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New Testament Survey
Lesson Twenty

III John

This epistle gives a couple of insights into the church life of the period.  There seems to have been considerable ministry carried on by itinerant preachers who made periodic visits.  They stayed a little while with each group and held protracted meetings in private homes.  The practice was subject to abuse by religious racketeers who would abuse their privileges and obtain free living from the people. Nevertheless, there were those who were worthy to be cared for in this manner.  Gaius was commended for his gracious support of these itinerant preachers, especially since they did not receive contributions from the Gentiles to whom they were ministering.

There was also a rise of those who would control the church and become virtual dictators.  The comment regarding Diotrephes would indicate such was the case. He even refused hospitality to those representatives that were sent by John.  Diotrephes was not willing to receive these visitors and excommunicated those who did.  John protested this and promised that when he came he would test the power of Diotrephes.  John commends Gaius for his conduct and by implication expresses hope that he will extend the same love to Demetrius, a faithful brother who was bearing the letter and is therefore warmly recommended. The statement shows there was governmental difficulties even in the first century church.

This epistle, like the others, was written for a church that was confronted by new philosophies that were seeking to defeat Christianity by absorbing it.  It shows a Christianity struggling to maintain its distinctive message against the subversion of error.

The third epistle was written mainly to Gaius.  He was a hospitable and godly man. He probably was a relatively wealthy layman.  There are three people mentioned in this epistle, Gaius, Diotrephes and Demetrius.  We know nothing of them from other sources.

1. The epistle contains 1 chapter of 14 verses.

2. The author of the book is the apostle John.

3. The book is dated at about the same time as the second Epistle.  We have already stated that it is possible that he wrote in the A.D. 60's although it is possible that he wrote it earlier when he wrote his gospel.

4. It is generally believed that he wrote the book from Ephesus where he was the pastor.


The theme of the book is the receiving of true believers in hospitality.


Christ is seen as the truth, and the One who is Good.

Key Words

Key words are beloved, truth, and good.

Key Verse

3 Jn.1:8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.


1. It was written to warn against error and lack of hospitality.

2. It was given to encourage support for those who labour faithfully in the gospel.

3. It was to give a warning to those who like to dominate others and to show they can and will be dealt with.

4. It was written to recommend Demetrius to them.

5. He wrote to greet his friends.


Events and Characters

He writes to Gaius expressing well wishes for his physical and spiritual well being.   He rejoices that his children are continuing in the truth.  He commends him for his hospitality to the brethren and strangers.  In doing this he has become a helper in the truth. Diotrephes has caused problems by his dictatorial attitude and cruel handling of the people.  Demetrius is a worthy to be received.   John hopes to come himself.

Lessons to Remember

1. We bring joy to those who have ministered to us when we continue in the truth.

2. We should minister to those who share the gospel.

3. Those who usurp authority cause trouble in the church and will receive judgment for their actions.


I. Gaius - Fellow Helper in the Truth    1  -  8

II. Diotrephes - The Arrogant Church Boss        9 -  11

III. Demetrius - Has a Good Report of the Truth    12  

IV. Closing Words    13 - 14

Outline (Alternative)

I. Introduction    1  -  4

II. Encouraging Workers for Truth    5  -  8

III. Reproving Opponents of the Truth    9 -  11

IV. Commending the Witness of Truth    12

V. Conclusion    13 - 14

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The book of Jude is a short epistle that has a unique place among the New Testament books.  It is different for all the other writings of the canonical Scriptures.  There is a similarity of occasion, thought and vocabulary with Second Peter, but it is different and has a character of its own.  The style is broken and rugged, bold, picturesque, energetic, vehement and glowing with the fires of passion.   Origen said "Jude wrote an Epistle consisting of few lines, indeed, but filled with vigorous words of heavenly grace."  A comparison of the text of Jude with chapter 2 of II Peter will show that there is a relationship between the two books.

Four different suggestions have been made to explain that relationship.

1. 2 Peter and Jude have no relationship expect that they are sent two people who are facing a similar situation.  This answer is inadequate to explain the minute verbal similarities.

2. 2 Peter and Jude were paraphrased from the same common source.  This is very unlikely.  Both authors had the ability to originate the content of their epistles. Looking for a third unknown epistle only increases the confusion.

3. 2 Peter took much of the data from Jude.  The references in Jude to history are more exact and circumstantial and his organization is clearer.  It is probable the shorter epistle would be quoted by the longer one, rather than the longer being condensed by the shorter.

4. Jude was stimulated to write his epistle by seeing Peter's but organized his independently.  This seems to be the preferable view.  

The inscription is in very general terms and there is nothing in the epistle to limit it to any particular church or churches. It deals with matters that are a danger to all churches.  The errors are of the nature that they prevail more or less in different parts of the church.

It has been suggested that it was written to Jewish Christians because there is a Jewish flavour in it. The books and conditions referred to as well as historical events are all Jewish.  The fact that the writer is Jewish is sufficient to account for this Jewish flavour in the book.  It is not necessary to suggest that the readers are also.

The problems dealt with in the book are more of the kind with which converts from heathenism would face then would converts from Judaism. Therefore the supposition that the churches in Asia Minor are in view has merit.  The book is a companion book to the epistles of Peter, and resembles Second Peter.  This would suggest that it was to the same circle of readers and the same errors were in view of both books.

The interesting question of the book is in regards to the identity of the men who crept in privately (4).  It was their sneaking into the church that prompted Jude to write. It is against them he speaks so strongly.  The false teachers were heretical in doctrine and of questionable conduct in their manner of life.  They seemed to take license in immorality, despise rule and authority and were a corrupting influence on the church by their example.  They seemed to be libertines in conduct.  Their libertinism had its roots in perverted views of divine grace and Christian Liberty.

1. The book contains 1 chapter with 25 verses.

2. The writer calls himself the bond servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James.  It is almost universally believed that the James referred to is the one who wrote the book of James.  It was James who seemed to be the prominent in the book of Acts.  He is looked upon as the pastor of the church in Jerusalem and chairman of the Christian leaders there.  Jude was his brother and a kinsman of Jesus. He calls himself a bond servant of Christ which shows his change of heart from earlier years.  The natural brothers of Jesus at first did not recognize who He was.  Jude, like his brother James, now recognized the Divine nature and glory of Christ.  He was now an adoring servant of Jesus and the author of one of the books of our New Testament.

3. We do not have a clear indication as to the date of the writing of this epistle.  It would be after Peter's epistle had been circulated and may be dated around A.D. 68.  Some have suggested a date as late as A.D. 80 but it seems the earlier date is preferable.

4. Like the date there is not a clear indication where Jude was when he wrote the book.   When there has been an attempt to determine his location the decision seems to favour Palestine.  This would be when the Jewish War was in progress but prior to the fall of Jerusalem.  This seems unlikely, to me, as all Christians fled Palestine during the Jewish War.


The theme of the book is beware of false prophets.


Judge, the Merciful One, our Saviour and ruling in glory and majesty.

Key Words

Key words in the book are contend, judgment, beloved and love.

Key Verse

Jude 1:3,4 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (4) for there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.


1. It was written to warn against those who pretended to be leaders but were in fact immoral.

2. It was given to warn against heresies that destroy the church, and endanger the faith.

3. Jude wrote to encourage the believers that God will judge those who bring disorder and heresies into the church.

4. It was written to encourage them to reach out and save those who had been taken in by the false teachers.

5. He wrote to encourage them that God would keep those who were His and they need not worry in the midst of all the opposition.


Events and Characters

The writer identifies himself and reminds them of their position in Christ.  They are encouraged to contend for the faith they had received especially since there were those who had crept in unawares and were denying the truths of God. Israel had been saved out of Egypt to die in the wilderness because of unbelief.  God had consistently judged those who did not remain faithful. The angels that sinned were cast out, Sodom and Gomorrha were destroyed, as examples of eternal judgment.    These that have crept in do not respect authority even in the spirit realm.  They are more bold than Michael, and speak evil of things they don't understand.  They are like Cain, Balaam and Korah.  They have contaminated the church but are empty clouds and trees without fruit.  Enoch had prophesied and it would happen - God would come with His saints and bring judgment upon them.  Quoting Peter he reminds them that mockers would come but they were sensual without the Spirit. Saints were to build themselves, pray in the Holy Spirit, love God and have compassion on those who were straying.  God is able to keep them and present them faultless with great joy.

Lessons to Remember

1. We are responsible to contend for the faith that has been given to the church.

2. We are to beware of motives of those come in secretly and often subvert our faith.

3. There are spiritual powers and we must not be careless in our dealing with them.

4. When someone's lifestyle is immoral we should be wary of his doctrine.

5. When Christ comes there will be a judgment for actions.

6. We are to continually build ourselves in faith, one way is by praying in the Holy Spirit.

7. We can have confidence in God's power and willingness to not only preserve us but present us to Himself faultless.


I. Opening        1  -  2

II. The Reason for the Letter    3  -  4

III. History of Apostasy and Its Fate or End        5  -  11

    A. Israel        5
    B. Angels who fell        6
    C. Sodom and Gomorrha        7
    D. Lawlessness        8  -  10
    E. Cain        11a
    F. Balaam        11b
    G. Korah        11c

IV. The Doom of False Teachers        12  -  19

V. Exhortation to Believers Amid Apostasy        20  -  25

Outline (Alternative)

I. Salutation    1  -  2

II. The Announcement of Emergency        3  -  4

III. The Appeal to Historic Precedents    5  -  7

IV. The Arraignment of Apostate Teachers        8 - 16

V. The Advice to Believers    17 - 23

VI. Concluding Benediction    24 - 25

Feed Yourself Students:

Before the next lesson do the following:

1.  Read through the Book of Revelation twice.

2.  Make a list of everything Jesus does in the Book of Revelation and His different Names/Titles.

Lookup a word or passage in the Bible

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