Third John – “Truth & Hospitality” (Part 1: Truth)

Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church of Manhattan, KS on 24 Sept 2017

Truth (Intro)

After finishing First John, it might be natural to proceed to Second John this Lord’s Day, but I wanted to explore a verse in Second John next Sunday for the baptism of Thomas Valor, so I decided to just skip on to Third John this Sunday and come back to Second John next Sunday.

So as I started studying 3rd John, I expected it to be all about hospitality and supporting missionaries, but much to my surprise, when it came time to make a sermon out of my notes, the most developed part was six applications about telling the truth, so that’s what I’m going to share today, and we’ll save the rest of Third John for a couple more weeks.

A) Rejoice in the truth

In verses 3-4, John speaks of “rejoicing/being excited/glad” and of something that gives him more joy than anything else.

B) Use God’s Wisdom to Discern When to Tell Truth

John identifies himself in this letter merely as “the elder,” but Greek manuscripts dating all the way back to the earliest-known ones from the 300’s AD tag it as John’s, and it certainly matches his style of writing. He is probably pretty old at the writing of this letter, but his use of the term “elder” could refer to his Biblical office of church leadership. A clear purpose of the Apostle John in writing this letter is to straighten out some twisting of the truth that has been going on at a local church.

There is, of course, a tension between broadcasting the truth and keeping the peace.

C) Use References to Help Establish Truth

One of the strategies to which John, under divine inspiration, points us, in order to combat falsehood is the strategy of getting references. Now, there are limits to human testimony; you can’t establish absolute truth through human witnesses, but references are still a helpful strategy in sorting out truth from lies. With so much transience in the population around us, there are a lot of people whose history we don’t know. Anybody can show up and say anything about themselves, and it’s often hard to know whether what they said was true or false.

D) Keep Truth Distinct From Speculation

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time this week trying to figure out who Gaius is, but he is hard to nail down:

E) Cut Through Deception With God’s Truth

At any rate, the truth needed to be told to encourage the good works of Gaius; the truth needed to be told to expose a church leader – perhaps Gaius’ pastor – who was being terribly uncharitable, and the truth needed to be told to introduce the good character of Demetrius. That’s the body of this letter.

F) Don’t Leave The Truth Unsaid

Finally, let me close with one more thing about valuing truth. Here in the Midwest, we often leave the truth unspoken. We don’t want to say too much.


So there we have our 6 principles of truth-telling from the Apostle’s example in 3rd John:

A)    Rejoice in the truth

B)    Use God’s Wisdom to Discern When to Tell Truth

C)    Use References to Help Establish Truth

D)    Keep Truth Distinct From Speculation

E)     Cut Through Deception With God’s Truth

F)     Don’t Leave The Truth Unsaid


3 John Greek Edition and English Translation by Nate Wilson

Greek NT



1 ῾Ο πρεσβύτερος Γαΐῳ τῷ ἀγαπητῷ, ὃν ἐγὼ ἀγαπῶ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ.

1. The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

1 The elder [un]to the [well]-beloved Gaius, whom I love in [the] truth.

2 ᾿Αγαπητέ, περὶ πάντων εὔχομαί σε εὐοδοῦσθαι καὶ ὑγιαίνειν, καθὼς εὐοδοῦταί σου ἡ ψυχή.

2. Beloved, I’m hoping for you to have good progress regarding all things and to be healthy, just as your soul is making good progress!

2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

3 ἐχάρην γὰρ λίαν ἐρχομένων ἀδελφῶν καὶ μαρτυρούντων σου τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, καθὼς σὺ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ περιπατεῖς.

3. For I was so excited when brothers came and gave a good reference about you being in the truth, just that you yourself are continuing to walk in truth.

3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth [that is] in thee, even as thou walkest in [the] truth.

4 μειζοτέραν τούτων οὐκ ἔχω χαράν, ἵνα[i] ἀκούω τὰ ἐμὰ τέκνα ἐν [τῇ-א,TR,Maj] ἀληθείᾳ περιπατοῦντα.

