3rd John Study
Like the Book of 2 John, the Book of 3rd John is also one relatively short chapter.
3 John 1:1: Gaius was a faithful Christian brother whom the Apostle John must have known well and already had quality fellowship with.
3:2: Or, I pray that in all things.
This is an expression of good will and genuine care for Gaius’ well- being. There is no hope expressed of Gaius getting wealthy and living in luxury here. There is not any type of promise of any type of financial or material prosperity. Don’t read beyond the text here nor read anything into it to assume John had a wish that Gaius would act covetously nor be put into the spiritually perilous situation of becoming a financially rich man. John had warned the following in another of his epistles.
1 John 2:15-17: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
The lifestyle which the Prosperity Gospel preachers live through their deceit, and encouragement of covetousness in others, epitomizes what John warned of. John was surely not expressing a prayer for Gaius which is counterproductive to the warning he gave in 1 John 2:15-17. He simply wished the best for him overall and prayed for him accordingly. It is wonderful when someone’s soul is prospering and there is no evident reason to believe that affliction would be an important teacher for them to bring them to repentance from living in sin. Gaius’s soul surely was prospering. The abuse of this verse by the Prosperity Gospel preachers is an example of twisting Scripture by both separating a verse out of its Biblical context and also not even carefully analyzing what the verse actually says. The whole of Scripture evidently refutes and rebukes the Prosperity Gospel.
3:3: One cannot walk in truth if they will not receive the truth of God’s Word and allow it to mold their beliefs and actions accordingly.
3:4: Some in conservative evangelical-type circles might be surprised to know that the Biblical context of this statement is John talking about one who is not his natural offspring. There is such a thing as idolatry related to natural families and raising children.
3:5-6: Or, in a manner worthy of God
Whether these were Christians traveling through Gaius’ area as they went to evangelize and plant churches among the gentiles, or whether they were sent from another fellowship to teach among different churches founded by the Apostles, John saw it fit to commend Gaius and encourage him not to cease doing the good in God’s eyes that he was indeed doing.
3:7: These ministers of the Gospel were not asking for money from those whom they ministered to. They were making the Gospel without charge in order to not be a burden to others nor a stumbling-block to anyone. Gaius recognized the need, he recognized the authenticity of these Gospel ministers (there was doubtlessly a network of churches founded by the Apostles to help in this), and he recognized how they were indeed putting their trust in the Lord by not making requests for money and for material help in order to not burden nor stumble anyone. He therefore gave of his own things and sacrificed his own comfort to help them. Being confronted with such a situation is what the sheep and the goats, which Jesus talked about in Matthew 25:31-46, is dealing with at its core. Yet many are so unconcerned about the Lord’s interests that they would never even discern such a trial as a trial indeed, let alone do what is right in order to pass the trial.
3:8: Gaius had been faithful, yet he was in an awkward situation (which we’re about to read about), facing pressure to turn back from the hospitality which he was showing to faithful Christian ministers. He would deny the Lord Himself were he to succumb to that pressure.
And by the way: It only makes sense that those who are being helped by fellow-helpers to the truth should be considerate of, and communicate well with, those who are helping them so they don’t harm their Christian brethren and poorly impact their own ministry and testimony.
3:9: Gaius’ own church was being ripped apart by Diotrophes (whose name means “nourished by Jupiter”- Jupiter of course being the Pagan false god). We’re not told what position Diotrophes had in the church, but whether he was the head elder or overseer or pastor or bishop (all mean essentially the same thing- but I think overseer is the most accurate and closest to free from bad associations related to the traditions of men among the churches of men) or he had to come to usurp that position in an official or unofficial way, he loved to have the preeminence among the church (literally, he was fond of being first; he was ambitious of distinction). That is all we’re told about him. That’s all we need to know. The spirit is thus diagnosed, and the warning is given. In this loving the preeminence, being fond of being first, he was seeking to usurp the Apostle John’s Apostolic authority too. We know what is going on in principle with Diotrophes, even though we don’t know the specific details.
This rebuke of Diotrophes is not coming against church authority then or Biblical standards. Diotrophes himself was coming against one he ought to have submitted to and opposing those whom he should have received. Those whom he opposed were not teaching false doctrine or otherwise practicing sin. Those who do such ought to be contended with. Diotrophes himself now needs to be contended against- and John is about to make it clear that he will do this. John was no Pacifist nor one who was going to enable evil in any way. Diotrophes’ behavior would not be suffered under his watch.
3:10: Or, talking nonsense against us with malicious words.
We can be sure that Diotrophes was not saying he was doing what he was doing because he loved the preeminence. Virtually no one will ever admit to that. Diotrophes rather resorted to false and nonsensical accusations to justify his envy, malice, his overall wicked attitude, and his wicked designs. Gaius wouldn’t have needed this instruction and exhortation if Diotrophes were honest about his ambition (though perhaps Gaius had already been cast out of the church and needed this instruction to make sense of what had happened and not regret not being in Diotrophes’ church anymore).
A few ironic things here: Diotrophes is given anything but preeminence in the Bible. He is mentioned once– about as negatively as anyone can be. He that exalteth himself shall be abased.
It should be no surprise that a modern follower of Diotrophes would now, considering that the Bible has been written and set down, use a term like “Diotrophes” against a godly person to slander them like Diotrophes in the Bible did.
3:11:First John is another epistle of John which is longer and drives home this point constantly. And within a church where the Biblical doctrine, standards, and sharp insights have already been proclaimed and well known, righteousness will be particularly exemplary- while wickedness will be particularly wicked. It will also be subtle, and it will be put forth in a cloak of spirituality and godliness. Yet even that subtle wickedness will manifest itself somehow when the light of truth and righteousness conflict with the supreme wicked end-goals of the hypocrite who proclaims truth and righteousness reign in him. And it is sometimes the case that in any other context the doctrine, rebuke, correction, and instruction in righteousness which comes from the mouth of the hypocrite could make even those with truly godly and good discernment think that they were hearing from an Apostle. I would guess this was the case with Diotrophes too. As good and right as Diotrophes likely almost always sounded, he loved the preeminence. This compelled him to oppose righteousness as he opposed the reception of righteous preachers who threatened his own perception of his preeminence. And it compelled him to tell lies which slandered them and those who supported them.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
Matthew 13:40-43: “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity (anomia- lawlessness); And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
3:12: Perhaps Demetrius was the overseer of a church which was yet close enough for Gaius to be a part of. Perhaps Demetrius had been one of those cast out of Diotrophes’ church.
Whatever the case, John has been building up to this exhortation where Gaius is implicitly told, seeing what has been said Demetrius’ clear and evident faithful walk in the light of God’s Word, and what has been made clear about Diotrophes’ wicked character, that Gaius ought to be in Demetrius’ fellowship and not in Diotrophes’ church anymore.
This book then is a clear exhortation not to be part of a church where there is evident wickedness reigning, and to rather do all in your power to be part of a church where Christ’s doctrine reigns- and thus where truly Christian character and manner of life is taught, is commended, and prevails without interference from corrupted doctrine and/or practice from the leadership.
3:13-14: We have clear corresponding cross references in passages such as John chapter 15:14-15 and James 2:23. Read the full chapters of John 15 and James 2 to see these verses in their Biblical context. That would be a good follow-up to this study and may even tie up loose ends which yet remain in the minds of those who choose to go forward in understanding and doing the will of God.
Aaron’s email is: [email protected]