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Bible Commentaries
3 John 1

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1


WRITER: Apostle John

DATE: About A.D. 90

TO: Gaius and faithful members of a church disturbed by the domineering influence of a ministerial overlord, named Diotrephes. It is therefore more accurately called a particular or specific (not general) epistle.


1) "The elder" (Greek presbuteros) John identifies himself, not as an apostle, or a bishop, or a bond slave, but simply as "the" elder, meaning ordained brother of spiritual maturity.

2) "Unto the well beloved Gaius" (Greek "to agapeto") to the intimately beloved one - whose name was Gaius - Thus this is a personal letter, believed to be addressed to a helper of Missionaries in a Church of Asia Minor who had an anti-missionary member Diotrephes, who had treated visiting missionary brethren with unholy contempt.

3) “Whom I love in the truth", John’s love for Gaius was centered (Greek en aletheia) in the truth, the Word of God. John 8:32; John 8:26; John 17:17; John 14:6. Jesus as the Living Word is truth and the Holy Bible is His message of truth, without error – John 1:1; John 1:14; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Verse 2

1) "Beloved" (Greek agapete) the term "beloved one" indicates a personal, direct address of intimate affection in the Lord, based on Godly love.

2) "I wish above all things" - (Greek peril concerning all things - (Greek euchomai), I pray.

3) "That thou mayest prosper", (for) or that you (personally) may prosper, or to prosper.

4) "And be in health" - (Greek Kai hugiainein) infinitive passive, to -be in health, interest in a brother’s personal welfare is a confirmation of a verbal claim to love him. James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:16-20.

5) "Even as thy soul prospereth" - (Kathos) even as" or just as, "like" - the soul of you prospers - as the soul of Gaius prospered; in like manner John desired, yearned, and prayed that his physical being might be healthful. As Jesus cares for His own, so should His own care and pray for one another. As Jesus interceded for, the weaknesses of his children, so should His children intercede for one another in love. John 13:34-35; James 5:16; Hebrews 7:25.

Verse 3

1) "For I rejoiced greatly" - good tidings should always call God’s saints to hearty joy – Luke 2:10; Romans 12:15; Luke 15:31-32.

2) "When the Brethren came, ’ The receiving of the brethren, bearing the message of Christ, should be received in love, as though an angel from God. Hebrews 13:1-2; Genesis 18:1-22; Acts 15:1-4.

3) "And testified of the truth that is in thee" (Greek marturounton) bear witness of the truth "in" or held by Gaius.

4) "Even as thou walkest in the truth." (Greek kathos) just as Gaius walked (Greek peripates) in daily course of conduct, in truth or according to the word of truth – Galatians 5:22-25; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 4:1; 1 John 2:6.



0 God, Thy Word is true we know!

It makes men’s souls with beauty glow

With radiance from above.

Help us plant it in each heart

That none from Thee might wish to part,

But walk with Thee in love.

We know its entrance giveth light

To guide us through life’s darkest night, To light that is divine.

The hope it gives is from above,

And floods our souls with truest love, Making us know we’re Thine.

-William James Robinson

Verse 4

1) "I have no greater joy" (Greek - echo) I have or hold no greater (Greek charan) joy-inner, heart pleasure,

2) "Than to hear" - (Greek hina) "in order that I hear" – Acts 28:15 indicates that reports of faithful brethren give courage to the downhearted to rise and carry on.

3) "That my children walk in truth" as an evangelist, in old age, John reflected with gratitude the good testimony that not only Gaius but also others whom he had helped to receive Christ and His way of life, were of good report in the community. 1 Thessalonians 1:8; Colossians 1:4-8.

4) "A good name, good testimony is of high value." Proverbs 22:1; Luke 23:50; Acts 9:36-41.

A. W. MILNE labored as a missionary in a section of New Guinea where there were cannibals. There he died preaching the gospel of Christ. His converts, some of whom were former cannibals, asked permission to place a marker on his grave on which they inscribed: "Here lie the remains of A. W. Milne. When he came to us there was no light. When he died there was no darkness."


"When we walk with the Lord, In the light of His Word

What a glory it sheds on our way;

When we do His good will, He abides with us still And with all who will trust and obey"

Hymn: "Hand in Hand we walk each day

Hand in Hand along the way.

Walking thus I cannot stray

Hand in hand with Jesus."

