corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

3 John 1



Verse 1

The beloved (τωι αγαπητωιtōi agapētōi). Four times in this short letter this verbal adjective is used of Gaius (here, 3 John 1:2, 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:11). See 2 John 1:1 for the same phrase here, “whom I love in truth.”

Verse 2

I pray (ευχομαιeuchomai). Here only in John‘s writings. See Romans 9:3.

In all things (περι παντωνperi pantōn). To be taken with ευοδουσταιeuodousthai and like περιperi in 1 Corinthians 16:1, “concerning all things.”

Thou mayest prosper (σε ευοδουσταιse euodousthai). Infinitive in indirect discourse (object infinitive) after ευχομαιeuchomai with accusative of general reference σεse (as to thee). ΕυοδοωEuodoō is old verb (from ευοδοςeuodos ευeu and οδοςhodos prosperous in a journey), to have a good journey, to prosper, in lxx, in N.T. only this verse (twice), 1 Corinthians 16:2; Romans 1:10.

Be in health (υγιαινεινhugiainein). In Paul this word always means sound teaching (1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:3), but here and in Luke 5:31; Luke 7:10; Luke 15:27, of bodily health. Brooke wonders if Gaius‘ health had caused his friends anxiety.

Even as thy soul prospereth (κατως ευοδουται σου η πσυχηkathōs euodoutai sou hē psuchē). A remarkable comparison which assumes the welfare (present middle indicative of ευοδοωeuodoō) of his soul (πσυχηpsuchē here as the principle of the higher life as in John 12:27, not of the natural life as in Matthew 6:25).

Verse 3

I rejoiced greatly (εχαρην λιανecharēn lian). As in 2 John 1:4; Philemon 4:10, not epistolary aorist, but reference to his emotions at the good tidings about Gaius.

When brethren came (ερχομενων αδελπωνerchomenōn adelphōn). Genitive absolute with present middle participle of ερχομαιerchomai and so with μαρτυρουντωνmarturountōn (bare witness, present active participle of μαρτυρεωmartureō). Present participle here denotes repetition, from time to time.

To the truth (τηι αλητειαιtēi alētheiāi). Dative case. “As always in the Johannine writings, ‹truth‘ covers every sphere of life, moral, intellectual, spiritual” (Brooke).

Even as thou walkest in truth (κατως συ εν αλητειαι περιπατειςkathōs su en alētheiāi peripateis). “Thou” in contrast to Diotrephes (3 John 1:9) and others like him. On περιπατεωperipateō see 1 John 1:6 and on εν αλητειαιen alētheiāi see 2 John 1:4.

Verse 4

Greater (μειζοτερανmeizoteran). A double comparative with τερος̇teros added to μειζωνmeizōn like our “lesser” and like μαλλον κρεισσονmallon kreisson (more better) in Philemon 1:23. In Ephesians 3:8 we have ελαχιστοτερωιelachistoterōi a comparative on a superlative. Like forms occur in the vernacular papyri and even in Homer (χειροτεροςcheiroteros more worse) as also in Shakespeare.

Joy (χαρανcharan). B reads χαρινcharin (grace).

Than this (τουτωνtoutōn). Ablative neuter plural after the comparative.

To hear of (ινα ακουωhina akouō). Object clause (epexegetic) with ιναhina and ακουωakouō the present active subjunctive (keep on hearing of) in apposition with τουτωνtoutōn in truth (εν αλητειαι περιπατουνταen alētheiāi peripatounta). As in 2 John 1:4, which see. By the use of τεκναtekna John may mean that Gaius is one of his converts (1 Timothy 1:1).

Verse 5

A faithful work (πιστονpiston). Either thus or “thou makest sure,” after an example in Xenophon quoted by Wettstein (ποιειν πισταpoiein pista) and parallel to καινα ποιεωkaina poieō in Revelation 21:5. But it is not certain.

In whatsoever thou doest (ο εαν εργασηιho ean ergasēi). Indefinite relative with modal εανean (= ανan) and the first aorist middle subjunctive of εργαζομαιergazomai See Colossians 3:23 for both ποιεωpoieō and εργαζομαιergazomai in the same sentence.

