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Bible Commentaries
3 John

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

- 3 John

by Thomas Constable



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.]


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


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