4. I have no source of joy greater than these things, namely, [when] I hear of my children walking in [the] truth.

4 I have no greater joy than X [to] hear that my children walk in truth.

5 ᾿Αγαπητέ, πιστὸν[ii] ποιεῖς ἐὰν ἐργάσῃ εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τουτο[iii] ξένους,

5. Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever work you happen to do for the brothers - even this for outsiders -

5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and toTR strangers;

6 οἳ ἐμαρτύρησάν σου τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἐνώπιον ἐκκλησίας, οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψας ἀξίως τοῦ Θεοῦ.

6. who themselves gave a good reference concerning your love before the church, [and] whom you will do well to send forward in a manner worthy of God,

6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward [on their journey] after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:

7 ὑπὲρ γὰρ τοῦ ὀνόματος [iv]ἐξῆλθον, μηδὲν λαμβάνοντες ἀπὸ τῶν ἐθνικῶν[v].

7. because they went abroad under [the auspices] of His Name, taking nothing from the pagans.

7 Because [that] for [hisTR] name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

8 ἡμεῖς οὖν ὀφείλομεν ὑπολαμβάνειν[vi] τοὺς τοιούτους, ἵνα συνεργοὶ γινώμεθα τῇ ἀληθείᾳ.

8. Therefore, as for our part, we ought to support such men, in order that we may become co-workers in the truth.

8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.

9 ῎Εγραψά [τι-C,Maj,TR] τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἀλλ᾿ ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων αὐτῶν Διοτρεφής οὐκ ἐπιδέχεται ἡμᾶς.

9. I wrote something to the church, but the guy who loves being their president - (yeah, Diotrephes) isn’t having anything to do with[vii] us.

9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

10 διὰ τοῦτο, ἐὰν ἔλθω, ὑπομνήσω αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα ποιεῖ, λόγοις πονηροῖς φλυαρῶν[viii] ἡμᾶς· καὶ μὴ ἀρκούμενος ἐπὶ τούτοις, οὔτε αὐτὸς ἐπιδέχεται τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τοὺς βουλομένους κωλύει καὶ ἐκ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἐκβάλλει[ix].

10. On account of this, if ever I come, I will remember his works[x] which he is doing: spouting off about us, using wicked words, and not even content with these, he himself both doesn’t have anything to do with the brothers, and he prevents those who desire to - and kicks them out of the church!

10 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.

11 ᾿Αγαπητέ, μὴ μιμοῦ τὸ κακὸν, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἀγαθόν. ὁ ἀγαθοποιῶν ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστιν· ὁ[xi] κακοποιῶν οὐχ ἑώρακε τὸν Θεόν.

11. Beloved, don’t be mimicking the evil, but rather the good. The one who is a doer of good is from God; the one who is a doer of bad hasn’t seen God.[xii]

11 Beloved, follow not that [which is] evil, but that [which is] good. He that doeth good is of God: [butTR] he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

12 Δημητρίῳ[xiii] μεμαρτύρηται ὑπὸ πάντων καὶ ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας[xiv]· καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ μαρτυροῦμεν, καὶ οἶδας[xv] ὅτι ἡ μαρτυρία ἡμῶν ἀληθής ἐστι.

12. Demetrius has been well-referenced by all [concerned] - and by the truth itself, and also we ourselves are giving a good reference (and you know that our reference is a truthful one).

12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and yeTR know that our record is true.

13 Πολλὰ εἶχον γράψαι [σοι-TR,Pat], ἀλλ᾿ οὐ θέλω διὰ μέλανος καὶ καλάμου σοι γράφειν[xvi]·

13. I had many things to write to you, but I’m not wanting to write with pen and ink to you,

13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:

14 ἐλπίζω δὲ εὐθέως σε ἰδεῖν σε, καὶ στόμα πρὸς στόμα λαλήσομεν.
(15) ειρηνη σοι ασπαζονται σε οι φιλοι ασπαζου τους φιλους κατ ονομα[xvii]

14. instead I am hoping to see you shortly, and then we will talk face-to-face!

15. Peace be with you. Our friends greet you. Greet our friends by name!

14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.



[1] A highly-respected modern Biblical Greek grammarian, Robert Hanna, even goes so far as to suggest that the word “truth” in the epistle of 3rd John actually refers to Christ (and other commentators suggest that the Holy Spirit is referred to in some of these instances in 3rd John) – and while certainly God is the ultimate source of truth, and it could be accur­ately said that John is in Christ, Gaius is walking in the Spirit, and has become a co-worker with Christ, nevertheless, I think it is a stretch to go so far as to substitute the word “Christ” every time the word “truth” appears in this letter.

[i] Nowhere else in the NT is hina related to a comparative as in “greater {meizon}...than {hina},” but this is not a statement of purpose (“I have no joy in order to hear of my children”), nor is it a statement of result (“I don’t have joy... in order to obtain the result that I hear of my children...”). The “identificational” meaning (Louw & Nida #91.15) seems to fit because there is an identity between toutwn and “my children walking in the truth,” the latter clause explaining what John meant by the pronoun.

[ii] The Accusative Neuter Singular forms match piston and touto together: “whatever you happen to perform for the brothers” = “you are doing faithfulness” = “and this for strangers.”

[iii] The Majority of Greek manuscripts read είς τοὺς “to the,” and so the Patristic and Textus Receptus editions read, followed by the KJV, but every one of the pre-6th century manuscripts (א, A, B, C, 048) reads τουτο - literally “this” (rendered “especially/though/as” in other English translations) followed by all the oldest translations – Latin, Coptic, Syriac. The former would seem to indicate that the “strangers” are different from the “brothers” whereas the latter seems to identify them together. The following verses of 3rd John make clear that they are the same, so I prefer the reading of the modern critical editions of the GNT here.

[iv] Five late Greek manuscripts add the word “his” to describe “the name,” and somehow this made it into Scrivner’s later edition (although it wasn’t in earlier editions) of the Textus Receptus – and thus into the KJV (and also into the Greek Orthodox Patristic edition of the GNT). The context of the word “God” ending the previous verse makes God the referent of the definite article here in Greek, justifying the translation of the definite article as the possessive pronoun “His.” So it can be accurately translated “His name” whether or not the Greek text has the pronoun explicitly there, so this variant makes no difference in translation. Even without the “His,” “the Name” denotes “the person and reputation of the one true God.” Adam Clarke makes a case for this meaning that they were persecuted and driven out of their homes instead of voluntarily embarking on itinerant ministry.

[v] The Majority of Greek manuscripts (and therefore the T.R.) have the contracted spelling ἐθνῶν which means more generally “nations/ethnicities,” and that seems to be the reading of the Vulgate translation, but the Patriarchal edition of the GNT as well as almost all of the pre-6th century manuscripts (א, A, B, C) have the longer form ἐθνικῶν which has a stronger connotation of “heathen/pagan/Gentile,” and there is a string of Greek manuscripts through the centuries after which retained the longer spelling, plus the majority of the pre-Vulgate Latin translations are considered to be in the tradition of the longer form of the word too, so I kept the longer form. The idea is that of a contrast between being commissioned by the LORD (and provided for by Him – and His people) versus being just another religious huckster from among the pagans, making a living as a charlatan.

[vi] The UBS and Patristic editions read hupolambanein, following 9 manuscripts, including all the oldest-known (א, A, B, C). The Textus Receptus followed the overall majority of manuscripts which read apolambanein, which means close to the same thing. Hupo- emphasizes “lifting up/supporting” as part of “receiving,” and the closest parallel to it in the NT is Acts 1:9, where the clouds “received” Jesus. Apo- emphasizes the movement “from” one place to another in the “receiving,” and the closest parallel to its use in the NT is in Luke 15:27, where the father speaks of receiving his prodigal son back. I prefer the former since this is talking about financial support.

