Author: The Book of 3 John does not directly name its author.  The tradition from the earliest days of the church has been that the apostle  John is the author. There have been occasional doubts raised by those who  thought it possible that this was written by another disciple of the Lord named  John, but all the evidence points to the author being John.

Date  of Writing: The Book of 3 John would most likely have been written at  about the same time as John’s other letters, 1 and 2 John, between A.D.  85-95.

Purpose of Writing: John’s purpose in writing  this third epistle is threefold. First, he writes to commend and encourage his  beloved co-worker, Gaius, in his ministry of hospitality to the itinerant  messengers who were going from place to place to preach the Gospel of Christ.  Second, he indirectly warns and condemns the behavior of one Diotrephes, a  dictatorial leader who had taken over one of the churches in the province of  Asia, and whose behavior was directly opposed to all that the apostle and his  Gospel stood for. Third, he commends the example of Demetrius who was reported  as having a good testimony from all.

Key Verses: 3 John 4: “I have no greater  joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

3 John 11: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but  what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is  evil has not seen God.”

Brief Summary: John is writing  with his usual strong emphasis on truth to this much-loved brother in Christ,  Gaius, a layman of some wealth and distinction in a city near Ephesus. He highly  commends Gaius’ care and hospitality to his messengers whose mission  was to take the Gospel from place to place, whether they were known to him or  were strangers. John exhorts him to continue to to do good and not to imitate  evil, as in the example of Diotrephes. This man had taken over the leadership of  a church in Asia and not only refused to recognize John’s authority as an  apostle but also to receive his letters and submit to his  directions. He also circulated malicious slanders against John and  excommunicated members who showed support and hospitality to John’s messengers.  Before John concludes his letter he also commends the example of Demetrius, of  whom he has heard excellent reports.

Connections: The  concept of offering hospitality to strangers has plenty of precedent in the Old  Testament. Acts of hospitality in Israel included the humble and gracious  reception of aliens into the home for food, lodging and protection (Genesis 18:2-8, 19:1-8; Job 31:16-23, 31-32). In addition, Old  Testament teaching portrays the Israelites as alienated people who are dependent  on God’s hospitality (Psalm 39:12)  and God as the One who graciously meets their needs, redeeming them from Egypt  and feeding and clothing them in the wilderness (Exodus 16; Deuteronomy  8:2-5).

Practical Application: John, as always,  emphasizes the importance of walking in the truth of the Gospel. Hospitality,  support and encouragement for our fellow Christians are some of the main  precepts of the teachings of Jesus, and Gaius was obviously an outstanding  example of this ministry. We should do the same whenever we can, welcoming  visiting missionaries, preachers and strangers (as long as we are sure that they  are true believers) not only to our churches but also to our homes, and offer  them whatever support and encouragement they need.

We also need to be  careful always to follow only the example of those whose words and actions are  in line with the Gospel, and to be discerning enough to be aware of those such  as Diotrephes whose behavior is far from being like that which Jesus  taught.