3 John is one of the few letters in the New Testament written to an individual (the others are 1, 2 Tim, Titus and Philemon).  As you can see, this letter is addressed to a “beloved” friend named Gaius.  Gaius was a very common name in N.T. times.  Indeed we find four references to men named Gaius in the N.T. (including this one): Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Rom. 16:23; and here. None of the first three can be identified with this one.  Therefore we know nothing about this Gaius beyond what we learn in this letter, which isn’t much. 
            Gaius apparently was a member of one of the churches over which the elder has oversight.  Some persons have suggested that Gaius was an officer in a local church.  That is possible, but there’s nothing in the letter to support it. 
            The author once again identifies himself as “the elder.”  This is the same elder who wrote 2 John.  As we established in the previous essay, the elder was the apostle John, the son of Zebedee. 
            You will notice that in the salutation of this letter John does not give the usual Christian blessing.  Instead of offering a general “grace, mercy and peace” blessing, such as he had given in 2 John, we see him here offering a specific blessing for Gaius.  He wishes Gaius good health, both physically and spiritually; and he expresses joy in the knowledge (gained from certain visiting brethren) that the spiritual health of Gaius is good. 
            Next John moves, in verses 5-12, to the primary reason for his writing.  Therefore those verses constitute the body of the letter.  We shall deal with this section in three parts beginning with verses 5-8.  We saw in our consideration of 2 John that the traveling missionaries and prophets, who were the main source of proper teaching for the church, depended on the hospitality of local church members.  Apparently Gaius had been hospitable to such people, and John commends him for that. 
            In 2 John the apostle mentioned the negative side of this matter of hospitality to traveling teachers.  He said, in 2 John 10 and 11, that Christians should not give hospitality to false teachers.  Here in 3 John, we see the positive side.  Gaius is commended for having provided hospitality to traveling leaders.  In addition to apostles Gaius probably aided various prophets, preachers and teachers.  In other words, giving hospitality to traveling ministers was a good thing, if the ministers were not deceivers. 
            John’s point is still applicable today, though in different ways.  For example, it is important that we provide support for missionaries in order that the gospel might be proclaimed to the multiplied millions who yet need to respond to Christ.  Support of missionaries and financial support of other faith ministries are a means of propagating the gospel that falls within the biblical mandate.  And a large number of evangelists and missionaries are supported that way.  This is a modern-day way of doing what Gaius was doing in the first century. 
            But that isn’t the only way that we can support missions.  We must not forget prayer support.  Tillie and I have a list of missionaries and ministers for whom we pray regularly, even though we cannot support all of them financially. 
            In verses nine and ten, John shifts gears.  In these two verses we see the heart of the problem about which John was concerned.  John had written to “the church.”  This probably was the church of which Gaius was a member, though it possibly could have been another one nearby.  In that church, whatever the relationship of Gaius to it, a man named Diotrephes had rejected John’s authority and was asserting himself as a church “dictator.”  Diotrephes not only had refused hospitality to traveling preachers who were legitimate, he had put people who had supplied hospitality out of the church. 
            Again we see that the New Testament Church was not perfect.  They had their problems, just as we have ours.  John makes it clear to Gaius that he would deal with Diotrephes when he, John, personally came to the church.  Interestingly John expresses himself in rather mild terms (a fact that has puzzled the commentators).  The best explanation of the mild words of John is that he is a patient, loving human being.  There is no doubt that he faced genuine provocation on the part of Diotrephes.  But John used loving restraint in his response to Diotrephes. 
            You will notice in verses 11-12 that the elder first encourages Gaius to do good rather than evil (in contrast to Diotrephes who is doing evil).  And then John tells Gaius about another man named Demetrius.  Thus we have another “shift of gears,” so to speak. 
            John gives very little information about Demetrius.  But the way he introduces him indicates that Demetrius probably was one of the traveling preachers that John had been discussing.  Moreover, Demetrius probably was the bearer of the letter to Gaius.  Remember, there was no postal system.  Because John was certain that Diotrephes would not provide hospitality to Demetrius, he sent Demetrius to Gaius, and asked Gaius to extend the hospitality. 
            As he did at the close of 2 John, John gives some closing remarks in verses 13-15. 
In summary, we have considered two important matters here. First is the hospitality issue. Of course the New Testament presents hospitality as a kind of general virtue.  But here, John relates it specifically to traveling ministers of the gospel.  We interpreted that as having primary application today in regard to financial support of today’s evangelists and missionaries, though hospitality in our homes still may be needed on occasion.
            Second is the matter of Church conflicts.  Diotrephes had become a Church dictator.  He had defied, and apparently even maligned, the apostle John.  John was the apostolic authority over Diotrephes’ local church; but Diotrephes was determined to do what he wanted to do, even in the face of apostolic directions to do otherwise.
            This was not a subtle situation.  There was no doubt who was in the wrong.  And John expected Gaius to support John’s apostolic authority by taking care of the needs of Demetrius.  We should be willing to do the same.  In Church conflicts, where it is clear who is in the wrong (and I realize that isn’t always possible) we must support what is right.