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Bible Commentaries
3 John 1

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

The beloved (τω αγαπητω). Four times in this short letter this verbal adjective is used of Gaius (here, 3 John 1:2; 3 John 1:5; 3 John 1:11). See 2 John 1:1 for the same phrase here, "whom I love in truth."

Verse 2

I pray (ευχομα). Here only in John's writings. See Romans 9:3.

In all things (περ παντων). To be taken with ευοδουσθα and like περ in 1 Corinthians 16:1, "concerning all things."

Thou mayest prosper (σε ευοδουσθα). Infinitive in indirect discourse (object infinitive) after ευχομα, with accusative of general reference σε (as to thee). Ευοδοω is old verb (from ευοδος, ευ and οδος, prosperous in a journey), to have a good journey, to prosper, in LXX, in N.T. only this verse (twice), 1 Corinthians 16:2; Romans 1:10.

Be in health (υγιαινειν). In Paul this word always means sound teaching (1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:3), but here and in Luke 5:31; Luke 7:10; Luke 15:27, of bodily health. Brooke wonders if Gaius' health had caused his friends anxiety.

Even as thy soul prospereth (καθως ευοδουτα σου η ψυχη). A remarkable comparison which assumes the welfare (present middle indicative of ευοδοω) of his soul (ψυχη here as the principle of the higher life as in John 12:27, not of the natural life as in Matthew 6:25).

Verse 3

I rejoiced greatly (εχαρην λιαν). As in 2 John 1:4; Philippians 4:10, not epistolary aorist, but reference to his emotions at the good tidings about Gaius.

When brethren came (ερχομενων αδελφων). Genitive absolute with present middle participle of ερχομα, and so with μαρτυρουντων (bare witness, present active participle of μαρτυρεω). Present participle here denotes repetition, from time to time.

To the truth (τη αληθεια). Dative case. "As always in the Johannine writings, 'truth' covers every sphere of life, moral, intellectual, spiritual" (Brooke).

Even as thou walkest in truth (καθως συ εν αληθεια περιπατεις). "Thou" in contrast to Diotrephes (verse 3 John 1:9) and others like him. On περιπατεω see 1 John 1:6 and on εν αληθεια see 2 John 1:4.

Verse 4

Greater (μειζοτεραν). A double comparative with -τερος added to μειζων, like our "lesser" and like μαλλον κρεισσον (more better) in Philippians 1:23. In Ephesians 3:8 we have ελαχιστοτερω, a comparative on a superlative. Like forms occur in the vernacular papyri and even in Homer (χειροτερος, more worse) as also in Shakespeare.

Joy (χαραν). B reads χαριν (grace).

Than this (τουτων). Ablative neuter plural after the comparative.

To hear of (ινα ακουω). Object clause (epexegetic) with ινα and ακουω, the present active subjunctive (keep on hearing of) in apposition with τουτων,

Walking in truth (εν αληθεια περιπατουντα). As in 2 John 1:4, which see. By the use of τεκνα John may mean that Gaius is one of his converts (1 Timothy 1:1).

Verse 5

A faithful work (πιστον). Either thus or "thou makest sure," after an example in Xenophon quoted by Wettstein (ποιειν πιστα) and parallel to καινα ποιεω in Revelation 21:5. But it is not certain.

In whatsoever thou doest (ο εαν εργαση). Indefinite relative with modal εαν (=αν) and the first aorist middle subjunctive of εργαζομα. See Colossians 3:23 for both ποιεω and εργαζομα in the same sentence.

And strangers withal (κα τουτο ξενους). "And that too" (accusative of general reference as in 1 Corinthians 6:6; Philippians 1:28; Ephesians 2:8). This praise of hospitality (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:10; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2) shows that in 2 John 1:10 John has a peculiar case in mind.

Verse 6

Before the church (ενωπιον εκκλησιας). Public meeting as the anarthrous use of εκκλησια indicates, like εν εκκλησια in 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:35.

Thou wilt do well (καλως ποιησεις). Future active of ποιεω with adverb καλως, a common polite phrase in letters (papyri) like our "please." See also Acts 10:33; James 2:19; 1 Corinthians 7:37; Philippians 4:14; 2 Peter 1:19.

To set forward on their journey (προπεμψας). First aorist active participle (simultaneous action) of προπεμπω, to send forward, "sending forward," old word, in N.T. in Acts 15:3; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 1 Corinthians 16:11; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Romans 15:24; Titus 3:13.

Worthily of God (αξιως του θεου). Precisely this phrase in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and the genitive with αξιως also in Romans 16:2; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1. See John 13:20 for Christ's words on the subject. "Since they are God's representatives, treat them as you would God" (Holtzmann). From Homer's time (Od. XV. 74) it was customary to speed the parting guest, sometimes accompanying him, sometimes providing money and food. Rabbis were so escorted and Paul alludes to the same gracious custom in Romans 15:24; Titus 3:13.

