The Apostle John And His Writings

V. The Third Epistle of John

Eugene P. Vedder Jr.

3 John provides the balance. In 3 John there were brethren who had gone out for Christ's name's sake. They were not looking for anything from the heathen but they were out to make Christ known and, if those came, Gaius was instructed by all means to receive them and help them. There was a brother in the assembly where Gaius went, Diotrophes, who would not receive these traveling brethren and he was going to toss out of the assembly anyone who received them.

He was a man who loved to have the pre-eminence. Colossians 1 tells us "that in all things He [Christ] might have the pre-eminence" (1:18). So whenever a man wants the pre-eminence, wherever a man wants to run things in the assembly, he is wanting the place that the Lord Jesus alone is worthy of, and should have. We have a problem then. So, on the one hand, John wrote a letter to a woman and her children concerning whom they were not to receive, not even into their home, and he wrote another letter to emphasize who should be received and that they were to do this even if there was some brother who was taking a wrong place and who was trying to forbid them to do it.

3 John is one of the most important epistles as to what the individual is to do if things in the assembly are not in order because some brother is taking a place that is out of place. John did not say, 'Gaius, you leave that assembly'. He did not say that, but rather he commended him for doing that which was right and he told him to go on doing that which was right and John, the last of the apostles, was going to come himself and face this man. This man would not even receive John's writings so John was going to come personally.

This is the basic object of these two letters and why they are short. Scriptural teaching would not be complete without them; they are very important for teaching.

Gaius is commended for this walk in truth. Diotrophes, who we might say was one of the early clergy, running things himself and kicking out anyone who did not want things the way he wanted them run, stands in contrast to Demetrius who had witness borne to him by all and by the truth itself that he was one who did that which was good. John makes these very simple, absolute statements, "He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil [as a practice, as a way of life] hath not seen God" (v.11). This does not speak of the person who slips and falls at some time. Good is always of God, evil is never of God. We must obey the Lord regardless of what any human leader says. This is an important lesson in this Third Epistle of John.