by Rev. Julian Duckworth
The third epistle of John has the same ‘feel’ as 1 John and 2 John about walking in the truth and saying that he who does good is of God but he who does evil has not seen God.
There is a significant difference between this epistle and the other two in that 3 John refers to an incident or setting about which the epistle is being given. It is addressed to Gaius, a man who is much esteemed because he walks in truth and has borne witness to his love of God before the church. It adds that it is good to send members of the community out to preach and speak about the Lord, as Gaius had done. Then it says that members of the community should receive such people, to become fellow workers with them for the truth.
The epistle then says that the writer wrote to the church but a man in its community, called Diotrephes, does not receive others because he loves his pre-eminence. If the writer comes, he (the writer of the epistle) will call attention to his malice and bad words, and that he will not receive the brethren and stops others from receiving them, putting them out of the church.
An exhortation is given not to be like that, but to do what is good. He who does good is of God but he who does evil has not seen God.
Then, conversely, the writer praises a man called Demetrius who is well spoken of and who walks in the truth. “We also bear witness and you know that our testimony is true.”
The short epistle – fourteen verses – closes with a wish no to write with pen and ink but to see you shortly, face to face. Greetings close the letter. It is interesting to think about the reason for this epistle being in the biblical canon. It may be because the early Christians felt that this was written by John himself. It might be to give a clear message of love, truth and sincerity to church communities, often struggling with persecution and with human nature. It could be to advocate the coming and going and receiving of visiting members of other church communities. It is encouraging to see a practical honesty and criticism being given in a sacred text.