Verse 7

For the sake of the Name (υπερ του ονοματος). The name of Jesus. See Acts 5:4; Romans 1:5 for υπερ του ονοματος and James 2:7 for the absolute use of "the name" as in 1 Peter 4:16. "This name is in essence the sum of the Christian creed" (Westcott) as in 1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 10:9. It is like the absolute use of "the Way" (Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9; Acts 19:23; Acts 24:22).

Taking nothing (μηδεν λαμβανοντες). Present active participle with the usual negative with participles (1 John 2:4).

Of the Gentiles (απο των εθνικων). Instead of the usual εθνων (Luke 2:32), late adjective for what is peculiar to a people (εθνος) and then for the people themselves (Polybius, Diodorus, not in LXX), in N.T. only here, Matthew 5:47; Matthew 6:7; Matthew 18:17. Like our heathen, pagan. John is anxious that Christian missionaries receive nothing from the heathen, as our missionaries have to watch against the charge of being after money. There were many travelling lecturers out for money. Paul in 3 John 1:1 defends the right of preachers to pay, but refuses himself to accept it from Corinth because it would be misunderstood (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 12:16). Note απο here as in collecting taxes (Matthew 17:25) rather than παρα, which may be suggestive.

Verse 8

Ought (οφειλομεν). See for this word 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:11.

To welcome (υπολαμβανειν). Present active infinitive (habit of welcoming) of υπολαμβανω, old word, to take up under, to carry off (Acts 1:9), to reply (Luke 10:30), to suppose (Acts 2:15), only here in N.T. in this sense of receiving hospitably or to take under one's protection like υποδεχομα (Luke 10:38).

Such (τους τοιουτους). "The such" according to the Greek idiom (1 Corinthians 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:18).

That we may be (ινα γινωμεθα). Purpose clause with ινα and the present middle subjunctive of γινομα, "that we may keep on becoming."

Fellow-workers (συνεργο). Old compound (συν, εργον).

With the truth (τη αληθεια). So associative instrumental case with συν in συνεργο, but it is not certain that this is the idea, though συνεργεω is so used with εργοις in James 2:22. Συνεργος itself occurs with the genitive of the person as in θεου συνεργο (1 Corinthians 3:9) or with genitive of the thing της χαρας (1 Corinthians 3:9). So then here the meaning may be either "co-workers with such brethren for the truth" (dative of advantage) or "co-workers with the truth" (associative instrumental case).

Verse 9

I wrote somewhat unto the church (εγραψα τ τη εκκλησια). A few MSS. add αν to indicate that he had not written (conclusion of second-class condition), clearly spurious. Not epistolary aorist nor a reference to II John as Findlay holds, but an allusion to a brief letter of commendation (Acts 18:27; 2 Corinthians 3:1; Colossians 4:10) sent along with the brethren in verses 3 John 1:5-7 or to some other itinerant brethren. Westcott wrongly thinks that τ is never used of anything important in the N.T. (Acts 8:9; Galatians 6:3), and hence that this lost letter was unimportant. It may have been brief and a mere introduction. Διοτρεφες (Διος and τρεφω, nourished by Zeus). This ambitious leader and sympathiser with the Gnostics would probably prevent the letter referred to being read to the church, whether it was II John condemning the Gnostics or another letter commending Demetrius and John's missionaries. Hence he sends Gaius this personal letter warning against Diotrephes.

Who loveth to have the preeminence among them (ο φιλοπρωτευων αυτων). Present active articular participle of a late verb, so far found only here and in ecclesiastical writers (the example cited by Blass being an error, Deissmann, Light etc., p. 76), from φιλοπρωτος, fond of being first (Plutarch), and made like φιλοπονεω (papyri), to be fond of toil. This ambition of Diotrephes does not prove that he was a bishop over elders, as was true in the second century (as Ignatius shows). He may have been an elder (bishop) or deacon, but clearly desired to rule the whole church. Some forty years ago I wrote an article on Diotrephes for a denominational paper. The editor told me that twenty-five deacons stopped the paper to show their resentment against being personally attacked in the paper.

Receiveth us not (ουκ επιδεχετα ημας). Present active indicative of this old compound, in N.T. only here and verse 3 John 1:10. Diotrephes refused to accept John's authority or those who sided with him, John's missionaries or delegates (cf. Matthew 10:40).

Verse 10

If I come (εαν ελθω). Condition of third class with εαν and second aorist active subjunctive of ερχομα. He hopes to come (verse 3 John 1:14), as he had said in 2 John 1:12 (one argument for identifying II John with the letter in 3 John 1:9).

