Overview of the Book of 3 John


Overview of the Book of 3 John

Author: The author is the Apostle John.


To encourage service toward others, especially with regard to hospitality toward those who minister the Gospel.

Date: A.D. 80-90

Key Truths:

  • Christians who are faithful in showing goodness to others are to be commended.
  • Showing hospitality to others, especially to ministers of the gospel, is an important Christian privilege and responsibility.
  • Christian leaders should appreciate and support, rather than fear and abuse, each other.


Third John was written by the author of 1 and 2 John, as is indicated by the many similarities of style and structure. Like the Gospel of John and 1 and 2 John, the traditional ascription of 3 John to the apostle John is more likely than any alternative (see "Introduction to John: Author").

Time and Place of Writing:

There is no trace in 3 John of the conflict over the person and work of Christ that looms large in 1 and 2 John. Therefore, 3 John may have been written earlier than either 1 or 2 John and before this controversy rose, possibly between A.D. 80 and 90.

Original Audience:

John wrote to his friend Gaius. The name Gaius appears elsewhere in Scripture (Acts 19:29; 20:4; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14), but Gaius was a common name. It is not known whether the Gaius who received this letter can be identified with any of the other Scriptural references to the name.

Purpose and Distinctives:

While 1 and 2 John celebrate truths that unite all Christians, 3 John laments the petty rivalry that sets Christians against one another. In particular, the letter was occasioned by a sharp conflict between Diotrephes (apparently an elder in a congregation under John's care) and others in the congregation over hospitality shown to traveling missionaries. It is likely that Demetrius, who was commended to Gaius by this letter, was either one who had cared for missionaries or one who was himself a traveling missionary in need of temporary lodging.

Third John is characterized as an epistle by its salutation, introductory greeting and final greeting. It is a letter commending Demetrius to the recipient, Gaius. The central concern of 3 John is that traveling missionaries should be offered hospitality in accordance with the principle of Christian love.

Notes from the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Dr. Richard Pratt, ed. (Zondervan, 2003).

Introduction Material:

The Epistles of the New Testament


Copyright, Authors, and Theological Editors of the SORSB

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries who served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and has authored numerous books.