THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN, CALLED
O U T L I N E
Overview of the Epistle. Like the second epistle, the third epistle of John is a short pastoral letter. The subject matter of both letters follow that of the first epistle very naturally, and therefore are considered appendices to the first epistle. In 1 John we find that we have a nature that loves. In 2 John and 3 John we find the divine nature loves “in the truth”. Both epistles have to do with receiving or fellowship. In 2 John the emphasis is on “receive not” in connection with false teachers. In 3 John the emphasis is on “receive”, which gives more the positive aspect of fellowship. It is remarkable that a sister, who might be naturally prone to nurture, is warned to “receive not”, whereas a brother, naturally prone to be harsh, is exhorted to “receive”. Gaius was a brother very dear to the apostle John. He walked in the truth, and was in a good state of soul. He is commended for receiving brethren that were strangers, and showing them hospitality. However, Gaius had a few challenges. He evidently had poor physical health, as John prayed for it. Gaius also was in an assembly where a man named Diotrephes was playing the part of a dictator, seeking to have the preeminence instead of Christ, rejecting the apostles, and casting out brethren. John had written to the assembly, but Diotrephes intercepted and stopped it. In response, the apostle writes to an individual who was faithful to encourage him, and through him, others. John lays down the footsteps for faith in these challenging circumstances, and encouraged fellowship between Gaius and and another brother called Dimetrius, who had a good report. At the close, John spoke of his desire to see Gaius face to face!
Second and Third Epistles. Generally speaking, in first epistles the mass is going on well, but there is some failure that needs to be addressed. In second epistles the mass is in failure, but there are some individual faithful ones. The path is still clearly to be found, it consists of submitting to the leaders who are going on well. but in 3 John, it takes it one step farther, the path for the faithful is almost gone. There is a path, but it is hard to find. How do you go against the leadership? We have to go back to the true shepherd to have direction. This is a hard day. – When the path gets hard horizontally, the path turns vertically. This is a pastoral epistle.
1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. v.1 Greeting. John writes, not as an apostle, but as an elder. He was a seasoned saint as well as an apostle, and as an elder he carries out a pastoral ministry.
2 Beloved, I desire that in all things thou shouldest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers. v.2 Gaius was a hospitable and gracious man who was healthy spiritually, although he evidently had medical health issues, and he definitely have a tough assembly situation. We cannot blame our state of our soul on our environment. If John was praying this for us that our physical health would match spiritual health, would that be something we would want? This was a great commendation for Gaius. Notice that John puts an emphasis on spiritual health. This is important to remember in our prayers.
3 For I rejoiced exceedingly when the brethren came and bore testimony to thy holding fast the truth, even as “thou” walkest in truth.
4 I have no greater joy than these things that I hear of my children walking in the truth. v.4 Gaius didn’t just understand the truth intellectually, we walked in it. But it is a process, you have to make an effort, day by day.
5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully in whatever thou mayest have wrought towards the brethren and that strangers, v.5 See Romans 16:23 for examples of what Gaius’ hospitality. “The brethren” and “the strangers” are the same people. Brethren previously unknown to him. Gaius opened his home to the one who wrote Romans while Paul dictated (Romans 16). Hospitality plays a part in everything. One of Gaius’ children was baptized by Paul.
6 (who have witnessed of thy love before the assembly,) in setting forward whom on their journey worthily of God, thou wilt do well; v.6 The report of Gaius was not that he “knew a lot” but that they had witnessed “his love before all the Church”. Hospitality is a central part of Christian conduct. You might entertain angels (Hebrews 13:2) or you might even entertain the Lord Jesus (Luke 24). The household that opens itself up is the one that gets blessed (two on the road, Obededom, etc.).
7 for for the name have they gone forth, taking nothing of those of the nations. .7 Prov.6:10-11 or 24:33-34 -these were like laboring brothers from a great distance…. it is very expensive. They took nothing of the gentiles, they didn’t operate like the modern evangelicals who have a steady salary. Those who do have steady jobs can support those who labor.
8 “We” therefore ought to receive such, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth.
9 I wrote something to the assembly; but Diotrephes, who loves to have the first place among them, receives us not. v.9 Diotrephes loved the preeminence, he didn’t love the brethren like Gaius and John did. There is only One who ought to have the preeminence. He rejected anyone who had God-given authority like the apostles, and excommunicated those who stood up. Diotrephes did not receive the apostles’ witness to the Word of Life (1 Jn. 4:6). He was not manifesting eternal life. He did not love the brethren. We cannot assume he was a believer.
10 For this reason, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he does, babbling against us with wicked words; and not content with these, neither does he himself receive the brethren; and those who would he prevents, and casts them out of the assembly. v.10 You would think he would be governmentally struck gown, but not at this time. John doesn’t even say “when I come” but “if i come”.
11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He that does good is of God. He that does evil has not seen God. vv.11-12 the time will come when the Lord will intervene in judgment (v.10) but meanwhile these are what we should do.
v.11b En exhortation to Gaius – “don’t repay evil for evil”.
12 Demetrius has witness borne to him by all, and by the truth itself; and “we” also bear witness, and thou knowest that our witness is true. v.12 in the darkest day we will have to be willing to go on alone but the lord will bring companion(s) along to encourage us. John was encouraging fellowship between Gaius and Demetrius . Somehow Demetrius had a good report of all – including Diotrephes. he was a peacemaker yet didn’t use fleshly means and didn’t compromise. It is a very hard thing to do, see Romans 12:20…How could you “feed” Diotrephes? Present Christ, be gracious, get low, but never compromise the truth. He wasn’t making peace in a fleshly way, by stroking Diotrephes’ pride. But Maybe Gaius had the potential to be “weary in well doing”. Demetrius had four witnesses. Public testimony important.
13 I had many things to write to thee, but I will not with ink and pen write to thee; 14 but I hope soon to see thee, and we will speak mouth to mouth. Peace be to thee. The friends greet thee. Greet the friends by name.