The 25th book of the New Testament

This is a letter written by the Apostle John to his friend Gaius. It serves as a commendation of his treatment of fellow Christians.

Next Book: Jude
Previous Book: 2 John
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Chapter 1

1:1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

1:2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

1:3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.

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

1:5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 1:6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 1:7 Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

1:8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

1:9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

1:10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

1:11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

1:12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

1:13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 1:14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
Book: 3 John

This epistle is addressed to a converted Gentile. The scope
is to commend his stedfastness in the Faith, and his
hospitality, especially to the ministers of Christ.
- The Apostle commends Gaius for Piety and hospitality. (1-8)
Cautions him against siding with Diotrephes, who was a turbulent
Spirit; but recommends Demetrius as a Man of excellent
character. (9-12) He hopes soon to see Gaius. (13,14)
1-8 Those who are beloved of Christ, will Love the brethren for
his sake. Soul prosperity is the greatest blessing On this side
Heaven. Grace and health are rich companions. Grace will employ
health. A rich soul may be lodged in a weak body; and Grace must
then be exercised in submitting to such a Dispensation. But we
may wish and pray that those who have prosperous souls, may have
healthful bodies; that their Grace may shine where there is
still more room for activity. How many professors there are,
about whom the Apostle's words must be reversed, and we must
earnestly wish and pray that their souls might prosper, as their
health and circumstances do! True Faith will work By Love. A
good report is due from those who receive good; they could not
but testify to the Church, what they found and felt. Good men
will rejoice in the soul prosperity of others; and they are glad
to hear of the Grace and Goodness of others. And as it is a joy
to good parents, it will be a joy to good ministers, to see
their people adorn their profession. Gaius overlooked petty
differences among serious Christians, and freely helped all who
bore the image, and did the work of Christ. He was upright in
what he did, as a Faithful servant. Faithful souls can hear
their own praises without being puffed up; the commendation of
what is good in them, lays them at the foot of the Cross of
Christ. Christians should consider not only what they must do,
but what they may do; and should do even the common actions of
Life, and of good-will, after a godly sort, serving God therein,
and designing his Glory. Those who freely make known Christ's
Gospel, should be helped By others to whom God gives the means.
Those who cannot themselves proclaim it, may yet receive, help,
and countenance those who do So.
9-12 Both the Heart and mouth must be watched. The temper and
Spirit of Diotrephes was full of pride and ambition. It is bad
not to do good ourselves; but it is worse to hinder those who
would do good. Those cautions and counsels are most likely to be
accepted, which are seasoned with Love. Follow that which is
good, for he that doeth good, as delighting therein, is born of
God. Evil-workers vainly pretend or boast acquaintance with God.
Let us not follow that which is proud, selfish, and of bad
design, though the Example may be given By persons of rank and
power; but let us be followers of God, and walk in Love, after
the Example of our Lord.
13,14 Here is the character of Demetrius. A name in the Gospel,
or a good report in the churches, is better than worldly honour.
Few are Well spoken of By all; and sometimes it is ill to be So.
Happy those whose Spirit and conduct commend them before God and
men. We must be ready to Bear our Testimony to them; and it is
Well when those who commend, can Appeal to the consciences of
such as know most of those who are commended. A personal
Conversation together often spares time and trouble, and
mistakes which rise from letters; and good Christians may Well
be glad to see one another. The blessing is, Peace be to you;
all happiness attend you. Those may Well salute and greet one
another On Earth, who Hope to live together in Heaven. By
associating with and copying the Example of such Christians, we
shall have peace within, and live at peace with the brethren;
our communications with the Lord's people On Earth will be
pleasing, and we shall be numbered with them in Glory


Third John is the last of John’s Epistles and also is the shortest book in the New Testament. The main theme of the book is walking in truth. It is written in letter format and is one of the few letters in the New Testament that is addressed to an individual Christian.1 That individual Christian is a man named Gaius (more on this in the next section). Another individual who received a letter from John is a man named Diotrephes. This man is the antagonist of the situation described in the church that Gaius was a member of. The time period during which this letter was written is c. 85 AD. Even though this book is not very long, there are many valuable lessons in it that modern day Christians can learn from today.

