3 John

These are all of the chapters of the book of 3 John. Clicking on a chapter will show you the text of that chapter of 3 John in the Bible (New International Version).

Bible open to 3 John, summary of 3 John

Who Wrote the Book of 3 John?

Third John is a letter written by John the Apostle, addressed to ‘Gaius’. The author of Third John never identifies himself specifically as ‘John’, but only refers to himself as ‘the elder’. In spite of this, the clear similarities to John’s other writings matched with strong tradition from early church fathers support this attribution: the second-century writers Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria entertained no other view. An apostle using the term ‘elder’ for themselves was also not unprecedented, as Peter did that very thing in his first epistle (1 Peter 5:1). Based on the evidence, we can state with certainty that the author of this letter is John the Apostle.

Context and Background of 3 John

At 219 words, Third John is the shortest book in the Bible. As mentioned previously, this short but meaningful letter is addressed to Gaius. There are three other men named Gaius in the New Testament: Paul’s traveling companion (Acts 19:29), Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), and Paul’s host in Corinth (Romans 16:23, I Cor. 1:14). Gaius was a common name at this time, and while this Gaius may be any of these, it is most likely he is a different person altogether. 

Main Theme and Purpose of 3 John

The main theme of Third John is to encourage fellowship and hospitality among believers. John views this behavior as a distinct result of our Christian faith - to welcome and show extraordinary hospitality to people we don’t even know. Third John also gives us a picture of two men, Gaius and Diotrephes, and gives us a strong contrast between them. John says of Gaius, to whom the letter is addressed, that he is “faithful” in what he is doing for the church, while Diotrephes is described as malicious, unjust, and unwelcoming. It can be said that John wrote this letter to give Gaius commendation, and Diotrephes condemnation. A third man mentioned is Demetrius, who is only mentioned in verse 12, but whom John describes as “well spoken of by everyone”. Like Gaius, Demetrius must have also been living out his faith in a way that caught the attention of others.

What Can We Learn from 3 John Today?

Parents Finding Joy in Children
According to Spurgeon, “John speaks of himself as though he were a father, and, therefore, we concede to parents the right to use the language of the text. Sure am I that many of you here present, both mothers and fathers, can truly say, ‘We have no greater joy than to hear that our children walk in truth.’” Although John is not the actual parent of Gaius, Demetrius, or the others, there is a clear application to parents. As parents, we should find joy when our children are walking in the truth of God’s word, which in turn requires us to set that example, and consistently pour God’s truth into them.

Living Out Truth and Love
This letter is written at a troubling time for the church. While Gaius is living out the Gospel, and “walking in truth”, it is clear that his counterpart Diotrephes is not. John encourages Gaius to continue in his hospitality to other believers, and those whom John sent to them. John makes clear the connection between truth and love: it is not enough to know truth, but one must live it out in a loving way as well. 

Continue to Do Good
In Galatians 6:9, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” John echoes that sentiment here. He expresses joy in the good deeds of Gaius and encourages him to continue doing good for those who have gone out “for the sake of the Name” (v. 7). 

The Joy of Fellowship
Third John concludes with a similar declaration we also see in Second John, a statement of having many things to say, but preferring to share these things “face to face” instead of writing them “with paper and ink”. John oversees a large and effective ministry at this point, as he continues sending out others to encourage and teach throughout the churches. Yet this sentimental closing reminds us that even the Apostle had a longing to visit those he cared for face-to-face, and cherished moments spent with other believers.

In a world driven by technology, mobile phones, social media, and instant communication, we often miss out on the joy of having a face-to-face conversation.

Our Favorite Verses from 3 John

  • 3 John 1:4, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
  • 3 John 1:8, "We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth."
  • 3 John 1:11, "Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God."

Sources

  • Insight.org. (2019). Book of Second John Overview - Insight for Living Ministries.
  • OverviewBible. (2019). The 5 Shortest Books of the Bible, in Order.
  • The New Open Bible. (1990). Nashville: T. Nelson, p.1472.

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Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor and in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on TwitterInstagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.