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New Testament | 3 John | Summary



Addressing Gaius, "the elder" offers encouragement.

  • The author exhorts Gaius to remain faithful, especially in supporting members of the ekklēsia (Greek for "church, assembly") and preparing them to serve as coworkers.
  • The author expresses concern that a member of the community, Diotrephes, does not accept his authority.
  • He writes that if he visits, he will address the situation head-on and deal with Diotrephes's refusal to "welcome the friends" (3 John 10).
  • He encourages Gaius to choose good over evil, equating the good with God.
  • He also mentions a person named Demetrius, maybe a Christ-believer who is visiting Gaius's community, and provides a positive recommendation on Demetrius's behalf.
  • The letter closes with greetings from his community of friends to the friends in Gaius's location.


Although this letter is quite brief, it offers some insight into the close personal relationships that developed between members of the Christ-believing communities. These relationships are founded on shared belief, above all. John repeatedly calls Gaius "beloved" (3 John 2, 5, 11), and refers to other Christ-believers as friends and says they should be treated as such even when he explicitly states that they are "strangers" whom Gaius has never met before (3 John 5). Although the author calls himself an "elder," the emphasis throughout on bonds of love and friendship in the community indicates that any authority was perhaps poorly defined or not universally accepted.

The author's personal knowledge about individuals in the community also demonstrates that sometimes the scale of conflicts among Christ-believers could be quite small. In this letter, it is a single, specific person whose opposition to the author inspired him to write a letter. This gives readers a glimpse of the precariousness of Christian leadership in the early Christ-believing communities, perhaps especially of leadership that relied on long-distance communication. On the other hand, the author's confidence in his ability to deal with Diotrephes and to convince Gaius not to be swayed suggest that personal appeals, like a letter, could have a significant impact on the spread of certain strands of early Christian teaching.

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