3 John 1

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Verse 1: The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. (NIV)

  • ”Elder” is the same term used in 2 John. See that commentary for a fuller discussion on this term and it's meaning in the context of John's letters.
  • By using this title, the elder is making this a letter with the force of all his authority behind it, and not just a friendly greeting (Marshall
  • Unlike 2 John, however, this letter contains a personal greeting to a person instead of euphemistically to a church or another title.
    • This makes 3 John a much more personal letter than 2 John.
    • Gaius is not just a representative of a church, either. This letter truly appears to be for a single person.
  • Who this “Gaius” is remains uncertain, with such a common name it is unlikely that it refers to any other Gaius in the New Testament (Guthrie 895).
  • ”Love in the truth” is a standard phrase in the John's letters and refers to the truth of Christ.


Verse 2: Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (NIV)

  • Even though this letter has a prayer and an introduction, it is completely missing a greeting, which is a standard part of almost all letter, especially those in the New Testament (Marshall 82).
  • Prayer is the NT is used to refer to prayer with God, but in other letters of the time it had a general sense of “I wish” or “I hope” (Haas 176).
  • That Gaius is spiritually doing well is taken as a given.


Verse 3: It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. (NIV)

  • These were believers who were not apparently members of Gaius' church and yet visited it and were warmly welcomed.
  • It is unclear whether these visitors were missionaries or just general Christians, but it is apparent that the elder has had multiple reports about Gaius (Marshall 84).
  • ”You” is emphatic here (Haas 117). This brings out early on the idea that while Gaius is following God, the elder is not making the same statement about everyone around there.


Verse 4: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (NIV)

  • This is a metaphorical use of “children” and matches with 2 John's use of children as meaning (presumably new) believers who were saved under a specific person.


Verse 5: Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. (NIV)

  • This faithfulness is not staying true to the people coming, like there was some promise in place, but was doing what he was supposed to be doing.
  • By making this a present tense, the elder is saying that this is not an isolated occurrence, but Gaius' regular practice (Akin 242).
  • ”Brothers” are probably not just any Christian, but believers sent as missionaries from the elder.


Verse 6: They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. (NIV)

  • ”Have told the church” is more literally “testified” (as in legal testimony) with the church being the person they are testifying to (Haas 179).
  • ”The Church” here being the church attached with the elder where he is at right now.
  • The language here is reminiscent of 2 John 1 where the elder says that false teachers need to be sent away. However, here it is a goodbye at the natural end of the time and not a pushing out the door.


Verse 7: It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. (NIV)

  • it is unclear why missionaries would be expecting anything from non-believers in the first place.
    • This term can refer to anyone non-Jewish, but that seems unlikely in this context, though possible.
    • This is probably a roundabout way of saying that missionaries get their pay from other believers, not from the people they minister to (Marshall 87), and so the believers are under an onus to provide when a missionary comes. This verse only makes sense with connection to the next one.


Verse 8: We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. (NIV)

  • ”We” is emphatic here (Akin 244), making it clear that this is not just a general statement, but something for Gaius and the elder in particular.
  • Again, truth is very rarely a generic term, but one that is directly linked, if not synonymous, with the Gospel and message of Jesus.
  • There is a question as to who the final “we” is. It is at the very least the elder and the missionaries. It could also include Gaius, or even all believers.


Verse 9: I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. (NRSV)

  • Some have seen this as referring to 2 John, or possibly some unknown letter
  • It is unclear what exactly what the elder was expecting with this letter. There are two main theories.
    • First, the letter has not gotten to the church yet, and the elder is expressing uncertainty about its' effect when it gets there, assuming it will do no good.
    • The other theory is that the letter has already arrived and it hasn't helped because Diotrephes does not acknowledge that he should follow the elder's advice.
  • From the fact that Gaius is not assumed to have already heard about this letter, he is probably not part of Diotrephes' church.
  • The conflict's cause is unknown, whether this was a conflict between the elder and Diotrephes or not, but the elder places blame on Diotrephes' pride and desire to be first.
  • ”First” can have a variety of meanings in Greek. It can refer to being in first place, ie selfishness. It can also refer to being in charge, the leader.
  • ”Acknowledge our authority” is literally “does not receive us” and is usually used like taking in a guest (Haas 183). This is important because the rest of the letter deals so much with receiving people or not. The elder is using a double meaning. Diotrephes doesn't accept him when he writes, not does he accept the people the elder sends.
  • There is a change in person here. The elder wrote a letter, but the authority comes from a plural source, “our” authority. This could be an apostolic/royal plural, or it could be that the elder is writing as representative of a larger group or church that should be respected.


Verse 10: So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church. (NRSV)

  • There is debate as to the probability of the elder arriving. This is a subjunctive verb, a verb of possibility. There is no hint as the to time frame involved in this.
  • The word translated here as ”call to attention” means to remind someone, particularly with a warning to their actions (Haas 184).
  • ”Spreading false charges” is basically just gossiping, speaking lies.


Verse 11: Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. (NRSV)

  • ”Seen” is here not about vision but about a close relationship (Haas 185).
    • The verb is a perfect tense, which indicates that this is an event that happened and has lasting or continuing consequences in the present.
    • This is implying that these people had never had an encounter with God. Their very salvation is being questioned.


Verse 12: Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true. (NRSV)

  • ”Spoken favorably” is perfect tense, indicating that this was not an isolated event, but that this testimony had been given over quite a bit of time (Akin 250).
  • ”The truth” does not speak, obviously, so the meaning is unclear. It probably refers to the results of his actions showing that he is following God.
  • The elder obviously considers himself as being separate or “higher” than the “everyone” who testifies. His testimony is more valid his authority is so great.


Verse 13: I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; (NRSV)

  • This is a nearly identical statement from the end of 2 John.


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