Dealing with Truth Devotees – 3 John

This commentary is offered with the working presumption that the author of 1, 2, & 3 John is the apostle John who also penned the gospel according to John and the Revelation. Further, while some have sought to reconstruct the occasion for John writing this postcard of an epistle, the frank reality is that there is precious little to truly build a definitive case.

Slightly different from 2 John which dealt with those who oppose the truth, in 3 John the apostle is going to give us the answer to what to do with those who love truth. This epistle is much more pointed as John names the person opposing the truth (Diotrephes) and much more personal as he names members of the church who support the truth (Gaius & Demetrius). 3 John provides us a glimpse of early church practice & faithful brethren. The take away is that Christian is to be an encourager of those devoted to truth not an inhibitor.

Outline of 3 John:

I.             The Perseverance of Gaius the Exhorter (v.1-8, 13-15)

A.     John’s Prayer for Gaius (v.1-2)

B.     John’s Praise of Gauis (v.3-8)

C.     John’s Plan Concerning Gaius (v.13-15)

II.             The Pride of Diotrephes the Egotist (9-11)

A.     The Wickedness of Diotrephes (v.9-10)

B.     The Warning about Diotrephes (v.11)

III.             The Profession concerning Demetrius the Example (v.12)

A.     His Associates’ Testimony (v.12a)

B.     The Apostle’s Testimony (v.12b)

Farewell (v.13-15)

3 John (ESV)

1The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

The Elder: John. Tradition tells us that he was a bishop (i.e. overseer) of the church in Ephesus. Since he is “the elder” this could suggest that he is the last survivor of the Twelve. However, could simply mean older man.

To the beloved Gaius: called “beloved” or “dear friend” (NET, NIV) in v.2, 5, 11. All that we know about this Gaius to whom John wrote is what is contained in this epistle.

Whom I love in truth: No definite article before “truth.” “[John’s] love is governed by this truth even as his love is that of true comprehension and corresponding purpose” (Lenski).  John loves this brother affirming it repeatedly since Diotrephes didn’t.

2Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

Beloved: Common title of address for those whom John loves (v. 5, 11; 1 John 2.7)

I pray…good health: John’s constant prayer (pres. Tense) for Gaius is that 1) lit. his journey would go well (meta. Success or prosper), even 2) his health would be good (or he would be safe and sound). This is similar language to contemporary letters of general well wishing in all things and/or health.

As it goes well with your soul: John knows that Gaius is spiritually healthy.

3For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.

For: Gk. gar, here is how John knows that Gaius is in spiritual vitality…

I rejoiced…brothers came: a recent visit from some traveling missionaries from Gaius was an occasion for celebration on John’s behalf.

Testified to your truth: lit. witnessed (Gk marturounton) of you in the truth or of your truth. The report about Gaius is an excellent one; he is a spiritual pillar. Coupled with his love (v.6) he is a balanced Christian with the proper mix of truth & love.

As indeed…[the] truth: He has been faithful to the apostolic doctrine of Christ, refusing Gnostic intrusion and heresy.

4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

I have no greater joy: nothing fills John with such cause for rejoicing

Than to hear that my children: “The elder” refers to all of those Christians younger than him as his “children.” This is the fatherly affection John has for his brethren.

Walking in [the] truth: the definite article is found in some mss (eg. Alexandrinus) but is absent is others (eg. Sinaiticus). Given the construction in v.3 as well as 2 John 4, it seems that John did not include a definite article when he wrote this. Members holding fast to the apostolic teaching of Christ in spite of heretical attacks fills John with much joy

5Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are,

Beloved: affectionate term of endearment John regularly uses for his recipient.

It is a faithful…these brothers: “All his conduct towards the brethren, even when they were not previously known to him, was such as became a faithful Christian” (Pulpit Commentary). In Gaius, philadephia and philoxenia are combined; he loves the brethren and strangers. 

Strangers as they are: “he treated brethren who were entire strangers to him, not as strangers, but as brethren” (Pulpit Commentary). He did not pick and choose whom to show hospitality and neglect the rest; every traveling missionary was sure to be received by Gaius.

6who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.

