Attention!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

3 John

- 3 John

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Third John is probably the most personal letter in the New Testament. Most of the epistles originally went, of course, to churches or groups of Christians. First and 2 John are both of this type. The Pastoral Epistles, while sent to specific individuals, namely, Timothy and Titus, were obviously written with a wide circulation in mind as well. Philemon, too, gives evidence that Paul intended its recipient to share it with the church that met in his house. Third John also has universal value, and the early Christians recognized that it would benefit the whole Christian church. However the content of this letter is most personal.

". . . 3 John shows independence from epistolary conventions found elsewhere in the NT (including 2 John), and conforms most closely to the secular pattern of letter-writing in the first century A.D. . . . In 3 John this includes a greeting with a health-wish; and expression of joy at news of the addressee’s welfare; the body of the letter, containing the promise of another epistle; and, at the close, greetings to and from mutual friends (cf. the papyri)." [Note: Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, p. 342.]

The author was evidently the Apostle John who identified himself as "the elder" here (3 John 1:1), as he did in 2 John. [Note: Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 670-75.] The striking similarity in content, style, and terminology in these two epistles confirms the ancient tradition that John wrote both of them.

Since there is no internal evidence concerning where Gaius lived, most interpreters have placed him in the Roman province of Asia, the most probable destination of 1 and 2 John. His name was a common one in the Greek world. Other Gaiuses mentioned in the New Testament include the man Paul baptized in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14; perhaps the same as Paul’s host in Corinth, Romans 16:23), Paul’s Macedonian companion on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:29), and Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4). None of these Gaiuses lived in the province of Asia, however, nor when John wrote, as far as we know.

"It is possible that in 3 John 1:9 there is an allusion to II John and, if so, then both letters went to individuals in the same church (one a loyal woman, the other a loyal man)." [Note: A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6:259.]

"This epistle presents one of the most vivid glimpses in the New Testament of a church in the first century." [Note: Charles C. Ryrie, "The Third Epistle of John," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1483.]

The process of establishing a date for the writing of 3 John has been deductive as well. Probably John wrote this epistle about the same time he wrote 1 and 2 John, A.D. 90-95, and from Ephesus.

"The language of 3 John suggests that it is in part a letter of commendation for Demetrius (3 John 1:12), who is apparently the courier of it along with 2 John (and perhaps 1 John too . . .)" [Note: Robert W. Yarbrough, 1—3 John, p. 363.]

OUTLINE

I.    Introduction 3 John 1:1

II.    Upholding the truth with love 3 John 1:2-12

A.    Commendation of Gaius’ love 3 John 1:2-4

B.    Encouragement to support those who proclaim the truth 3 John 1:5-10

C.    Exhortation to continue this support in Demetrius’ case 3 John 1:11-12

III.    Conclusion 3 John 1:13-14

Bibliography

Alexander, W. "The Third Epistle of John." In The Speaker’s Commentary: New Testament. Edited by F. C. Cook. London: John Murray, 1881.

Bailey, Mark L., and Thomas L. Constable. The New Testament Explorer. Nashville: Word Publishing Co., 1999. Reissued as Nelson’s New Testament Survey. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999.

Barclay, William. The Letters of John and Jude. Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1960.

Barker, Glenn W. "3 John." In Hebrews-Revelation. Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981.

Baxter, J. Sidlow. Explore the Book. 6 vols. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1965.

Blair, J. Allen. The Epistles of John. Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1982.

Bruce, F. F. The Epistles of John. London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986.

Carson, Donald A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Darby, John Nelson. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. 5 vols. Revised ed. New York: Loizeaux Brothers Publishers, 1942.

Dictionary of the Apostolic Church. Edited by James Hastings. 1915 ed. S.v. "John, Epistles of," by A. E. Brooke.

Dictionary of the Bible. Edited by James Hastings. 1910 ed. S.v. "John, Epistles of," by S. D. F. Salmond.

Dodd, C. H. The Johanine Epistles. New York: Harper and Row, 1946.

Findlay, George G. Fellowship in the Life Eternal. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1909.

Fraser, Donald. Synoptical Lectures on the Books of Holy Scripture, Romans-Revelation. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1876.

Funk, Robert W. "The Form and Structure of II and III John." Journal of Biblical Literature 86 (1967):424-30.

Gaebelein, Arno C. The Annotated Bible. 4 vols. Reprint ed. Chicago: Moody Press, and New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1970.

Graystone, Kenneth. The Johanine Epistles. New Century Bible Commentary series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1984.

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. By C. G. Wilke. Revised by C. L. Wilibald Grimm. Translated, revised and enlarged by Joseph Henry Thayer, 1889.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. 3 vols. 2nd ed. London: Tyndale Press, 1966.

Harris, W. Hall. "A Theology of John’s Writings." In A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, pp. 167-242. Edited by Roy B. Zuck. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994.

Hiebert, D. Edmond. "Studies in 3 John." Bibliotheca Sacra 144:573 (January-March 1987):53-65; 574 (April-June 1987):194-207; 575 (July-September 1987):293-304.

Hodges, Zane C. "3 John." In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, pp. 911-15. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1983.

_____. The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love. Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Edited by James Orr. 1957 ed. S.v. "John, The Epistles of," by R. Law.

Lange, John Peter, ed. Commentary on the Holy Scripture. 12 vols. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960. Vol 12: James-Revelation, by J. P. Lange, J. J. Van Osterzee, G. T. C. Fronmuller, and Karl Braune. Enlarged and edited by E. R. Craven. Translated by J. Isidor Mombert and Evelina Moore.

Lenski, Richard C. H. The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude. Reprint ed. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.

Leonhard, Barbara. "Hospitality in Third John." The Bible Today 25:1 (January 1987):11-18.

Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John. New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984.

McNeile, A. H. An Introduction to the Study of the New Testament. 2nd ed. Revised by C. S. C. Williams. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965.

Mitchell, John G. Fellowship. Portland: Multnomah Press, 1974.

Morgan, G. Campbell. Living Messages of the Books of the Bible. 2 vols. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1912.

Motyer, Stephen. "The Third Epistle of John: The Cost of Walking in the Truth." Evangel 5:4 (Winter 1987):6-9.

Moulton, James Hope, and George Milligan. The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources. 1930; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974.

Ogilvie, Lloyd John. When God First Thought of You. Waco: Word Books, 1978.

Robertson, Archibald Thomas. Word Pictures in the New Testatment. 6 vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931.

Ryrie, Charles C. "The Third Epistle of John." In The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, pp. 1483-85. Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison. Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.

Smalley, Stephen S. 1, 2, 3 John. Word Biblical Commentary series. Waco: Word Books, 1984.

Stott, John R. W. The Epistle of John. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964.

Thiessen, Henry Clarence. Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962.

Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Epistles of St. John. 1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. 2 vols. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989.

Wilkin, Robert N. "He Who Does Good Is of God (3 John 1:11)." Grace Evangelical Society News 5:9 (September 1990):2.

Yarbrough, Robert W. 1—3 John. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.