III John




            The epistle titled III John was addressed to Gaius, a name that we find used in several places in the New Testament:


In Ephesus as a man of Macedonia Acts 19:29And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.”


As a man of Derbe; Acts 20:44And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.”


As Paul’s host in Corinth while he wrote the Roman letter: Romans 16:23Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother.”


And as a man of Corinth whom Paul had baptized himself: I Corinthians 1:1414I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.”


            Whether it was one of these men that John is writing to or someone else with the same name we can only speculate.  He appears to be a man of substance who was known for his benevolence and who was faithful to the Word of God.

            John writes to commend Gaius for that faithfulness, his integrity and his hospitality to the missionaries that had come his way.  In addition John encourages Gaius in this work; not to be discouraged by the opposition that had arisen.  He takes Diotrephes to task for his arrogance, his love of pre-eminence, and commends Demetrius who carries the letter to Gaius.

            Thus we have three men whose characters are described for us, men whose imitators we could point out in many congregations today.  Gaius, the dependable disciple, liberal in his giving, hospitable and devoted to Christ; Diotrephes, a church boss, dominating, boastful, and proud; Demetrius, commended because he is humble, kind and worthy.

            No time is given in the letter nor is there any indication given to the time written beyond John characterizing himself as being the “elder” who referred to his audience as his little children.  Scholars seem to think that it was written from the city of Ephesus, late in John’s life, probably about AD 90.

 v.11The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”


            Again we see a phrase that John used in II John 1 indicating that he loved Gaius “in the truth”.  He loved him for his devotion to the cause of Christ, because he was a Christian and because of his faithfulness and loyalty to the Word of God.


v.2Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”


            John calls Gaius “beloved” in four of the 14 verses of this book indicating how deep his love was for this man and his character.  In fact, he prayed for his beloved brother and friend that he might prosper in this world's goods and in good health.  Christ, as recorded in Mark 10:17-31, tells us that the riches of the young ruler who came to him would cost him is soul.  Paul in writing to Timothy tells us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil:


I Timothy 6:9-109But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.  10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”


Why would John wish this affliction upon someone that he loved truly?  Because of the character of Gaius.  John wished prosperity, both physical and financial on Gaius “EVEN AS THY SOUL PROSPERETH.”  Gaius was one who enjoyed prosperity of the soul.  So long as the soul prospers a man’s riches will bless and benefit not only him, but others; and we had already discussed in the introduction of the book that Gaius was one whose benevolence and hospitality has well known.  Gaius recognized and exemplified a lesson in living that many people miss today.  Jesus emphasized it this way:


Matthew 6:3333But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”


Gaius put first things first; he could handle prosperity and keep those blessings secondary to serving God.

 v.33For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.”


            Reports that brethren had brought to John about Gaius gave him great joy.  The tense of the verbs used to describe the reports would indicate that brethren, not just at a particular time, but at different times were coming before John and testifying that Gaius walked in truth.  What does it mean to walk in truth?

            The faithfulness of Gaius consisted not only of his devotion to the truth of God’s word but also in liberality, hospitality and in good works.  He literally walked in truth as a follower of Christ.


James 2:16-1717Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”


The faith of Gaius was visible to all who knew him because of his works; because his walk demonstrated his love for God, the church and his Christian brethren.  There is no genuine faith without works, nor are works of value without faith.  It is only when the two are combined that the practice of genuine Christianity is the result.


v.4  4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”


            John here uses a double comparative to emphasize and express his great joy regarding the reports heard about Gaius.  His greatest joy was to hear that those whom he loved, had converted or had been associated with in the faith were faithful to the Lord.  This is also true of teachers and preachers today as we all have great joy in hearing that those we have known, taught or even converted are faithful and continuing steadfastly in faith and good works.  Conversely, when we hear or see someone whom we know, love and have taught depart from that faith it gives us great sorrow.  This was the same emotion that Paul felt toward the church at Corinth:


I Corinthians 4:14-1514I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”


And to the slave of Philemon:


Philemon 1:1010I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:”


v.55Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;”


            John has just commend Gaius for walking in the faith, now he makes specific application to what Gaius had done.  He extended hospitality, and probably also benevolence to those who were brethren but yet were strangers in that they were unknown to him personally.  Missionaries, faithful missionaries, working diligently in the kingdom of Christ, even those that he did not know, were sure to find a welcome at his house, whether he knew them or not.  To provide for those who were bearers of the message of salvation was a faithful work and John encourages Gaius to continue in that work.


 v.66Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:”


            These brethren that Gaius had shown hospitality toward, strangers to him had made a report of that occurrence.  They had testified to the church about his faithfulness and acts of love.  The congregation to whom they bought this testimony was apparently the same congregation where John worshipped and he was present when it occurred.  We’re not told where John was when this book was written but as noted in the introduction scholars think he was at Ephesus and therefore we could also surmise that this testimony took place at Ephesus.