Who testified…before the church: those who had experienced the hospitality of Gaius came back and reported to the assembly of saints about what this Christian man had done on their behalf. (cf. Matt 25.38, 40)

You will do well…worthy of God: It is a faithful & beautiful thing to send forth missionaries with all they would need for the journey. They should be fully supported. Since they are representatives of God, treat them as such (cf. John 13.20). Send them out as if you were sending out Jesus as a missionary.

7For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.

For they have…of the Name: Gk. gar, John explains that since these missionaries went out on their mission on behalf of the one & only Name in John’s mind—Jesus!

Accepting nothing from the Gentiles: these missionaries support was not solicited (as a policy) from non-Christians. If offered, they might accept, but not solicited.

8Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

Therefore…like these: this is the proper deduction. We owe it to them (indebtedness is implied) to help & show hospitality to these missionaries.

That we…[for] the truth: by supporting these missionaries, we work together with them with the Truth (cf. 1 Cor 3.9).

9I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.

I have written something to the church: 2 John or a lost epistle?

But Diotrephes: name means “nourished by Zeus.” Probably a church leader.

Who likes to put himself first: present participle (Gk. philoproteuon); lit. the one loving first [place]. He is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus (Mk 10.43-44). “Not doctrinal heresy but personal ambition was the cause of the trouble” (Morris 229). If Diotrephes is first, where does that put Christ (Col 1.18)?

Does not acknowledge our authority: Lit. does not welcome/obey us. Diotrephes does not welcome, accept, or obey apostolic authority. Is he trying to take their place? If nothing else, he is not in compliance with divine injunction.

10So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

So if I come: John desires to come (v.14) and visit these brethren and also…

I will bring up what he is doing: John will confront Diotrephes’ unholy desires and the challenges to John’s apostleship, perhaps reminding him but certainly remind the church of his apostolic authority. “The root of the problem is sin” (Morris 230).

Talking wicked nonsense against us: “malicious gossip” (NIV) & “wicked words” are the product of this perverted presbyter.  The se were senseless & wicked words.

And not content…the brothers: those brothers who are with John are unwelcome

And also…the church: Diotrephes says who’s in and out and those who disagree with him, wanting to welcome (support) their brothers are thrown out

11Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

Beloved: favorite affectionate address of John for those to whom he writes, here Gaius.

Do not imitate evil, but imitate good: Gk. mimou, comes mimic. Follow after that which is spiritually & morally beneficial, not what is deficient. Demetrius is an example of the good to imitate; Diotrephes is a bad example to follow. Don’t follow Diotrephes.

Whoever does good is from God: present participle. The one whose habitual practice is to do good is from God (cf. 1 John 3.9-10). Not mere kind acts every so often.

Whoever does evil has not seen God: present participle. The one whose habitual practice is toward what is displeasing & disobedient to God hasn’t experienced God.

12Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Demetrius…everyone: all we know of this man is what is found in this single verse. Nevertheless, he is a member who does what is spiritually & morally beneficial. Probably unknown to Gaius, therefore the three-fold testimony (everyone, truth, us) to let him know that this leader/letter bearer is on the level (not a Diotrephes). He has received in the past and continues to receive even now a good testimony (perf. Tense); remains valid

And from the truth itself: definite article before “truth.” The Word is an objective witness of Demetrius for his life conforms to the Truth, which is Christ.

We also add our testimony: the apostolic college commends Demetrius. That is, John speaking on behalf of those apostles who have already gone to be with the Lord.

And you know…is true: perfect tense, have come to know and continue to know this

13I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink.

I have much…pen and ink: this short volume on a single sheet will suffice for now

14I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

I hope…face to face: John hopes to set the record straight in person (v.10).

15Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

Peace be to you: a Hebrew greeting with new meaning in light of Christ’s resurrection. Peace is much needed with all the strife brought by Diotrephes.

The friends greet you: unique designation for Christians harkening to Jesus – Jn 15.13

Greet the friends, each by name: Sheep should know one another by name.

Let us imitate the example set by these men of truth like Gaius and Demetrius and walk in truth, willing to support those who walk in truth as well.

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Dealing with Truth Decay – 2 John

While there are several sensational theories about the authorship of the epistles of John, this commentary is offered with the working presumption that the author of 1, 2, & 3 John is the apostle John who also penned the gospel according to John and the Revelation. Further, while some have sought to reconstruct the occasion for John writing this postcard of an epistle, the frank reality is that there is precious little to truly build a definitive case.

The church of Christ is the pillar & foundation of truth. What does it mean for the church to be pillar & foundation of truth? The apostle John in 2 John explains that as the pillar & foundation of truth, the church promotes, practices, and protects truth. In the opening verses, John Promotes Truth as having been received by and remaining with the church of Christ. The remainder of the epistle is devoted to the practice of Truth among the church and the protection of Truth from the corrupt.

Outline of 2 John:

Greetings, 1-3

I.       The Church is to Practice Truth (v.4-6)

A.     John sees those that walk in truth (v.4)

B.     John seeks these to walk in love (v.5-6)

II.    The Church is to Protect Truth (v.7-11)

A.     John tells Christians in danger to beware (v.7-8)

B.     John teaches Christians the danger of befriending (v.9-11)

Farewell, 12-13

2 John (ESV)

1The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,

The Elder: John. Either Tradition tells us that he was a bishop (i.e. overseer) of the church in Ephesus. Since he is “the elder” this could suggest that he is the last survivor of the Twelve. However, could simply mean older man.

The elect lady: person or personification; individual or institution? lady is Gk. kuria, which is the feminine form of Lord (kurios). Here is the Bride of Christ, reigning with Him in the heavenly realms. (note v.13, an elect sister’s children = sister congregation of the Lord’s church). Children = members

Whom I love in truth: John loves the church. “Christian love rests in Christian truth”

Not only I…all who know the truth: definite article before “truth” seems to indicate that this is the Truth, i.e. Jesus Christ. Knowledge of the Truth sets one free (John 8.32). The possessors of knowledge (gnosis) v. those who know false knowledge.

2because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Because of the truth: again definite article before “truth” indicates this is the Truth, i.e. Jesus Christ. Through the Truth John loves the brethren and knows truth.

That abides in us: present active part, truth is abiding in us (i.e. the church). Some scholars identify the indwelling Holy Spirit here.

And will be with us forever: Truth is never going away. It is permanent, eternal. That is, the Word is eternal

3Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

Grace, mercy, and peace…: Grace covers the sins of men; mercy relieves men of their miseries; peace follows both. Similar greeting to Paul (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; et al) with the insertion of mercy. These “will be with us” (fut. Mid). As truth remains and is never going away, so too grace, mercy, and peace. John is acting as prophet (v.2 also).

From God [the] Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son: the Father and the Son are the single source of these three gifts. John affirms what he has already established about the Son in his gospel, namely He is begotten of God (1.14; 3.16). The miraculous conception of Jesus is in view which the Gnostic would have denied.

In truth and love: to receive these virtues, one must remain in the God’s truth and love God’s people.

4I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

I rejoiced greatly: a recent occasion was cause for happiness and well-being for John

To find [some] of your children: certain members of the church possibly visited John. Or through missionary work he came to find and still finds (perf. Tense).

Walking in [the] truth:  “In the specific context of 2 John the phrase [“walking in truth’] refers to true Christians who are holding fast to an apostolic Christology in the face of the secessionist opponents’ challenge to orthodoxy.” (NET)

Just as we were commanded by the Father: i.e. through the Son (1 Jn 2.6).

5And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.

And now I ask you, dear lady: John has a request of the church to which he writes.

Not as though…from the beginning: this is not new revelation but reminder of what they know. Cf. Jn 13.34-35; 15.12—when Jesus gave it, it was new. Now, approx. 60 yrs later, it is that which is “from the beginning” of the Christian age.

That we love one another: Present active tense. Here is the request John has for the Lord’s church to whom he writes. Love is explained next.

6And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments: living in active obedience to God’s commandments is love (cf. John 14.15, 21, 23, 24; 15.10).

This is the commandment: i.e. love one another with the love of Christ. This is a love not merely in word or talk, but in deed and truth (1 John 3.18).

Just as you have heard from the beginning: they’ve heard once for all (aorist tense) since the first publication of the gospel.

So that you should walk in it: so that it is your present, habitual, continual direction. A walk is a career, lifestyle. Implies direction, progression, separation.

7For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

For: hoti, John begins to explain why walking in love & truth is so vital.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world: deceivers are equated with antichrist at the end of the verse. This is repetition of 1 John 2.18, 19. They left wandered away from the church, roving about as imposters. Their message?

