Third John is the last of three letters written by the same John who wrote the gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry. Third John is the shortest and most direct of all John’s writings. In fact, it’s more like a memo than a letter.
(Some Bible scholars have theorized that 1, 2, and 3 John may have been delivered in a packet by a courier named Demetrius (3 John 12).)
Third John is addressed to John’s close friend, Gaius. As is common in such personal letters, John wishes Gaius good health, and expresses thankfulness for Gaius’ service to Jesus’ followers. John is particularly grateful that Gaius welcomed and supported missionaries (who were strangers to him) who were passing through Gaius’s town. John says such support makes Gaius a “fellow worker” for the truth. Gaius is fully participating in the ministry of the gospel by encouraging and helping those who travel to proclaim it.
In 2 John, the apostle had warned the church about showing hospitality to false teachers and tolerating without dispute who oppose Jesus’ message. In this more personal letter, John calls out Diotrephes, who has done the opposite. Diotrephes undermined the true teaching about Jesus by refusing hospitality to those he should have welcomed in Jesus’ name.
John assures Gaius that he will soon visit and address Diotrephes’s actioms (3 John 10). John urges Gaius to “not imitate evil but imitate good” (3 John 11). In other words, don’t stoop to Diotrephes’ level by judging and excluding those who belong to Christ, but continue walking in the truth (3 John 3-4).
Third John gives us a glimpse into a relationship between church leaders who were concerned for each other’s welfare and the church under their care.
Third John gives us a glimpse into a relationship between church leaders who were concerned for each other’s welfare and the church under their care. It’s a warm and encouraging letter. As we read it, we sense that John misses his dear friend and eagerly awaits the day when they can sit down and catch up in person (3 John 13).
Third John also reminds us of the importance of hospitality and encouragement by giving us a snapshot of it in the early church. As you read 3 John, consider how John himself demonstrates love for his friend and fellow worker. John lived out his own instructions given in 1 and 2 John to love fellow believers.
Ask yourself, “How can I grow in practically loving other believers and in building up the church?” We too can be “fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 8).