The shortest book in the New Testament, 3 John is a letter with a kind but businesslike tone. “The Elder” sought to encourage Gaius, who was perhaps a pastor under his oversight. The epistle gives mostly positive counsel but also warns against a power-hungry leader named Diotrephes. Truth, love, and the goodness of God are predominant themes.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF WRITING
AUTHOR: Same as the author of 1 and 2 John (see Introductions there).
BACKGROUND: Same as 2 John (see Introduction there). The two short epistles of 2 and 3 John are often described as “twin epistles,” though they should be viewed as fraternal and not identical. There are some significant similarities worth noting. In both epistles the author described himself as “the Elder” (2Jn 1; 3Jn 1), and the recipients were those whom he loved “in truth” (2Jn 1; 3Jn 1). The recipients were a cause for great rejoicing by John (2Jn 4; 3Jn 3). They were “walking in the truth” (2Jn 4; 3Jn 3), and the elder has received good reports about them (2Jn 4; 3Jn 3,5). Both letters contain a warning (2Jn 8; 3Jn 9-11), and the Elder desired to see the recipients face-to-face (2Jn 12; 3Jn 14). Finally, both letters convey greetings from others (2Jn 13; 3Jn 14).
MESSAGE AND PURPOSE
CONTRIBUTION TO THE BIBLE
I.Greeting to Gaius (vv. 1-2)
II.Joy at Seeing Christians Demonstrate the Truth (vv. 3-4)
III.Pressing Issues (vv. 5-12)
A.Support for traveling ministers (vv. 5-8)
B.The problem of Diotrephes (vv. 9-10)
C.Commendation of Demetrius (vv. 11-12)
IV.Impending Visit and Blessing (vv. 13-14)
Ephesus experiences a destructive earthquake. 17
Paul travels through Ephesus toward the end of his second missionary journey. 52
Apollos comes to Ephesus and is mentored by Aquila and Priscilla. 52
Paul returns to Ephesus for a 2 1/2 year ministry. 54
Paul writes the letter to the Ephesians. 61
Timothy, elder of Ephesus, receives first letter from Paul, 1 Timothy. 62
Peter’s first letter from Rome to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia 64
Peter’s second letter from Rome 66
The Jewish War is started by zealots who drive the Romans out of Jerusalem temporarily. 66
Timothy receives second letter from Paul, 2 Timothy. 67?
Peter and Paul’s death in Rome 64-67?
John leaves Jerusalem for Ephesus. 66-70?
The Romans crush the Jewish rebellion and destroy Jerusalem and the temple. 70
John is spiritual leader of the church at Ephesus. 70-100
John’s Gospel written 70s
John’s first letter (1 John) to churches of Asia Minor 80s
John’s letter to the elect lady (2 John) 80s
John’s letter to Gaius (3 John) 80s
John is exiled to Patmos and writes the book of Revelation. 95
Ephesus becomes the third largest city in the Roman province of Asia after Sardis and Alexandria Troas. 100