Verse 5


1) "Beloved thou doest faithfully”– faithful service portrays and indicates one’s claim of love for a person, a cause, or an institution. Love-deeds express the high, holy, Divine love commanded of our Lord, and embraced by his disciples. John 13:34-35; James 1:22-25.

a) As our Lord loved his own and served

them to the end – John 13:1.

b) As Paul loved his companions in Mission

work to the end – 2 Timothy 4:7-8.

c) As Peter loved and served his Lord to

the end, 2 Peter 1:13-14.

d) As John loved and served to the end -let us also faithfully serve.

2) "Whatsoever thou doest" - the term "doest" is from the Greek (Ergaste) and is here used to mean whatever and each detail of work Gaius performed was faithfully begun and finished. Blessed is the person who 1) resolves to do, 2) begins to do, and 3) completes doing a task, labor, or work of love. Whatever God has for one to do, let him do it faithfully, with his might – Ecclesiastes 9:10; and he shall have reward, Matthew 25:34-40.

3)"To the brethren and to strangers’ The term "to the" (Greek eis tous) means "with reference to", the brethren and strangers. Blessed is that person who can, like Gaius, faithfully, (full of faith deeds) impartially, without respect, witness to and serve the better and the less known. Our Lord came to seek and to save the lost, of His own, and all races, and loved the whole world – Luke 19:10; John 3:16. Paul felt himself impartially a debtor to all, Romans 1:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:22-23.

Verse 6

1) "Which have borne witness of thy charity," both visiting brethren and strangers had brought a good report to John on Gaius’ faithfulness in detail, in little things, as an expression of his love (Greek agape) high, Holy spiritual love, Matthew 7:17; Matthew 7:20.

2) "Before the church" - (Greek enopion) means in the face of, before, or open to the knowledge of the assembly (ecclesias). Gaius simply and faithfully let his light shine before men so that both brethren and strangers were influenced and impressed thereby. Matthew 5:15-16.

3) "Whom if thou bring forward on their journey", to assist along in their travel, as bearing or helping to bear expense of travel and food and lodging, etc. Acts 15:3.

4) "After a godly sort, thou shalt do well." Gaius is assured that the person who "tarries by the stuff", faithful even in little things, shall do well, be rewarded. 1 Corinthians 3:5-8; John 4:36-38; 1 Samuel 30:24.


"Cast the bread upon the waters,

Ye who have a scant supply;

Angel eyes will watch above it,

You will find it by and by.

He who in His righteous balance,

Doth each human action weigh;

Will your sacrifice remember,

Will your loving deeds repay."


Verse 7

1) "Because that for his name’s sake" the term "his name’s sake" refers to Jesus Christ, the person of truth, and His written Word of Truth, referred to 3 John 1:1; 3 John 1:3-4 above. See also John 14:6; John 17:17; John 8:32. On behalf of His name, certain brethren had visited Gaius and this church in Asia Minor, where he was a faithful missionary helper.

2) "They went forth", the "they" who had gone forth seem to have been some well known and some less known (stranger) missionary brethren.

3) "Taking nothing" this term (Greek Lambanontes) means to seize by pressure or strong hand. (meden) not one thing.

4) "Of the Gentiles" This term means "from the races". Let it be noted that while Paul appealed to brethren of Churches, well established congregations, to contribute, to help in missionary and benevolent work, he never used pressure of force or threat to elicit such. He rather suffered wrong, went in need, or worked with his own hands, than to be a bad example before the unsaved and weak Christians, 1 Corinthians 4:9-16; 1 Corinthians 9:11-18; 1 Corinthians 16:1-6; 2 Corinthians 12:13-19.

Verse 8

1) "We therefore ought to receive such" - Our Lord taught that those who received His Divinely appointed workers, received Him, and those who turned them away empty handed, turned Him away, see Matthew 10:40-42; Matthew 25:40; Acts 9:4; Paul appealed in love that churches entertain his missionary helpers, as if he were present. 1 Corinthians 16:10-19; Ephesians 6:18-24; Philippians 4:10-23; Colossians 4:7-18. What Christians "ought to do" brings blessings when done, great harm when left undone or neglected. Godly men, such as Gaius received, entertained, bring blessings to any home.

2) "That we might be fellow helpers to the truth (Greek hina) "that" introduces a purpose clause, indicating that by such entertainment of godly men one becomes a helper, not merely of their person, but of the truth - the Christ, and the name of Christ. The term fellowhelpers (Greek sunergoi) means "joint-workers", or "co-workers", or party to the truth.

3) As no church can survive and prosper well without her members being helpers one to another, so fellowships of churches, associations of independent churches, can not prosper and maintain a good (godly name), except they be interested in "others", helping to bear and share the spread of the Gospel in regions beyond. Galatians 6:2-4; Acts 20:35.


Alone our work is of little worth, Together we are the lords of earth. So its all for each, and each for all "United we stand, divided we fall."

- The Abstainer-Cardiff


Hark! what means those lamentations

Rolling sadly through the sky? ’Tis the cry of heathen nations -

"come and help us or we die!" Hear the heathen’s sad complaining

Christian! hear their pleading cry: And the love of Christ constraining,

Haste the gospel, ere they die.



When the late F. B. Meyer was asked at the end of his tour in India to define India’s need, he said, "Were I a young man again I would go to India, find twelve young men, live with them, pray with them, teach them the Bible, inspire them, and send them out to evangelize India." "And what would you do then?" "I would find twelve more," was the reply.

- Selected

Verse 9


1) "I wrote unto the church". John respected this church and apparently paid it the courtesy of correspondence contact regarding a visit from him and, missionary helpers. He respected the autonomy, self-governing right, of the church over her worship and business. He wrote (Greek "ti") something -what it was is later suggested.

2) "But Diotrephes” the proper name means "nourished by Zeus". Many a godly message has been hindered by a, "but Diotrephes." Many a mission effort has been blocked by a "but Diotrephes". Many a good report of mission fields and workers has been kept from the church by a, "but Diotrephes". Many a good youth progress, Ladies Auxiliary, and Christian Education report and messenger, has been kept from going before, and being a blessing to the church because of a, "but Diotrephes." A person nourished by the heathen, covetous, selfish, predominating trait and power of the Greek God Zeus can still wreak havoc in God’s churches.

3) "Who loveth to have the preeminence among them" This Diotrephes of the Asian Church had a passion for perpetual "first rank or order" of recognition, the spotlight, in all church services to the point that he evidently felt inferior if he didn’t affirm his supposed right to spotlight and preeminence. Matthew 23:8. He was a Rabbi (father) type of hypocrite.

4) "Receiveth us not." Facetious, ludicrous, hypocritical, and drunk on self-esteem, was this Diotrephes who posed as "more righteous" than the beloved John, who as an apostle of the "inner circle disciples", leaned on Jesus’ breast. Neither as Dictator Diotrephes, nor browbeater of the church did he, receive either John or brethren in close mission and evangelistic labors with him.

5) This appears to be the first dominant example of Clerical or pastoral dictatorship, over lordship, against which our Lord warned – Matthew 20:24-28; Acts 20:30; 1 Peter 5:1-5. Final decisions on receiving brethren, visiting ministers as missionaries, should be made by the Church "ye" - not the Diotrephes "he”.

Verse 10

1) "Wherefore, if I come" (Greek dia touto) Wherefore or "on account of this" - John wrote, if I, or should I come, indicating a conditional hope to come, 3 John 1:14.

2) “I will remember his deeds". John, though an aged apostle, was not afraid of Diotrephes and resolved to encounter him regarding his deeds.

3) "Which he doeth" (Greek “ha poiei”, present active indicative means keeps on doing). Diotrephes seems to have become a self-appointed faultfinder against John and the Missionary brethren, a sniping, carping, self-righteous dictatorial pastoral Pharisees.

4) "Prating against us with malicious words," Prateth- - (Greek phluaros) means" to babble, idly, accuse, and falsely passing a report as 1 Timothy 5:13. The term "malicious words" means not merely foolish words, but also malevolent words of evil and influence destroying intent.

5) "And not content therewith" - seldom are talebearers, faultfinders, gossips, and self-appointed church critics content or satisfied therewith, be they laymen or officials in the church. To deride, scoff, or attempt to degrade a brother or sister, usually leads to more vicious forms of evil.

6) "Neither doth he himself receive the brethren." People who live in evil, practice evil, hold jealousy, hatred, and old grudges usually seek to avoid an Holy and bold person. They hate the Iight, reject its available help, lest it show them for what they are. John 3:19-21; John 8:12; 1 John 1:6-7.

7) "And forbiddeth them that would" The term "forbid" means to hinder, or stand in the way, to obstruct, brethren in the church from receiving missionary companions of John who desired to visit the church brethren.

