Bible Book Number 64—3 John
Writer: Apostle John
Place Written: Ephesus, or near
Writing Completed: c. 98 C.E.
1. To whom was Third John addressed, and what is known of him?
THIS letter is written to Gaius, a faithful Christian whom John truly loved. The name Gaius was a common one in the days of the early congregation. It appears four times in other parts of the Christian Greek Scriptures, referring to at least three and probably four different men. (Acts 19:29; 20:4; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14) There is no information available that would definitely identify the Gaius to whom John wrote with any of these others. All that we know of Gaius is that he was a member of a Christian congregation, that he was a special friend of John’s, and that the letter was addressed to him personally, for which reason the word “you” appears always in the singular.
2. What identifies the writer, time, and place of the writing of Third John?
2 Since the style of the opening and closing greetings is the same as that of Second John and the writer again identifies himself as “the older man,” there can be no question that the apostle John also wrote this letter. (2 John 1) The similarity of contents and language also suggests that it was written, as in the case of the other two letters, in or near Ephesus, about 98 C.E. Because of its brevity, it was seldom quoted by early writers, but along with Second John, it is to be found in early catalogs of the inspired Scriptures.*
3. What does John express through Third John, and what interesting glimpse do we gain of the brotherhood of the early Christians?
3 In his letter John expresses appreciation for Gaius’ hospitality shown toward traveling brothers, and he mentions some trouble with a certain ambitious Diotrephes. The Demetrius mentioned seems to be the one who brought this letter to Gaius, so it is possible he was sent out by John and was in need of Gaius’ hospitality on his journey, which the letter should secure. As in the case of Gaius, we know nothing about Diotrephes and Demetrius beyond what we read here. However, the letter gives an interesting glimpse of the close international brotherhood of the early Christians. Among other things, this included the custom of receiving hospitably those traveling ‘in behalf of the name,’ although these might not be personally known to their hosts.—3 Jo Vs. 7.
CONTENTS OF THIRD JOHN
4. For what does John commend Gaius, what unruly conduct does he condemn, and what sound advice does he give?
4 The apostle counsels hospitality and good works (vss. 1-14). John rejoices at hearing that Gaius is still “walking in the truth.” He commends him for doing a faithful work, that of showing loving care for visiting brothers. “We . . . are under obligation,” says John, “to receive such persons hospitably, that we may become fellow workers in the truth.” John wrote previously to the congregation, but the self-exalting Diotrephes receives nothing from John or other responsible ones with respect. John, if he comes, will call him to account for his ‘chattering with wicked words.’ The beloved Gaius is advised to “be an imitator, not of what is bad, but of what is good.” Demetrius is cited as a praiseworthy example. Rather than write of many things, John expresses the hope of soon seeing Gaius face-to-face.—Vss. 4, 8, 10, 11.
5. (a) How did John show himself to be an exemplary overseer, and what spirit was it important to preserve? (b) Why was John so outspoken against Diotrephes? (c) For what should we be zealous today, in line with what principle stated by John?
5 The apostle John shows himself to be an exemplary overseer in his zeal to safeguard the congregation against contaminating influences. The spirit of love and hospitality that permeated the congregation was commendable, and indeed it was their obligation to preserve this happy condition, in order that the local brothers and “strangers” (individuals formerly unknown to their Christian host) who came among them might serve together as “fellow workers in the truth.” (Vss. 5, 8) However, Diotrephes had lofty eyes, a thing hateful to Jehovah, and he was disrespectful of theocratic authority, even chattering wickedly about the apostle John. (Prov. 6:16, 17) He was putting a roadblock in the way of the congregation’s Christian hospitality. No wonder John was so outspoken against this evil and in favor of genuine Christian love in the congregation. We should be just as zealous today for maintaining humility, walking in the truth, and practicing godly love and generosity, in line with the principle stated by John: “He that does good originates with God. He that does bad has not seen God.”—3 John 11.
See chart “Outstanding Early Catalogs of the Christian Greek Scriptures,” page 303.