I will bring to remembrance (υπομνησω). Future active indicative of υπομιμνησκω, old compound (John 14:26; 2 Peter 1:12). The aged apostle is not afraid of Diotrephes and here defies him.

Which he doeth (α ποιε). Present active indicative, "which he keeps on doing."

Prating against us (φλυαρων ημας). Present active participle of old verb (from φλυαρος, babbling 1 Timothy 5:13), to accuse idly and so falsely, here only in N.T. with accusative ημας (us).

With wicked words (λογοις πονηροις). Instrumental case. Not simply foolish chatter, but malevolent words.

Not content (μη αρκουμενος). Present passive participle of αρκεω with usual negative μη. For this verb in this sense see 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5, only there επ is absent. John knows that the conduct of Diotrephes will not stand the light. See Paul's threats of exposure (1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:1-3). And John is the apostle of love all the same.

He himself (αυτος). That was bad enough.

Them that would (τους βουλομενους). "Those willing or wishing or receive the brethren" from John.

He forbiddeth (κωλυε). "He hinders." Present active indicative of κωλυω and means either actual success in one case (punctiliar use of the present indicative) or repetition in several instances (linear action) or conative action attempted, but not successful as in Matthew 3:14 (this same verb) and John 10:32.

Casteth them out of the church (εκ της εκκλησιας εκβαλλε). Here again εκβαλλε can be understood in various ways, like κωλυε. This verb occurs in John 2:15 for casting out of the temple the profaners of it and for casting the blind man out of the synagogue (John 9:34). If this ancient "church-boss" did not succeed in expelling John's adherents from the church, he certainly tried to do it.

Verse 11

Imitate not (μη μιμου). Present middle imperative in prohibition (do not have the habit of imitating) of μιμεομα (from μιμος, actor, mimic), old word, in N.T. only here, 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Hebrews 13:7.

That which is evil (το κακον). "The bad," as in Romans 12:21 (neuter singular abstract).

But that which is good (αλλα το αγαθον). "But the good." As in Romans 12:21 again. Probably by the contrast between Diotrephes and Demetrius.

He that doeth good (ο αγαθοποιων). Articular present active participle of αγαθοποιεω, late and rare verb, in contrast with ο κακοποιων (old and common verb) as in Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9; 1 Peter 3:17.

Is of God (εκ του θεου εστιν). As in 1 John 3:9.

Hath not seen God (ουχ εωρακεν τον θεον). As in 1 John 3:6. He does not say εκ του διαβολου as Jesus does in John 8:44, but he means it.

Verse 12

Demetrius hath the witness of all men (Δημητριω μεμαρτυρητα υπο παντων). Perfect passive indicative of μαρτυρεω, "it has been witnessed to Demetrius (dative case) by all." We know nothing else about him, unless, as is unlikely, he be identified with Demas as a shortened form (Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:4; 2 Timothy 4:10), who has come back after his desertion or with the Ephesian silversmith (Acts 19:21), who may have been converted under John's ministry, which one would like to believe, though there is no evidence for it. He may indeed be the bearer of this letter from Ephesus to Gaius and may also have come under suspicion for some reason and hence John's warm commendation.

And of the truth itself (κα υπο αυτης της αληθειας). A second commendation of Demetrius. It is possible, in view of 1 John 5:6 (the Spirit is the truth), that John means the Holy Spirit and not a mere personification of the truth.

Yea we also (κα ημεις δε). A third witness to Demetrius, that is John himself (literary plural).

Thou knowest (οιδας). "The words in John 21:24 sound like an echo of this sentence" (Westcott). John knew Demetrius well in Ephesus.

Verse 13

I had (ειχον). Imperfect active of εχω, when I began to write (γραψα, ingressive aorist active infinitive of γραφω).

I am unwilling to write (ου θελω γραφειν). "I do not wish to go on writing them.

With ink and pen (δια μελανος κα καλαμου), "by means of (δια) black (ink) and reed (used as pen)." See 2 John 1:12 for μελανος and Matthew 11:7 for καλαμος, used for papyrus and parchment, as γραφειον (a sharp stilus) for wax tablets.

Verse 14

I hope (ελπιζω)

--We shall speak (λαλησομεν). Literary plural really singular like ελπιζω.

Face to face (στομα προς στομα). As in 2 John 1:12.

Peace to thee (ειρηνη σο). Pax tibi like the Jewish greeting shalom (Luke 10:5; Luke 24:36; John 20:19; John 20:21).

The friends (ο φιλο). Those in Ephesus.

By name (κατ' ονομα). John knew the friends in the church (at Pergamum or wherever it was) as the good shepherd calls his sheep by name (John 10:3, the only other N.T. example of κατ' ονομα). The idiom is common in the papyri letters (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 193, note 21).

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 3 John 1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/3-john-1.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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