3 John; an Introduction

Thursday, 2 July 2020

The Book of 3 John; an Introduction.

The book of 3 John is the 64th book of the Bible, and it is comprised of 1 chapter of 14 verses. A verse-per-day evaluation of 3 John will take two weeks to complete.

The authenticity was disputed by some early church figures, such as Origen and Eusebius, but it was declared authentic by others, such as Cyril of Jerusalem and Jerome. The council of Nicaea denied its authenticity. However, the council of Hippo, and both councils of Carthage declared it as authentic.

John is the Apostle John. He is held to be the author of the Gospel of John; 1, 2, and 3 John; and the book of Revelation. He is highlighted in the gospels as being one of an inner circle who most closely associated with Jesus. This also included Peter and John’s brother, James. In the gospel which bears his name, he refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (for example, see John 13:23).

Like the books of 1 & 2 John, no writer is specifically identified as being the author of 3 John. Rather, (like 2 John) only the title, “The Elder,” is given in the first verse. However, similarities in writing style, as well as the brevity of the letter, give a strong hint that he is, in fact, the same author of both epistles.

The letter is addressed to “the beloved Gaius.” John will say of him, “whom I love in the truth.” John will mention “truth” six times, and that his testimony is “true” one time as well. Like his other letters, the subject of the truth of the Person and work of Jesus Christ is at the forefront of his thoughts.

Despite being “the Apostle of Love,” John has no time for heretics or self-promoters, and clearly identifies the consequences of such views, directly naming one miscreant within the congregation.

The dating of the letter is reasonably assumed to be around the same time as for that of 2 John – from the mid-80s to the mid-90s.

The main theme of 3 John is “Emphasizing the demonstration of truth or error in the believer’s life.” Thus, the main purpose of the epistle is “To commend, encourage, and instruct his good friend Gaius.” A secondary, contrasting, theme concerns the severe error of a person in the church named Diotrephes who should not be emulated.

Of special note concerning 3 John is that it is the only book of the New Testament to not directly state the name “Jesus.” The word “God” is used three times, and the church is mentioned explicitly (three times) and implicitly throughout the epistle. The only certain reference to Jesus is found in verse -7 where it refers to “the Name.”

It is thus a clue that the letter has been sent in a time of persecution. It may then provide an explanation for the term, “the elect lady,” in 2 John which seems likely to be referring to the church. John was careful to state things in a way that would protect the readers if the letter was acquired by someone who was hostile to the church and to the name of Jesus Christ.

The main presentation of Christ in the epistle is “Jesus Christ, the Way.”

A short review of the book includes the following –

Author – The Apostle John.
Date – Mid 80s to mid 90s.
Theme – Emphasizes the demonstration of truth or error in the believer’s life.
Purpose – To commend, encourage, and instruct his good friend Gaius.
Presentation of Christ – The Way.

A limited outline of the book would be –

The Book of 3 John – Walking in the Truth

Book Superstructure  

  • Truth – the walk of truth.

Book Structure           

  • Personal letter.

Book Outline

  • Walking in the truth; rejecting what is evil.

Life application: We hope that you will spend the next 14 days of your life learning the book of 3 John, one verse at a time. From there, we hope you will apply its truths to your life, molding yourself more each day into being a faithful and wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.

Lord God, how wonderful it is to see Your hand on display throughout the books of the Bible. In each, we can learn more about You, about Your desire for our right living, and how we can be pleasing to You by living in accord with that. And so, help us to have wisdom and discernment, and to pursue You and Your will all the days of our lives. Amen.







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