Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
3 John 1

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors



Address (3 John 1:1).


Substance (3 John 1:2-12).












GENERAL TRUTH: contrast between the followers of good and of evil (3 John 1:12).




Conclusion (3 John 1:13-14).]

Verse 1

(1) The elder.—See the Introduction, and 2 John 1:1.

Gaius.—The common Roman name Caius. A Caius is mentioned in Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14. The difference in date between these and St. John’s correspondent would alone be sufficient reason against any attempt at identification. There is nothing to show whether he was a presbyter or not.

Whom I love in the truth.—Or, in truth. (See 2 John 1:1.)

Verses 2-12

(2 a.) (2) Beloved.—St. John’s affection is founded on the high merits of Caius as a Christian.

Above all things.—This may mean “in all things.”

Be in health.—An ascetic would be surprised that one of the greatest of the Apostles should be so earnest on such a point. But the better a man’s health, the more thoroughly he can do the work of God. Sickness may be allowed to chasten the erring or rebellious heart, but a Christian whose faith is firm and character established, can ill afford to despise the inestimable blessing of a sound body. Functional and organic disorder or enervation proportionately lessen the capacity for thought, resolution, and activity.

Even as thy soul prospereth.—The word “prospereth” is literally makes good way, and so links on to the idea of walking, in 3 John 1:3-4. The health of the soul came first in the Apostle’s mind: when there is that, he can wish for bodily health to support it.

(2 b.) (3) I rejoiced greatly.—Compare 2 John 1:4. “For” introduces the reason of the high praise in 3 John 1:2.

The truth that is in thee.—The inward presence of Christ, manifested by the Christian life and consistency of Caius.

Even as thou walkest in the truth.—This is an additional evidence from the brethren to show that the presence of the truth in Caius had been practically tested.

Thou is emphatic in the Greek, showing that there were others, like Diotrephes, of whom this could not be said.

(4) I have no greater joy.—This is a general statement arising out of the particular instance. The comparative is double—a comparative formed on a comparative; it may be only irregular, an evidence that the writer was not a classical Greek scholar, or it may be for intensity. There is a similar comparative in Ephesians 3:8, where the force is evidently intensive.

My children means the members of the churches specially under the care of St. John.

(5) Thou doest faithfullyi.e., worthily of a faithful man, consistently with the Christian character. It may be translated, “Thou doest a faithful work in whatsoever. . . .”

Whatsoever thou doest.—Done from right motives, as unto Christ. Whatever form (it is hinted that the form would be various) the activity of Caius might take, so high was the Apostle’s opinion of his character, that he was sure it would be done wisely and well.

And to strangers.—According to another reading it is, “And that, strangers,” as in 1 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 2:8, Philippians 1:28. Either way, the strangers would be Christians; but, according to the reading in the text, the brethren would be more or less acquaintances of their host. The duty of entertaining Christians on their travels was of peculiar importance in early times, (1) from the length of time which travelling required, (2) from the poverty of the Christians, (3) from the kind of society they would meet at public inns. The duty is enforced in Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9.

(6) Charity might be translated “love.”

Before the church.—That where the Apostle then was, and from which they had probably been sent forth as missionaries, or, at any rate, with some definite religious object.

Whom if thou bring forward.—Perhaps while they were still staying with Caius, the emissaries sent back a report to the church whence they came. St. John seems to imply that there was still something which Caius could do for them. “If thou bring forward” is in the Greek in the past; “when thou hast sent them on, it will be a good work.”

After a godly sort.—Rather, worthily of God. (Comp. Titus 3:13, 1 Corinthians 16:11.) It would imply journey money, provisions, love, care, encouragement, prayer, a humble and reasonable imitation of God’s providence to Caius, proportional to his means, the occasion, and the recipients.

(7) Because that for his name’s sake they went forth.—Their object was the highest possible—the glory of God’s name. Hence there must have been some kind of missionary character in their journey. (Comp. Acts 5:41; Acts 15:40; Romans 1:6; James 2:7.)

Of the Gentiles.—Probably the heathens among whom they were preaching. From settled churches, or wealthy Christians of long standing, there would be nothing inimical to the interests of the message in receiving material support. Among those who were hearing for the first time, it would be highly prejudicial if there were any appearance of selling the truth. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:18; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 12:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:9.)

(2 c.) (8) We therefore.—In contrast to the heathens.

To receive.—In the original there is a play with the word “receiving” in 3 John 1:8. (Comp. Matthew 10:40.)