[vii] The Greek word epidexomai behind this English word “receive/accept/have to do with/acknowledge” only occurs one other place in the Greek Bible, and that is in the very next verse, where English Bibles tend to give it a whole new meaning of “welcome;” only the KJV is consistent with rendering both “receive.” Epidexomai is a compound of the Greek verb that means “receive” and the Greek preposition that means “upon.” “Take on,” in the sense of “accepting the responsibility to take care of someone,” might be a more literal way to render it in English, except that “take on” has another meaning of “fighting against,” and that would be the opposite meaning. “Take in,” as in “to drink in their words and let them into your home;” would also work except that “take in” has an opposite meaning of being deceived.

[viii] This verb occurs nowhere else in the Greek Bible, but seems to have to do with a “bubbling up” sound.

[ix] It seems that this could mean, “what they [the brothers not accepted by Diotrephes] were planning to do, even [by?] kicking them out of the Church of Jesus Christ,” or it could mean, “the ones who meant [to accept the brothers rejected by Diotrepehes] even kicking them [the ones in Diotrephes’ congregation who wanted to welcome the brothers when Diotrephes didn’t] out of the congregation.”

Fausset passed on an interesting suggestion from Neander that the reason for Diotrephes’ antipathy was ethnic, in other words, that these itinerant evangelists were Jews whereas Diotrephes is a Greek name. He supports this theory by John’s reference to the itinerants taking nothing from Gentiles and from the beliefs of the Marcionites who rejected John and only followed Paul’s teachings. This is one of the more-plausible explanations I ran across.

[x] The erga “works” of Diotrephes listed here form a contrast with the erga of Gaius listed in v.5.

[xi] The converse relationship between the two clauses here is clear from the context, but only a couple of Greek texts (L & 1852, from the 9th and 13th centuries respectively) actually contain the word “but” here. Nevertheless, it was these manuscripts that made it into the Textus Receptus edition, and that’s why there is a “but” in the KJV.

[xii] 1 John 2:19 & 3:20

[xiii] The possibility of this indicating a backstory of the salvation of Demetrius the silversmith in Ephesus (Acts 19:24 – or perhaps Demas the turncoat from Paul’s ministry Col. 4:14; 2Ti. 4:10; Phm. 1:24.), as well as the possibility that Paul is pointing the way to the replacement of a presiding elder in a local church is tantalizing.

[xiv] Half the oldest-known Greek manuscripts (P74, A, C) read “church” instead of “truth.” The church was mentioned in v.6, and in Greek, the two words share over half the same letters in the same order.

[xv] Although all five pre-6th century Greek manuscripts (as well as the ancient Latin and Coptic translations) render this word singular, and although all of the other “you’s” in this letter are singular in this letter addressed to Gaius, the overall majority of Greek manuscripts (and therefore the Textus Receptus and Patriarchal editions) render it plural, as though John were aware that his letter would make it into the NT canon and, like an actor on stage speaking an aside to the audience, turns to all of us, his readers, to affirm his reliability.

[xvi] Although all five pre-6th century Greek manuscripts render “to write” first in the Aorist tense, then in the Present tense in this verse, the overall majority of Greek manuscripts (and therefore the Textus Receptus and Patriarchal editions of the GNT) switch the tenses and do not include the first “to you” – (I find it curious that the NIV and ESV side against the critical text by including only one “you” in this verse.) It makes no difference in meaning, though. The context makes it obvious that John was writing to Gaius and addressing him as “you,” and the difference in meaning of the tenses of Greek infinitives is infinitesimal (which is why English doesn’t give tenses to infinitives, and why John could use both tenses to refer to basically the same action).

[xvii] John’s friends in Ephesus wanted to also greet Gaius and other friends at the church (in Corinth). The only other occurrence of this phrase in John 10:3 “…he calls his own sheep by name…” – Gaius wouldn’t be able to just get up in the pulpit and read John’s letter to everybody because Diotrephes wouldn’t allow it, so Gaius would have to make the contacts one by one with the church members.