The following is a slightly condensed version of a message I gave at the New Jersey/Pennsylvania GES Regional Conference on Nov 23.
Author and Date: The Elder (John). Many commentators think these letters were written in the mid to late 80s or even in the 90s. However, I believe that the entire NT was surely written before AD 70 and the destruction of the temple. Second and Third John were probably written around AD 65, the same time as 1 John was written. John was probably in his 50s or 60s when he wrote this.
Readers: Second John is addressed to the elect lady and her children. This is certainly not to be understood literally. This is a figure of speech. The elect lady in view is a house church, and her children are the members of that church (2 John 1, 5-6). Most probably, the carrier of 1 John, likely written to a group of churches, dropped off 2 John when he came to the church addressed in 2 John.
Third John is addressed to Gaius, who was a wealthy man and possibly an elder in a local church (3 John 1, 9).
Purpose: Watch what you support and follow.
The Greek text does not refer to 1, 2, and 3 John. Instead, it refers to Alpha, Beta, and Gamma John.
That can help us remember the message of Beta and Gamma John. Beta John, B, says don’t support the bad guys and their bad teaching.
Gamma John says do support the good guys and their good teaching.
We are to Uphold the Truth by Rejecting Error (Beta John) and by Supporting Its Representatives (Gamma John).
Key words, concepts, issues
“Having God” (2 John 9)
Full Reward (2 John 8)
Share in evil deeds (2 John 11)
= Be fellow workers for the truth (3 John 8)
Imitate good, not evil (3 John 11)
Send them on in a manner worthy of God (3 John 6)
Second John: Support the Truth by Rejecting Error
Salutation (vv 1-3)
Body: Protect the Truth by Rejecting Error (vv 4-11)
A. Walking in love is protecting the truth (vv 4-6).
B. Protect Your Work by Rejecting Error (vv 7-11).
Hodges says of v 8: “If for no other reason than this verse, the importance of Second John in the canon of the NT would be firmly established. No statement in the Scriptures makes clearer the integral connection between maintaining the truth and gaining eternal reward” (p. 259, italics added).
C. To help false teachers is to share in their evil deeds (11).
Farewell (vv 12-13)
Applications of 2 John
- Never forget that doctrine matters.
- Keep on growing in your knowledge of Scripture and doctrine.
- Make sure sound doctrine continues to be taught at your church.
- Realize that there is a direct connection between doctrine and eternal rewards.
- Realize that rewards are like multi-level marketing programs. How your disciples do impacts not only their eternal rewards, but yours. You get a cut. To get a full reward, your disciples must keep on.
- Realize you have many you influence or disciple for Christ, even if you don’t preach or teach Sunday school or teach Bible classes. You influence your own children and other children as well. You influence people in your family, at your job, in your neighborhood, at your church.
Third John: Support the Truth by Supporting Its Representatives
Salutation (v 1)
Body: Uphold the Truth by Supporting Its Representatives (vv 2-12)
A. Commendation of Gaius’ walk in the truth.
B. Call to Support Those who Proclaim the Truth (vv 5-8).
C. To aid truth teachers is to become fellow workers for the truth (8).
NB: Verses 9-10 explain why John wrote to Gaius instead of the whole church about this. Normally a letter would have been given to the traveling evangelist to take to the church in the city where he was going. Here a personal letter is sent instead.
D. Aid Demetrius, despite the opposition of Diotrephes (vv 9-12).
Demetrius is the traveling evangelist/teacher who was carrying this letter (vv 10ff). John wanted Gaius to receive him so that he might minister in the church there. However, there was a danger, since a leader of the church had become dictator and would not permit any traveling teacher, even with a letter from an apostle, to receive lodging and assistance.
Diotrephes is not said to hold to doctrinal error. There is no hint that he is not a believer. Indeed, that he is a leader in the church and John doesn’t call him a false brother surely indicates he is a believer.
Christ alone should have the position of preeminence. Diotrephes was likely one of the elders in the church, but one who bullied the others into doing his will.
Remember that Gaius had helped traveling evangelists in the past (vv 5-8). Thus it appears that Diotrephes “looked the other way” (Hodges, p. 289) when it came to Gaius, possibly because he was a fairly wealthy man whose support was really important in the local church.
Or, if this is a new policy by Diotrephes, then John is setting up a show down and is telling Gaius to be bold and do the right thing.
Farewell (vv 13-14)
Applications of 3 John
- Support the truth financially, prayerfully, and in all ways.
- Let Christ have preeminence in all things.
- Imitate godly behavior.
- Shun ungodly examples. (Beware of being desensitized.)
There are only five books in the Bible that contain only one chapter: Obadiah, Philemon, 2-3 John, and Jude. Though short in length, 2 and 3 John are long in power and influence. These are extremely practical letters.
Believers in Jesus Christ have eternal life. We know the truth. Thus, we should support the truth. We support the truth in two major ways: by rejecting error and by supporting the representatives of the truth.
In a sense, John is saying put your money where the truth is. If you want to invest in a good spiritual mutual fund, invest in those who are accurately teaching the Word of God. Don’t invest in hype, glitter, and prosperity teaching. Error may be popular with men. But truth is popular with God. And it is the Lord Jesus, not men, who will one day evaluate us. How we should long to hear Him say to us, “Well done, good servant.”