Setting

Unlike 2 John, this epistle is addressed to a brother, and the author, known as “the elder,” mentions specific people by name. Yet the theme of truth and love continues in 3 John with a similar tone and language, even though the elder goes into greater detail in describing the deeds and characters of individuals as well as the situation of the local church.

Key Verse

(1:8)

Did You Know...?

1. “I pray that you may prosper…” (2): “This is a standard greeting in many ancient letters, which quite often began with a prayer for the reader’s health, frequently including the prayer that all would go well with the person (not just material prosperity, as some translations could be read as implying).” [ref]
2. “Send them forward on their journey” refers to the supplying of necessary provisions for a person’s journey (cf. Acts 15:3; Tit 3:13). [ref]

Outline

  • Love in Truth
    (1:1)
  • Prayer and Rejoicing
    (1:2-4)
  • Commendation and Exhortation
    (1:5-8)
  • Denunciation against Diotrephes
    (1:9-10)
  • Commendation of Demetrius
    (1:11-12)
  • Farewell Greetings
    (1:13-14)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    Compare the following items in 2 and 3 John: a. Similar words and phrases that are repeated b. Tone c. Church problems

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    a. Love in truth. I rejoiced greatly. Walk in the truth. Many things to write. I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink. Speak face to face.
    b. The tone carries personal affection and joy, despite the strict warnings.
    c. In 2 John, the author warned against receiving the false preachers. In 3 John the problem that the church faced was the wicked deeds of an individual who forbade receiving the preachers of the truth.

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  • 2.

    Record what you know about the three characters in this epistle: a. Gaius b. Diotrephes c. Demetrius

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    a. He is dearly loved by the author. His soul prospers. He is faithful in his work of hospitality. He received the workers of God, even though he did not know them personally.
    b. He loves to have the preeminence among the workers. He does not receive the workers of God and speaks malicious words against them. He forbids believers who wish to receive the preachers and puts them out of the church.
    c. He has good reputation. Everyone in the church, including the workers of God, and the truth itself testify to his good character.

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Segment Analysis

  • 1:2-4

    1.

    What is the “prosperity of the soul”?

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    From the way it is juxtaposed against good health, the prosperity of the soul refers to spiritual health. This broad term may include many aspects of spiritual well being, such as spiritual strength and maturity, richness in good deeds, etc. (cf. Eph 3:14-19; Col 1:9-10).

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  • 2.

    Why is it the elder’s greatest joy to hear that his children walk in the truth?

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    It is the goal of all workers of God to guide the believers in the truth. When believers walk in the truth, their work has come to fruition (cf. Phil 2:14-18; 1Thess 2:19,20; Heb 13:17).

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  • 1:5-8

    3a.

    What does this paragraph teach about hospitality?

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    It should be done faithfully. We must show hospitality to both the brethren and “strangers” (see next question). We should do it in a manner worthy of God.

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  • 3b.

    What is the significance of the phrase “in a manner worth of God”?

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    Showing hospitality in a manner worthy of God could mean either doing so in a manner that would please God or doing so as if the messenger is from God (cf. Gal 4:14). At any rate, the phrase emphasizes the importance and necessity of showing sincere hospitality to God’s workers.

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  • 4a.

    Why is it admirable that Gaius received brothers who were strangers to him?

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    We tend to love those whom we are acquainted with or those who are close to us. But Gaius put the ministry above his own interests and preferences.

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  • 4b.

    Who are the strangers in your personal or church life? How should you receive them?

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  • 5.

    Why does the author stress that these witnesses were going forth “for His name’s sake”?

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    By receiving these workers of God, we receive Christ, and we will certainly receive God’s reward (Mt 10:40-42). We also participate in the ministry through our hospitality.

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  • 6.

    Why was receiving these missionaries so important to the church at that time, considering the situation of the church?

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    The workers of God at that time often depended on believers’ provisions and opening their homes up for lodging (7; cf. 2Cor 11:8,9; Phil 4:18). At a time when there were also travelling false teachers (2Jn 10), it became even more important to receive the preachers of the truth in order to support God’s ministry.

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  • 7.

    In what ways can you receive and support the workers of God today and become their fellow workers?

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  • 1:9-10

    8a.

    What does this passage say about Diotrephes’ thoughts, words, and deeds?

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  • 8b.

    Could his words and actions have stemmed from his thoughts? If so, how?

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    Perhaps Diotrephes’ intention to establish his authority in the church led him to think that missionaries sent by the elder would be a threat to his position (cf. Gal 4:17).

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  • 1:11-12

    9.

    What does it mean that Demetrius has a good testimony from the truth itself? Do you have a good testimony from the truth, not just from other people?

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    When we walk in the truth by living according to God’s commands, our conduct becomes our testimony (1Jn 2:3-6; Mt 7:15-23).

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  • 10a.

    Why do people tend to imitate evil?

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    They are afraid to be oppressed by evil (cf. 10). Evildoers often prosper for the time being, while the righteous often suffer.

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  • 10b.

    What reason does the author give for imitating good instead of evil?

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    Goodness comes from God and pleases God.

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  • 11.

    Do you sometimes become discouraged in the church because of the wicked deeds of some individuals? How does this passage encourage you?

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    Discouragement is often a sign of defeat, showing that we have succumbed to evil. While evil may sometimes exist in the community of believers, we should look at the good examples and imitate them (11,12). In doing so, we help strengthen truth and godly love.

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  • 1:13-14

    12a.

    What is the meaning and significance of greeting the friends “by name”? (cf. Jn 10:3). How is it related to the context of this epistle?

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    Greeting by name implies personal knowledge and intimate affection. This is the tone and attitude of the author himself.

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  • 12b.

    Do you greet your brothers and sister “by name”? How can you enhance your relationship with other believers?

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