3 John


To Gaius

Salutation, commendation and exhortation


A church leader named Diotrephes has taken control of one of John's link / branch churches and has refused to receive delegates sent by John to the church. He has also driven out any members who have challenged him over this action. There is little point in John writing to Diotrephes, as there is no guarantee that his letter would be acted on, so he writes to Gaius, a trusted friend and member of the church. John thanks Gaius for welcoming the delegates and seeks to expose Diotrephes' bullying and slander directed at John. John commends Demetrius to Gaius - possibly the bearer of the letter.


i] Background: The name Gaius is mentioned a number of times in the NT, but it is unlikely that any of those mention is the Gaius referred to here, cf., Rom.16:23, 1Cor.1:14, Acts 19:29, 20:4. The Gaius referred to in this letter resides in Asia. In later tradition it was held that John appointed him to be bishop of Pergamon, a town situated on the west coast of Asia Minor. Schnackenburg describes him as "a friendly member of the laity."

Some commentators suggest a link between 2 and 3 John (also 1 John, so Johnson, The Writings of the NT, 1999). The suggestion is that Demetrius carries both letters, 2 John for the Elect Lady Church, and 3 John for Gaius, cf., v9. 3 John serves to warn Gaius of Diotrephes, who opposes John and who may try to stop 2 John being read in church. If Diotrephes does try to stop the letter being read, John encourages Gaius to take a firm stand against him. John will soon be along to sort things out.

This letter gives us an insight into the management-structure of a Christian church in the first century. It seems likely that John the Elder is operating out of a major central church in Asia, and from there he manages link / branch churches. 1 John presents as a general letter to those churches, while 2 John is addressed to one particular church. As well as letters, John controls the link / branch churches through visiting delegates, teachers who exercise a pastoral ministry under his authority. Gaius has welcomed such a delegate, but his church, under the control of Diotrephes, has refused to receive him. John praises Gaius and encourages him to receive the latest delegate, Demetrius, probably the bearer of the letter.


ii] Structure: Salutation, commendation and exhortation:

Greeting, v1-4;

Commendation, v5-8;

The issue at hand, v9-10;

Diotrephes' behaviour;

Concluding exhortation, v11-12;

Farewell, v13-15.


iii] Interpretation:

This letter is devoid of theological discussion. In fact, it doesn't even mention Jesus, Christ, or the Spirit. As Yarbrough puts it, this letter "is a brisk note of encouragement to a trusted and well-grounded colleague, not a letter of formal instruction, diplomatic appeal or christological testimony."

Text - 1:1

To Gaius: i] Greeting, v1-4. The letter opens in typical fashion with a from whom and a to whom, and then moves to a hope all is going well for you. The Elder notes that all is going well for Gaius in the spiritual department, given that he has received an account of his Christian conduct. The intended sense of this conduct, his "walking in the truth", is somewhat fraught, as indicated in the notes below. Is his walk "faithful conduct" or "gospel orientated conduct"? Anyway, for John the Elder there is no greater joy than to know that those under his charge are "walking in the truth."

oJ presbuteroV (oV) "the elder" - Nominative absolute. Most likely used here of a title.

kuria/ (oV) "to [my dear friend] Gaius" - to gaius [the beloved]. Dative of recipient.

en + dat. "in [the truth]" - [whom i love] in [the truth]. Probably adverbial here, "sincerely", "whom I truly love", Berkeley, or reference / respect, "with respect to the gospel", Culy, "as a fellow-believer, as one who is of the truth", Bruce. Local, sphere, sphere is of course possible, truth is the sphere within which believers live out their faith.


peri + gen. "-" - [beloved] concerning [all things]. This preposition usually expresses reference / respect, so "concerning all things", possibly extending to "in all respects", "in every way", Zerwick, even with a more idiomatic sense, "above all", so Moule.

euodousqai (euodow) pres. mid./pas. inf. "that all may go well with you" - [i wish, pray you] to do well [and be well]. As with euodousqai, "to prosper", the infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception / indirect speech expressing what John prays for. The accusative se, "you", technically serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive. John's wish-prayer for Gaius is that his plans may be realised and that his health may be sound. "I wish / hope" is probably better than "I pray", given it is unlikely that we have here a prayer based on the revealed will of God for Gaius.

