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Exegetical Commentary on 3 John 1-15

    Structure

3 John, like 2 John, is written in the standard epistolary format. It is slightly shorter than 2 John (219 Greek words compared to 245 for 2 John), and is the shortest book of the Greek New Testament. 3 John begins with a praescriptio, or introductory formula (vss. 1-2), which mentions the sender and the addressee. It is the only one of the three Johannine letters to be addressed to a named individual. The greeting, a standard part of the introductory formula, is omitted, but unlike 2 John, the letter includes a health wish (v. 2). Following this is the body of the letter, which in 3 John is vv. 3-14. The letter ends with a concluding formula (v. 15), which includes greetings on behalf of others.822

The Introductory Formula (vv. 1-2)

    1 From the elder, to Gaius my dear brother, whom I love in truth.

    Summary

Again, as in 2 John, the author refers to himself as the elder. The addressee’s name, Gaius, was a very common one in the Roman Empire and it is highly unlikely that the person addressed here is the same Gaius associated with Paul (Rom 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14; Acts 19:29, 20:4). This individual is well-known to the author of 3 John, but it is not so certain whether they had met in person before or not, since the report of Gaius’ conduct toward the brothers is heard second-hand by the author. Nor is it certain whether Gaius belonged to the same local church as Diotrephes (v. 9) or was himself the leader of another local congregation. It is clear, however, that the author of 3 John regarded Gaius as orthodox (v. 3) and a valuable ally in the controversy with the secessionist opponents and their false christology.

    Exegetical Details

The identification of the elder in v. 1. As in the case of 2 John 1, I would identify the author of the letter, who designates himself “the elder,” as the author of 1 John, 2 John, and the Gospel of John,that is, John the Apostle.823

The significance of the authors self-designation as the elder in v. 1. Although a number of possible explanations have been suggested, it is still probable that this term is a self-designation of the author, whom I take to be the Apostle John.824

The identification of Gaius, to whom the letter is addressed. Little reliable information is available concerning the identity of the person to whom 3 John is addressed. Because the name Gaius was very common in the Roman Empire, it is highly unlikely that the person named here is to be identified with any of the other persons of the same name associated with Paul (1 Cor 1:14, Rom 16:23 [both of which probably refer to the same person]; Acts 19:29, Acts 20:4). A fourth-century tradition recorded in the Apostolic Constitutions 7.46.9 (ca. a.d. 370) states that John the Apostle ordained Gaius as the first Bishop of Pergamum, but this is questionable because of the relatively late date.825 The only certain information about this individual must be obtained from 3 John itself, and there is not a great deal there. It is obvious that this person is well-known to the author, but it is not so certain whether they had met personally or not, because the report of Gaius’ conduct toward the brothers is received secondhand by the author (v. 3). Nor can it be determined with certainty whether Gaius belonged to the same local church as Diotrephes (v. 9), or was himself the leader of yet another local congregation, perhaps in the vicinity of Diotrephes’ church. It is clear, however, that the author regarded Gaius as orthodox (v. 3) and a valuable ally in the controversy with the secessionist opponents and their false christology.826

The significance of the prepositional phrase ejn ajlhqeiva/ (en alhqeia, “in truth”) in v. 1. This statement is similar to 2 John 1, although it is not qualified here as it is there.827 This is not merely the equivalent of an adverb (“truly”), but is a theological statement affirming the orthodoxy of Gaius, to whom the letter is addressed. “Truth” is the author’s way of alluding to theological orthodoxy in the face of the challenge by the opponents.828

    2 Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.

    Summary

The author affirms that Gaius is well-off spiritually (it is well with your soul). He prays that Gaius’ physical health would match his spiritual health. The “health wish” is a standard feature of the first-century epistolary format, but has been extended by the author here to include not only a wish for physical health, but for spiritual health as well.

