up with the truth, the word of God.

John also adds his voice to commend Demetrius, and he reminds Gaius and others that they know he has never misled them.

It sounds as though the "pressure" was being placed upon Demetrius by those who hated John and his message — that is, Dioterphes and his followers. Dioterphes removed from the church those who did not agree with him, and it sounds as though Dioterphes is working against Demetrius. So the Apostle is commending Demetrius, showing how unscriptural it is to move against him.

We should say that it is important to commend those who are deserving.

Vv. 13, 14

In closing, John tells Gaius that there are many more things he would like to say, but they need to be said face to face. John closed the letter to the elect lady the same way. (2 John 12.) Many things do need to be said face to face rather than in a letter.

Twice John said he wanted to visit this church – v. 10, to set matters right, and v. 14, to speak face to face with Gaius.

Peace from God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.
Friends salute thee and Greet the friends by name. John leaves no one out. I must confess that I have a problem remembering to greet others by name, but it is important to do.