Critical Problems Associated with Third John:

Modern scholars like to look for problems within a work of historical literature. This is called higher or lower criticism. In higher criticism scholars have identified potential problems associated with the text of Third John. I will list these problems, and my views on them, that have been stated in the text and also provide a solution to what I consider to be the main problem of Third John.

1.      Authorship:  Although the majority of Christian scholars today attribute the authorship of the Epistle 3 John to John the Apostle, there is a minority of scholars that attribute authorship to a person of, “John the Elder”. This view according to Stephen S. Smalley is one that is unnecessary.2 Being that Smalley attributed this as unnecessary, one could conclude that the thought, that there was an author other than John the Apostle, is not supported by enough evidence. 

The other view of authorship is that John the Apostle did in fact write the Book of Third John. This is based on external evidence in favor of the Second and Third Johannine Epistles.3 The external evidence, which is widely supported in Biblical scholarship, implies Apostolic Authority.4 Another distinction to be made are from those who wish to say that the first time the Epistles of John were cited was by a man named Polycarp. Even though he was the first person to cite John’s Epistles, that we know of, that does not make this man the author of the work.


2.      Addressee: In modern Scholarship there are also concerns with the addressee of the Book Third John. In the Book it is obvious that the author is writing to a man named Gaius, but what is not obvious is which Gaius the author is referring to. There are four accounts, in Scripture, of a man named Gaius. The first comes from Acts 19:29 in which a Gaius is named as one of Paul’s travel companions. The second is given in Acts 20:4, where a Gaius is named from Derbe. Another Gaius is named in Romans 16:23, and again in 1 Cor. 1:14 who was a Christian in Corinth.5 A scholar has to be careful in making an assumption on the proposed addressee, because such a conclusion cannot be drawn from the text and would therefore be eisegesis. As the famous Dr. Paul R. Fink affirms, as Biblical Scholars we should be practicing exegesis, not eisegesis.


3.      Unity: There is not a question of unity in the book of Third John. The book was accepted, with the other two Johannine epistles in the 39th festal letter of Athanasius, the Synod of Hippo and the Council of Carthage.6 Furthermore, the book was a direct letter to a man named Gaius. The author, acting as if we do not know who wrote it, was the sole editor of the piece and there does not seem to be a reason as to why there would be any editing of the original letter.


4.      Date: The date is something that is disputed by Biblical Scholars today. There are many different views as to when this piece was written. The opinions of modern scholarship range from the mid-first century to the latest part of the first century.7 Something that can be noted with confidence is that the author, supposedly John the Apostle, was in Ephesus in the late first century and published his Gospel. The approximate date that John was in Ephesus was 85-90 A.D.8 If this is the case then it is possible that John, during his time in Ephesus, also wrote the three epistles in addition to the Gospel of John. The most likely date for the three epistles is A.D. 90-100, but some still argue earlier.


5.      Occasion and Purpose: The occasion is not currently disputed, because John states the occasion is response to the Report of Gaius. It is assumed that there is a report that was given to John concerning Gaius and John wrote back to Gaius to commend him and the brothers for their deeds. The purpose is not currently disputed, because John again states it clearly in his letter. He tells Gaius of the reason that he is writing, which is to inform Gaius of Diotrephes’ sins and to inform him that John will be calling out Diotrephes on his actions shortly.


6.      Place of Writing: Closely related to the date of the writing of the letter of Third John, the place of writing is often something that is disputed. If the scholar is taking John as the author, then there are few possibilities as to where John could have had enough time to write the Epistles. If the scholar prefers a later date, c. 95 A.D., then it is likely to conclude that the Third Epistle was written on the island of Patmos. There are problems with this view because if John was on Patmos it would be more difficult for him to maintain communication with Gaius’ church. Also, he would have been outside of the Roman jurisdiction. Therefore, given the two probable places, the most likely location for the writing of Third John was Ephesus.  


