Introduction: Have you ever read a book and wished it were longer?
Were you sad when you came to the end? That is how I feel with the
letters of John. This week we come to the last in our series of
studies on John’s letters to the church. Let’s dive into our study
of Third John. While we are at it, we will pick up on a discussion
that we left unfinished last week!

  1. Gaius

    1. Read 3 John 1:1-2. John starts out with a comment about
      the health of Gaius. This is a short book, why spend any
      time at all on this subject? (John shows a personal
      interest in the life of Gaius. God has a personal
      interest in our life and His followers should reflect
      this concern about others.)

      1. Is this just a kindness? Or, is there a spiritual
        dimension to our physical health?(God wants us to
        enjoy physical and mental health. I believe there is
        a link between the two. Thus, John’s greeting is not
        just a waste of time. John is telling us (and Gaius)
        that we should be concerned not only about the
        spiritual condition of those around us, but about
        their physical health as well.)

    2. Read 3 John 1:3-4. John first says “I hope you are
      well,” and then in the next two verses he compliments
      Gaius. Is this also part of some spiritual lesson for us?
      (John is encouraging Gaius in right-living. We should do
      that for our fellow believers.)

    3. Read 3 John 1:5. Why mention that those being helped by
      Gaius are “strangers?” (It demonstrates that Gaius has no
      hope of personal gain from this. He is helping these
      strangers because they are Christian brothers, not
      because of selfish interests.)

  2. The Church

    1. Read 3 John 1:6-8. Why would the “brothers” who stayed
      with Gaius expect help from pagans? (This suggests that
      they were evangelists. Gaius took them in while they were
      doing evangelistic work in his area.)

      1. Assume that you do not have the gift of public
        speaking, does that make you less important in God’s
        work? (Gaius is showing hospitality. John tells us
        that the work of the church is a team effort: “we
        may work together for the truth.” Every one on the
        team is important to the final outcome. God
        recognizes the worth of every team member.)

    2. Read 3 John 1:9-10. If you asked the local church
      members who they thought was more important to the
      church, Diotrephes or Gaius, what do you think they would
      say? (If Diotrephes has the authority to put people “out
      of the church,” the members must look up to him.)

      1. John points out that Diotrephes (unlike Gaius)
        refuses to welcome the brothers. If Diotrephes is
        the leader of the local church, is he not entitled
        to make that decision?

        1. What independent authority does God place in
          the hands of local church leaders?

    3. Read Matthew 16:17-19. Doesn’t this give church leaders a
      great amount of authority and leeway in dealing with

      1. Look again at 3 John 1:10. Since John is the
        “Elder,” why does he not assert his authority to
        “bind” Diotrephes? Why merely “call attention” to
        John’s concerns about him?

    4. Read John 20:19-23. Last week, when we were discussing
      John’s advice about error and the anti-Christ, a few
      members of the class mentioned the Catholic Church. I
      hate to attack fellow believers, so I explained some
      things I appreciate about the Catholic Church, but said I
      disagreed with some of the doctrines – including my
      concern about the distortion of Jesus’ role as our
      mediator. A Catholic member of the class asked “What
      about John 20?” Let’s look at this issue for just a few

      1. Who wrote John 20? (John – the same fellow who wrote
        the letters we are studying.)

        1. Who was Jesus speaking to in John 20:23 when He
          bestowed this authority? (John! Among others.)

        2. If John knew (because he wrote it down) that he
          had the authority to keep Diotrephes’ sins of
          pride and gossip from being forgiven, why not
          say that? Why merely say that he was going to
          “bring attention” to his sins?

      2. As you consider John 20:23, who do you think Jesus
        was giving this authority? Just the disciples in the
        room? All Christian leaders? All evangelists? All

        1. If you think Jesus was giving authority to more
          than those in the room, consider again 1 John
          5:16-17. Should Jesus have added a footnote to
          John 20:23 saying “Offer limited to those sins
          which do not lead to death?”)

          1. If the believer (or leader) has the
            authority to forgive sin, why does John
            tell us ( 1 John 5:16) to “pray and God
            will give him life?”

    5. Context is important. What is significant about the
      context of John 20:23? (Jesus had just risen from the
      grave. He had just defeated sin!)

      1. What change did this make in the way sin was
        forgiven? (No animal sacrifices any more. Jesus had
        died once for all sin. Hebrews 7:27.)

      2. What role did the disciples play in alerting the
        world to this new solution to the sin problem? (This
        is primarily what I believe John 20:23 addresses: if
        the disciples share with others this solution to
        sin, then the listeners’ sins can be forgiven. If
        they do not share this, then the world will not

    6. Focus again on John 20:22-23. Part of the context is the
      giving of the Holy Spirit. What role does the Holy Spirit
      play in the forgiveness of sins? (Read John 16:7-8. Part
      of the role of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our

      1. Read Matthew 12:31-32. What does this suggest about
        the relative role of humans and the Holy Spirit in
        the forgiveness of sins? (It teaches that the active
        agent in the conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit.
        If we “speak against” (reject) the Holy Spirit then
        the power of conviction leaves and we will never
        confess our sins.)

      2. Can anyone tell me if anywhere in the New Testament
        we read of the disciples forgiving or retaining the
        sins of others? (John did not suggest he could do it
        with Diotrephes and nowhere in the New Testament do
        we find this practiced by the disciples.)

      3. Read Matthew 6:14-15. Does this suggest that we have
        the ultimate power to forgive sins?

      4. Read Acts 10:43. How does this suggest that we
        receive forgiveness of sins? (Through the name of

    7. Let’s look again at John’s writings. Read 1 John 2:1-2.
      Who does this say has the authority to forgive sin?
      (Jesus has the ultimate authority over sin.)

    8. Read Luke 24:45-49. What elements are combined here for
      the forgiveness of sins? (I believe this text is the
      ultimate explanation of John 20:23. Jesus’ life, death
      and resurrection defeated Satan, sin and death. This is
      the essential element to the forgiveness of sin.
      However, another essential element is the Holy Spirit. If
      we drive away the Holy Spirit we cannot be forgiven – no
      matter what Jesus might have done or humans might do for
      us. The third element to the forgiveness of sin is the
      partnership between the Holy Spirit and humans to share
      the gospel.)

      1. Is that all Jesus means in John 20:23 – that we are
        to be witnesses to others? (Read Matthew 9:2-9.
        Reading the Matthew 9 story and understanding John
        20:23 as some delegation of Jesus’ authority, I
        think there is more to this than mere witnessing.
        How much more, I do not know. The limit on John
        20:23 is that ultimately, the forgiveness of sins
        involves three elements: Jesus, the Holy Spirit and
        His followers.)

    9. Read 3 John 1:11. What is our role in daily living for
      Jesus? (To do what is good. We can get into complex
      discussions about what role humans have in the
      forgiveness of sins, but we must not lose sight of the
      fact that our personal goal is right living.)

    10. Read 3 John 1:12-14. Friend, would you like to be a
      Demetrius? As we close our study of John’s letters, I
      believe his main message to us is to take the path of
      light (the path to eternal life) and every day move
      forward towards righteousness. Will you accept that

  3. Next week: We start our study of the book of Numbers!