Introduction to the Third Epistle of John

“Introduction to the Third Epistle of John,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Why study this book?

In this brief epistle, John praised Gaius, a Church member who was loyal during a time of rebellion against Church leaders. John’s teachings can help students better understand the apostasy that occurred in the New Testament Church and can inspire them to remain faithful to Church leaders despite opposition.

Who wrote this book?

The author identified himself as “the elder” (3 John 1:1) and is traditionally understood to be the Apostle John.

When and where was it written?

It is unknown exactly when and where 3 John was written.

If the tradition of John’s long residence in Ephesus is correct, he could have written this epistle from there between A.D. 70 and 100.

To whom was it written and why?

The Third Epistle of John was written to Gaius, a faithful member of the Church whom John praised for showing unselfish devotion to the cause of Christ by providing accommodations for God’s traveling servants (see 3 John 1:5–8).

John also warned Gaius about someone named Diotrephes, who may have held a local leadership position in the Church. Diotrephes openly opposed John and other Church officials and even prevented local Church members who wished to receive them from attending Church meetings (see 3 John 1:9–10). John encouraged Gaius to continue in goodness and said he expected to visit Gaius soon (see 3 John 1:11–14).

What are some distinctive features of this book?

In 3 John we see John’s concern about apostate influences in the Church. We also see John’s love for others and the joy he felt for those who were choosing a life of obedience (see 3 John 1:4).

Outline

3 John 1 John praises Gaius for his faithfulness and warns against a leader who opposed John and other Church leaders.