That this third epistle was written by the author of the second, is agreed. The writer is "The Elder;" the closing verses are almost a verbatim copy of those of the second. All that has been said concerning the authorship of the second, therefore, applies to the third. The only hypothesis which is more than baseless conjecture is that which ascribes it to John the apostle, in his extreme old age, during his residence at Ephesus. Like the second this is addressed to an individual of whose personality we are uncertain, as the name Gaius, or Caius, occurs several times in the New Testament.
SUMMARY.--Gaius Commended. His Hospitality. His Treatment of Visiting Brethren. The Wicked Conduct of Diotrephes. The Good Report of Demetrius. Benediction.
1-4. The elder. See notes on II John 1:1. The well beloved Gaius. This name is mentioned in Acts 19:29; 20:4; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14. The hospitality of the Corinthian Gaius named in Rom. 16:23 agrees well with what John says of him whom he addresses.
2. Even as thy soul prospereth. He wishes Gaius all good things, but most of all prosperity of soul.
3. For I rejoiced greatly. Certain brethren had been where Gaius lived, had enjoyed his hospitality and had spoken well of him to John on their return.
4. I have no greater joy. That which gave him the greatest joy was to know that the saints walked in the truth. My children. The aged John was wont to call the saints his children. See 1 John 2:1, 12, 18, 28; 4:4; 5:21.
5-8. Thou doest a faithful work. In his kindness to brethren and strangers. In those early ages hospitality to the saints sent on evangelistic missions, and especially to persecuted saints driven from home, was a very important duty.
6. Which have borne testimony to thy love. These traveling brethren reported to the Church how Gaius had aided them. Thou shalt do well. A polite exhortation to continue such hospitality in the future. The hospitality was wont to be shown not only by opening the home to these saints, but by helping them on their journey.
7. Because. The persons named were engaged in the work of Christ (his name's sake). Taking nothing. They could not ask aid of the Gentiles. The Greek form does not imply that the Gentiles had tendered presents which had been rejected (Winer's Greek Grammar of the New Testament, page 388, note 1).
9-12. I wrote somewhat unto the church. Of which Gaius was a member. The letter referred to is not extant. But Diotrephes. This man is not elsewhere named. He was evidently an ambitious and unscrupulous church official, who rebelled against the apostle's authority (receiveth us not), and who refused to heed the letter. The letter may have been sent by those whom Gaius entertained.
10. Wherefore, if I come. It may be necessary for him to come. If he does, he will arraign Diotrephes for his deeds. Prating against us. Excusing himself by maligning John. Neither doth he himself receive the brethren. The messengers John sent. He forbiddeth. Seeks to prevent any of the church from hearing or extending hospitality to these messengers. Casting them out of the church. Seeks to have them denied Christian fellowship.
11. Follow not that which is evil. The wicked example of one like Diotrephes.
12. Demetrius hath the witness of all. Of this Demetrius we know nothing more. Perhaps he was a member of the same church as Diotrephes, whose example is contrasted.
14. The friends. An uncommon title in the New Testament, where it is almost supplanted by the dearer title of "brethren" or the holier one of "saints."