8) "And casteth them out of the church." This Diotrephes, whether dictator pastor, or a preeminent desiring layman, or pastor and church bossing official, either personally assumed authority and power to (Greek ekballo) toss out, exclude from the church, or influence the church to exclude from her fellowship any member who expressed a desire that the church receive John and his co-laborers in mission work. This spirit is that held by the wicked Jews of the Synagogue against Jesus, as recorded John 9:34. This Diotrephes thus seems both to have hindered members of the church from extending Christian courtesies to visiting brethren and to have debarred and hindered any report from them before the church.

It ill becomes any church leader, even if a shepherd, to act like a goat, or whip cracking cowboy. God’s pastors are referred to as shepherds, who go before and call the flock, but never as cowboys who ride as whip crackers behind a herd. Let it also be remembered that God’s shepherds are also sheep, subject to the Laws of the Shepherd, Christ Jesus, Matthew 20:25-28; 1 Peter 5:3. If a shepherd, were only a shepherd, he would never bear a sheep. Only a sheep bears a sheep.

Verse 11

1) "Beloved, follow not that which is evil". The term "follow not" means do not "mimic" or "imitate", (Greek me mimou) the bad or evil. Gaius was here to understand . that the prating, gossiping, backbiting, domineering, "church-bossing" preeminent desiring attitude of Diotrephes was to be rejected, not followed.

2) "But that which is good". While John warned Gaius against following Diotrephes, a church bossing servant of the devil, he at the same time admonished to follow or mimic or imitate the good, perhaps good example of Demetrius, set forth in 3 John 1:12, following.

3) "He that doeth good is of God," Active engagement of one in doing good is here declared to identify one to "be of God".

4) "But he that doeth evil hath not seen God". The person actively, progressively, deliberately doing ill things, John asserts, has not seen God. John does not say he has not known God or is of the Devil as in John 8:44; 1 John 3:6, but this is what he means. The person who has not seen or known God is devil dominated. Diotrephes, as a Church boss, was such a person.

Verse 12


1) "Demetrius hath good report of all men". To Demetrius a good report had been given by all. He had a good witness of all men. 1 Timothy 3:7.

2) "And of the truth itself". He also was confirmed to be a holder to and contender fox the truth, the Word of God, and the spirit of God.

3) "Yes, and we also bear witness." Thus Demetrius had a three fold testimony or witness to his person.

a) A good report of all - general, moral.

b) A good report of the truth - doctrinal.

c) A good report (witness) from John and his Missionary companions.

4) "And ye know.” (Kaioidas) and thou, singular, (Gaius) knowest.

5) "That our record is true". The term record means witness or testimony. John had commended certain missionary brethren to the church of Gaius’ membership. His commendation as an elderly apostle was honorable. Diotrephes a preeminent desiring church member, perhaps young pastor, led a church insurrection against the commendation. 3 John 1:5-9; He apparently disregarded 1 Peter 5:5.

Verse 13

1) "I had many things to write" - I had (Greek eichon) means I held in mind when I began to write many things.

2) "But I will not" (Greek alla) strong adversative "but I am not willing or do not wish to go on writing," as if what had been written he felt to be adequate for the occasion.

3) "With ink and pen write unto thee" (Greek dia melanos) "by means of or through (black) ink and (Greek Kalamou) a reed stylus, used for pen -write to you further, Gaius.

Verse 14

1) "But I trust" (Greek elpizo) I am hoping.

2) "I shall shortly see thee" shortly (eutheos) immediately behold you.

3) "And we shall speak face to face." The term "face to face" (Greek stoma pros stoma) means literally "mouth to mouth", the most intimate type of communication.

4) "Peace be to thee" (Greek eirene soi) peace to you", is a greeting of Greek origin similar to the Jewish term "Shalom" meaning "peace and rest to you".

5) "Our friends salute thee" (Greek hoi philois) our friends (Greek aspazonai) offer salutation to you.

6) "Greet the friends by name" - Name calling, personal greeting by name, was of high social and affectionate esteem by early Christians. As the Shepherd knew his sheep by name, making each personal, so a good shepherd of God or servant of God must consider each person he hopes to help to be a very important human being, personally. To learn to greet by name is a valuable asset to a teacher, personal worker, pastor or missionary.

7) The term (Greek kat onoma) by or according to name is used of the good shepherd. John 10:3.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 3 John 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/3-john-1.html. 1985.
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