7.      Textual Criticism (lower criticism): This form of Criticism focuses on the issue of proving what we have as being from Third John. This is often hard to do because we frankly do not know for certain about certain texts, but what we can do is to look at this text in comparison to other texts that were written by an author we know about. As stated before modern scholars think that John wrote the Epistles attributed to his name. Furthermore, we have strong evidence to attribute the writing of First John to the Gospel of John. Then by examining Second and Third John we can see that there are numerous accounts of similar thought processes, syntax, and other grammatical relations that allow us to conclude that the author of Third John is the same author who wrote the Gospel of John and the other Epistles that are traditionally attributed to his name.

Main Problem:

The problem that I will address in detail is the problem of the Date of Third John. Critics of the later date have suggested an earlier date for the Epistle of Third John. The date that some critics of the Johnannine writings suggest is as early as c.60-65 A.D. for the Epistles of 1, 2, and 3 John. Citing sources, that the author calls “forgotten” in modern scholarship, he states that the names that he cites are stating that the writings of John were written before the fall of Jerusalem. He lists numerous sources, so this is something that needs careful consideration before moving forward with the study.9 Largely, these sources did not take into consideration common authorship of the Gospel of John and then contributing this authorship to 1, 2, and 3 John.10  So, if it can be shown that the author of the Gospel of John is also the author of 1, 2, and 3 John then we have a stronger argument for the later date. In many different works this has been shown to be the case.11 12

This is not an article fully about the authorship of 3 John, but the two are connected, date and authorship. When looking at 2 John and 3 John it is easy to point out the similarities in writing. The way that the authors refer to themselves, as “the elder”, the parallels in thought, also the same pattern, style and conclusion all point to a common author.13 14Furthermore, there is little evidence for a second John called John the Presbyter.15 Many want to attribute this character with the Gospel, Johnannine letters, and the Revelation, but it makes more sense, at least to this reader, to conclude a common authorship of all three because of the similarities between the writings and the authority with which each was written.
 Support of a later date is in just about every work that was reviewed regarding this study of the date of the Epistle of Third John. There is much opposition to the view that the Epistles were written mid-first century. 16 17 18 If it is agreed upon that the author of the Gospel of John is in fact the author of 3 John then it follows from this that the author wrote these letters around the same time as the Gospel, first the Gospel then the letters. It makes sense that John the Apostle was the one who wrote these in Ephesus because John was reported being in Ephesus, it was a center of culture in the area which allowed for easy communication between the different churches, and there wasn’t a body of water to travel across. Taking all this information into consideration, the date that seems the most probable is a later date between 90-100 A.D.19











Outline with Exegetical Commentary:

3 Divisions of John’s Letter to Gaius

I.       First Division of John’s Letter (Introduction) –   1: “The Elder unto…Gaius…”

A.     The Writer –   1a “The Elder unto…”

                                                            1.      Importance – “The…”

When the author called himself the elder there is significance in the article “the”.

The implication that the author makes, that he is the one and only person who is in charge of the church’s practices, shows the authority by which the author is expressing his ideas. It is not a coincidence that the author chose this wordage. This level of authority is seen elsewhere in Scripture in the two men Timothy and Titus who were both in charge of churches in the areas that they ministered in.20

                                                            2.      Identity – “…Elder…”

“Elder”: πρεσβύτερος - This shows that the author is known to this church. He did not have to use his name, but rather the church knew him by his title. This shows that the person writing and the person receiving the letter are close relationally. The usage of this term also shows that the author is asserting his authority. Some scholars think that this is because the author feels his authority is threatened.21

B.     The Recipient - 1b “…the well-beloved Gaius whom I love in truth:”

                                                            1.      Significance – “…the well-beloved…”

a.      Title – “…well- beloved…”

When John calls this man the well beloved he is showing, again, the relationship between the two of them. Another thing to note is how the beginning sentence “The elder to the beloved Gaius whom I love in truth” is also a pseudo-outline for the topics that John will be speaking on during the rest of the letter (love, hospitality, truth, and authority).


b.      Uniqueness – “…the…”

Here John shows the level of the relationship between Gaius and himself. This allows us to conclude as readers that John is discipling this man.