            John exhorts Gaius to continue in this good work.  The phrase to “SET FORWARD ON THEIR JOURNEY” means to literally to accompany them for some distance, provide funding and food for them and generally to bid them godspeed.  We find examples in Paul’s experience:


Acts 21:55And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.”


Romans 15:2424Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.”

 And his instruction to Titus:


Titus 3:1313Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.”


v.77Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.”


            For the sake of the name of Christ, these missionaries went forth taking nothing from those to whom they carried the message of salvation.  This is the same way missionaries work today.  We, their brethren, send them and they take nothing of those to whom they minister.

            This tells us why it is so important that this is the pattern that we follow.  These missionaries took nothing from those to whom they ministered so their support, unless they labored as did Paul, was essential and very important.  They went in the name of Christ, by his authority, to bear his message to the lost.

            It would also have been inappropriate for them to profit from their work in this case.  They could not only be accused of doing this work only for hire but also but they can be much more effective if the ones to whom they are bringing the good news of salvation are not obligated by their work.  The apostle Paul again provides us with this example:


II Corinthians 11:7-97Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? 8I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. 9And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.”


v.88We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.”


            Missionaries are not to receive support from those to whom they are sent but that doesn’t mean that they are not worthy of our support.  John says that we “OUGHT TO RECEIVE SUCH”, we ought to provide for them.  Just as we have been given direction in other scripture regarding the support of those who labor in the kingdom of God:


Deuteronomy 25:44Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.

 In his writing on this subject to the Corinthians, Paul, after quoting Deuteronomy 25:4 in verse 9 closes his discussion with this direction:


I Corinthians 9:1414Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”


Jesus instruction to his disciples on this matter is found in Matthew 10:10 and Paul repeats it in I Timothy 5:18.


Matthew 10:10 10Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”


v.99I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.”


            John had written a letter to the congregation of the church where Gaius was located but their Diotrephes refused to hear this letter, perhaps even refused to receive these missionaries because they carried this letter.  Why did Diotrephes do this?  Because he didn’t want anyone associated with his congregation that would overshadow him, he was, obviously, a prominent man, a leader of the congregation, perhaps an elder or preacher.  He apparently had this congregation of the church browbeat under his subjection and didn’t want anyone around that could challenge that situation.  He loved this preeminence, so he denied John’s apostleship, refused to accept the disciple “WHOM JESUS LOVED” (John 13:23) and the missionaries that were in fellowship with, and perhaps even sent by the apostle John.  This attitude is totally foreign to the New Testament and opposed to the teaching of the Lord himself.  But that wasn’t all that Diotrephes did.


v.1010Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.”


            We can measure the power that this man had over this congregation by the following:


1.)     He prated (babbled, accused idly and falsely) against the apostle John and those in fellowship with him; not merely with idle words but “evil” words, wicked words.

2.)     He refused to receive the brethren, these missionaries, who came from John.

3.)     He forbade others in the congregation who would do so

4.)     And those who refused to bow to his will he disfellowshipped, expelled from membership in his congregation.


His power over this congregation was complete.  He was an ambitious, unscrupulous church boss, opposed alike to apostolic authority and missionary work, a servant and agent of Satan.  John promises Gaius that he will come and deal with this man.  Just what he would do we are not told, sometimes exposure works with these people, sometimes it don’t.  There have been two occasions of this nature in my personal experience.  In one the elders fired a preacher who was of this mindset and he split the congregation down the middle.  In the second the eldership of the congregation was dissolved by two resigning leaving just the one “church boss” and when the congregation replaced this eldership they put him back in with three others that he could rule.  I was the one who had to leave.

John gives us warning about these kinds of people and the dangers of becoming like them.


v.11  11Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”


            John says do not follow these men in their evil.  The verb tense in the original language here indicates that we are to not only imitate or follow that which is good but continue following on a continuous basis that which is good.

The psalmist writes:


Psalms 37:27  27Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.”


The prophet of God:


Isaiah 1:16-17Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”


            Then John gives Gaius a recommendation, a man that he can follow or imitate.


v.1212Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.”


            If we walk in harmony with the truth of God’s word, men will know that, we will be approved not only of God but men as well.  Demetrius was such a man.  One who lived in harmony with truth and who conducted himself in such a manner that he was approved of God, mankind and the apostle John as well.

Demetrius was elder material.


I Timothy 3:7  7Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”


And John could testify regarding his strength of character.


John 21:2424This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.”


            John closes his letter with a greeting similar to those found in Paul’s writing, sending the greetings of others as well.


v.13-1413I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 14But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.”


            There were a number of things that John wanted to write to Gaius about but kept his letter short because he planned to see Gaius shortly when they could then speak face to face.