    Exegetical Details

The significance of the authors addressing of Gaius as beloved in v. 2. The author has already described Gaius as “beloved” (tw'/ ajgaphtw'/, tw agaphtw) in v. 1; he will address Gaius in the same way in vv. 5 and 11 (*Agaphtev, Agaphte). This is a term of endearment and personal warmth, much as it is when used by the author as an address to the letter’s recipients in 1 John 2:7.

The meaning of the phrase in v. 2, kaqwV eujodou'taiv sou hJ yuchv (kaqws euodoutai sou Jh yuch, literally, “just as your soul is well off”). The noun yuchv (yuch) is used 10 times in the Gospel of John and 2 times in 1 John; of these 6 of the uses in the Gospel of John and both in 1 John refer to a person’s “life” (as something that can be laid down). In John 10:24 and 12:27 the yuchv (yuch) is that part of a person where emotions are experienced; one’s yuchv (yuch) is held in suspense or deeply troubled. This is, in other words, the immaterial part of a person as opposed to his physical existence. A close parallel is found in Philo: “therefore nourished with peace, he will depart, having procured for himself a calm and peaceful life, thus he is found fortunate as truly also blessed…he prospers with both health and strength of the body, and he prospers with the fruition of virtues of the soul (yuchv, yuch).”829 The equivalent contemporary idiom would be to speak of ‘spiritual’ health as opposed to physical health. The author affirms that Gaius is indeed well off spiritually, and he prays that Gaius’ physical health would match his spiritual health, i.e., that Gaius would be as well off physically as he is spiritually.830 It is the spiritual health which is to be the standard by which one’s physical health is measured, not the other way round.

The Body of the Letter (vv. 3-14)

    3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, just as you are living according to the truth.

    Summary

The noun truth in the Johannine letters may refer to orthodox christological belief (1 John 2;21-23; 4:2, 6; 5:10, 20; 2 John 7) or to ethical behavior (1 John 1;6, 2:4, 3:18-19, 4:20). Here it could refer to either. Certainly the author of 3 John assumes Gaius’ orthodoxy and makes no effort to correct his doctrine. But according to v. 5 (below) it is Gaius’ faithful work on behalf of the brothers – the traveling missionaries who needed support – which is commended by the author. Therefore in this context the emphasis is on Gaius’ behavior rather than on his christological doctrine.

    Exegetical Details

The meaning of the authors statement to Gaius, the brothers came and testified to your truthin v. 3. When the author tells Gaius that “the brothers came and testified to your truth” he is obviously referring to a report he has received concerning Gaius’ belief or behavior. But it is difficult to know for certain what the author means by “your truth” (sou th'/ ajlhqeiva/, sou th alhqeia). The noun ajlhvqeia (alhqeia, “truth”) in the Johannine letters may refer to orthodox christological belief (1 John 2:21-23; 4:2, 6; 5:10, 20; 2 John 7) or ethical behavior (1 John 1:6, 2:4, 3:18-19, and 4:20). Here the reference could be to either. Many would see it as a reference to Gaius’ orthodox christological stand in light of the controversy with the secessionist opponents and their false christology. Certainly the author of 3 John assumes that Gaius holds to an orthodox (apostolic) christology, since he makes no effort to correct false belief in the letter. But according to v. 5, it is Gaius’ faithful work on behalf of the brothers – the traveling missionaries who needed support – which merits commendation by the author. Therefore in the context the emphasis is on Gaius’ behavior in this particular instance, rather than his christological doctrine. This is also implied by the author’s reference to Gaius “living according to the truth” at the end of v. 3, which would seem to place more emphasis on behavior, and the fact that it is from the brothers (the traveling missionaries themselves) that the author has heard of Gaius’ “truth.” If what the author is commending is Gaius’ asistance to these missionaries, it seems probable that he would have learned of this from the missionaries themselves. The final clause, “just as you are living according to the truth,” may simply reflect the content of what the author heard about Gaius from the traveling missionaries.831 However, it is more likely a statement of the author’s confidence in Gaius, that what the missionaries reported about him was indeed true.832

    4 I have no greater joy than this: to hear my children are living according to the truth.

    Summary

The author of 3 John may be referring to Gaius as one of his own converts (like Paul refers to “spiritual children” in 1 Cor 4:14-15, Gal 4:19, Phlm 10) but more likely the author simply regards those under his spiritual authority as his children.

    Exegetical Details

The implication behind the authors statement in v. 4 with respect to “my children” (taV ejmaV tevkna, ta ema tekna). Since tevkna (tekna, “children”) is plural, this is best understood as a general statement on the part of the author. Does the use of tevkna (tekna) here imply that Gaius himself is one of the author’s converts? Although Paul can use the analogy of a ‘spiritual’ parent-child relationship (cf. 1 Cor 4:14-15, Gal 4:19, Phlm 10) it does not appear elsewhere in the Johannine literature of the New Testament. More likely the author simply regards those under his spiritual authority as his ‘children’; this is consistent with his use of “elder” as a self-designation in both 2 and 3 John. The diminutive form teknivon (teknion) is found in John 13:33 and frequently in 1 John (2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). There is no clear explanation for why the diminutive form is not used in 2 and 3 John.833

    5 Dear friend, you demonstrate faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers (even though they are strangers).

    Summary

Addressing Gaius as Dear friend, the author commends him for his faithful service to the traveling missionaries (the brothers), even though he did not know them personally (even though they are strangers).

    Exegetical Details

The meaning of the authors statement pistoVn poieiv (piston poieis, literally “practice faithfulness”) in v. 5. When the author tells Gaius in v. 5, “you demonstrate faithfulness by whatever you do” he is commending him for his faithful service to the traveling missionaries (“the brothers”). Gaius has aided them, and they have now returned with a report of this to the author (v. 3). The third edition of Bauer’s lexicon offers the translation “act loyally” for the phrase pistoVn poieiv (piston poieis) in this context, a usage which is not common but does fit well here.834 The NET Bible’s rendering “demonstrate faithfulness” is along similar lines. Since the author is going to ask Gaius for additional help for these missionaries in the following verse, he begins here by commending Gaius for all that he has already done in this regard.

The meaning of the phrase kaiV tou'to xevnou (kai touto xenous, literally “and this [to] strangers”) in v. 5. Parallel to this expression is 1 Cor 6:6, where Paul in his accusation against some of the Corinthian believers states, “but you wrong and defraud, and this [you do to] brothers!” This is explained in Blass-Debrunner’s standard reference grammar, which points out that kaiV tou'to (kai touto) means “and at that” or “and especially.”835 Here we could translate v. 5, “…you demonstrate faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers – and strangers at that!” Thus the faithfulness demonstrated by Gaius in assisting the traveling missionaries who have come his way is all the more remarkable because they were strangers to him; he did not know them personally. These appear to be the same missionaries mentioned in v. 3 who have brought back to the author such a favorable report of Gaius’ hospitality, because their favorable report is mentioned again in the next verse in conjunction with the author’s request for additional assistance on their behalf at the present time.836

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

    Summary

The missionaries have returned and informed the author’s home church of Gaius’ support for them and their mission (your love). The author now asks for additional assistance from Gaius as the missionaries prepare to go out a second time.

    Exegetical Details

The referent of the church (ejkklhsiva, ekklhsias) mentioned in v. 6. Which “church” does the author refer to here? The church where Gaius is, the church where the author is, a different local church where the “brothers” are, or the ‘universal’ church, the church at large? Since the suggestion in v. 3 is that the “brothers” have come and testified in the author’s church to what Gaius has done for them, it seems most likely that the “church” mentioned here is also the author’s church, where he is currently located.837 Other possibilities cannot be ruled out, but seem unnecessarily complicated.