                                                            2.      Identity– “…Gaius…”

What this shows is that the man John is writing to is a person who stands in representation for his whole church.22 What we know about Gaius is limited, because the name Gaius was common in Roman times, but it is safe to assume that Gaius is a leader in the church that John is writing to.


                                                            3.      Feelings for the recipient “…whom I love…”

What this shows is that the author, John, cares deeply for this man. Even though we do not know much about Gaius, it is clear that John does and they share a strong bond.


a.      Object of the feeling – “…whom…”

b.      The person feeling – “…I…”

c.       The feeling itself – “…love…”

d.      Description of the love – “…in truth.”

There is controversy among scholars as to what is meant by this verse. Some hold it to mean that John simply loves Gaius truly.23 That the love John has for Gaius is true and that what he is saying is not just a commonly used expression. This is true only if the article “the” is not included with the word truth. If it is included then the author is most likely discussing theological truth. The opposing viewpoint is that John loves Gaius because he is in Christ and they are both pursuing after the same truth. Because the article “the” is not included here we can conclude that what Scripture says here is that John loves Gaius truly.









II.    Second Division of John’s Letter (Body) – 2-12 “Beloved…”

“Beloved”- ἀγαπητός: “my dear friend”

 An interesting point to make about this is the way that John uses it in division of the text. There are three times when John says the word “Beloved” in the text. This also pays tribute to the relationship that John has with Gaius.


Keep in mind the conflict of the situation, which is described in verses 9-11, and the contrast that John is making here by using the word “Beloved”. Not only does this show John’s love for Gaius, but helps us to remember that even though there is conflict in the church we must also remember that God loves for and cares for Diotrephes.


This next section, 2-8, is common of most Christian letters that were being written during this time period. 24 It was common for them to have a section of thanksgiving to God, which could be many pages worth of writing.25


A.     Commendation of Gaius – 2-8 “For I rejoiced…the truth that is in you…walk in truth.”

                                                            1.      John’s prayer for Gaius – 2 “I  pray…soul prospers.”

Here John is praying for Gaius’ well-being, not only for his body, but also for his soul. When the author writes, “I pray” it often is of more worth than “I wish” even though some translations state what John meant is “I wish” here it would follow the next section of verses because the thought implied is considered stronger than a wish.


a.      Physical health – 2 a “…prosper and be in health…”

At first glance it would seem that John is just wishing Gaius well. Upon further consideration it would be appropriate to ask the question, “Why is John saying this?” A thought is that Gaius could be in poor health. It could be the case that he is ill and John is aware of this. Another possibility is that Gaius is healthy and the man is simply just wishing him to remain in good health. Either way, it is important that we remain aware of the nuances in the text, which allow us to formulate a story around the book, and come to a conclusion as to why it was written.


b.      Spiritual health – 2b “…even as thy soul prospers.”

Foreshadowing the next section, here John reminds Gaius that he is in constant prayer for his spiritual well-being. The Greek word used here, εὐοδόω, is translated into English as, “to grant a prosperous and expeditious journey, to go on well”26 what this adds to the text is that the soul prospering is a journey, it is not something that is done overnight. This same word is used in Romans 1:10 and also is used in 1 Corinthians 16:2.27 One of these occurrences, Romans 1:10, is speaking specifically about having a prosperous journey. Therefore, John is implying that he is praying for Gaius’ journey, or walk in the truth, for Christ.

If Gaius’ health is bad it is important what John is stating here. He is encouraging Gaius toward Christ even though his health is poor, that what is happening to him is not because he is a sinner, but because bad things happen in a world that sin has corrupted. Some may see this verse as an indication of a prosperity gospel, but in this text they do not really conclusively prove the point they are trying to make (that the children of God are to have health and material wealth in abundance).28 As Paul says we are to be suffering servants (Philippians 1:29), there will still be times of increased happiness or joy, but rather it is not promised that when someone becomes a Christian that everything will be great.


