The New Testament book of 3 John was written to commend Gaius, a prominent Christian in one of the early churches known to John, for his hospitality to those who were establishing new bastions of the Christian faith, and to encourage him (and all Christians) in their faith. The early missionaries of the church, as they traveled from town to town to establish new congregations, depended very heavily upon the hospitality of fellow believers to perform their work, and Gaius was one of these believers who opened his home to them.
3 John revolves around three men – Gaius, the example of one who follows Christ and loves others (1:1-8), Diotrephes, the self-proclaimed church leader who does not reflect God’s values (1:9-11), and Demetrius, who also follows the truth (1:12). John encourages Gaius to practice hospitality, continue to walk in the truth, and do what is right.
The Layout of 3 John
God’s Children Live By The Standards Of The Gospel:
This is concentrated in (1:1-12) … 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 Christians live in the truth of the Gospel, they support pastors, Christian workers, and missionaries who are carrying out God’s work.
John’s Final Words:
This is concentrated in (1:13-15) … John bids peace to those who are in Christ, says that the friends with him send their greetings, and asks that the brothers in faith with Gaius be greeted by name.
Themes: Explanation and Importance
John wrote to encourage those who were kind to others. Genuine hospitality for traveling Christian workers was needed then and is still critical today.
Faithful Christian teachers and missionaries need support. Whenever a Christian can extend hospitality to others, that Christian shares in their ministries.
Diotrephes not only refused to offer hospitality, but he set himself up as a church “boss”. Pride disqualified him from being a true leader.
Christian leaders must shun pride and its effects on them. Christians must be especially careful to not misuse positions of leadership.
Gaius and Demetrius were commended for their faithful work in the church. They were held up as examples of faithful, selfless servants.
Christian workers who serve faithfully must never be taken for granted. They must be encouraged, for example with hospitality, so that they will not grow weary of serving.
A Closer Look… 3 Jn. 1:1-14
John opens with a greeting to Gaius, praises him affectionately, and encourages him in what he has been doing, for the sake of the truth of Jesus Christ:
The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. (3 Jn. 1:1-8)
John rightly condemns Diotrephes, a leader of the church who is not walking in the truth:
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisified with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. (3 Jn. 1:9-10)
John continues to the high point of the letter:
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. (3 Jn. 1:11-12)
Finally, John praises Demetrius, Gaius’ companion in the faith, and writes his final words in the book:
Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone – and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. (3 Jn. 1:12-14)