The meaning of the authors statement in v. 6, you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.” Here the author, after commending Gaius for his faithful service to the traveling missionaries in the past,838 now requests additional assistance at the present time. It would appear that the missionaries are on their way to visit for a second time the area where Gaius’ church is located, having been there once already and returned with a good report of how Gaius had assisted them. It is entirely possible that they themselves carry with them the present letter as a ‘letter of introduction’; along these lines it has been suggested that Demetrius is one of these traveling missionaries, perhaps the leader of the delegation, and the author is formally ‘introducing’ him to Gaius, since when he was there the last time he was a “stranger” (v. 5).839

The verb propevmpw (propempw) is used a number of times in the New Testament in the sense of providing missionaries with supplies to enable them to continue their journey to the next stopping place (Acts 15:3, Rom 15:24, 1 Cor 16:6, 16:11, 2 Cor 1:16, and Titus 3:13). It is virtually a technical term for such activity; the third edition of Bauer’s lexicon defines it in this and similar contexts as “to assist someone in making a journey, send on one’s way with food, money, by arranging for companions, means of travel, etc.840 This use of the verb is part of the reason why we have designated “the brothers” mentioned in vv. 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 (and possibly 12) as ‘traveling missionaries.’ Another reason is given in the following section.

    7 For they have gone forth on behalf of ‘The Name,’ accepting nothing from the pagans.

    Summary

‘The Name’ refers to Jesus’ name. The traveling missionaries sent out to combat the false teaching of the secessionist opponents have been accepting nothing from the pagans, that is, non-Christians. Their mission is not evangelization, but concerns an “in-house” debate over christology.

    Exegetical Details

The meaning of the phrase uJpeVrtou' ojnovmato (Juper tou onomatos, “on behalf of ‘The Name’”) in v. 7. This phrase almost certainly refers to some form of missionary activity. The verb ejxevrcomai (exercomai, “I go forth”) is used of Paul’s travels in Acts 14:20, and of his setting out on his second missionary journey in Acts 15:40. Again, like the verb propevmpw (propempw) in the preceding verse, this suggests missionary activity. Somewhat more difficult is the identification of ‘the Name’ on behalf of which these missionaries undertook their journey. Three possibilities have been suggested: (a) the name of God, suggested by the unqualified noun with the definite article.841 This would make good logical sense in 3 John, because in the previous verse the author has instructed Gaius to send the missionaries on their way “in a manner worthy of God.” (b) Some have understood “the Name” as the self-designation of the Johannine community, or as a reference to the Christian cause at large, or as a way of designating Christians before the title “Christian” came into common usage. (c) The interpretation favored by most commentators is that this is a reference to Jesus’ name.842 Paul uses a similar phrase in Rom 1:5, and in 1 John 2:12 the author wrote, “your sins are forgiven on account of his [Christ’s] name.” The Gospel of John also makes reference to believing “in the name of Jesus” (1:12, 3:18).

Of these possibilities, the second seems least likely, particularly in the absence of significant evidence for such usage. The first and third are both possible, and in fact may not be mutually exclusive. It is possible that while the broader Christian community tended to use the title “Lord” for Jesus (Rom 1:9, 1 Cor 12:3, Phil 2:9-11, etc.), within the community of Johannine Christians the Tetragrammaton or “I am” was used to refer to Jesus. This tendency is certainly possible in light of the use of this phrase in the Gospel of John. In other words, “the Name” in 3 John 7 would ultimately refer to God’s name, yhwh, but since Jesus was himself God (Cf. John 20:28), and in light of the use of the “I am” phrase in the Gospel of John, there would be no inconsistency in using this designation for Jesus also.

The identification of the ejqnikw'n (eqnikwn, “pagans”) in v. 7. The word ejqnikov (eqnikos) occurs only 4 times in the New Testament (the other 3 are in Matt 5:47, 6:7, and 18:17). It is virtually synonymous here with the far more common e[qno (eqnos, used 162 times in the New Testament in 150 verses). Both terms refer to the Gentiles (that is, pagans). Since the issue here is support for the traveling missionaries, and there is no indication that the author would want to forbid receiving support from Gentile converts to Christianity, the word must refer to Gentile unbelievers, i.e., pagans. The traveling missionaries sent out to combat the false teaching of the secessionist opponents have been accepting nothing by way of support from non-Christians. Why support from non-Christians should be refused is not entirely clear, although there is no indication in 3 John that such support has been offered to the traveling missionaries by the pagans either. A number of interpreters see the possibility of confusion with missionaries representing pagan deities.843

    8 Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we become coworkers in cooperation with the truth.

