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Bible Commentaries
3 John 1

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verse 1

Salutation (or Greeting) 3 John 1:1-4 serves as a salutation to this short epistle.

3 John 1:1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

3 John 1:1 “The elder” Comments - As John the apostle is the most probable author of this short epistle, and as John was living in Asia Minor during his later years, overseeing the churches that Paul left behind, and knowing that John never used his proper name in any of his writings, we can easily see why he would call himself “elder.”

3 John 1:1 “unto the wellbeloved” Comments - This word appears four times in this short epistle (1, 2, 5, 11).

3 John 1:1 “Gaius” Comments Adam Clarke says the name “Gaius” is Greek form of the Roman name “Caius.” [43] Thus, John is writing to a Gentile, and most likely a member of one of the churches in Asia Minor, of which John, the elder, was overseer.

[43] Adam Clarke, The Third Epistle of John, in Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), 3 John 1:1:1.

The Apostolic Constitutions, a collection of ecclesiastical law that is believed to have been compiled during the latter half of the fourth century, states that there was a man by the name of “Gains” who became the bishop of the church at Pergamus. It is very possible that this was the same person mentioned in John’s third epistle. It is interesting to note that the name of Demetrius (3 John 1:12) is mentioned next to the name of Gaius in this passage.

“Now concerning those bishops which have been ordained in our lifetime, we let you know that they are these…Of Pergamus, Gains. Of Philadelphia, Demetrius, by me.” ( Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 7.4.46)

Verses 2-8

Praise for Hospitality In 3 John 1:2-8 John praises Gaius for his hospitality.

3 John 1:2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

3 John 1:2 “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health” Word Study on “prosper” Strong says the Greek word “prosper” ( εὐοδόω ) (G2137) means, “to help on the road (literal), succeed in reaching (passive), to succeed in business affairs (figurative).”

Comments The Greek text begins, “Beloved, above all things…” There is nothing more important in God’s list of priorities for His creation and the universe than to see His children fulfilling their divine destinies in the midst of a depraved humanity and corrupt world. Such a walk of faith captures God’s interest more intensely than any other activity in His divine creation.

3 John 1:2 “even as thy soul prospereth” Comments - Creflo Dollar explains that a person’s soul prospers when he can control his mind, will, and emotions. [44]

[44] Creflo Dollar, “Sermon,” (Kampala, Uganda: Miracle Center Cathedral), 14 June 2007.

3 John 1:2 Comments - The Lord once spoke to Norvel Hayes and told him that people are rewarded in two ways if they will serve the Lord. They will receive health and prosperity in this life. The Lord then referred him to 3 John 1:2. [45]

[45] Norvel Hayes, “Sermon,” Word of Faith Family Church, Dallas, Texas 1989-99; Norvel Hayes, Financial Dominion: How To Take Charge Of You Finances (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, c1986), 9-17.

Illustrations - Illustrations of God's health and prosperity in the Scriptures:

1. Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob The patriarchs of the Old Testament serve as examples of men whom God blessed in every area of their lives.

Genesis 25:8, “Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.”

Genesis 25:17, “And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.”

Genesis 35:29, “And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”

Genesis 49:33, “And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.”

2. Job - We see both health and prosperity in Job 42:10.

Health - The LORD turned the captivity of Job.

Prosperity - The Lord gave job twice as much as he had before.

Job 42:10, “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

3. The Nation of Israel - When God led Israel out of Egypt, the first thing he did was to prosper them and give them health. The Lord gave them health at the Passover and prosperity as they spoiled the Egyptians. He brought them to the waters of Marab and told them that if they would obey Him, there would be no sickness or disease among the people (Exodus 15:25-26). Thus, the first two blessings bestowed upon the children of Israel were prosperity and health. When comparing the story of the Israelites to the New Testament Church, the phrase “even as your soul prospers” reflects our willingness to obey the Lord.

3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children” - Comments - John, the aged apostle, and overseer of the churches in Asia Minor, looked upon the believers of these churches as his children. For he was their spiritual father, once Paul was martyred in Rome.

3 John 1:4 “walk in truth” - Comments - The only way that we can prosper and be in health (3 John 1:2) is to walk in the truth.

