Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. This lesson can be found at: <URL:>

INTRODUCTION: This week our study is the third book of John.  We come to the end of a wonderful quarter.  Next quarter I regret that we will not be studying a book again.  However, we will be studying the parables of Jesus and I think that will be fun. 


     A. Read 3 John 1. Just like in 2 John 1 we have a greeting from "the elder."  Who is this?  Is it the same person as in 2 John? (Yes, it is John the apostle again. Remember that John is believed to have lived a long time. In fact, the rumor reported in John 21:23 was that he would not die!  However, this same text says the rumor (about not dying) was not true. In any event, 3 John is believed to have been written 85-95 A.D., which would make John an old leader of the church.)

     B. In 2 John the letter was addressed "to the chosen lady." My belief was that this was a church, not a specific person.  Is "my dear friend Gaius" (gah'-ee-os) a person or an institution? (Seems obvious this time we are talking about a real individual.) 

     C. Listening to what a person says can tell us about the person even when he does not intend to talk about himself. Let's read 3 John 2-4. Tell me what you think the following phrases reveal about John?

          1. "I pray that you...." What does this tell us about John? (That John kept his friends and fellow workers in prayer. This is something referred to in 1 John 5:16.)

          2. "That you may enjoy good health..." We often inquire about the health of others, ie., "How are you?," when we really do not care or do not expect an answer. (When I was recently explaining "how I was," I was told that only "old people" respond to those kinds of questions!)

               a. Do you think this is just a routine greeting for
               John? (No. We do not see this in any of his other

               b. If it is not routine, does it tell us anything about John or Gaius? (I think it tells us that one (or both) of these men had health problems and it tends to confirm that John is an old man.  You never really appreciate that fact that your feet, or teeth or some other part of your body works fine until it decides to give you a problem.  Then you realize how important it is.  John's FIRST prayer for Gaius is for good health.  That means this is on John's mind.)

          3. "All may go well with you...even as your soul is getting along well." 

               a. Don't difficulties make us better?  

               b. Don't they "refine" our gold?  

               c. Here John is linking things going well with an improvement in Gaius spiritual life. So why is John praying this? Doesn't he have this backwards? 

          (I am delighted to see John pray this way. There are two ways to learn.  Take electricity for example. You can listen or read and learn from others about electricity. Or, you can stick your tongue in a socket.  I think this "refining by fire" is generally our idea (because we would not learn an easier way) or the devil's idea (because we live in a world where the devil controls--1 John 5:19) and rarely is it God's idea.  The ideal way is to learn about God's will is through His word and thus grow in truth.)

          4. "I have no greater joy ... [than to hear you and others] are walking in the truth."  

               a. What gives you the most joy? 

               b. How is your "joy" related to your priorities?

               c. What does it tell us about John that he has "no greater joy" than to hear his "children" are being faithful? (It shows that this is a central focus of John's life.)

               d. Do you sometimes take "joy" in the troubles of others? 

                    (1) What if your "brother" just bought a new Mercedes and it would not start at church and had to be towed. Would that give you joy? Would you describe this event with sadness or a big grin? (I remember a sermon by one of our former pastors in which he said that anyone who drove a BMW was not saved. (Unfortunately, we had a parishioner there that week who owned a BMW.)  Did you notice that in the sermon two weeks ago, given by the editor of "Ministry" magazine, the angel who saved him in his "Paris, France story" drove a "big BMW?")


     A. Read 3 John 5-9. We have two characters here, Gaius and Diotrephes (dee-ot-ref-ace').  We will discuss Diotrephes in more detail a little later, but what obvious difference do we see in the two here? (That Gaius is helping the brothers and Diotrephes is not.)

          1. Who are these brothers who are "strangers?"

          2. What are these brothers doing? (Verse 7 tells us that they went out "for the sake of the Name."  That means they are missionaries/itinerant preachers.)