                                                            2.      Report of Gaius’– 3 “For I rejoiced greatly…you walk in the truth.”

The verb that is used here reveals that there was more than just one visit to John about Gaius’ hospitality.  John also provides a reason as to why he thinks that Gaius is progressing spiritually. Not only does this add credibility to the preceding passage, as to the truth of the statement, but it also links us up with John 15, and other books in the Bible, which speaks on the true Christian bearing fruit. Here there is also a literary element of parallelism when John communicates that the truth that is in you is the same truth that you are walking in. This helps to convey the idea that there is both a truth inside of us, the Holy Spirit, and we are called to walk in “the truth”, follow after Christ.

a.      Reception of the Report – 3a “I rejoiced greatly…”

b.      Who gave the report – 3b “…when the brethren came…”

What are not recorded here are multiple journeys to John from Gaius’ church. In order for John to receive the information he had to be told of it either by letter, requiring someone to deliver it, or be told by a representative of the church. Then there is another journey back to Gaius’ church. Another movement of persons that we can exegete from the text is the journey of those that Gaius is being hospitable to. Even more, we can surmise that there was possible movement of persons from John’s residence to Gaius, for delivery of the letter, and possibly a journey back to John. There is quite a bit of movement in the book of Third John between the different persons that are spoken of.


c.       Contents of the report – 3c “…testified of the truth…in thee…”

As alluded to above, John received word of Gaius’ action from different persons that were called “the brethren”.  These men or women spoke of the truth that is in Gaius and the actions of his church.


d.      Continual progress of Gaius’ – 3d “…you walk in the truth.”

This part of the letter gives reference to the previous two letters and is also the theme of the book.29 A theological problem here is when John says “the truth” we are not told what truth he is talking about. In other books that are written by him, namely the Gospel of John and 1 John, both reference this truth. In the Gospel of John we are told what the truth actually is when Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” So when John makes reference to Gaius walking “…in the truth” what he means is walking in Christ.30


                                                            3.      Joy of John – 4 “I have no greater joy…walk in truth.”

Not merely a statement of joy, there is more to this verse than what can be gleaned at first glance. What also is a model of what McDermond calls, “Johannine Tradition’s” which stresses both correct doctrine and correct behavior.31 Overall, it is shown here that John’s goal and purpose is to train up Disciples for Christ and people who walk in the truth.


a.      Extent of the joy – 4a “…no greater…”

The way that John uses the phrase, “no greater” makes it clear that he is very passionate about the truth and to see his children walk in it, but this is possibly also an element of hyperbole. It is possible that the joy greater than seeing his children walk in truth is John seeing the Truth face to face.


b.      Object of the joy – 4b “…my children…”

What John shows here is that often when a Biblical author called someone “my child” or a group of people “my children” what they mean by it is that person or group are the converts of the author.32 It is not clear whether he is referencing just Gaius, or his church, but it should be noted that either could be possible.


c.       Action which caused joy 4c “…walk in truth.”


                                                            4.      Love for Brothers – 5, 6 “Beloved, thou doest faithfully…thou shalt do well:”

In this section John makes note of Gaius’ hospitable behavior and commends him for it. This is also the beginning of the second section of the body of 3 John which is marked by the word “Beloved”.33 In doing so, it should be noted that these actions are in line with other areas of the Bible. Hebrews 13:2 speaks of showing hospitality towards strangers because there is a chance that they could show hospitality to angels and not know it. Also, in Matthew 10:40-42, 25:38 and 38 Christ speaks of doing works for the “least of these” that if we show those people love we are really showing love for Christ Himself. In John 3:18 and 19, Christ tells us to love in “deed and truth” and by that love we “assure our hearts before Him.”

John also affirms Gaius in his actions and tells him to continue them. John is perhaps doing this out of urgency because he does not want Gaius to become dissuaded by Diotrephes and his false teaching.34

Important to this section is the fact that by accepting these people Gaius is showing them love. This is fulfilling the Command of Christ and is also provides us with an example of what we should be doing as a church to show love towards others who are walking in the truth. The Greek word for charity that is used here, ἀγάπη, shows that there is more than just doctrinal approval being shown, but that Gaius felt convicted to show these people hospitality. This type of love is also something that is mentioned in Johns first Epistle.35 The last statement made at the end of this section, “…, you will do well” is known in Greek literature as an idiomatic expression which means, “Please”.36


a.      People who were shown love – 5 “…to the brethren…strangers;”

b.      Love described – 6a “Which have borne witness…before the church:”

c.       How charity can benefit the Church – 6b “…bring…journey… God.”