Those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in [the] flesh: Not some shadowy political figure rising up out of a reborn European Union; this is one who assaults the nature of Christ by denying He came in flesh. They do not speak the same word concerning Christ as the apostolic college. When Christ came from heaven to earth, He came (lit.) in flesh. John affirms that Jesus retains His humanity (“coming” present part.), which Docetics would deny. These deceivers deny the incarnation. If Christ did not come in the flesh, He could not have died for sin. If He did not die for sin, there could be no blood atonement. Without blood, there is no forgiveness.

Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist: John uses the strongest language possible to classify these false teachers. They are opposed to Christ.

8Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Watch yourselves: present imperative. Beware! Look out! “When error abounds in the world, our first duty is not to attack it and make war upon it; it is to look to the citadel of our own souls, and see that all is well guarded there.” (Barnes)

So that you may not lose what we have worked for: some debate concerning mss but it seems this is correct reading. Beware of allowing our work in you to be undone.

But may win a full reward: alla is strong contrast. Rather than a grievous loss, there is a full day’s wage (Gk misthon, cf. Mt 20.8). This reward is God Himself (see v.9). Hence, there can be no partial reward; either it is enjoyed in full or lost entirely.

9Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Everyone…teaching of Christ: to “go one ahead” is to go beyond established boundaries of teaching and doctrine. The implication is failure to obey. Specifically, the teaching concerning the humanity of Christ, which Docetics and Dualists would deny in their attempts to progress beyond simple facts and simple moral teaching of the gospel.

Does not have God: present active indicative with negative. “They had advanced so far that they had even left God behind” (Morris). One cannot reject Christ and retain God.

Whoever…and the Son: Remaining in the apostolic teaching keeps one in God & Christ. Cf. 1 John 2.22-23, to acknowledge the Son is to possess the Father (and Son).

10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,

If anyone…this teaching: John is not presenting a hypothetical; indicative mood points to this being a fact—people are coming and bringing this doctrine. When they do…

Do not receive him into [your] house: present imperative (pl.). Understand: 1) John refers to teachers of false doctrine, not merely believers; 2) John refers to “official” visit, not merely private hospitality; 3) John seems to indicate that this is in regards to the church (lit. in house), not merely in-home policy; 4) John refers to teachers of false doctrine of the incarnation, not merely those who disagree with our pet traditions.

Or give him any greeting: seems to indicate an “official” welcome into services.

11for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

For whoever…works: Here is how serious John is about this. This is tantamount to fellowship with the works of darkness. No encouragement is to be given to the propagators and promoters of doctrine which will separate people from God and send them to eternal ruin!

12Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

Though…face to face: John has written what was of urgent importance to prevent fatalities in the body. Seems John has written with his own hand (cf. 3 John 13).

So that our joy may be complete: “Complete joy is the result of fellowship.”

13The children of your elect sister greet you.

The children…greet you: members of another congregation wish these Christians well.

Truth decay can still happen in the Church today. As the body of Christ, the chosen lady, let us practice and protect the eternal truth spoken to us by God through his Word.

Fellowship with God is rooted in the true knowledge of God and Satan

Here are several purposes for John’s writing (1 John 2.12-14).

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 

Little children – term of endearment. Some commentators believe these are recent converts. Possibly; maybe. Some new Christians struggling with forgiveness? Maybe. Even some of the older members have trouble with it. Others say this is just aged John’s way of addressing these brothers/sisters in Christ en total.

Your sins are forgiven you – Perf. Pass. Ind. These Christians were forgiven of their sins (past) and continue to enjoy a state for forgiveness in the present; that is the abiding effect of forgiveness. This was something God did (passive) and that in Christ as propitiation and by His blood (1.7). And it is real! “You have been, and consequently stand forgiven of your past, or alien sins” – Guy N. Woods, 1st John commentary, pg.235.

For his name’s sake – or “through His name.” Indeed, Acts 4.12. Also, God the Father forgives us on account of Christ and his advocacy on our behalf.

13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.

Fathers – those seasoned veterans of the faith.

You know him who is from the beginning – again, know is Perf. Act. Ind. Thus, you came to know/knew (in the past) and continue to know (present) “Him who is from the beginning.”

Him who is from the beginning – lit. “the one from (the) beginning” and the context would point us toward Christ (v.12). They know and continue to know Christ.