3 John 1:5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;

3 John 1:5 Word Study on “and to strangers” The Greek phrase “ και ̀ τουτο ξένους ” (and to strangers) has no preposition to translate into the English word “to.” Instead, there is a demonstrative pronoun, “these.” Therefore, many translations use the word “strangers” to describe the brethren. Note:

ASV, “ Beloved, thou doest a faithful work in whatsoever thou doest toward them that are brethren and strangers withal ;”

ISV, “ Dear friend, you are faithful in whatever you do for the brothers, especially when they are strangers .”

NIV, “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you .”

Weymouth, “ My dear friend, you are acting faithfully in all your behaviour towards the brethren, even when they are strangers to you .”

3 John 1:8 “that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth” Comments - Paul uses the words “fellowprisoners,” “fellowlabourers,” and “fellowhelpers” in a number of his epistles. These words go deeper in meaning than just describing their personal relationships with Paul. It also describes their spiritual relationship with him in the sense that they were partners and partakers of Paul’s sufferings as well as his heavenly rewards. In other words, these words describe people would receive the same rewards in heaven that Paul would receive because they stood with him during these difficult times.

Verses 9-11

Warning against Sin In 3 John 1:9-11 John gives warnings about Diotrephes because of his sinful conduct. Benny Hinn gives us ten signs of a religious spirit in such people who behave in this manner in the Church. Jesus warned His disciples of the leaven, or doctrines, of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:1-12). These were zealous groups that had religious spirits. Shortly thereafter, Peter rebukes Jesus for committing Himself to the Cross, and Jesus binds Satan from working in Peter’s life (Matthew 16:21-23). These people have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5).

Signs of a Religious Spirit - Many have conjectured that Diotrephes may have been a pastor, a deacon or even a founder of a new sect. He was most likely a member of the same church as Gaius and Demetrius. Though little is known about him, it is clear from this short epistle that he was a man of influence. He was one who desired power and control over others. He had enough influence to cause the church to reject those whom John had commended to their care. Diotrephes gives us a biblical example of someone with a religious spirit working within the church. Here are ten characteristics Benny Hinn gives of someone with such a spirit: [46]

[46] Benny Hinn, This is Your Day (Irving, Texas), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

1. They find fault with others, but never with themselves.

2. They tear down what they believe is wrong with others, but they never built up.

3. They are unable to receive correction.

4. They have a philosophy that they will not listen to men. They will not receive counsel.

5. They believe God has appointed them to reveal everything wrong with you.

6. They are intolerant of the weaknesses and failures in others.

7. They are always seeking recognition and notice.

8. They are always suspicious of any new move of God.

9. They glory in the past, and never in the present.

10. They will not join anything outside themselves. Thus, like a cult, they exclude others and only fellowship among themselves.

We see some of these signs in the person of Diotrephes.

1. He loved the preeminence among others (item 7 above).

2. He “receiveth us not”. He would not take the correction of John (item 3 above).

3. He was “prating against us”. They publicly attack others (item 5 above).

4. “Neither does he receive the brethren” They will not fellowship with others, excluding themselves like a cult (item 10).

5. “forbideth them that would” They are controlling when they gain preeminence (item 7 above).

6. “casteth them out of the church” They are intolerant of others who do not see things their way and thus isolate themselves (item 6 above).

3 John 1:9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

3 John 1:9 “I wrote unto the church” Comments - Whether this is a reference to the first or second epistles of John can only be a matter of speculation, since the context of third John leaves no indications.

3 John 1:9 “but Diotrephes” - Word Study on “Diotrephes” Liddell-Scott says the Greek name “Diotrephes” ( Διοτρεφής ) (G1361) means, “trained, or cherished, by Jupiter [Zeus].” The Greek word “ Διός ” means “godlike” ( Liddell-Scott), referring to “Zeus,” a mythological god. The Greek word “ τρέφω ” means, “to feed, nourish, support, provide with food, rear, bring up, train.” ( BDAG)

3 John 1:10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

3 John 1:11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

Verse 12

Praise to Demetrius 3 John 1:12 serves as a praise to Demetrius for his good deeds.

3 John 1:12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

3 John 1:12 Word Study on “Demetrius” William Alexander says the Greek name “Demetrius” ( Δημήτριος ) (G1216) may be a derivative of the Greek earth-goddess Demeter, [47] goddess of grain and the harvest. [48]

[47] William Alexander, The Epistles of St. John, in The Expositor’s Bible, eds. William R. Nicoll and Oscar L. Joseph (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1956), in Ages Digital Library, v. 1.0 [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2001), comments on 3 John 1:1:12.

[48] Jessie M. Tatlock, Greek and Roman Mythology (New York; The Century Company, c1917), 154-162.

Comments - An individual by the name of Demetrius is found within the book of Acts. It is possible that this Demetrius was the same one who called such a riot in Ephesus years earlier over the preaching of the Gospel by Paul and his companions. This may be the reason that Luke gave some attention to this individual when writing the book of Acts, as such a conversion would have been of much interest to his readers.

Acts 19:24, “For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;”

The Apostolic Constitutions, a collection of ecclesiastical law that is believed to have been compiled during the latter half of the fourth century, states that there was a man by the name of Demetrius who became the bishop of the church at Philadelphia. It is very possible that this was the same person mentioned in John’s third epistle. It is interesting to note that the name of Gaius (3 John 1:1) is mentioned next to the name of Demetrius in this passage.

“Now concerning those bishops which have been ordained in our lifetime, we let you know that they are these…Of Pergamus, Gains. Of Philadelphia, Demetrius , by me.” ( Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 7.4.46)

3 John 1:12 Comments - Donald Guthrie tells us that 3 John 1:12 makes the epistle of 3 John take the form of “a letter of commendation to Demetrius.” [49] It is not likely that Demetrius was previous acquainted with Gaius, and thus not a member of the recent group of itinerate preachers that were rejected by Diotrephes. Guthrie concludes that Demetrius was most likely the bearer of this short epistle. [50]

[49] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grover, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1990), 893.

[50] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grover, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1990), 894.

Verses 13-14

Final Greeting 3 John 1:13-14 serves as a final greeting.

3 John 1:13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:

3 John 1:14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

3 John 1:14 “Peace be with thee” - Comments - In a similar way that the early apostles were instructed by Jesus to let their peace come upon the home of their host (Matthew 10:13), so did Paul the apostle opening every one of his thirteen New Testament epistles with a blessing of God’s peace and grace upon his readers. Peter did the same in his two epistles. Now John the apostles invokes this blessing in his second and third epistles and Revelation. Matthew 10:13 shows that you can bless a house by speaking God's peace upon it.

Matthew 10:13, “And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.”

This practice of speaking blessings upon God’s children may have its roots in the Priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22-27, where God instructed Moses to have the priests speak a blessing upon the children of Israel. We see in Ruth 2:4 that this blessing became a part of the Jewish culture when greeting people. Boaz blessed his workers in the field and his reapers replied with a blessing.

Ruth 2:4, “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.”

We also see this practiced by the king in 2 Samuel 15:20 where David says, “mercy and truth be with thee”.

2 Samuel 15:20, “Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.”

Thus, this word of blessing was a part of the Hebrew and Jewish culture. This provides us the background as to why John was speaking a blessing upon the household of the elect lady and her children, especially that God would grant them more of His grace and abiding peace that they would have otherwise not known. In faith, we too, can receive this same blessing into our lives. John actually pronounces and invokes a blessing of divine grace and peace upon his readers with these words, “Peace be with thee.” I do not believe this blessing is unconditional, but rather conditional. In other words, it is based upon the response of his hearers. The more they obey these divine truths laid forth in this epistle, the more God’s grace and peace is multiplied in their lives. We recall how the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, with six tribes standing upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people and six tribes upon Mount Ebal to curse the disobedient (Deuteronomy 27:11-26). Thus, the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28:1-68 were placed upon the land. All who obeyed the Law received these blessings, and all who disobeyed received this list of curses. In the same way John invokes a blessing into the body of Christ for all who will hearken unto the divine truths of this epistle.

We see this obligation of the recipients in translation of Beck, “As you know God and our Lord Jesus, may you enjoy more and more of His love and peace. ” (2 Peter 1:2)

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 3 John 1". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/3-john-1.html. 2013.
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