John is reminding Gaius to keep accepting them and accept them in such a way that worthy of God. Basically, act like each person you are taking into your church is God Himself.37


                                                            5.      Description of their journey – 7 “Because…taking nothing…Gentiles.”

The reason for this is because the Gentiles who they are helping will not always be receptive to the message that the missionaries are teaching.  






a.      Name they went forward in – 7a “…His name’s sake…”

It is shown here that the people Gaius helped were sent out for a purpose, or mission. The statement here in Third John shows us that the men who were sent out were missionaries.38 The word name, ὄνομα , shows that they are going out in Christ’s name and is the same word that is used in Acts 15:14, 17, and 26 to reference the name of Christ. 39


b.      How they went – 7b “forward…taking nothing of the Gentiles.”

                                                            6.      Conclusion of John’s commendation – 8 “We therefore…to the truth.”

a.      Action toward the aforementioned – 8a “We…to receive…”

John is telling Gaius that we should receive these missionaries because by doing such we can take part in the same mission of helping to spread the Gospel.


b.      Reason for Action – 8b “…that we might be…to truth.”

Furthermore, John is telling Gaius that through this act of helping missionaries we can take part in their work. He is stating that if Gaius’ church cannot become involved themselves in missions work then take part in helping to send them out and take them in. Through that action they then can work with the missionaries for the truth. By following through with the action they then become “fellowhelpers”.

“Fellowhelpers”- συνεργός: This Greek word means fellow worker or co-laborer.


B.     Condemnation-   9-10 “I wrote…but Diotrephes…putting them out of the church”

It is important that John mentions this. He is telling us that he sent out a letter to Diotrephes’ church, but John thinks that the letter will not be well received by certain people at the church namely Diotrephes. The reason why John thinks this is because of the way that he describes Diotrephes, which will be discussed in the next section.  It is thought, by at least one scholar, that the letter that was sent to Diotrephes’ church was Second John, but this is not confirmed in Third John. 40 We are not made aware of this letter, but can be sure that it spoke on the subject of traveling missionaries, a topic that is not in Second John.

This is another example of movement in Third John, the letter being delivered to Diotrephes and the church he is a part of. Another movement, that is implied but not mentioned in Third John, would be a returning of the messenger to John.




                                                            1.      Description of Diotrephes – 9a “…but Diotrephes,…among them…”

“Preeminance” - πρωτεύ: This word, translated into English, means the love of being first. 41 This is what John describes as the chief problem of Diotrephes. The same word is used in Colossians 1:18, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”  The same attribute that is used to describe Diotrephes is the word that Paul used to state that Christ alone should have the preeminence. Furthermore, it says that Christ is the Head of the Church which stands in contrast to Diotrephes’ attempt at being the head of his church.


Diotrephes’ fault, and something that we as a church should worry about today, is putting ourselves, or a single leader, ahead of Christ. As a church, we should look to Christ, and His Word, as the source of correct doctrine and correct behavior.


                                                            2.      Rejection of the Brothers – 9b “…does not receive us.”

To add to his previous problem Diotrephes chooses not to receive the apostles or to accept their authority. We are not given any reason why he chose to do this, but it follows that if he rejects Christ’s authority, through his actions, he will most certainly reject the authority of Christ’s followers.


                                                            3.      Actions of Diotrephes – 10

The actions of Diotrephes stand in stark contrast to everything that was said about Gaius in the previous section. Gaius was showing loving behavior towards the missionaries Diotrephes, on the other hand, does not receive them and puts those who do out of the church. Gaius was walking in the truth; Diotrephes was walking in darkness, more on this later.  Gaius accepts the Apostle’s authority, Diotrephes does not. This sets up the next section of the text which shows the contrast between the two men by showing the truth that can be gleaned from this situation.

