Sunday School Bible Survey:      III JOHN

Theme: Contending with troublemakers in the church.

Key verses:
"I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church" (vss. 9, 10).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The Apostle John.

DATE: Probably about A.D. 90.

THEME: The aged Apostle had written to a church which allowed one Diotrephes to exercise an authority common enough in later ages, but wholly new in the primitive churches. Diotrephes had rejected the apostolic letters and authority. It appears also that he had refused the ministry of the visiting brethren (vs. 10), and cast out those that had received them. Historically, this letter marks the beginning of that clerical and priestly assumption over the churches in which the primitive church order disappeared. This Epistle reveals, as well, the believer's resource in such a day. No longer writing as an apostle, but as an elder, John addresses this letter, not to the church as such, but to a faithful man in the church for the comfort and encouragement of those who were standing fast in the primitive simplicity. Second John conditions the personal walk of the Christian in a day of apostasy; Third John the personal responsibility in such a day of the believer as a member of the local church. The key-phrase is "the truth" (see II John, Introduction).

There are three divisions:

  1. Personal greetings (vs. 1-4)
  2. Instructions concerning ministering brethren (vs. 5-8)
  3. The apostate leader and the good Demetrius (vs. 9-14)


  1. J. Vernon McGee said, "This is a letter similar to John's second epistle, in that it is personal in character, and it carries the same theme of truth. However, this letter deals with personalities...In his second epistle, John says that truth is worth standing for; in the third epistle that truth is worth working for" (Thru the Bible).
  2. Second and Third John complement each other. In II John, the elect lady is warned not to extend hospitality to false teachers; while in III John, Gaius is commended for the hospitality he has extended to the brethren (vss. 1-8).
  3. Three men are mentioned in this little epistle: "the wellbeloved Gaius" (vs. 1), the self-willed troublemaker Diotrephes (vss. 9, 10), and the good Demetrius (vs. 12).

  1. There are four men by the name of Gaius, mentioned in the New Testament. There is no way of telling whether or not one of these men is the Gaius referred to by John in his third epistle.
  2. Gaius was a popular name in John's day.
  3. Verse 4 indicates that Gaius was one of John's converts.

  1. Many years ago, A.T. Robertson wrote an article about Diotrephes for a Baptist periodical. Later on, the editor told Dr. Robertson that 25 Baptist deacons wrote the paper to cancel their subscription. They complained that they were being personally attacked (Word Pictures).
  2. Verse 11 is similar to I John 2:29 and 3:7. Verse 11 also indicates Diotrephes was not a saved man.
  3. J. Vernon McGee said, "Diotrephes" 'hang-up' was that he loved to have recognition, attention, and be the center of attraction. He had to rule or ruin. There is generally one like him in every church who wants to control the church and the preacher. He was guilty on five charges: (1) must occupy the leading place; (2) actually refused to receive John; (3) made malicious statements against the apostles; (4) refused to entertain the missionaries (apparently, he wanted to do the teaching); (5) excommunicated those who did entertain the missionaries (he tried to be the first Pope). He was Diotrephes, the dictator" (Thru the Bible).
  4. "Pastor H. A. Ironside had a man in his church who always tried to run the board meetings. If Ironside agreed with him, all went well. But when he disagreed, he would receive a harsh letter from the man, who sarcastically addressed him as 'Dear Diotrephes.' Actually, the board member deserved the title, not Ironside, who was known for his graciousness" (Our Daily Bread, October 25, 1992).

  1. THE GOOD DEMETRIUS (vss. 12-14)
  1. There is only one verse about Demetrius (vs. 12), but it is a "good report."
  2. We cannot identify him with any other of the same name. It is unlikely that he is the silversmith Demetrius referred to in Acts 19.

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —