3rd John: A Candid Look at Congregational Life
Introduction to 3rd John
The postcard of Third John pictures a N.T. congregation, warts and all. Sometimes I am convinced that we imagine life in the first-century church as postcard perfect. For sure, there are some passages that might lead us to that conclusion (Acts 2:44-46; 4:32-37). However, we forget about the persecution, poverty, and problems that they faced.
Likely, as we study the postcard of Third John, we will be reminded of congregations that we have known down through the years. We will be reminded of people that we have known – some good, some bad. We will be reminded of problems that we have faced – some major, some minor.
- The third epistle of John is small, but powerful. It contains only 219 words and would have fit easily on a standard papyrus sheet (8” x 10”).
- Someone has noted that weighty things can be stated in few words. For example, consider the words, “I love you.”
John MacArthur writes, “Third John is perhaps the most personal of John’s 3 epistles…In 3rd John the apostle clearly names the sole recipient as ‘the beloved Gaius’ (v. 1). The name Gaius was very common in the first century (e.g., Acts 19:29; 20:4; Rom. 16:23; I cor. 1;14), but nothing is known of this individual beyond John’s salutation…” The word Gaius means “rejoicing”
Four times within the fourteen verses of Third John, the penman refers to Gaius as “beloved.” (“Dear Friend” in the NLT) The word “beloved” is a transitional word within the book. Each time that we see the word “beloved,” we will transition to a new point