This verse also shows the authority of the Apostles. It describes how John will call to mind the things that he does, and then hopefully restore Diotrephes to the church. This shows us that it is not judgmental to confront one another, in love, if they are not in line with the Word of God.




As mentioned before Gaius was called someone who walks in the truth, and this truth, as stated in point 2 sub point d, is Christ Himself. Again, there is a connection here between Third John, First John 1:5-6, and the Gospel of John 8:12 when Christ says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” The verse in First John 1:6 states, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”  Gaius is the person who is walking in the light, according to John 8:12, because he is following after Christ, Diotrephes, taking what is implied in what Christ is saying in the same verse, is by contrast not walking in the light so as a result he is walking in darkness, because he is not following after Christ. The Holy Spirit42, through John, states in First John that those who walk in the darkness do not practice the truth and as stated before because Diotrephes is not following after Christ, he is walking in the darkness.43 Here it is possible John could be telling us that Diotrephes is not a Christian, or that John is considering Diotrephes’ salvation.44

a.      Malicious Words – 10a “…prating against...the brethren…”

b.      Doesn’t Receive Brothers – 10b “…brethren…putting them out.”

C.     Comparison of Good and Evil- 11-12 “Beloved...evil, but that which is good…”

This is the start of the last section of the body as noted again by the word “Beloved”.

The text in verse 11 is directly after a section of comparison between Gaius and Diotrephes in verse 10. It would follow then that the author is referencing the two people mentioned in verse 10 in the next verse 11.

In verse 11 John is exhorting Gaius to imitate what is good, and to not imitate evil. This is the main point of verse 11.

In verse 12 John gives us another example of what is good and that is Demetrius. Gaius was also mentioned before in contrast to Diotrephes, but John felt the need to include Demetrius also when speaking of someone who has a good testimony. It is thought that Demetrius is the person who delivered the letter to Gaius.


                                                            1.      What to follow after – 11a “...follow not that which is evil, but…good.”

a.      Negative relation – 11b “…that which is evil…”


b.      Positive relation – 11c “…that which is good.”

                                                            2.      Who to follow after – 11d “He that doeth good is of God: but…God.”

a.      Positive person – 11e “He that doeth good is of God…”

It would appear that John is speaking of both Gaius, who John earlier described as walking in the truth, and the person he introduces in verse 12, Demetrius.


b.      Negative person – 11f “...he that doeth evil has not seen God…”

There is a contradiction here for those who try to explain that John was stating that Diotrephes was a Christian. John explicitly states in verse 11 that those who are practicing evil, Diotrephes, have not seen God. Marshall, in a seeming change of viewpoints, states now that John is calling Diotrephes’ “Christian experience” into question.45 Seemingly, it would appear that John, who states that the evil has not seen God, means simply that. The people who are walking not in the truth, who John states in Third John as being Diotrephes, are not in fellowship with God.


D.     Demetrius’ Report– 12 “Demetrius…”

John here gives an example of a person who Gaius should be seeking to be like in his walk towards the truth. It is also suggested that Demetrius is the bearer of the letter.46


                                                            1.      To Peers “…hath a good report of all men…we also…”

This shows that Demetrius is someone who’s respected by the apostles and is someone who respects the authority of the apostles.


                                                            2.      To truth – “…from the truth…”

III. Third Division of John’s Letter (Conclusion) –   13- 14 “I had many things to write…”

A.     Writing –   13 “ I had many things to write…pen write unto thee:”

Here some scholars suggest that John is frustrated because he has to communicate through a scribe and is also stating that he did not write enough information considering the severity of the situation.47 



B.     Meeting –   14a “…I trust that I shall see thee, and we shall speak face to face…”

Here John is telling Gaius that he will instruct him further when he sees the man face to face.


C.    Greeting –   14b “Peace be to thee. … Greet the friends by name.” 

It is noted here by Yarbrough that this last convention translated into English as “peace” is not common of New Testament writers. Instead of the word peace, often at the closing of letters New Testament authors would use the word grace.48 On the other hand, Stott thinks that this is an appropriate closing given the situation of Third John and the conflict involved in the book.49 

1 Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John. p81.

2 Smalley, 317. This view, according to Smalley, is based on a misinterpretation of the works

of Papias. For further information, see Stephen S. Smalley, John: Evangelist and Interpreter

(Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1983).

3 Wood, 16. Critical Concerns regarding the Johannine Epistles (2006).

4 Ibid.

5 Kistemaker, 389. New Testament Commentary: James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic (2007).

6 Brown, R. E., 11-12. The Epistles of John. Anchor Bible, 30. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

7 Wood, 16. Critical Concerns regarding the Johannine Epistles (2006).

8 Brown, 101. The Epistles of John. Anchor Bible, 30. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

9 Robinson, 307. Redating the New Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976.

10 Brown, LXXIX-CII. The Gospel according to John. New York: Doubleday, 1966. This source provides solid information about the authorship speculation that has arose in modern scholarship and the interrelation of the supposed authors. It shows, in part, where the confusion could have arisen in modern scholarship.

11 Brown, 101.

12 Kruse, 9, 36, 42. The Letters of John. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. ;, 2000.

13 Stott, 28. The Letters of John: an introduction and commentary. 2nd ed. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press ;, 1988.

14 Kruse, 48.

15 Stott, 42.

16 Kruse, 47.

17 Woods, 16.

18 Kistemaker, 380.

19 Woods, 16, who cites others in his work.; Kruse, 47; ESV, Study Bible: Introduction to the NT. 2008.

20 Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John. p. 13.

21 Akin, Daniel L.. 1, 2, 3 John. p. 238.

22 Stott, 222.

23 Stott, 222; McDermond, J. E.. Epistles of 1, 2, 3 John. p. 287. Marshall also makes note of both possible interpretations. p. 82.

24 McDermond, 288; Marshall, 82.

25 Marshall, 82.

26 Young, Robert. Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible. p. 781.

27 Young, 781; Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for euodoō (Strong's 2137)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 25 Apr 2013. < http://

Strongs=G2137&t=KJV&sf=5 >; MacArthur, John. 1-3 John. p. 245.    

28 Stott, 223.

29 McDermond, 288.

30 John 14:6

31 Mcdermond, 288.

32 Marshall, 84;Yarbrough, 368.

33 See note on Main Point II for further exegesis of “Beloved”.

34 Stott, 225.

35 1 John 3:17-18; Yarbrough, 371.

36 Yarbrough, 371; Marshall, 85; MacAruthur, 247.

37 Stott, 225; Yarbrough, 371.

38 Stott, 227; Marshall, 86; MacArthur, 248; McDermond ,289; Yarbrough, 372.

39 Young, 686.

40 Yarbrough, 377; Marshall, 88; MacDermond, 288; Stott, 229.

41 Young, 769.

42 I recognize that this is an Appeal to Authority, but it is the truth…and we should remember that Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit through men.

43 I understand that there is a difference between walking in darkness and occasionally sinning. I am positing here that based on Third John and the way it is written Diotrephes is walking in darkness.

44 This is a part of 3 John that is debated by scholars in academia.

Stott, 229; Marshall, 90. Stott and Marshall do not agree with the view that I take.

 Bauer, Walter, Robert A. Kraft, and Gerhard Krodel. Orthodoxy and heresy in earliest Christianity,  93.  Agrees with my position, but is criticized by Haenchen.

Margaret M. Mitchell, "'Diotrephes Does Not Receive Us;: The Lexicographical and Social Context of 3 John 9-10," Journal of Biblical Literature 117.2 (1998:299-320), with bibliography of the conflict on each possible arena of the conflict.

45 Marshall, 92.

46 Marshall, 93; Stott 223; Yarbrough, 383.

47 Yarbrough, 385; Stott 233.

48 Yarbrough, 386.

49 Stott, 234.


© LightofMine, People  who are in this class now, you know who you are, may use this for reference ONLY. Turn in your own work don't steal mine; On the otherhand if you want to use this for a sermon or teaching go right ahead.

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