    Summary

The first person plural here is inclusive – the author refers to himself, Gaius, and all genuine Christians, all of whom should become coworkers in cooperation with the truth by supporting the efforts of the traveling missionaries (such people) in their efforts to resist and counteract the teaching of the secessionist opponents.

    Exegetical Details

The referent of hJmei' (Jhmeis, “we”) in v. 8. Clearly the author does not refer to himself alone by the use of the first person plural pronoun here, since the issue is support for the traveling missionaries. It stands in contrast to the pagans (ejqnikw'n, eqnikwn) mentioned in the previous verse, and is thus to be understood as inclusive of all true Christians: the author, Gaius, and all genuine Christians. All true Christians ought to support the endeavors of these traveling missionaries in their efforts to counteract the false christological teaching of the secessionist opponents.

The force and meaning of the i{na (Jina)-clause in v. 8. The Jina-clause indicates the result of such support for the traveling missionaries: the Christian who helps to support them in their efforts thus becomes a coworker in cooperation with the truth. Although the dative th'/ ajlhqeiva/ (th alhqeia, “with the truth”) is somewhat difficult to classify, it would appear (corresponding to the sun-prefix of the noun modified) to indicate a sense of cooperation with “the truth” which is at work through the missionaries.844 There is precedent in the Johannine literature for understanding “truth” as personified (John 8:32, “the truth will make you free”; possibly also 1 John 3:19). More explicitly, 1 John 4:6 identifies the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth”, a characterization repeated in 1 John 5:6. Thus it seems likely that the “truth” at work through the missionaries here is ultimately the Holy Spirit, who works through their efforts. Thus the Christian who supports them becomes a coworker with the Spirit of God himself.

    9 I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not acknowledge us.

    Summary

Diotrephes appears to be an influential person (perhaps the leader) in a local church known to Gaius, but to which Gaius himself does not belong. John’s description of Diotrephes as one who loves to be first among them suggests an arrogant person, and he has demonstrated this in refusing to acknowledge the author’s prior written communication. Probably the author’s written communication concerned the traveling missionaries (see next verse) and Diotrephes has refused to acknowledge the author’s authority to intervene in the matter.

    Exegetical Details

The church to which the author says he wrote something in v. 9. The church mentioned here, which the author says he may visit (v. 10) is not the same as the one mentioned in v. 6, to which the author apparently belongs (or of which he is in charge). But what is the relationship of this church in v. 9 to Gaius, to whom the letter is addressed? It is sometimes suggested that Gaius belongs to this church, but that seems unlikely, because the author uses a third-person pronoun to refer to the other members of the church (aujtw'n [autwn, “among them”]). If Gaius were one of these it would have been much more natural to use a second-person pronoun: “Diotrephes, who loves to be first among you (uJmw'n, Jumwn)”. Thus it seems probable that Gaius belongs to (or is in charge of) one local church while Diotrephes is in another, a church known to Gaius but to which he does not belong.845

The identification of Diotrephes and why he is described as oJ filoprwteuvwn (Jo filoprwteuwn, “who loves to be first”) in v. 9. Diotrephes appears to be an influential person (perhaps the leader) in a local church known to Gaius, but to which Gaius himself does not belong.846 The description oJ filoprwteuvwn (Jo filoprwteuwn, “[the one] who loves to be first”) suggests he is arrogant,847 and his behavior displays this: he refuses to acknowledge the written communication mentioned by the author at the beginning of v. 9 (and thus did not recognize the author’s apostolic authority). Furthermore (v. 10) he refuses to show any hospitality to the traveling missionaries already mentioned by the author. It has been suggested that the description oJ filoprwteuvwn (Jo filoprwteuwn, “who loves to be first”) only indicates that Diotrephes sought prominence or position in this church, and had not yet attained any real authority. But his actions here suggest otherwise: he is able to refuse or ignore the author’s previous written instructions (v. 9), and he is able to have other people put out of the church for showing hospitality to the traveling missionaries (v. 10).

