3 John 1

1 As in his second letter, John addresses himself as "the elder." Since this is a personal letter, this is a more familiar term which focuses on John's ministry (and possibly his age) rather than his authority as an apostle.

This letter is clearly to an individual named Gaius. John uses the word "beloved" to emphasize the relationship that Gaius has with Christ. John also adds that he loves Gaius in truth - the truth that recognizes that they are brothers in Christ.

2 In this greeting, John recognizes that Gaius is growing spiritually. It is a kind greeting that extends best wishes for his physical well being and financial prosparity as well. We should all desire that our siblings in Christ do well in every area of their lives.
3 In verse 4, it appears that Gaius was a man who came to know Christ through John's missionary work in the region. Gaius was apparently an outstanding Christian who was well spoken of by those who knew him. It appears that some of John's fellow traveling preachers had been cared for by Gaius. They gave a good report about Gaius' faith, and it please John immensely.
4 What brought John joy was to know that those whom he taught did not merely know what was right and wrong - they were living according to their faith and doing what was right in God's eyes. All Christians should live according to the truth that God revealed to us in the Scriptures. In this way, we please God and give one another reason to rejoice.
5 John praises Gaius for treating his fellow Christians well, even when they were not members of his church body.
6 Gaius' love for the church was obvious to those who encountered him. His vision was not focused on his local congregation, either. He was encouraging to all who would visit their congregation. The travelling ministers were especially pleased with Gaius' hospitality. Gaius would care for them and send them on with provisions in a way that would please God.
7 What Gaius was doing was right because the ministers that John sent out were doing God's work, so it was far better to receive support from the local churches rather than relying on the civil hospitality of the Gentiles. It was apparently not the practice of the early missionaries to take money from new converts. It was more important that contributions to the ministry be given as a free act of generosity as people matured in their faith and realized the importance of such ministry.
8 The testimony of the Church is enhanced when Christians support ministry. It is a testimony that we believe the Gospel is important enough to share with the whole world, and we will generously contribute to those who are willing to focus on this part or full time. By contributing to missions, we are partners with those who are willing and able to go. Every Christian is supposed to be a missionary wherever they happen to be, but we also want to reach people outside of our current sphere of influence. Therefore, we should generously support those who go places we are not able to go to share the Gospel.
9 Not everyone was a model of hospitality as Gaius was. John points out a man named Diotrephes, whom Gaius would have known. It is not clear if Diotrephes was in the same church body as Gaius or in a nearby one. If they were in the same church, it is possible that Gaius had been excommunicated, in accordance with the next verse. However, John does not mention that this is the case, so it is more likely that Diotrephes was in a nearby church.

It is also not clear if Diotrephes was a preacher or a prominent layman. In either case, it is obvious that he wielded much power over his congregation. It is also apparent that he was paranoid of anyone who might diminish his role. He would not voluntarily be accountable to an apostle or any missionary sent his way.

10 Diotrephes may have been such a charismatic man that his congregation was blinded to his unsound doctrine and unscrupulous ways. Alternatively, he may have instilled such fear into the people that none wanted to oppose him for fear of being excommunicated.

John brings five charges against Diotrephes:

  1. He is a proud man who cares more about his leadership position than sound doctrine
  2. He sits in judgement of the apostles and missionaries and falsely accuses them of doing evil
  3. He is not hospitable to faithful Christians
  4. He prevents others from being hospitable, and enforces it by excommunicating those who defy him.
It is obvious that Diotrephes does not want any outside influence diluting his power. He wanted to be in full control and did not want people to listen to anyone but him. He may have felt that he had a direct link to God or a divine appointment to lead, so he flatly refused to listen to anyone else.

John intended to visit that church, and if he were able to go there, he would expose Diotrephes' wicked deeds. Diotrephes would find out that he was indeed accountable for his actions and that there are those who have more authority than he did.

11 John makes it plainly clear that
  1. Diotrephes is practicing evil
  2. He is not a Christian
These are very strong charges which should be taken seriously because they were made by an apostle.

Unfortunately, such men still preside in churches today. There are teachers and pastors who are not Christians. They may claim to be, but their teaching and actions give them away. They may have large congregations and much influence in the church and community, but these are not good indicators of the condition of a person's relationship with God. Some men have started cults under the guise of Christianity and have damaged the reputations of true Christians because the world does not discern the distinction.

Some of the traits of a good Christian (like Gaius) are biblical doctrine, accountability, and fellowship with and love for other believers. Diotrephes did not have any of these.

12 In contrast to Diotrephes, Demetrius stands out as a good example of what a Christian should be. He receives a positive testimony from others, including John, who knew him. He also measures up to the Scripture's standard of Christianity. He may have been excommunicated from the church for his good works and in need of encouragement. John was happy to provide it.
13 John preferred to discuss things in person. However, he had many demands on his time so he chose to write about the matters that needed immediate attention and visit later to address less important issues. This letter appears to be one of encouragement to Gaius and Demetrius, who may have been recently excommunicated from the church because of Diotrephes. John justifies them and exposes Diotrephes' sinful nature.
14 John confirms his desire to visit that region soon and speak with Gaius and others. He blesses Gaius with the peace that comes from knowing Christ. Those who surround John as he writes also extend their greetings to Gaius, and he, in turn should bless others.

When we greet our friends, we do so by name. Our brothers and sisters in Christ should be our friends, and we should treat them accordingly. This letter itself mentions specific names. It is always encouraging to find friendly people who are willing to learn our names and share our lives.