"THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN" The Three Men Of Third John (1-14) INTRODUCTION 1. It is not unusual for people to wonder... a. What was the early church like? b. We know a lot about its early leaders, such as apostles Paul and Peter; but what about the average Christians themselves? c. Were they more spiritual than Christians today? Did they experience the kind of problems seen so often in churches today? 2. Several books of the New Testament reflect the life of the early church, and this is especially true of the Third Epistle of John a. It is a private letter, between the apostle John and a Christian named Gaius b. It provides portraits of three different men, and in so doing gives us a glimpse of 1st century life in local churches 3. When one examines the portraits found in this letter, we learn that there is not much difference between people back then, and in the church today 4. Therefore this epistle is very relevant, though we may live 1900 years later. In this lesson, we shall... a. Consider some background material concerning the epistle b. Notice the difference between the three men described in the letter
c. Summarize with some lessons that can be gleaned from this book [Let's begin with some...] I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION A. THE AUTHOR - "THE ELDER" 1. As with 2 John, the "elder" is believed by most conservative scholars to be the apostle John 2. The INTERNAL evidence... a. The three epistles of John utilize much the same language and ideas b. All bear similarity to concepts and language to the Gospel of John c. The term "elder" would be a fitting description of John as the author, writing in his old age 3. The EXTERNAL evidence is slight, but Dionysius of Alexandria, living in the third century A.D., credits John with being the author B. RECIPIENT - "THE BELOVED GAIUS" 1. Gaius was a common Roman name, and appears five times in the New Testament - Ac 19:29; 20:4; Ro 16:23; 1Co 1:14; 3Jn 1 2. Whether he is one of those mentioned by Luke or Paul cannot be determined 3. He is evidently a dear friend of John, and known for his hospitality (more below) C. PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING 1. Ephesus is usually suggested as the location from which John wrote this epistle, as he was known to live there in the later years of his life 2. Estimation of the date of writing varies widely, some placing it before the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.), most however placing it around 90-95 A.D. D. PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE 1. To confirm that Gaius did right in supporting those teachers who came his way, encouraging him to continue this hospitality - 3Jn 5-8 2. To express his condemnation of Diotrephes for rejecting John and others whom he should had received - 3Jn 9-10 3. To encourage Gaius to imitate what is good, commending Demetrius as a good example - 3Jn 11-12 E. BRIEF OUTLINE 1. Greetings, with an expression of great joy (1-4) 2. The confirmation of Gaius (5-8) 3. The condemnation of Diotrephes (9-10) 4. The commendation of Demetrius (11-12) 4. Concluding remarks (13-14) F. A COMPARISON BETWEEN SECOND AND THIRD JOHN 1. Both letters focus on the words "love" and "truth" - 2Jn 1; 3Jn 1 2. But notice this difference: a. In 2nd John, love is enjoined, but there is a warning against tolerating those who denied the truth b. In 3rd John, love is praised, and there is commendation for supporting those who proclaimed the truth 3. Another comparison: a. 2nd John condemns the departure from the truth which is known as "heresy" b. 3rd John condemns the lack of love among Christians which results in "schism" -- (These comparisons are from Charles R. Erdman's commentary) [With this brief background to the epistle, let's take a closer look at...] II. THE THREE MEN OF THIRD JOHN A. GAIUS -- A MAN WHOM JOHN WOULD HAVE PROSPER (1-8) 1. A dear friend of John, whom he prayed would prosper physically as well as he did spiritually - 3Jn 1-2 2. John so loved and prayed for Gaius, because he was a man who... a. Had a good reputation - 3Jn 3a b. Walked in the truth - 3Jn 3b c. Gave John great joy when hearing of his faithfulness - 3Jn 4 d. Was hospitable toward all - 3Jn 5-6a e. Was encouraged to continue supporting gospel preachers - 3Jn 6b-8 B. DIOTREPHES -- A MAN WHO WOULD BE PREEMINENT (9-11) 1. A description of Diotrephes' character... a. Self-promoter -- he strove to be first - 3Jn 9a b. Insubordinate -- he would not receive the [authority of] apostles - 3Jn 9b c. Slanderous -- He spoke nonsense, and slandered - 3Jn 10a d. Vindictive -- He would not receive certain brethren, and cast out other brethren - 3Jn 10b 2. Diotrephes' character serves as a warning: "he who does evil has not seen God" - 3Jn 11b C. DEMETRIUS -- A MAN WHO WOULD BE A PATTERN (11-12) 1. John encourages Gaius to imitate what is good, for he who does good is of God - 3Jn 11 2. Demetrius appears to be offered as a pattern for Gaius, for Demetrius had a good report... - 3Jn 12 a. From all the brethren b. From the truth itself ("Demetrius lived according to the mandates of God's Word so that his life showed clear evidence of the truth" - Kistemaker) c. From John and the apostles [Thus we have these pen portraits of three men preserved in this letter, giving us some insight into the life of the early church. There were some good men (Gaius, Demetrius), but sadly there were some bad as well (Diotrephes). Not much different today, is it? That being the case, then perhaps we should remember these...] III. LESSONS FROM THIRD JOHN A. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY SHOULD BE... 1. We may have to serve in the face of opposition from other brethren 2. Will we allow this to effect our service? 3. Will we allow this to effect our salvation? B. CHRISTIANS OFTEN IMITATE OTHER CHRISTIANS... 1. John says to imitate what is good for two reasons: a. Those who do good are of God b. Those who do evil do not know God 2. What example are we setting in the local church? Who are we imitating? 3. Gaius had the example of Diotrephes and Demetrius. Who do you suppose he would seek to imitate? C. CHRISTIANS OFTEN ALLOW THE "SPIRIT OF DIOTREPHES" TO REIGN... 1. Diotrephes was successful because some of the members... a. Allowed Diotrephes to dominate b. Would not take a stand for the truth c. Would not support those who took a stand for the truth 2. Diotrephes was successful because there was a certain climate of complacency and cowardice within the local church 3. NOTE: That Diotrephes was able to get away with his domination strongly suggests to me that Gaius and Diotrephes were not members of the same congregation, but in different congregations CONCLUSION 1. We will consider some more truths that can be gleaned from this epistle in the next couple of lessons 2. But I hope that this introduction to this epistle and a brief look at "The Three Men Of Third John" will stimulate our thinking... a. What kind of example are we setting? b. If John had written a letter in which your name was mentioned, what would he have said about you? 1) Would he have prayed for your prosperity? 2) Would he have condemned your desire for prominence? 3) Or would he have set you up as a pattern for others to follow? c. If we will but "walk in the truth" like Gaius, we will have a good "testimony" from all like Demetrius! NOTE: A special thanks to Chris Reeves (CHREEVES@aol.com) and his Expandable Outlines #37 (THREE MEN OF THIRD JOHN), from which I borrowed heavily in preparing this outline.