The meaning of oujk ejpidevcetai hJma' (ouk epidecetai Jhmas, “does not acknowledge us”) in v. 9. Since the verb ejpidevcomai (epidecomai) can mean “show hospitality to”848 it has been suggested that the author himself attempted a previous visit to Diotrephes’ church but was turned away. There is nothing in the context to suggest an unsuccessful prior visit by the author, however; in v. 9 he explicitly indicates a prior written communication which Diotrephes apparently ignored or suppressed. *Epidevcomai (epidecomai) can also mean “refuse to acknowledge” in the sense of refusing someone’s authority849 and such a meaning better fits the context here: Diotrephes has rejected the authority of the author to intervene in the situation of the traveling missionaries (perhaps because Diotrephes believed the author had no local jurisdiction in the matter; the exact reason for Diotrephes’ refusal is not clear).

    10 Therefore, if I come, I will call attention to the deeds he is doing – the bringing of unjustified charges against us with evil words! And not being content with that, he not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but hinders the people who want to do so and throws them out of the church!

    Summary

Concerning Diotrephes the author of 3 John gives a warning: because Diotrephes did not recognize the author’s authority, the author will expose Diotrephes’ behavior for what it is if the author comes for a visit. Since Diotrephes made unjustified charges against the author, the author will bring charges of his own against Diotrephes.

    Exegetical Details

The referent of diaV touvto (dia touto, “therefore”) in v. 10. This refers to the preceding statements by the author, giving the reason why he will expose Diotrephes’ evil deeds if he comes to Diotrephes’ church. Because Diotrephes did not recognize the authority of the author, the author will expose his behavior for what it is if he comes for a visit. The third-class condition (ejavn e[lqw [ean elqw, “if I come”]) probably indicates real uncertainty on the author’s part as to whether he will visit Diotrephes’ church or not.850 But if he does, he will make the following charges against Diotrephes before the church: (1) Diotrephes is engaged in spreading “unjustified charges” against the author with “evil words”; (2) Diotrephes refuses to welcome the brothers (the traveling missionaries) himself; (3) Diotrephes hinders the others in the church who wish to help the missionaries; and (4) Diotrephes expels from the church people who aid the missionaries. (Diotrephes himself did not necessarily have supreme authority in the local church to expel these people, but may have been responsible for instigating collective action against them.)

    11 Dear friends, do not imitate what is bad but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does what is bad has not seen God.

    Summary

The statement do not imitate what is bad but what is good is clearly a reference to Diotrephes’ behavior. By implication, at least, the author calls into question the genuineness of Diotrephes’ faith (the one who does what is bad has not seen God).

    Exegetical details

The meaning of the authors exhortation Do not imitate what is bad, but what is good in v. 11. This is clearly a reference to Diotrephes’ evil behavior. The author exhorts Gaius (whom he wishes to continue assisting the missionaries) not to follow the negative example of Diotrephes, but to do what is right. Implicitly there may be a contrast between the bad behavior of Diotrephes and the good reputation of someone else, though it is not clear whether the one representing the good would be Gaius, to whom this letter is written, or Demetrius (mentioned in the following verse). It seems more likely that Demetrius is himself one of the traveling missionaries (perhaps their leader), rather than the leader of a local congregation (like Gaius) who, unlike Diotrephes, has supported the missionaries himself.

