3 John 1

3 John 1:1

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

(a) The elder and author of this letter was most likely the Apostle John, although some dispute this (see entry for 2 John 1:1).

(b) Beloved is one of John’s favorite words. He uses it four times in this short epistle and six times in his first one. The original word (agapētos) means dearly loved, esteemed, favorite and it captures God’s heart for you (see entry for 1 John 2:7).

(c) Gaius was a common Roman name and there were several Gaiuses in the New Testament. This particular Gaius was a close friend of John. Because of what John says in 3 John 1:4, it seems that he had led Gaius to the Lord.

(d) Whom I love in truth or with authentic Christian love (2 John 1:1).

3 John 1:2

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.

(a) Beloved; see entry for 1 John 2:7.

(b) I pray; see entry for 1 John 5:14.

(c) In all respects or all things. Grace is not just for Sundays. The favor of God is meant to touch every part of our lives – our health, marriages, families, friendships, businesses, and our daily activities.

(d) Prosper. Your heavenly Father doesn’t want you sick and poor. His will is for you to prosper and be in good health physically, mentally, and spiritually. We should have no doubt about this, yet tradition has taught us to doubt God’s good heart toward us. How much better if we agreed with the psalmist: “The Lord is great and he delights in the prosperity of his servant” (Ps. 35:27, TPT).

John had been with Jesus. He saw Jesus heal the sick and feed the hungry. He knew Jesus did not come merely to teach but to bless us and prosper us in every way (Eph. 1:3).

3 John 1:3

For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth.

(a) I was very glad. John was pleased to hear that Gaius is walking in grace. He has not fallen from grace, like a Galatian (Gal. 5:4), or drifted from the love of God like an Ephesian (Rev. 2:4), but he is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet. 3:18). This makes John happy.

(b) Walking in truth; see entry for 2 John 1:4.

3 John 1:4

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

(a) No greater joy. Nothing made John happier than to see his spiritual children growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Paul said something similar about the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:20).

(b) My children refers to those John had fathered or mentored in the Lord. Gaius, the recipient of this letter, seems to have been such a person.

(c) Walking in truth; see entry for 2 John 1:4.

3 John 1:5–6

Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.

(a) Acting faithfully. John commends Gaius for showing hospitality to ministers or missionaries that had been sent by or vouched for by John. He encourages him to continue being generous with itinerant ministers and missionaries.

(b) Send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. In other words, don’t let them go empty handed. See entry for Rom. 15:24.

3 John 1:7

For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.

(a) They went out in response to the Great Commission given to all believers by Jesus (Matt. 28:19).

(b) For the sake of the Name. For 2000 years, men and women have gone abroad for the sake of the Name, meaning they have gone to tell people the good news, so that others might believe in the Name of the Son (1 John 3:23). They have done this because Jesus has a Name that is above all names (Php. 2:9). Like the Ephesians who endured for his Name’s sake (Rev. 2:3) and the Pergamenes who held fast to his Name (Rev. 2:13), they knew there was no other Name by which we can be saved (Act 2:21).

(c) The Gentiles. Those who proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles asked for no support lest they be accused of being spiritual mercenaries. (Unlike the Jews who had a long tradition of tithing to support the Levites, the Gentiles were unaccustomed to supporting ministers.) For this reason, those who preached the gospel either received support from others in the church (3 John 1:8) or were self-supporting tent-makers.

3 John 1:8

Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.

(a) We ought to support such men and women who make it their occupation to tell people the good news. Since the world does not recognize and provide for those who preach the gospel (1 John 3:1), those in the church need to take care of them. See also the entry for 1 Cor. 9:14.

(b) So that we may be fellow workers with the truth. Supporting those who preach the gospel is a way of sharing in their labor and those who do this share in the rewards of that labor.

Further reading: “Rewarded for their labor

3 John 1:9

I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.

(a) I wrote something to the church. John may have written a short letter to the church of which Gaius was a member. If so, the letter has been lost to history. Perhaps it was destroyed by Diotrephes.

(b) In contrast with hospitable Gaius, arrogant Diotrephes refused to recognize the authority of John or receive those he sent (see 3 John 1:10). He rejected John’s message and preached another gospel.

3 John 1:10

For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

(a) If I come. John may have been hindered from traveling on account of his age or exile on Patmos. Even though he preferred to engage with people face to face (2 John 1:12, 3 John 1:14), he was forced to write letters – and we should be glad he was!

(b) I will call attention to his deeds. Diotrephes was a divisive figure within the church community. Since John proclaimed the undiluted gospel of grace, it seems that Diotrephes promoted law or dead works. John intended to call him out on this the next time he visited.

(c) Unjustly accusing us with wicked words. Like Jesus and the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 4:13), John was slandered for preaching grace. Sadly, this unjust practice continues today. Preach grace and you’ll be labelled licentious, anti-law and a closet sinner. You’ll be dismissed as hyper-grace, as though that were a bad thing, and your words will be taken out of context and used against you.

(d) He himself does not receive the brethren. At one end of the hospitality scale was generous Gaius; at the other, was Diotrephes. Gaius opened his home to ministers sent by John; Diotrephes shut them out.

(e) Puts them out of the church. Not only did Diotrephes scorn John’s friends, he punished anyone who showed them hospitality. Embrace those who preach the message of grace and you risk being marginalized by those who are hostile to it.

Further reading: “The high cost of free grace.”

3 John 1:11

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.

(a) Beloved; see entry for 1 John 2:7.

(b) Do not imitate or follow what is evil means don’t follow anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ (2 John 1:9). Don’t listen to those who diminish the cross or put price tags on grace. Don’t heed those who promote self-trust and dead works. Don’t pay attention to those who would distract you from Jesus.

(c) What is evil; what is good. In the new covenant, good and evil are not defined in terms of keeping or breaking some moral code, but are defined in response to what God has asked us to do, namely, believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23).

From the beginning, God has asked nothing more than we trust him. Those who trust him are said to be “born of God” (1 John 5:1), while those who reject him are “evil-doers” (Luke 13:27). Like Cain “who was of the evil one,” their evil deeds belie a self-righteous and unbelieving heart that scorns the grace of God (see entry for 1 John 3:12).

(d) The one who does good. We don’t do good to become good; we do good because we are born of God and our Father is good (see entry for 1 John 5:18). Incidentally this is the only time John mentions “doing good” in his epistles. He is far more likely to encourage his readers to believe in Jesus and love another. See also John 5:29.

(e) The one who does evil. Evil fruit reveal an evil tree (see entry for 1 John 2:4).

3 John 1:12

Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Demetrius was a minister vouched for by John and recognized by those in the church as a good guy. Why mention him? Probably because he was the person who carried this letter to Gaius. There is also some historical evidence to suggest that Demetrius led the church at Philadelphia (see entry for Rev. 3:7).

3 John 1:13

I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink;

(a) I have many things to write to you. John has much more to say but will save it until he sees Gaius in person (see 3 John 1:14).

(b) I am not willing to write them; see entry for 2 John 1:12.

3 John 1:14

but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

(a) Face to face. As with the chosen lady of 2 John 1:12, John expresses his preference for face to face conversation over letter writing.

(b) Greet the friends by name. At the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul greets nearly 30 people by name. John doesn’t greet anyone by name but asks Gaius to do it for him. “You know them better than me.”

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