About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

Home Page

My Commentary on Third John


The following commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.  The chapter titles in this commentary are the same as those in the NIV which makes for easier comparison.


John introduces himself as “the elder” as he does in his second letter.  Some suggest that John was a head elder, over a number of churches.  Some would call John a Bishop or a District Superintendent. Yet this is a debatable point.


Some say that John was a lead elder because he doesn’t say, “John, an elder”, but says, “the elder”.  I don’t believe that is a substantial point to base this opinion on. The normal church setting in the first generation church was a body of elders, not just one elder.


The body of elders did begin to change during the end of the first century.  One man rose up as a lead elder, out of that body of elders, but whether John was one of these, is hard to say.  Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t.


The letter is written to John’s friend Gaius, whom John “loves in the truth”.  Once again, we see the term “love in truth”.  John truly understood love as Jesus taught it.  It is not “sloppy agape”, it is love based on truth and justice.  Love based on truth means that the situation in which you are about to demonstrate love in has to be understood in the light of the truth in that situation.  You just don't love indiscriminately.   


Note that John addresses his letter to Gaius by name.  In his second letter, John did not provide the name of the lady he wrote the letter to.  My guess is that he had a reason for not naming her, because it is clear that he named Gaius in this letter.   


In verse 2 John greets Gaius by simply wishing that he be in good health and prosper, even as his soul prospers.  We learn some things here.  We learn that Gaius was doing very well spiritually. 


We should view these words as a simple greeting, a wish from John to Gaius.  Prosperity teachers use this verse to try to prove that God wants us to prosper financially and be in good health all of the time.  Well John is not writing these words as a teaching.  He is simply wishing and possibly praying that God would keep Gaius in good health and cause him to prosper.  But we need to remember that this same John has already told us in chapter five of his first letter that God’s will is the final thing that really matters on this point.  And we know that God does allow negative things to happen to the positive Christian.


It is bad Biblical interpretation to take John's greeting, his wishes for one individual and use it to help build a New Testament teaching on.  This is what "hyper-faith" and "prosperity teachers" do with this verse.  This is wrong.  If you build a doctrine on a faulty premise, you obviously have a faulty doctrine.


In verse 3 John mentions that some brothers visited him and spoke well of Gaius, and that he is in fact living out the truth of the gospel.  Once again John uses the word truth.  In all three of John’s letter’s he stresses the idea of truth as Jesus spoke it, since the rise of false teachers was fast becoming a problem among Christians.  The same problem is escalating in the church today.  We should respond to this problem the same way John does. 


Living out truth is important, as John puts it.  Many people know the truth, but don't want to live it  out in their daily lives.  On the other hand, in these days, many don’t know the truths of Scripture to even think about living them out in daily life. 


In verse 4 John speaks of Gaius as being one of his children.  This would suggest to me that John might have led Gaius to Jesus.  Anyone who has children understands John’s words about being joyful when their children are living as they should.  This is even more so when the things that are being done are things of the Lord. Any children, whether spiritual children or biological children, when they walk with Jesus, you are extremely joyful. I'd suggest that Gaius is not a biological child of John.  Even if John did not lead Gaius to the Lord, John is quite old at this point, and many people viewed him as a father in the Lord


In verse 6 and 7 we note that Gaius was very hospitable to brother’s in Christ travelling through his town.  He would entertain them and house them and send them on their way in the Lord.  John seems very appreciative of how Gaius’ ministered and served his fellow saints.  Hospitality is important in the Christian life. Some people are really gifted with being hospitable, while others have to really work at it.  Jesus was very hospitable.  Being hospitable means more than just inviting people into your home.  It means being ready and able at any given time to sit down with anyone who the Lord's sends us.  It could be at home or it could be on a street corner.  Taking the time for people is being hospitable.    


In verse 7 the men that Gaius entertained were sent out from the church, possibly even John.  When these men are out winning the “pagans” to Jesus, they did not expect money from these pagans.  Many of these first century missionaries were like Paul.  They did not want to compromise the gospel by asking for financial support from those they’ve just won to Jesus.  This would be something for the modern church to think about and practice.


In verse 8 we see that John uses the word “we”, as in “we ought to show hospitality to such men…”  John is saying that Gaius is working with John and others in the service of the Lord.  Each person has his place in this service. Gaius may not have been an apostle travelling the roads, but he did help such apostles as they came through town.   This is the Body of Christ in action, everyone doing their part, as different as each part might be.


In verses 9 and 10 we see the name Diotrephes.  John tells us a little about this man.  He appears to be in some type of leadership roll.  He is a gossiper and speaks against John and the one’s that John sends out.  John says that he always wants to be first.  So here in the early church we see the ego of a man trying to promote himself over the gospel.  Men wanting to be first is a problem that arises in church circles all the time.  It is just a tendency that most of us have.  


Diotrephes was even kicking some out of the church.  Of course, we know that no man can kick any true believer out of the true church of God .  What he was probably doing was not allowing certain people to participate in anything pertaining to church life


John also says that Diotrephes also “refuse to welcome” the men that John sends.  These men could well have been sent to straighten out some problem that Diotrephes brought about.


John says that if he ends up coming to the church where Gaius is, he will speak openly about Diotrephes.  John had no problem exposing falseness in church leaders in a public way.  We should be able to do the same today  


In verse 11 John tells Gaius not to “imitate what is evil”.  I think John is basically saying that Gaius should not respond to things as Diotrephes has.  It appears that John might be saying that Diotrephes is evil and has not been sent from God.  This might be implied.  John does not specifically say this, so I could be wrong on this point. 


John says that those who do good are “from God”, meaning sent from Him, and those who do evil are not from God, have not been sent by Him.  A man’s life will speak to the validity of his ministry.  If his life does not match up to the truth of Jesus, then he was never sent from God in the first place, and if he was, then he has departed from the Lord at some point.  One thing to really point out here is just because a man might do good, that's not the only thing the determines if he has been sent from God.  Teaching and living the truth of the gospel is equally important. 


In contrast to Diotresphus, in verse 12 John speaks of Demetrius, who does do good.  He does live according to the truth.  Just who Demetrius is, we really can’t say for sure.  Some believe that he was one of the men that John had sent out to this local church, and that John was speaking well of him so Gaius would accept him.


John had much more to say but didn’t want to say it in a letter.  This was just a brief letter to explain a couple of things and to let Gaius know that John would soon come to visit him and most likely address the local church on the issues that needed to be resolved.


John closes his letter in verse 13 by wishing Gaius peace and by telling him to greet those in that city by name as John and his friends send their greetings to them.


Thus we see once again the frailty of man, even Christian men, who prefer to present themselves over and above Jesus and the gospel.  This type of behaviour is one of the biggest problems the church has as being representatives of Jesus.  Our witnesses is tainted by our humanity and lack of love for Jesus and the way in which He wants us to represent Him.  We often represent ourselves or our denominations instead of Jesus. This should never be.



Home Page