In Third John or the apostle John’s third letter which is addressed to, “my dear friend Gaius,” he centers the letter around three men – Gaius, the example of one who follows Christ and loves others (verses 2-8); Diotrephes, the self-proclaimed church leader who does not reflect God’s values (verses 9-11); and Demetrius, who also follows the truth (verse 12). John encourages Gaius to practice hospitality, continue to walk in the truth, and do what is right.
John wrote to commend Gaius, who was taking care of traveling teachers and missionaries, and to warn against people like Diotrephes, who was proud and refused to listen to spiritual leaders in authority. If we are to live in the truth of the gospel, we must look for ways to support pastors, Christian workers, and missionaries today. All Christians should work together to support God’s work, both at home and around the world.
Although this is a personal letter, we can “look over the shoulder” of Gaius and apply its lessons to our lives. As you read Third John, with which man do you identify? Are you Gaius, generously giving to others? A Demetrius, loving the truth? or a Diotrephes, looking out for yourself and your “things”? Determine to reflect Christ’s values in your relationships, opening your home and touching others with his love.
Writer of Third John
Written by the apostle John, brother of the apostle James who was martyred in A. D. 42 by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2).
During the Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A. D. 40s). possibly written from Jerusalem, since the apostles were headquartered there during the Great Scattering.
To Whom Written
To “the elder unto the well-beloved Gaius,” John’s friend (3 John 1). Purpose: The purpose of the letter of Third John was to warn Gaius about deceivers. Apparently, John’s agents had been rejected and mistreated by a man named Diotrephes, one of the deceivers mentioned in I and II John. Demetrius, John’s highly recommended agent, personally carried this letter to Gaius, so Diotrephes could not intercept it. John urged Gaius to do the right thing until he himself could come and deal with Diotrephes, no doubt with the sword that every apostle carried in the Acts period.
Purpose of Third John
The purpose of the letter of Third John was to warn Gaius about deceivers. Apparently, John’s agents had been rejected and mistreated by a man named Diotrephes, one of the deceivers mentioned in I and II John. Demetrius, John’s highly recommended agent, personally carried this letter to Gaius, so Diotrephes could not intercept it. John urged Gaius to do the right thing until he himself could come and deal with Diotrephes, no doubt with the sword that every apostle carried in the Acts period.
Historical Setting of Third John
Third John has none of the usual features of an epistle: no salutation or identification of author; no greetings; and no references to persons, places, or events. Ironically, although its format is impersonal, like a sermon or a treatise, its tone is warm and personal. This suggests that it was written to a broad audience (probably in and around Ephesus) that was very dear to the author.
Like the Gospel of John, the epistles of John are built on the foundation blocks of love, truth, sin, world, life, light, and the Holy Spirit. The epistles of John emphasize the great themes of knowing, believing, walking, and abiding. The keystone in the arch of the gospel is that God has appeared in human form. The incarnation is life; and this life is available in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Fellowship with God is realized by knowing God and abiding in Him: joined to Him in righteousness, truth, and especially love.
Many Christians wonder about John’s declaration, “Whoever abides in Him [Jesus Christ] does not sin” (3:6). This does not mean that if someone sins he is not a Christian. Indeed, in these epistles we are told that Christ came to forgive sins; and we are admonished to confess our sins to Him. The statement means that Christ has transferred us from death to life and has caused us to share in the nature of God. Consequently, we are no longer confined to darkness, because Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin in our lives.
Click here to download or print the Bible outline “Third John – To My Dear Friend Gaius“.