"THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN"
The Three Men Of Third John 3 Jn 1-13
1. It is not unusual for people to wonder...
a. What was the early church like?
b. We know a lot about its early leaders, such as apostles Paul and
Peter; but what about the average Christians themselves?
c. Were they more spiritual than Christians today? Did they
experience the kind of problems seen so often in churches today?
2. Several books of the New Testament reflect the life of the early
church, and this is especially true of the Third Epistle of John
a. It is a private letter, between the apostle John and a Christian
b. It provides portraits of three different men, and in so doing
gives us a glimpse of 1st century life in local churches
3. When one examines the portraits found in this letter, we learn that
there is not much difference between people back then, and in the
4. Therefore this epistle is very relevant, though we may live 1900
years later. In this lesson, we shall...
a. Consider some background material concerning the epistle
b. Notice the difference between the three men described in the
c. Summarize with some lessons that can be gleaned from this book
[Let's begin with some...]
I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
A. THE AUTHOR - "THE ELDER"
1. As with 2 John, the "elder" is believed by most conservative
scholars to be the apostle John
2. The INTERNAL evidence...
a. The three epistles of John utilize much the same language
b. All bear similarity to concepts and language to the Gospel
c. The term "elder" would be a fitting description of John as
the author, writing in his old age
3. The EXTERNAL evidence is slight, but Dionysius of Alexandria,
living in the third century A.D., credits John with being the
B. RECIPIENT - "THE BELOVED GAIUS"
1. Gaius was a common Roman name, and appears five times in the
New Testament - Ac 19:29; 3 Jn 20:4; Ro 16:23; 1 Cor 1:14; 3 Jn 1-1
2. Whether he is one of those mentioned by Luke or Paul cannot be
3. He is evidently a dear friend of John, and known for his
hospitality (more below)
C. PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING
1. Ephesus is usually suggested as the location from which John
wrote this epistle, as he was known to live there in the later
years of his life
2. Estimation of the date of writing varies widely, some placing
it before the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.), most however
placing it around 90-95 A.D.
D. PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE
1. To confirm that Gaius did right in supporting those teachers
who came his way, encouraging him to continue this hospitality
- 3 Jn 3:5-8
2. To express his condemnation of Diotrephes for rejecting John
and others whom he should had received - 3 Jn 1 9-10
3. To encourage Gaius to imitate what is good, commending
Demetrius as a good example - 3 Jn 3:11-12
E. BRIEF OUTLINE
1. Greetings, with an expression of great joy 3 Jn 1:1-4
2. The confirmation of Gaius 3 Jn 1:5-8
3. The condemnation of Diotrephes 3 Jn 1:9-10
4. The commendation of Demetrius 3 Jn 1:11-12
4. Concluding remarks 3 Jn 1:13-14
F. A COMPARISON BETWEEN SECOND AND THIRD JOHN
1. Both letters focus on the words "love" and "truth" -
2 Jn 1:1; 3 Jn 1:1
2. But notice this difference:
a. In 2nd John, love is enjoined, but there is a warning
against tolerating those who denied the truth
b. In 3rd John, love is praised, and there is commendation for
supporting those who proclaimed the truth
3. Another comparison:
a. 2nd John condemns the departure from the truth which is
known as "heresy"
b. 3rd John condemns the lack of love among Christians which
results in "schism"
-- (These comparisons are from Charles R. Erdman's commentary)
[With this brief background to the epistle, let's take a closer look
II. THE THREE MEN OF THIRD JOHN
A. GAIUS -- A MAN WHOM JOHN WOULD HAVE PROSPER 3 Jn 1:1-8
1. A dear friend of John, whom he prayed would prosper physically
as well as he did spiritually - 3 Jn 1:1-2
2. John so loved and prayed for Gaius, because he was a man
a. Had a good reputation - 3 Jn 1:3a
b. Walked in the truth - 3 Jn 1:3
c. Gave John great joy when hearing of his faithfulness - 3 Jn 1:4
d. Was hospitable toward all - 3 Jn 1:5-6a
e. Was encouraged to continue supporting gospel preachers -
3 Jn 1:6b-8
B. DIOTREPHES -- A MAN WHO WOULD BE PREEMINENT 3 Jn 1:9-11
1. A description of Diotrephes' character...
a. Self-promoter -- he strove to be first - 3 Jn 1:9a
b. Insubordinate -- he would not receive the [authority of]
apostles - 3 Jn 1:9b
c. Slanderous -- He spoke nonsense, and slandered - 3 Jn 1:10a
d. Vindictive -- He would not receive certain brethren, and
cast out other brethren - 3 Jn 1:10b
2. Diotrephes' character serves as a warning: "he who does evil
has not seen God" - 3 Jn 1:11b
C. DEMETRIUS -- A MAN WHO WOULD BE A PATTERN 3 Jn 1:11-12
1. John encourages Gaius to imitate what is good, for he who does
good is of God - 3 Jn 1:11
2. Demetrius appears to be offered as a pattern for Gaius, for
Demetrius had a good report... - 3 Jn 1:12
a. From all the brethren
b. From the truth itself ("Demetrius lived according to the
mandates of God's Word so that his life showed clear
evidence of the truth" - Kistemaker)
c. From John and the apostles
[Thus we have these pen portraits of three men preserved in this
letter, giving us some insight into the life of the early church.
There were some good men (Gaius, Demetrius), but sadly there were some
bad as well (Diotrephes).
Not much different today, is it? That being the case, then perhaps we
should remember these...]
III. LESSONS FROM THIRD JOHN
A. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY SHOULD BE...
1. We may have to serve in the face of opposition from other
2. Will we allow this to effect our service?
3. Will we allow this to effect our salvation?
B. CHRISTIANS OFTEN IMITATE OTHER CHRISTIANS...
1. John says to imitate what is good for two reasons:
a. Those who do good are of God
b. Those who do evil do not know God
2. What example are we setting in the local church? Who are we
3. Gaius had the example of Diotrephes and Demetrius. Who do you
suppose he would seek to imitate?
C. CHRISTIANS OFTEN ALLOW THE "SPIRIT OF DIOTREPHES" TO REIGN...
1. Diotrephes was successful because some of the members...
a. Allowed Diotrephes to dominate
b. Would not take a stand for the truth
c. Would not support those who took a stand for the truth
2. Diotrephes was successful because there was a certain climate
of complacency and cowardice within the local church
3. NOTE: That Diotrephes was able to get away with his
domination strongly suggests to me that Gaius and Diotrephes
were not members of the same congregation, but in different
1. We will consider some more truths that can be gleaned from this
epistle in the next couple of lessons
2. But I hope that this introduction to this epistle and a brief look
at "The Three Men Of Third John" will stimulate our thinking...
a. What kind of example are we setting?
b. If John had written a letter in which your name was mentioned,
what would he have said about you?
1) Would he have prayed for your prosperity?
2) Would he have condemned your desire for prominence?
3) Or would he have set you up as a pattern for others to follow?
c. If we will but "walk in the truth" like Gaius, we will have a
good "testimony" from all like Demetrius!
NOTE: A special thanks to Chris Reeves (CHREEVES@aol.com) and his
Expandable Outlines #37 (THREE MEN OF THIRD JOHN), from which I
borrowed heavily in preparing this outline.
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