And strangers withal (και τουτο χενουςkai touto xenous). “And that too” (accusative of general reference as in 1 Corinthians 6:6; Philemon 1:28; Ephesians 2:8). This praise of hospitality (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:10; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2) shows that in 2 John 1:10 John has a peculiar case in mind.

Verse 6

Before the church (ενωπιον εκκλησιαςenōpion ekklēsias). Public meeting as the anarthrous use of εκκλησιαekklēsia indicates, like εν εκκλησιαιen ekklēsiāi in 1 Corinthians 14:19, 1 Corinthians 14:35.

Thou wilt do well (καλως ποιησειςkalōs poiēseis). Future active of ποιεωpoieō with adverb καλωςkalōs a common polite phrase in letters (papyri) like our “please.” See also Acts 10:33; James 2:19; 1 Corinthians 7:37.; Philemon 4:14; 2 Peter 1:19.

To set forward on their journey (προπεμπσαςpropempsas). First aorist active participle (simultaneous action) of προπεμπωpropempō to send forward, “sending forward,” old word, in N.T. in Acts 15:3; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; 1 Corinthians 16:6, 1 Corinthians 16:11; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Romans 15:24; Titus 3:13.

Worthily of God (αχιως του τεουaxiōs tou theou). Precisely this phrase in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and the genitive with αχιωςaxiōs also in Romans 16:2; Philemon 1:27; Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1. See John 13:20 for Christ‘s words on the subject. “Since they are God‘s representatives, treat them as you would God” (Holtzmann). From Homer‘s time (Od. XV. 74) it was customary to speed the parting guest, sometimes accompanying him, sometimes providing money and food. Rabbis were so escorted and Paul alludes to the same gracious custom in Romans 15:24; Titus 3:13.

Verse 7

For the sake of the Name (υπερ του ονοματοςhuper tou onomatos). The name of Jesus. See Acts 5:4; Romans 1:5 for υπερ του ονοματοςhuper tou onomatos and James 2:7 for the absolute use of “the name” as in 1 Peter 4:16. “This name is in essence the sum of the Christian creed” (Westcott) as in 1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 10:9. It is like the absolute use of “the Way” (Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 24:22).

Taking nothing (μηδεν λαμβανοντεςmēden lambanontes). Present active participle with the usual negative with participles (1 John 2:4).

Of the Gentiles (απο των ετνικωνapo tōn ethnikōn). Instead of the usual ετνωνethnōn (Luke 2:32), late adjective for what is peculiar to a people (ετνοςethnos) and then for the people themselves (Polybius, Diodorus, not in lxx), in N.T. only here, Matthew 5:47; Matthew 6:7; Matthew 18:17. Like our heathen, pagan. John is anxious that Christian missionaries receive nothing from the heathen, as our missionaries have to watch against the charge of being after money. There were many travelling lecturers out for money. Paul in 1 Cor 9 defends the right of preachers to pay, but refuses himself to accept it from Corinth because it would be misunderstood (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:6.; 2 Corinthians 12:16.). Note αποapo here as in collecting taxes (Matthew 17:25) rather than παραpara which may be suggestive.

Verse 8

Ought (οπειλομενopheilomen). See for this word 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:11.

To welcome (υπολαμβανεινhupolambanein). Present active infinitive (habit of welcoming) of υπολαμβανωhupolambanō old word, to take up under, to carry off (Acts 1:9), to reply (Luke 10:30), to suppose (Acts 2:15), only here in N.T. in this sense of receiving hospitably or to take under one‘s protection like υποδεχομαιhupodechomai (Luke 10:38).

Such (τους τοιουτουςtous toioutous). “The such” according to the Greek idiom (1 Corinthians 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:18).

That we may be (ινα γινωμεταhina ginōmetha). Purpose clause with ιναhina and the present middle subjunctive of γινομαιginomai “that we may keep on becoming.”

Fellow-workers (συνεργοιsunergoi). Old compound (συν εργονsunτηι αλητειαιergon).