Young men – Those who are mature in the faith and possess great zeal for the Lord and church.

You have overcome the evil one – Again, Per. Act. Ind. They have overcome and continue to overcome the evil one. Not that the war is over, but that Christians wage war against a defeated enemy.

The evil one – Satan

Children – different word from above and it has its subtle nuance of difference. However, just exactly the audience intended with this word is debated by scholars. It would appear that John has the whole church in mind when he uses it. Brother Guy N. Woods explains the difference between the terms (Teknia v. paidia) – Teknia are relatively new Christians who are still in the “childhood” stage of faith in Christ. Paidia are those brand new baby Christians.

You know the Father – yet another perf. Act. Ind. Verb. They came to know (knew) and continue to know him (in context, via obedience to the commandments).

14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

I write – epistolary aorist, referring to this epistle, not some other correspondence.

Fathers – same as previous verse, those saints more mature than others with a long and rich experience. John writes the exact same to the Fathers twice. Why?

Young men – same as previous verse.

Strong – if physical, then they are able bodied and in good health. But probably spiritual strength, endowed to them by God (truly both are from God).

Word of God abides in you – God revelation of Himself is possessed in their hearts and minds.

You have overcome the evil one – same as above (v.13).

In interpreting this section of Scripture, Guy N. Woods offers: Children means recent converts; Young men means those who have reached maturity and possess great spiritual strength in the Lord; Father means those who have been in Christ the longest and attained greatest spiritual growth.

The Pulpit Commentary breaks it down as follows:

“I write this epistle”: To all of you – you have been forgiven; To the old among you – you have knowledge of the Word; To the young among you – you have conquered the evil one.

“I wrote my Gospel”: To all of you (new Christians) – you have knowledge of the Father; To the old among you – you have knowledge of the Word; To the young among you – you have strength, have God’s revelation in your hearts, have conquered evil one.

Fellowship with God is Rooted in the Apostolic Witness

1 John 1.1-4

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—

1.1-2: What is John talking about here? Jesus? Jesus was “in the beginning” (John 1.1) but what was from the beginning? It is something that existed from the Garden of Eden. Life (substantiated by the use of a neuter pronoun, rather than a masculine). Those who have fellowship with God have life.  And not just any life – eternal life, life with the Father. “What the apostle stresses in his proclamation of the gospel is the historical manifestation of the eternal” (Stott, 63).

Adam and Eve had fellowship with God until they ate of the fruit and died spiritually, ending fellowship with God. That which was with God from the beginning has reappeared in Jesus Christ. “We” (that is the apostolic college) heard it, saw it, beheld (contemplated, to look at something with continuity and attention as if the thing observed in unusual) it, and touched it (John 20.28) in a man who had absolute and perfect fellowship with God (“made manifest”). He was no mere man and yet he really was man!

This quickly puts away many of the “-isms” making them “wasms.” They touched a real human body, saw one…this is Jesus. With one round house kick/punch, John KOs the false teachers.

3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1.3: Here is the message of the apostles: eternal life found in the man Jesus Christ. They preach this so that men might have fellowship with them. Ultimately, fellowship (in the Christian sense) among men necessitates fellowship with God first. If there is no fellowship with God, there can be no fellowship among men. If God is not first our Father and we begotten of Him, how can we be brethren?

Fellowship: sharing, partnership, and expresses a two-sided relationship with a close bond. This can be good or bad (see Prov 28.24 for ex. Of bad). In the OT, never do you find this word, either in Hebrew or Greek, a sense in which man has fellowship with God (something very common in Greek theology). The Israelite had a real of sense of distance from God. This is even communicated them in the place of worship, the temple. Only the HP is allowed in to the Holy of Holies once a year.

But under the New Covenant, things change. Because of Christ, now John triumphantly says, “indeed our (he and his recipients) fellowship is with the Father.” As Christians, we share a common bond, a common undertaking, a common life that is grounded in the person and nature of Christ (cf. Psa 119.63), yes, but the over-above that is our new relationship with the Father. There is a common bond, undertaking, life (eternal) with our God and with Jesus Christ, His Son. Herein is the spirit of NT Christianity.


4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

1.4: John’s purpose – to make the joy of your salvation, fellowship complete (perfect in every regard).