          3. What does John mean when he says in v.6, "you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God?"  What does that suggest about the current situation? (This suggests that Gaius has been helping the missionaries sent out from the church with a letter of introduction from John, while "the church" in that area (v.9) is not helping and is rejecting John's letter. Further, it appears that this very letter (3 John) has also been delivered by missionaries and John is asking Gaius to help them too.)

     B. Why should Gaius (or us today) help missionaries or those spreading the gospel? (First, v. 8: this makes us co-laborers for the truth.  You do not have to "hit the road" to promote the gospel. Your financial support for those who do makes you a partner in the project! Second, Christ told his disciples to go out without food and money and receive support from those who listened and accepted them. Mark 6:8-11.)


     A. Read vv. 9-10. What is the problem with Diotrephes? (He refuses to help even when John asks him to help.)

          1. What causes this problem? (Diotrephes "loves to be first.")

               a. What does "loving first place" have to do with helping missionaries? (John may just be commenting on his character, but "loving first place" describes a selfish attitude. Certainly this fits in with refusing to help missionaries.) 

               b. There is a trend to keep more money in the local church for local projects and send less of it away. Does this reveal a Diotrephes "I love to be first" attitude? (The advantage of spending money locally is that you have more concern about your "own money" than you do about money sent in from somewhere else.  But retaining too much money for local projects can also demonstrate selfishness. Notice that if Diotrephes' church had helped the missionaries, it would have been "local help" -- that is, help while they were in the community.)

     B. Does Diotrephes have a theological problem?  Is he teaching false doctrine? (It seems not.  John does not mention that,and he certainly has not been shy about mentioning false doctrine in first and second John. Instead, he seems to have a sin problem.  Note as an aside that Diotrephes' name means "nourished by Jove.")

     C. What specific charges does John make against Diotrephes? (Malicious gossip; refuses to welcome brothers; punishes those who do help.)

          1. Do you see these three sins as related?  Are they progressive? (They are both related and progressive:

               a. Malicious gossip: Failure to love your brother starts out with personal attacks on him.  Why? Because you cannot justify your actions to yourself or others if you do not convince yourself that the person is wrong or evil.

               b. Refuses to welcome brothers: Having convinced yourself that the other person is unworthy of help, you refuse to help him.

               c. Punishes those who do help: If this becomes a "moral issue" for you, then (if you are in a position of power) you feel justified in punishing those who do not support you.)

          2. Turn back with me to 2 John 10-11. Isn't John suggesting the same kind of course as Diotrephes is accused of taking?

               a. What makes the difference?  Is it the fact that this book is called "John" instead of "Diotrephes,"so we get John's view of the dispute? (Obviously, we have little "evidence" to go on here.  But a principled distinction is that in 2 John the instruction "not to help" is directed towards teachers of false doctrine. It does not appear that Diotrephes has some sort of doctrinal dispute. This is simply rivalry, selfishness on this part. It reminds me of the "me first" problem with Lucifer.")


     A. Read 3 John 11-12. Who speaks well of Demetrius? (John, everyone who knows him and "the truth.")

     B. How can "the truth" speak well of Demetrius?  

          1. What do you think John means by this unusual statement? (This is an unusual way to say something that we all understand. "Genuine" Christianity is reflected in the life.  Demetrius is following God, and this "truth" is reflected in his life.  Thus "the truth" speaks well of him!)

     C. We are told to "imitate" the good.  Doesn't imitate mean to pretend or "act like?"  How is this a goal? In fact, the lesson is entitled "Imitating Good." How does this warrant being the title, even? (Consciously and unconsciously we imitate those around us. John instructs us to think about who we are imitating and imitate "good" people. Why? Because those who do good are from God.)

     D. Read vv. 13-14. And so our study of the three books of John ends. John wishes us peace as we travel on the road that leads to eternal life.

V. NEXT WEEK: We begin our study of the parables of Jesus. We are going to look at "lost things."  Study!

NOTICE TO THOSE ON-LINE: I will have a Bible study on the web for next week.  However, scheduling problems and the unavailability of my "web commander" will mean that I will not have a weekly Bible study for about four weeks thereafter.  We will be back with a weekly Bible study as soon as possible.