The meaning of the summary judgment in v. 11, the one who does good is of God.” This statement is asyndetic; its abrupt introduction without a conjunction adds emphasis. The statement reiterates the common Johannine theme of behavior as an indication of genuine faith, found in 1 John in 3:6, 10; 4:7, 20, and in the Gospel of John in 3:17-21. By implication, the genuineness of Diotrephes’ faith is called into question, because he has obviously done “what is bad” (vv. 9-10). In Johannine terminology it is clear that the phrase “has not seen God” is equivalent to “is not a genuine Christian.”

    12 Demetrius has been testified to by all, even by the truth itself. We testify to him too, and you know that our testimony is true.

    Summary

Demetrius is apparently someone Gaius has not met. He has a very good reputation. It is very possible he is the leader of the traveling missionaries. The author of 3 John commends Demetrius to Gaius.

    Exegetical Details

The identification of Demetrius in v. 12. Apparently this is someone Gaius would have heard about, but whose character was not known to him. Thus the author is writing to Gaius to attest to Demetrius’ good character. It appears that Demetrius is coming to Gaius’ church and needs hospitality and assistance, so the author is writing to commend him to Gaius and ‘vouch for’ him. It is difficult to know more about Demetrius with any certainty, but the author is willing to give him a powerful personal endorsement. Demetrius may well have been the leader of a delegation of traveling missionaries, and may even have been the bearer of this letter to Gaius. The writing of letters of introduction to be carried along by representatives or missionaries in New Testament times is also attested in Paul’s writings (1 Cor 16:3).851 The final phrase of v. 12, “and you know that our testimony is true,” echoes John 19:35, “And the person who saw it has testified (and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth), so that you also may believe.” More than just a literary echo of affirmed and known testimony, this may look precisely at the claims of the secessionist opponents, who were denying among other things the salvific significance of Jesus’ death on the cross, while the author of 1, 2, and 3 John stands firmly on the side of the apostolic eyewitness testimony about Jesus and affirms that Jesus came “not by the water only, but by the water and the blood (1 John 5:6). If one holds that the same author wrote the Fourth Gospel and the three letters, as I do, then the reference becomes even more pointed, because the author of 3 John 12 is in fact echoing his own words from John 19:35.

    13 I have many things to write to you, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink.

    Summary

As in 2 John 12, the author states he has many things to write to Gaius, but prefers not to communicate them in writing.

    Exegetical Details

The meaning of the figurative phrase by means of ink and pen in v. 13. This is parallel to 2 John 12, suggesting that both letters may have been written at approximately the same time and in similar situations. The author tells Gaius that he has more to say, but does not wish to do so in writing; he would rather speak face to face (v. 14).852 It appears that the author anticipates a personal visit to Gaius’ church in the very near future. This may be the same visit mentioned in connection with Diotrephes in v. 10. Gaius’ church and Diotrephes’ church may have been in the same city, or in neighboring towns, so that the author anticipates visiting both on the same journey.

    14 But I hope to see you right away, and we will speak face to face.

    Summary

Verse 14 states the author’s desire to communicate with Gaius in person rather than by means of letter: it appears that the author anticipates a personal visit (we will speak face to face) to Gaius’ church in the near future (see the previous section). This verse parallels 2 John 12.

The Concluding Formula (v. 15)

    15 Peace be with you. The friends here greet you. Greet the friends there by name.

    Summary

The author closes with greetings similar to 2 John 13.

    Exegetical Details

The significance of the use of fivloi (filoi, “friends”) in v. 15. This concluding greeting is analogous to 2 John 13, “The children of your elect sister greet you.” It is possible that the designation fivloi (filoi) indicates that these are personal friends of Gaius who send their greetings, but if this is the case it is somewhat surprising that their names are not mentioned, especially when the author instructs Gaius to “greet the friends there by name.” More likely this is an alternative to ajdelfoiv (adelfoi, “brothers”) as an early Christian self-designation, especially within the Johannine community. It may have arisen in the Johannine community from Jesus’ teaching in John 15:13-15, “you are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership