jump to navigation

Sprinting Through the Book of Third John March 25, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,

I recently read through the Third Epistle of John with the aid of a commentary by Matthew Henry. My aim in this endeavor was to comprehend this epistle as a whole and compare it with 1 and 2 John.

On a related note, “sprinting” appears in the title of this post as this epistle consists of a single section in the NIV translation; thus, this journey will be more of a sprint than a leisurely stroll.

Here are my thoughts on 3 John.

Summary: John begins by introducing himself as one who is old in holy service; he then kindly greets Gaius, whom he sincerely loves. He wishes that Gaius would have a healthy body, as his soul is well on its way to the kingdom of glory. Now he rejoices in that several itinerant missionaries have testified to the sincerity of Gaius’ religion and devotion to God; he is glad to hear of his grace and goodness.

John then states that Gaius has shown that these itinerant missionaries are welcome to him, even though they came from far away. They have received good from him; thus, they have made a good report concerning him. He should continue to look after them and accompany them for part of their way, as they have gone out to preach the Gospel message to those who do not value it. Indeed, all believers must countenance those who preach the Gospel message.

Now John had recommended these itinerant missionaries to the church of which Gaius was a member, yet Diotrephes – who is full of pride and ambition – did not admit his letter. Thus, he will come to take cognizance of this affair in that church, as Diotrephes has shown contempt for him. In fact, Diotrephes has thrown out several members of that church who want to admit John’s letter.

John advises Gaius not to copy the pernicious evil of Diotrephes; instead, he must seek the good of others. Indeed, evil-workers are not aware of God’s holy nature and will; on the other hand, those who seek the good of others are born of God. For example, Demetrius has obtained universal applause, as his conduct has recommended him before God. John and his friends also testify to the fact that he seeks the good of others, and Gaius and his friends know Demetrius.

John notes that there are some things that he wants to tell him in person. He concludes by wishing that Gaius would be good and happy; his friends show their friendship to Gaius, and he asks Gaius to greet his believing friends.

Thoughts: John writes this letter to a believer named Gaius; Henry offers some interesting thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 9:

I wrote to the church (verse 9) recommending such and such brothers, but Diotrephes…will have nothing to do with us. That is, “He does not admit our letter and what we say in it.” This seems to be the church of which Gaius was a member.

In verse 10, it is noted that Diotrephes actually excommunicated those members of his congregation who wanted to assist the above-mentioned itinerant missionaries. If Henry’s inference is correct, then perhaps Diotrephes also excommunicated Gaius for seeking the good of these missionaries. In that case, John’s letter would have been timely; perhaps Gaius was thrown into a state of confusion by his excommunication, and he was doubting the wisdom of his actions. John’s letter, then, would have shown him that his actions were consistent with his union with God; that would have encouraged him to continue seeking the good of others.

In verses 9 and 10, John highlights the evil actions of Diotrephes regarding the above-mentioned itinerant missionaries; Henry offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary:

Second, we see his temper and spirit as full of pride and ambition, for he loves to be first. This ferment is an ill, unbecoming character of Christ’s ministers – to love to be first, to seek presidency and precedency in the church of God. Third, we see his contempt of the apostle’s authority, letter and friends…

One must wonder how Diotrephes responded to this letter, especially if John – as noted in verse 10 – was able to visit his church. Did Diotrephes read this letter and realize the error of his ways? Did John confront Diotrephes and excommunicate him from his congregation? Did Diotrephes have many supporters in his congregation, and if so, did they band together to prevent John from punishing him? Hopefully the book of 3 John does not tell the complete story of Diotrephes, and he eventually repented of his sins.

This letter touches on some of the themes that are addressed in 1 and 2 John, including the importance of seeking the good of others and how that illustrates one’s unity – or lack thereof – with God. In some sense, this letter is more narrow in its scope than 1 and 2 John, as it focuses on several itinerant missionaries and presents several positive and negative examples of their reception by different believers. One consequence of that discussion is that John highlights the importance of evangelism, which, in some sense, is the obverse of the problem regarding false teachers that John addressed in 1 and 2 John. Perhaps some day I will have the opportunity to stroll through the Gospel of John and compare it with these three letters…



No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: