Study of III John



III John was written by the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, and is usually dated between A.D. 85 and 95. There is no way of dating III John precisely or of discerning where John was when he wrote it or where Gaius was when he received it. III John may have been written as early as the A.D. 60s. If so, then John may have been in Jerusalem. If III John was written between A.D. 85 and 95 (as this writer believes it was), then John was likely in Ephesus, a free man, and not in exile on the Isle of Patmos as he was in Revelation because he speaks of coming to deal with Diotrephes.

III John is addressed to the beloved Gaius about whom nothing is known other than what can be discerned from this epistle. He was apparently the pastor or a prominent leader in a church reasonably close to where John was located to which John sent traveling preachers and missionaries from time to time.

Three men are mentioned by name in III John. Their lives are similar to others in all ages, but nothing is known of any of them outside of what can be gleaned from this epistle. First, there is Gaius who is loved by John (verses 1-2), whose soul prospers (verse 2), who walks in the truth (verse 3), who brings joy to John by his life (verse 4), and who does faithfully whatever he does (verse 5). What a blessing this sort of person can be to a local church, but Gaius may not have been in good health (verse 2). If Gaius was not in good health, this may explain why Diotrephes was able to do some of the things he had done, perhaps without the knowledge of Gaius. It is to Gaius that III John is written.

Second, there is Diotrephes who is similar to others in all ages, each one of whom is a real detriment to a local church. He is a church boss who has to be prominent in a church and thinks he can control everything in his local church. No church needs a man or woman like Diotrephes. He needs to remember that it is God's local church. Diotrephes loves to have the pre-eminence (verse 9), is worthy of discipline (verse 10), receives us not (verse 10), prates against us with malicious words (verse 10), defies proper authority (verse 10), does not receive the brethren (i.e. the traveling preachers, missionaries, and evangelists sent by John), forbids them that would receive the brethren, and casts them out of the church (verse 10).

Third, there is Demetrius who has a good report of all men (verse 11), who has a good report of the truth itself (verse 12), and who has a good report in John's opinion (verse 12). He is another sort of man who would be a blessing to any local church where he is a member. He is a traveling preacher, minister, missionary, or evangelist being recommended and sent by John.

It appears that the occasion of III John is that Demetrius was a traveling minister or missionary who was traveling to the church where both Gaius and Diotrephes were members and that John was recommending him to Gaius and urging Gaius to see that he was cared for properly. Apparently, Gaius would be influential enough within the congregation to offset Diotrephes' influence toward this traveling preacher. In addition, the use of the plural ye know in verse 12 rather than the singular thou knowest suggests that John intended this letter to be read by an audience larger than just Gaius and appears to indicate that this letter was intended to be Gaius' authority for enforcing certain things within the congregation. It is likely that Demetrius carried this letter with him from John to Gaius and that this letter was used to introduce Demetrius to Gaius and to commend him to Gaius' care.

An Outline of III John

Introduction - Verses 1-4

A. John's greeting to Gaius - Verse 1

B. John's wish for Gaius - Verse 2

C. John's rejoicing over Gaius - Verses 3-4

I. Gaius, a good example of hospitality - Verses 5-8

A. Hospitable to the brethren - Verse 5

B. Hospitable to strangers - Verse 5

C. Well-regarded for his love - Verse 6

D. The necessity of hospitality - Verses 7-8

II. Diotrephes, a bad example of hospitality - Verses 9-10

A. Loves to be pre-eminent in the church - Verse 9

B. Rejects John's request to show hospitality - Verse 9

C. Brings unjustified charges against John - Verse 10

D. Does not show hospitality to fellow believers - Verse 10

E. Prevents others from showing hospitality - Verse 10

F. Casts those showing hospitality out of the church - Verse 10

III. Demetrius, a man with a good report - Verses 11-12

A. Believers habitually follow that which is good - Verse 11

B. Unbelievers habitually follow that which is evil - Verse 11

C. Demetrius has earned a good report from all persons - Verse 12

D. Demetrius has earned a good report from the truth - Verse 12

E. Demetrius has earned a good report from John himself - Verse 12

Conclusion - Verses 13-14