With the truth (συνtēi alētheiāi). So associative instrumental case with συνεργοιsun in συνεργεωsunergoi but it is not certain that this is the idea, though εργοιςsunergeō is so used with Συνεργοςergois in James 2:22. τεου συνεργοιSunergos itself occurs with the genitive of the person as in της χαραςtheou sunergoi (1 Corinthians 3:9) or with genitive of the thing tēs charās (1 Corinthians 3:9). So then here the meaning may be either “co-workers with such brethren for the truth” (dative of advantage) or “co-workers with the truth” (associative instrumental case).

Verse 9

I wrote somewhat unto the church (εγραπσα τι τηι εκκλησιαιegrapsa ti tēi ekklēsiāi). A few MSS. add ανan to indicate that he had not written (conclusion of second-class condition), clearly spurious. Not epistolary aorist nor a reference to 2 John as Findlay holds, but an allusion to a brief letter of commendation (Acts 18:27; 2 Corinthians 3:1; Colossians 4:10) sent along with the brethren in 3 John 1:5-7 or to some other itinerant brethren. Westcott wrongly thinks that τιti is never used of anything important in the N.T. (Acts 8:9; Galatians 6:3), and hence that this lost letter was unimportant. It may have been brief and a mere introduction. ΔιοτρεπεςDiotrephes (ΔιοςDios and τρεπωtrephō nourished by Zeus). This ambitious leader and sympathiser with the Gnostics would probably prevent the letter referred to being read to the church, whether it was 2 John condemning the Gnostics or another letter commending Demetrius and John‘s missionaries. Hence he sends Gaius this personal letter warning against Diotrephes.

Who loveth to have the preeminence among them (ο πιλοπρωτευων αυτωνho philoprōteuōn autōn). Present active articular participle of a late verb, so far found only here and in ecclesiastical writers (the example cited by Blass being an error, Deissmann, Light etc., p. 76), from πιλοπρωτοςphiloprōtos fond of being first (Plutarch), and made like πιλοπονεωphiloponeō (papyri), to be fond of toil. This ambition of Diotrephes does not prove that he was a bishop over elders, as was true in the second century (as Ignatius shows). He may have been an elder (bishop) or deacon, but clearly desired to rule the whole church. Some forty years ago I wrote an article on Diotrephes for a denominational paper. The editor told me that twenty-five deacons stopped the paper to show their resentment against being personally attacked in the paper.

Receiveth us not (ουκ επιδεχεται ημαςouk epidechetai hēmās). Present active indicative of this old compound, in N.T. only here and 3 John 1:10. Diotrephes refused to accept John‘s authority or those who sided with him, John‘s missionaries or delegates (cf. Matthew 10:40).

Verse 10

If I come (εαν ελτωean elthō). Condition of third class with εανean and second aorist active subjunctive of ερχομαιerchomai He hopes to come (3 John 1:14), as he had said in 2 John 1:12 (one argument for identifying 2 John with the letter in 3 John 1:9).

I will bring to remembrance (υπομνησωhupomnēsō). Future active indicative of υπομιμνησκωhupomimnēskō old compound (John 14:26; 2 Peter 1:12). The aged apostle is not afraid of Diotrephes and here defies him.

Which he doeth (α ποιειha poiei). Present active indicative, “which he keeps on doing.”

Prating against us (πλυαρων ημαςphluarōn hēmās). Present active participle of old verb (from πλυαροςphluaros babbling 1 Timothy 5:13), to accuse idly and so falsely, here only in N.T. with accusative ημαςhēmās (us).

With wicked words (λογοις πονηροιςlogois ponērois). Instrumental case. Not simply foolish chatter, but malevolent words.

Not content (μη αρκουμενοςmē arkoumenos). Present passive participle of αρκεωarkeō with usual negative μηmē For this verb in this sense see 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5, only there επιepi is absent. John knows that the conduct of Diotrephes will not stand the light. See Paul‘s threats of exposure (1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:1-3). And John is the apostle of love all the same.

He himself (αυτοςautos). That was bad enough.

Them that would (τους βουλομενουςtous boulomenous). “Those willing or wishing or receive the brethren” from John.

He forbiddeth (κωλυειkōluei). “He hinders.” Present active indicative of κωλυωkōluō and means either actual success in one case (punctiliar use of the present indicative) or repetition in several instances (linear action) or conative action attempted, but not successful as in Matthew 3:14 (this same verb) and John 10:32.

