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John’s Third Letter

Wall painting (1st century AD) from Pompeii depicting a multigenerational banquet. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. Public Domain.
Wall painting (1st century AD) from Pompeii depicting a multigenerational banquet. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. Public Domain.

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Introduction to John’s Third Letter

See the Introduction to John’s First Letter by Dr. Hunt for an overview of The Three Letters of John and The Letter of Jude.

This is a brief personal letter, written by the Apostle John, and addressed to a highly esteemed friend named Gaius. It is interesting to note that a man bearing this same name was closely associated with Paul during his ministry at Ephesus. (See Acts 19:29.) However, this Epistle of John was not written until many years after Paul’s ministry at Ephesus, so the two men mentioned could scarcely have been the same. The Gaius mentioned in this Epistle was apparently a wealthy and influential layman, having membership in one of the “seven churches of Asia.”

John’s main purpose in writing this little Epistle was to secure the support of Gaius in connection with a controversy that had arisen between the apostle and a church leader named Diotrephes. Apparently Diotrephes had acted contrary to instructions, and was also seeking to repudiate the authority of John, who was then the bishop, or presiding elder of the Christian churches in that area. John states that he had written a letter to Diotrephes, which had been disregarded. John further charges that Diotrephes “likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority . . . he is ... prating against me with evil words . . . refuses himself to welcome the brethren, and also stops those who want to welcome them and puts them out of the church.” The word brethren, as used here, would refer to some traveling evangelists of those days.

Two possible reasons for Diotrephes’ strange conduct may be suggested. About that time (A.D. 100), some Christian churches in that area were making changes in organization, and the controversy mentioned in the Epistle may represent some breakaway from the old patterns. However, what seems more likely is that Diotrephes had come under the influence of the false prophets mentioned in connection with John’s other Epistles, and this led to the break between Diotrephes and John. Possibly this is why John hesitated to “write with pen and ink”; preferring to make a fact-finding visit, and assure himself the support of Gaius, before taking any drastic steps in dealing with Diotrephes. The Demetrius mentioned was, in all probability, the bearer of this Epistle.

Introduction to John’s Third Letter by Herbert J. Hunt, former Dean of Bible Studies for the Unity School of Christianity.

Third John 1

(Online: ASV WEB)

Calling Forth Redemption of the Body

1:1 The elder to Gaius1 the beloved, whom I love in truth.2

  1. Gaius. Greek: of the earth; earthy man; exulting; rejoicing; gladness; Lord. Metaphysically, the acceptance by the body consciousness (of the earth, earthy man) of the truth pertaining to the divine law, or Lord. This acceptance of Truth by the seemingly earthy phase of man's being works with Paul (the activity of the word of Truth) in bringing about the redemption of the body; great gladness and rejoicing are thus realized by the individual. (MBD/Gaius)
  2. love in truth. Divine love in the heart of man, expressed in love of all that is good, right, and true, as well as in love of all people. He who loves in accordance with Truth sees the ideal side of everyone with whom he comes in contact. To see as God sees is to love as God loves, without stint or reservation. Human love is personal rather than universal in its scope.

Gaius Commended for His Hospitality

1:2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be healthy, even as your soul prospers.1 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly, when brothers came and testified about your truth, even as you walk in truth. 1:4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear about my children walking in truth.

1:5 Beloved, you do a faithful work in whatever you accomplish for those who are brothers and strangers.2 1:6 They have testified about your love before the assembly. You will do well to send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, 1:7 because for the sake of the Name they went out, taking nothing from the Gentiles.3 1:8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

  1. Be healthy, even as your soul prospers. The Scriptures give spirit, soul, and body as constituting all of man. Spirit is I AM, the same in character as Divine Mind, or God. Soul is man's consciousness—that which he has apprehended or developed out of Spirit; also the impressions that he has received from the outer world. Soul is both conscious and subconscious. Body is the form of expression of both spirit and soul. In its invisible forces it expresses Spirit, and in its seeming materiality it pictures the limitations of soul. When man puts out of consciousness all limitations and realizes the perfection of Spirit, his body will be perfect; in other words the salvation of the soul results in the redemption or spiritualization of the body. (MBD/soul)
  2. For those who are brothers and strangers. Whoever helps strangers without expectation of reward and without expectation of seeing them again has a better chance to express the Christ Spirit than the one who extends help to those well known to him. We make no distinction between our treatment of strangers and our treatment of friends. To us they are all one in Christ Jesus.
  3. Taking nothing from the Gentiles. Spiritual love shows us that accident, chance, and events classed as happenings are “Gentiles,” and if we are faithful to Principle, we do not allow any of these things to operate as causes in our life.

Diotrephes and Demetrius

1:9 I wrote to the assembly, but Diotrephes,1 who loves to be first among them, doesn't accept what we say. 1:10 Therefore, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words. Not content with this, neither does he himself receive the brothers, and those who would, he forbids and throws out of the assembly.

1:11 Beloved, don't imitate that which is evil, but that which is good.2 He who does good is of God. He who does evil hasn't seen God. 1:12 Demetrius3 has the testimony of all, and of the truth itself; yes, we also testify, and you know that our testimony is true.

  1. Diotrephes. (“trained by Zeus”) is a symbol of personal exaltation active in consciousness. This state of mind keeps man from entering spiritual consciousness.
  2. Imitate ... that which is good. Imitation of the good is best for those who have not yet developed power to form original conceptions of the good and the initiative to execute them. Until we are moved by the Spirit within us to original action, we cannot do better than take Jesus Christ as our model and do good as He did and as He taught others to do.
  3. Demetrius. (“belonging to Demeter,” “grain”) symbolizes substance.

Final Greetings

1:13 I had many things to write to you, but I am unwilling to write to you with ink and pen;1 1:14 but I hope to see you soon, and we will speak face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

  1. I am unwilling to write to you with ink and pen. See Dr. Hunt's Introduction above.

Fillmore Study Bible annotations by Mark Hicks.

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