That we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.—Fellow-helpers with them. The principle of co-operation was one of the earliest and leading ideas of the kingdom of Christ. Those who try to work alone lose the mighty force of sympathy, are sure to make mistakes, cannot help arousing opposition, and run the risk of nursing in their own souls an unsuspected spirit of self-will, self-confidence, and spiritual pride. Those who do not care to help the good works of others are at best cold Christians, feeble believers; they fail in the great critical testing virtue of Christian love; they limit the operation of God, who has chosen to work by human means; they hinder the spread of the gospel, and delay the second coming of Christ. (Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:2.) (2 d.)

(9) I wrote unto the church.—“I wrote somewhat unto the Church.” This may either have been a copy of his Gospel or his First Epistle, or a lost letter of no special importance. The Church was that of the place where Caius and Diotrephes lived. Nothing whatever can be said of Diotrephes, except that his personal ambition led him into the grievous sin of rejecting the authority of the bosom friend of the Saviour; that he talked malignantly against St. John and his friends; that he refused to entertain the emissaries of the Church in which St. John was residing; and that he actually went so far as to eject from the local congregation those who were willing to entertain them. We may conjecture that, on account of the loyalty of Caius to St. John, there was so little intercourse between him and Diotrephes, that he would not even hear that St. John had written; that the greater part of the people of the place adhered for the present to Diotrephes, so that in addressing Caius St. John calls them “the church,” and “them;” and, from 3 John 1:11, that even now St. John did not think it superfluous to urge Caius not to follow the example of Diotrephes or submit to his influence.

Loveth to have the preeminence.—Makes it his evil aim to have the whole influence of the community in his own hands.

(10) If I come.—Comp. 1 John 2:28. St. John was evidently expecting in both Letters to set out on the same journey.

Prating.—Idle slander; the moths that are always attracted to “the fierce light that beats about a throne.” The intense spiritual affectionateness of the Apostle of love might be easily misunderstood by an unconverted pretender; but it is needless to imagine the groundless babble of a tyrannical upstart.

Casteth them out.—Not necessarily formal excommunication; but Diotrephes had so far succeeded in his object that he was able to exclude these better disposed persons from the Christian society of the place.

(2 e.) (11) Follow not that which is evil.—One of those simple exhortations so characteristic of St. John, which derive an intense meaning from the circumstances and the context. There was probably every reason why Caius should follow Diotrephes: peace, good-fellowship, the dislike of singularity, popular example, and the indolent indifference which ordinary men feel for truth and right. But the difference between right and wrong is eternal and irreconcilable. The conduct of Diotrephes was of the devil; and mighty moral consequences might follow if Caius gave way from good-natured pliability. (Comp. John 5:29; John 18:23; Ephesians 5:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 3:10-11; 1 John 3:12.)

(2 f.) He that doeth good is of God.—Comp. 1 John 3:10. “Doeth good” includes all practical virtue. (Comp. 1 Peter 2:14-15; 1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:6; 1 Peter 3:17.)

He that doeth evil hath not seen God.—Comp. 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 4:2-4; 1 John 4:6; 1 John 4:8; 1 John 5:19.

(2 g.) (12) Demetrius may very likely be the bearer of the Epistle.

Good report.—Rather, the witness.

Of all men.—All Christians who knew him.

Of the truth itself.—Christ dwelling in him manifested His presence as the Way, the Truth, and the Life in new virtues for every circumstance that arose in the career of Demetrius. His walk, agreeing with the revealed truth of God, showed that God was with him. (Comp. Acts 4:13.)

And we also.—St. John adds his own independent testimony as a third, in the most emphatic manner possible.

And ye know that our record is true.—There is no arrogance or egotism in this: it is solely the appeal to the loyal fidelity of Caius—to the simplicity of Christ’s gospel as set forth by John in accordance with the other Apostles. The personal experience of believers would convince them of the truth of the last of the Apostles. (Comp. John 19:25; John 21:24.)

Verse 13

(3) (13) I had many things to write.—Rather, There were many things which I wished to write.

But I will not.—Comp. 2 John 1:12.

(14) Peace be to thee.—The best wish which the Apostle can form, instead of the usual Greek ending, “Be strong,” or “Farewell!” It was our Lord’s resurrection greeting; the internal peace of a good conscience, the external peace of universal friendship, the heavenly peace of future glory begun even in this life. (Comp. John 20:19; John 20:26; Rom. 5:33; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; 1 Peter 5:14.)

Our friends salute thee.—Rather, The friends. By this appellation, uncommon in the New Testament, St. John recalls our Lord’s words in John 15:13-15.

Greet the friends by name.—Each friend was to receive a personal message from the Apostle, and Caius would know who they were as well as if St. John wrote them down. In a short private Letter it would be unsuitable to have a long list of special messages as in a Pauline Epistle, especially as the Apostle hoped shortly to see them. John perhaps thinks of his Master’s ideal in John 10:3.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 3 John 1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/3-john-1.html. 1905.
Ads FreeProfile