Casteth them out of the church (εκ της εκκλησιας εκβαλλειek tēs ekklēsias ekballei). Here again εκβαλλειekballei can be understood in various ways, like κωλυειkōluei This verb occurs in John 2:15 for casting out of the temple the profaners of it and for casting the blind man out of the synagogue (John 9:34.). If this ancient “church-boss” did not succeed in expelling John‘s adherents from the church, he certainly tried to do it.

Verse 11

Imitate not (μη μιμουmē mimou). Present middle imperative in prohibition (do not have the habit of imitating) of μιμεομαιmimeomai (from μιμοςmimos actor, mimic), old word, in N.T. only here, 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Hebrews 13:7.

That which is evil (το κακονto kakon). “The bad,” as in Romans 12:21 (neuter singular abstract).

But that which is good (αλλα το αγατονalla to agathon). “But the good.” As in Romans 12:21 again. Probably by the contrast between Diotrephes and Demetrius.

He that doeth good (ο αγατοποιωνho agathopoiōn). Articular present active participle of αγατοποιεωagathopoieō late and rare verb, in contrast with ο κακοποιωνho kakopoiōn (old and common verb) as in Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9; 1 Peter 3:17.

Is of God (εκ του τεου εστινek tou theou estin). As in 1 John 3:9.

Hath not seen God (ουχ εωρακεν τον τεονouch heōraken ton theon). As in 1 John 3:6. He does not say εκ του διαβολουek tou diabolou as Jesus does in John 8:44, but he means it.

Verse 12

Demetrius hath the witness of all men (Δημητριωι μεμαρτυρηται υπο παντωνDēmētriōi memarturētai hupo pantōn). Perfect passive indicative of μαρτυρεωmartureō “it has been witnessed to Demetrius (dative case) by all.” We know nothing else about him, unless, as is unlikely, he be identified with Demas as a shortened form (Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:4; 2 Timothy 4:10), who has come back after his desertion or with the Ephesian silversmith (Acts 19:21.), who may have been converted under John‘s ministry, which one would like to believe, though there is no evidence for it. He may indeed be the bearer of this letter from Ephesus to Gaius and may also have come under suspicion for some reason and hence John‘s warm commendation.

And of the truth itself (και υπο αυτης της αλητειαςkai hupo autēs tēs alētheias). A second commendation of Demetrius. It is possible, in view of 1 John 5:6 (the Spirit is the truth), that John means the Holy Spirit and not a mere personification of the truth.

Yea we also (και ημεις δεkai hēmeis de). A third witness to Demetrius, that is John himself (literary plural).

Thou knowest (οιδαςoidas). “The words in John 21:24 sound like an echo of this sentence” (Westcott). John knew Demetrius well in Ephesus.

Verse 13

I had (ειχονeichon). Imperfect active of εχωechō when I began to write (γραπσαιgrapsai ingressive aorist active infinitive of γραπωgraphō).

I am unwilling to write (ου τελω γραπεινou thelō graphein). “I do not wish to go on writing them.”

With ink and pen (δια μελανος και καλαμουdia melanos kai kalamou), “by means of (διαdia) black (ink) and reed (used as pen).” See 2 John 1:12 for μελανοςmelanos and Matthew 11:7 for καλαμοςkalamos used for papyrus and parchment, as γραπειονgrapheion (a sharp stilus) for wax tablets.

Verse 14

I hope (ελπιζωelpizō) - We shall speak (λαλησομενlalēsomen). Literary plural really singular like ελπιζωelpizō to face (στομα προς στομαstoma pros stoma). As in 2 John 1:12.

Peace to thee (ειρηνη σοιeirēnē soi). Pax tibi like the Jewish greeting οι πιλοιshalōm (Luke 10:5; Luke 24:36; John 20:19, John 20:21).

The friends (κατ ονομαhoi philoi). Those in Ephesus.

By name (κατ ονομαkat' onoma). John knew the friends in the church (at Pergamum or wherever it was) as the good shepherd calls his sheep by name (John 10:3, the only other N.T. example of kat' onoma). The idiom is common in the papyri letters (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 193, note 21).


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 3 John 1:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology