An Overview Of The Book Of 3 John

Writer Of The Third Letter Of John

“The Elder,” 3 John 1

The author of the Third Letter of John is the same as that of the Second Letter of John, the apostle John. He introduced himself with the same title “the elder”. He also closed his third letter like he closed his second letter, stating that he had much more to say than he cared to say in writing and therefore intended to make a personal visit to say those things face to face (cf. 3 John 13,14; 2 John 12). Furthermore, 3 John 11 clearly displays John's manner of expressing himself as he did in his first and second letters.

For more information about John's authorship, see the Overview On The Book Of 1 John. For information about John himself, see the Overview On The Gospel Of John.

Recipient Of The Third Letter Of John

“To the beloved Gaius,” 3 John 1

Gaius was most likely a member of one of the church's somewhere in the area of Ephesus and Asia Minor. Nothing more is known of him other than what is stated about him in the letter itself. He was a church member who was holding to the truth of Christ and the Christian faith (cf. 2 John 3,4). He was also actively assisting the Christian missionaries on their journeys (cf. 3 John 5-8). For his doing so, he may have been unjustly mistreated by a prominent leader of his congregation named Diotrephes (cf. 3 John 9,10).

For more information about the location of the church of which Gaius was a member, see the Overview On The Books Of 1 And 2 John, the sections entitled “Recipients”.

Place Where The Third Letter Of John Was Written

Like John's first and second letters, his third letter was most likely written in the city of Ephesus.

Date Of The Third Letter Of John

John's third letter was probably written not long after his first letter and about the same time of his second letter around A.D. 90 to A.D. 100. For more information on the date of writing, see the Overview On The Book Of 1 John.

Occasion Of The Third Letter Of John

Gaius was a strong supporter of the traveling itinerant missionaries. He welcomed them into his home to provide them with food and shelter and to supply them with what they needed for their journeys. Those missionaries had reported to John and the church, most likely in Ephesus, the loving assistance that Gaius had extended to them. But in his congregation a strong willed, self-asserting church leader named Diotrephes was forbidding members like Gaius to assist the traveling missionaries.

Purpose Of The Third Letter Of John

The purpose of John's letter was to encourage Gaius in his supporting the missionaries and to assure him that John would deal with the selfishly ambitious Diotrephes, who was asserting himself and his will at the expense of the church and its mission of preaching the gospel of Christ.

Theme Of The Third Letter Of John

Support Our Church's Mission; Beware Of The Selfishly Ambitious Who Try To Thwart It

Outline Of The Third Letter Of John

Part 1: Address, 3 John 1,

A. From the elder, the apostle John, 3 John 1

B. To the beloved Gaius, whom John loved in the truth of the gospel, 3 John 1

Part 2: Prayer And Commendation, 3 John 2,3

A. John's prayer in behalf of Gaius' prosperity and health, 3 John 2

B. John's commendation of Gaius' faithful walking in the truth of Christ and the true Christian faith, 3 John 3,4

Part 3: Support Our Church's Mission, 3 John 5-8

A. John acknowledged that Gaius was acting faithfully as a Christian in assisting the traveling missionaries, even when they were strangers to him, 3 John 5

B. John acknowledged that the missionaries reported to him and the church, certainly with appreciation, Gaius' love and support that he had shown them, 3 John 6

C. John encouraged assisting the missionaries who were carrying out the church's mission to preach the gospel of Christ, 3 John 6b-8

1. John further commended Gaius for doing well in sending the missionaries on their way supplied with what they needed for their journey. This was a worthy service pleasing to God, 3 John 6b

2. Supporting the missionaries was such a worthy service to God because they were evangelists who went out to proclaim the name of Jesus to people everywhere, which was the mission Christ had given to his church. So they might better accomplish this mission, they accepted nothing from the Gentile pagans, who could not then think they were being taken advantage of, 3 John 7

3. Because the missionaries went out to preach the gospel of Jesus, we at home should support them with our hospitality so we can do our part in working for the gospel of the truth, 3 John 8

Part 4: Beware Of The Selfishly Ambitious Who Try To Thwart Our Church's Mission, 3 John 9-12

A. Selfishly ambitious Diotrephes must be dealt with, 3 John 9,10

1. I, John, wrote the church previously, 3 John 9a

2. Diotrephes, however, is still doing evil in your midst, 3 John 9,10

a. Being selfishly ambitious, he loves to be first in recognition and authority as the leader in the congregation, 3 John 9

b. He refuses to accept me, the apostle John, and the other leaders in the church, and what we say. He thinks he knows better and has his own agenda, 3 John 9

c. He unjustly accuses me, John, and the others, and maliciously gossips about us, 3 John 10

d. What is more, he refuses to welcome his Christian brothers, the missionaries, to assist them, 3 John 10

e. On top of it all, he forbids the other members of the church to assist the missionaries and excommunicates those who do so, 3 John 10

3. For these reasons, if I, John, visit the congregation as I intend to do, I will call the church's attention to his evil deeds, 3 John 10

B. Gaius, imitate the good and shun the evil, 3 John 11,12

1. My dear friend Gaius, don't imitate that which is evil, such as you see in Diotrephes. Imitate only what is good, as one who is from God and has seen God, 3 John 11

2. Unlike Diotrephes, Demetrius is such a good man from God, who has worked faithfully to spread the gospel of Jesus. He is well spoken of by everyone. I, John, do so as well, 3 John 12

Part 5: Closing, 3 John 13,14

A. John's intention to personally visit Gaius that he may more fully and properly encourage and instruct him, 3 John 13,14a

B. Closing benediction and greeting, 3 John 14b