Third John was written for nearly the very same purpose as First John. The first letter of John was written to encourage faithfulness AND to undermine the basis of gnostic teaching. In 3 John we have essentially the same purpose, timeframe, and theology as First John.
Third John were written by a member of the Johannine school (the folks who gave us The Gospel of John, 1-3 John, and Revelation). Third John was written around the year 100 AD to Christians in the area of Ephesus.
The purpose of this epistle is to remind the faithful to remain faithful and to call them to realize that the gnostics are not correct in what they believe. If they had really been Christians, they would have remained within the faith; but as they were not genuinely faithful, they soon left the Church and adhered to the teachings of the heretics. The necessity for such a letter arose in the early church because wandering preachers were spreading false doctrine. Thus, believers needed a way to distinguish between the true preacher and the false. They mmust not accept the false.
We will look at Third John in brief outline before we begin our exposition:
1- Prologue (1-2)
2- Joy (3-4)
3- Do Not Believe the Heretics (5-14)
4- Conclusion (15)
Thus the purpose of this letter, again, is to urge Christians to remain faithful to the truth.
ASSIGNMENT: Read 3 John in the textbook, and the lecture which follows.
1 senior Gaio carissimo quem ego diligo in veritate
We do not know who this ‘elder’ was. We can only assume that he was well known to the readers of the letter and that they would accept his authority. Likewise, we do not know anything of Gaius. That the writer calls them ‘beloved’ merely demonstrates that he attributes to them the typical Christian title, ‘beloved’; i.e., by God. When he suggests that he ‘loves them in truth’ we should take this phrase to mean that he also loves this sincerely and purely.
2 carissime de omnibus orationem facio prospere te ingredi et valere sicut prospere agit anima tua
The primary purpose of the letter is described here when he says that he wishes them well in spirit as well as in body. In other words, he wishes them to be integrated, to have integrity, to not be torn asunder by any flase teacher who may come their way.
3 gavisus sum valde venientibus fratribus et testimonium perhibentibus veritati tuae sicut tu in veritate ambulas
He rejoices that, to this point, they have continued to live in the true faith.
4 maiorem horum non habeo gratiam quam ut audiam filios meos in veritate ambulantes After all, he is their spiritual ‘Father’. And nothing brings a father more pleasure than to see that his children are doing well by doing the right thing and remaining faithful to their heritage.
5 er facis quicquid operaris in fratres et hoc in peregrinos
When false preachers come, remember to remain faithful, no matter what they may tell you. That is the author’s fatherly advice to his dear children.
6 qui testimonium reddiderunt caritati tuae in conspectu ecclesiae quos bene facies deducens digne Deo They must, in short, bind themselves to God so that no falsehood can gain a foothold in their hearts. They must continue to be faithful no matter what they hear or who says what. They must be kind, but they must be firm.
7 pro nomine enim profecti sunt nihil accipientes a gentibus
These ‘gentile’ wandering preachers are dangerous! They must beware of them or they will be taken in by their smooth talk and deceptive lies. But a genuine teacher of the truth must be welcomed.
8 nos ergo debemus suscipere huiusmodi ut cooperatores simus veritatis
We Christians have the duty of showing kindness to those who teach us the truth of God. It is our duty and our obligation.
9 scripsissem forsitan ecclesiae sed is qui amat primatum gerere in eis Diotrepes non recipit nos
Beware the evil Diotrephes! He did not receive the truth because he did not receive us!
10 propter hoc si venero commoneam eius opera quae facit verbis malignis garriens in nos et quasi non ei ista sufficiant nec ipse suscipit fratres et eos qui cupiunt prohibet et de ecclesia eicit
We know nothing of Diotrophes, other than that he was an opponent of the author of the third epistle. This false teacher must be avoided and ignored. Do not believe him and do not welcome him! Whatever the historical situation may have been, this is one of the very few places where the enemy of of NT author is name d. He must have been of the early Church! He was an evildoer par excellance.
11 carissime noli imitari malum sed quod bonum est qui benefacit ex Deo est qui malefacit non vidit Deum
Instead of following the example of this evil man, they should follow a more positive example so that they will do the right thing. The consequences of choosing a role model are eternal! The people we pick to emulate will either be a blessing, or a curse to us.
12 Demetrio testimonium redditur ab omnibus et ab ipsa veritate et nos autem testimonium perhibemus et nosti quoniam testimonium nostrum verum est
The reader is called on to pick a side. Will they follow the truth or will they follow error? This is a choice that every Christian must make!
13 multa habui scribere tibi sed nolui per atramentum et calamum scribere tibi
14 spero autem protinus te videre et os ad os loquemur
15 pax tibi salutant te amici saluta amicos per nomen
These concluding verses again call to mind the love shown them by ‘John’. They must remain faithful to the truth. When he sees them next, he will say fully inperson what he does not have the time to write. In the meanwhile, they must remain faithful.
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