kaqwV "even as" - like / as. Comparative, leaning toward quality / standard; "I hope you are experiencing good fortune and health, as you are / in much the same way as your spiritual life is prospering."

hJ yuch (h) "soul" - the life, soul [of you does well]. "I know it is well with your soul", TEV, is a popular way of translating this verse, but in John's letters this noun means "life", here probably more narrowly "spiritual life". The way Gaius' spiritual life is going well / prospering is outlined in v3-4; he is "walking in the truth."


gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why John is able to say that Gaius' spiritual life is prospering; "for I rejoiced greatly ....."

ercomenwn (ercomai) gen. pres. mid. part. "when [some believers] came" - [i rejoiced exceedingly] coming [of brothers and witnessing, giving testimony]. As with "bearing witness / testifying", genitive absolute construction best treated as temporal, although causal is possible; "when the brothers came and testified" = "I was really happy when some fellow believers came and brought the news ...." "When some brethren arrived", TEV.

th/ alhqeia/ (a) dat. "[your] faithfulness" - in the truth, truthfulness, faithfulness [of you]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to bear witness to, confirm." We might have expected the witnesses confirming something (dative) peri, "about" Gaius, but here we have something + a genitive, "of you", best taken as possessive, so "they testified to your alhqeia/". This word may be taken here to mean "faithfulness" as NIV, ie., of living out one's faith; "that you are truly devoted to God", TH, or even "your integrity", Yarbrough. Yet, here "truth" may reflect "the truth / gospel", rather than "truthfulness / integrity"; "testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth", ESV. So, possibly "truth" here expresses an understanding of the gospel, a "walking in the truth", cf., en below. Gaius is a man of truth, he understands the prime directive, "that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ", 1Jn.3:23.

kaqwV "how / telling how" - as. It is possible that this conjunction introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech at this point, expressing what the brethren said of Gaius, namely, "how you continue to walk in truth", as NIV. It should though be noted that the construction of this verse is similar to v2 where kaqwV is obviously comparative, leaning toward quality / standard, so "as indeed it is a fact that in your whole life you are guided by the truth", Cassirer.

peripateiV (peripatew) pres. "you continue to walk" - you walk. "Walk" as in "live / conduct oneself." The present tense is taken as durative / imperfective by the NIV expressing ongoing action.

en + dat. "in" - in [truth]. The lack of the article for alhqeia/, "truth", may imply that the preposition is being used adverbially, either modal, expressing manner, so "living truly / faithfully", living "in an exemplary manner", Yarbrough. Better taken to express a standard, "to live in accordance with the truth of the message of the gospel", Kruse, "loyalty to Christ and the gospel by which his life was marked", Bruce. Of course, an instrumental sense is possible, "walking / living by the truth", so REB. As for the "truth" itself, whether we read the definite article or not ("truth" = "truly", or "the truth"), it is surely both known and lived; "doctrine and duty, creed and conduct", Akin.


toutwn gen. pro. "-" - [i do not have greater joy] than these things. The genitive is ablative, comparative; "than these". The demonstrative pronoun serves as a substantive and is cataphoric, forward referencing to the iJna construction "that I may hear that my children are walking in the truth."

iJna + subj. "to [hear]" - that [i may hear of]. Epexegetic, specifying "these things".

peripatounta (peripatew) pres. part. "are walking [in the truth]" - [my children] walking [in the truth]. The participial construction "walking in the truth" serves as the complement of the object "children" in a double accusative construction, so asserting a fact about the children, namely, they are walking in the truth. For en, and the sense of "walking in truth", see v3. Note that "truth" now carries a definite article th/, but as Culy notes, no distinction should be made with or without it.


ii] Commendation, v5-8: The Elder now commends Gaius for receiving and supporting his delegates against Diotrephes, and now that they have returned (some or all), he asks for a repeat kindness, to receive and support them, and "help them on their journey", NEB. The delegates who function "for the sake of the Name", can only survive with the support of the congregations they visit. So, the Elder encourages Gaius, a man who not only walks in truth, but also in love (probably along with his friends in the congregation who still support the Elder John), to continue to give financial support to his delegates. They are not able to finance their transport, room and board from secular donations, so it is incumbent on believes to offer that support.

piston adj. "faithful" - [beloved, you do] a faithful thing. First predicate position for emphasis. The sense here is of acting in a loyal way, BAGD 662 1b; "Its a loyal thing you do", TEV.

o} ean + subj. "in what" - whatever [you may work]. This construction serves to form an indefinite relative pronoun, "what" + an, or ean = "whatever". In expressing a general occurring circumstance a temporal sense may be implied, "whenever"; "you are acting faithfully when you do anything for the brothers", Berkeley.

eiV + acc. "for [the brothers and sisters]" - toward [the brothers]. Here expressing advantage; "for the brothers."

kai touto "even though" - and this / that = especially. Idiomatic expression, cf., 1Cor.6:6; Phil.1:28; Eph.2:8. The kai is emphatic and touto refers here to the kindness of Gaius; "especially".

xenouV adj. "they are strangers to you" - [when they are] strange = strangers. The adjective serves as a substantive, so "strangers". Standing in apposition to "brothers", brothers who are unknown to Gaius.


enwpion + gen. "-" - [who witness to, give testimony to love of you] before [the church]. The preposition is spacial; "in front of, before". The delegates have testified to their home church of the love shown by Gaius; "they have indeed borne witness to your great kindness to them, and have done so in front of the congregation here", Cassirer.

thn agaph/ (h) "[your] love" - the love [of you]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to bear witness to." We have the same construction as for th/ alhqeia/, "the truth [of you]", v3. The delegates have testified to his truth, but also to his agaph/, "love". As discussed in v3, the "truth" may be "integrity", Gaius is a man of integrity, but the Elder could also be saying he is a man of "truth" - he understands the gospel, he understands the prime directive, namely, "that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ", 1Jn.3:23. And along with this, he understands the importance of applying the fruit of faith, namely love, ie., part two of the prime directive, "love one another."

kalwV poihseiV "you do well / please" - you will do well. The future tense of the verb "to do" is used imperatively, and with the adverb kalwV, "well", gives the literal sense "do well", and the idiomatic sense "please", as NIV11.

propemyaV (propempw) aor. part. "send [them] on their way" - having sent away. The participle is adverbial, best treated as instrumental, expressing means; "by sending them on their way."

ou}V pro. "them" - whom. Accusative direct object of the participle "having sent away."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[in a manner that honours] God" - [worthily] of god. For this construction see Col.1:10, 1Thes.2:12. If we treat the adverb "worthily" as a noun, "a worthy manner", the genitive can be taken as adjectival, attributive. Westcott heads in that direction with the idiomatic translation: "worthily of their dedication to the service of God", so also Zerwick. Smalley suggests it is best taken as verbal, subjective; "worthily from God's point of view." Of course axiwV can take a genitive complement. The phrase as a whole is adverbial, modal, expressing manner, as NIV. "There are various levels at which .... help can be given, and the elder wanted it to be offered in a way that would .... be worthy of the one who gives generously and richly to his servants", Marshall.


gar "-" - for, because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the delegates should be sent on their way "worthy of God", namely, because they serve "on behalf of the Name" and because they receive no support (from the secular community???). It is this last statement that indicates the nature of sending them forth in a manner "worthy of God", namely, financially secure, with the funds necessary for transport, board and lodging. Jesus himself outlined the principles of support for his delegates / missionaries, Mk.6:7-13; "for they have gone out", ESV.

uJper + gen. "for the sake of" - [they went forth] on behalf of. Here expressing representation, "on behalf of", but possibly leaning toward the motivating cause / reason; "because of." Possibly benefit, "for the sake of"; "it was in support of Christ's cause", Cassirer. "They do it all for Jesus Christ."

tou onomatoV (a atoV) gen. "the Name" - the name. The "name" represents the person, particularly for Jesus, his authority. For a Jew, the Name referred to YHWH, the Lord. In the NT this extends to "the Lord Jesus Christ." This is as close as we get to a mention of the person of Jesus in this letter; a somewhat strange fact.

lambanonteV (lambanw) pres. part. "receiving" - taking, receiving [nothing]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as modal, expressing manner, as NIV. "They decided not to accept help from someone who wasn't a follower", CEV, so also Barclay, etc.; a rather puritanical assumption seems to lie behind this translation. Were they not accepting help from Pagans, or is it simply the fact that they didn't receive help from Pagans? The latter, surely; "they set out under the banner of the Name, and get no help from unbelievers", Peterson. The present tense, being durative / imperfective, probably indicates habitual action.

apo + gen. "from" - from [the gentiles, pagans]. Expressing source / origin. "Non-believers", Yarbrough.


hJmeiV pro. "we" - Emphatic by use and position.

oun "therefore" - therefore. Inferential / drawing a logical conclusion. Given that the secular world is unlikely to support Christian ministry, it is therefore incumbent on believers to offer that support.

uJpolambanein (upolambanw) pres. inf. "to show hospitality" - [we are obligated, ought] to lift up, assist, support [the ones of such a kind]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to be obligated"; "we must support people like them", CEV.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that [we may be fellow workers]. Here serving to introduce a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that we may be fellow workers."

th/ alhqeia/ (a) dat. "for the truth" - in the truth. Dative of interest, advantage, "for the sake of the truth", as NIV, so Kruse, "for the benefit of the truth", Marshall, Bultman. Other possibilities present themselves: dative of association, "with the truth", Wallace (the verb sunergew, "to work together with", takes a dative of direct object and could well be implied in the construction sunergoi ginwmeqa, "to be a fellow worker"); local / sphere, "in the truth", Yarbrough; dative of reference, "fellow workers with them in (with respect to) the truth", Culy. However we take the dative, "the truth" is likely to be the truth of the gospel encapsulated in the prime directive: love God by obeying his commands, namely to believe in Jesus and bear the fruit of that faith, namely brotherly love. By supporting the delegates / missionaries, Gaius and those members of his Christian fellowship who remain loyal to the Elder John against Diotrephes and his supports, share in the gospel ministry of the delegates. "We become their companions in spreading the Truth", Peterson.


iii] The troublemaker, Diotrephes, v9-10. John the Elder has written to the church, but Diotrephes has ignored his instructions. John indicates that when he comes to visit the church he will sort things out, given the behaviour of Diotrephes, both his malicious words and actions, ie., his defaming John, shunning John's delegates, and excommunicating members who support John and his delegates. The word qifoprwteuw, "to desire to be first", may indicate that Diotrephes is the Bishop of this church, a position he loves. He is obviously supported by the majority of the congregation, given his ability to excommunicate those who oppose him.

th/ ekklhsia/ (a) dat. "to the church" - [i wrote something] to the church. Dative of indirect object. Numerous variants exist, but the most likely text is "I wrote something to the church." Some commentators suggest that this letter is 2 John, but there is little evidence either way. What is clear is that Diotrephes resists the instructions in this letter and presumably carries the congregation with him, other than Gaius and possibly some other supporters of John the Elder.

all (alla) "but" - Strong adversative.

oJ filoprwteuwn (filoprwteuw) pres. part. "who loves to be first" - [diotrephes] the one loving to be first. The participle serves as a substantive, standing in apposition to Diotrephes. Power corrupts, and obviously power has gone to Diotrephes' head.

autwn gen. pro. "-" - of them. The genitive is either partitive, or of subordination.

ouk epidecetai (epidecomai) pres. "will not welcome" - does not receive [us]. This word only occurs twice in the NT, here and in v10. It seems very unlikely that the NIV "welcome" is the sense of this word. The context implies an unwillingness of Diotrephes to receive or take note of the letter, so Culy; "accept or receive (the letter)", Yarbrough. Possibly, "Diotrephes ..... does not acknowledge our authority", ESV, so Cassirer, Barclay.


dia touto "so" - because of this. This causal construction is inferential; "for this reason" = "therefore".

ean + subj. "if / when" - if [i come]. Usually taken as introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true, "if, as the case may be, I come, then I will bring attention to his works." According to Westcott the force of this construction is temporal and so does not necessarily imply doubt, so NIV11, cf., 1Jn.2:28; "the course that I adopt when I come to see you", Cassirer.

uJpomnhsw (upomimnhskw) fut. "I will call attention to" - i will bring to mind, bring up, call attention to, remember [the works of him which he is doing]. As a uJpo prefix verb we would expect a dative of direct object, but when transitive it takes an accusative direct object. When John comes, he will confront Diotrephes and "expose" the deeds which he is doing = "his dealings", Yarbrough, his "behaviour", TH.

autou gen. pro. "he" - [the works] of him [which he does] The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective.

logoiV (oV) dat. "gossiping / spreading" - [with evil, malicious] words. The dative is adverbial, qualifying the verb "he does" - what he does is not positive. Probably instrumental, expressing means, "with evil words", "with insulting language", Berkeley, or causal, "for he speaks evil of us", Cassirer.

qluarwn (fluarew) pres. part. "malicious nonsense [about us]" - maligning, talking nonsense [about us]. The verb means "to talk nonsense" so leading to "making groundless accusations", "maligning." The participle is obviously adverbial, possibly temporal, "when he slanders us with evil words", or modal, expressing manner, "for he speaks evil of us, accusing us in a frivolous manner", Cassirer, or instrumental, "by disparaging us with wicked words", Culy. The point is that Diotrephes continually speaks ill of John.

mh arkoumenoV (arkew) pres. mid./pas. part. "not satisfied" - [and] not being satisfied. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal, "because he is not satisfied with that."

epi + dat. "with [that]" - upon [these things / actions]. Spacial, metaphorical = upon / added to these thing / actions = "as well as that"; "and if that's not enough", Yarbrough.

oute .... kai "he even ...... also .." - neither ... and. Negated correlative construction, but instead of the usual "neither .... nor", we have "neither .... and also"

touV adelfouV (oV) "other believers" - [receives] the brothers. Accusative direct object of the verb "to receive." Presumably this is a reference to Diotrephes' refusal to receive the delegates from the Elder John; "he refuses to welcome the (my) delegates."

touV boulomenouV (boulomai) pres. mid. part. "those who want to do so" - [and] the ones intending [he prevents, and sends away]. The participle serves as a substantive. Presumably referring to Diotrephes' attempts to stop members of the congregation from welcoming John's delegates; "and also stops those who want to welcome them", TEV.

ek + gen. "out of [the church" - from [the church]. Expressing separation; "away from." The verb ekballw, "to throw out", is used of excommunication from a synagogue and is obviously being used with that sense here; "and puts them out of the church", TEV. Diotrephes is certainly consistent; he shafts John and John's delegates, along with any member of the church who supports John.


iv] Concluding exhortation, v11-12. Following the example of godly saints is a worthy undertaking, but we need to take care whose example we follow. John suggests it is not a good idea to follow the example of someone who is inclined to act in an evil way; follow someone who is spoken well of, a person like Demetrius. Presumably Demetrius is one of the delegates, probably the bearer of this letter. There is a reference to Demetrius the silversmith in Acts 19:24, 38, but it is very unlikely that it is the same person.

mh mimou (mimeomai) pres. imp. "do not imitate" - [beloved], do not imitate. The one and only imperative in this letter.

to neut. "the [bad]" - the [bad but] the [good]. As with "the good", the article serves as a nominalizer turning the adjective into a substantive. The neuter implies "what is bad" / "what is good." "Don't emulate the actions of an evil person (is Diotrephes in mind?), but rather, emulate the actions of good people."

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "do not imitate evil, but imitate good", ESV.

oJ agaqopoiwn (agaqopoiew) pres. part. "anyone who does what is good" - the one doing good. As with "the one doing evil", the participle serves as a substantive.

ek + gen. "from" - [is] from [god]. Expressing source / origin, possibly in the sense of "born from God". The child of God bears the fruit of faith, namely, love; "doing good flows naturally from the person born of God, just as doing evil is a calling card of 'children of the devil'", Yarbrough. "They belong to the family of God", Bruce. Cf., 1Jn.2:16, 3:10

ouc eJwraken (oJraw) perf. "has not seen" - [the one doing evil] has not seen [god]. "Seen" here does not mean visibly seen in the same way as "know" does not mean know by observation. Both "see" and "know" are used with the same meaning, namely, of spiritually entering into a relationship with God through faith in Christ, "cf., 1Jn.3:6. Every believer knowingly sins, is repentant and strives to do better, but the children of darkness habitually sin with defiant intent and such indicates that they are not in a saving relationship with God in Christ.


Dhmhtiw/ (oV) dat. "Demetrius" - [testimony has been given] to demetrius. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage / respect.

uJpo + gen. "by [everyone - and even] by" - by [all and] by. Expressing agency; "Demetrius is spoken well of by everyone." The adjective "all" serves as a substantive, so "everyone", obviously in the sense of "all believers", but possibly the secular community is included.

authV gen. pro. "itself" - [the truth] itself. This pronoun may be taken as a demonstrative "this truth", but it can be taken as intensive, "the truth itself", cf., Wallace, 349, as NIV. "The truth" may serve as an allusion to the right behaviour of Demetrius of which everyone speaks well of; his actions speak well of him, they are true. On the other hand, we have an allusion to his gospel commitment; "even his commitment to the truth of the gospel speaks well of him", so Brown, Kruse. Then again, its use here may be idiomatic, reflecting a law court where it is said of someone that the case in favour of them is beyond doubt; "even the truth itself speaks well of him", so Lieu. Some commentators think we have an illusion to deity here, particularly Christ, "The Truth"; "Even Jesus speaks well of him", so Turner, Bruce.

oJti "that" - [and we also give testimony to him and we know] that [the testimony of us is true]. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "you know." The "we" may well be a royal plural, so "I also bear testimony on his behalf and you know that I don't endorse people lightly."


v] Farewell. Personal notes and greetings.

eicon (ecw) imperf. "I have" - i had The imperfect is used here to express an unfulfilled obligation, cf., BDF 358; "I should"

grayai (grafw) aor. inf. "[much] to write" - [many things] to write. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "I have", "I have to write to you much = many things"; "There are a lot more things I need to tell you, but ....."

soi dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

all (alla) "but" - but [i do not will, wish, want]. Strong adversative, establishing a contrast.

soi grafein "to do so" - to write to you. Syntax as grayai soi above.

dia + gen. "with [pen and ink]" - by [ink and pen]. The preposition here expresses means; "by means of." Idiomatic sense; "by letter"; "but I'd rather not do so in a letter." Presumably John intends visiting his associate / branch churches soon and so there is no need to write at length.


idein (oJraw) aor. inf. "to see [you]" - [i am hoping] to see [you immediately]. The infinitive is usually classified here as complementary, but it can be taken to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what is hoped; "I hope that I will see you soon."

stoma proV stoma "face to face" - [and we will speak] mouth to mouth = face to face. Accusative direct object of the verb "to speak." Idiomatic for "in person." "I hope to be there soon in person and have a heart-to-heart talk", Peterson.


soi "[Peace] to you" - Semitic, shalom 'alekha. This common phrase is an elliptical wish / prayer expressing something like "may God's peace be upon you", Local dative, of space. Possibly "flow to you", dative of indirect object, or "for you", dative of interest, advantage.

oiJ filoi (oV) "the friends" - the = our friends, beloved [greet you]. Nominative subject of the verb "to greet." "The friends" are presumably the brothers and sisters who are fellowshipping with John at this time - a more intimate term for the brotherhood, cf., Lk.12:4, Acts 27:3; "the beloved".

kat (kata) "by [name]" - [greet the = our friends] according to [name]. Distributive use of the preposition; "name by name", Culy; "Give our greeting to each one of the beloved there with you."


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