Walking in the Truth - Bible Study

by Tom Bulick and Stephanie Thomas on

Bible Studies 1 document
3 John 1–4

  • Walking in the Truth | The Scrolls | July 7, 2024

    Copyright Central Bible Church

The Scrolls is a weekly Bible study written by pastors and other leaders at Central Bible Church, based on that week’s sermon topic. Use The Scrolls as a personal Bible study tool, for family devotions, and for small group discussions. You can read part of it below. The downloadable PDF also includes discussion questions, more in-depth commentary, end notes, and a kids’ page designed for families to study the topic together. This lesson goes with the sermon "Walking in the Truth."

John refers to faithfulness twice in his fourteen-verse third epistle. Addressing Gaius, he writes: “It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it” (v. 3), and “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you” (v.5). John links faithfulness to walking in the truth and to offering hospitality to strangers. In fact, the link is so close as to imply that offering hospitality to Christian strangers is a defining trait of walking in the truth—perhaps because offering hospitality is an expression of Christian love (cf. v. 6), which amounts to obedience to Jesus’ command that believers are to “love one another” (Jn 13:34; cf. 15:12, 17). As one commentator writes: “Soundness in doctrine is no doubt included in the thought, but the basic point is that Gaius’s life of loving hospitality for other Christians (vv. 5-6) indicated his adherence to the truth” (I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, NICNT, 84).

Showing hospitality was essential in John’s day given the ministry of itinerant missionaries. One commentator describes the setting of the apostle’s remarks in 3 John. “It is clear from references that the elder makes in 3 John that itinerant Christians moved between the Christian communities to which he and Gaius respectively belonged [apparently, there were Christian communities closely link to John, as well as Christian communities closely linked to Paul]. The ‘brothers’ who had been recipients of Gaius’s hospitality were most likely members of the elder’s community and reported to it (vv. 5-6), and regarded his community as their base. They had gone out ‘for the sake of the Name’, most likely as itinerant preachers; and, following the pattern laid down by Jesus (Matt 10:10-11), they depended on the hospitality shown to them by people like Gaius in the places they visited (vv. 7-8). Demetrius, who is commended by the elder and those associated with him (v. 12), was probably an itinerant preacher from the same community” (Colin G. Kruse, The Letters of John, 43).

The epistle contains an explicit contrast between Gaius, who faithfully extended hospitality to itinerant missionaries, and Diotrephes, who unfaithfully not only refused to welcome other believers, but also stopped those who wanted to do so and put them out of the church (v. 9). Clearly, in the letter’s terms, Gaius was walking in the truth and Diotrephes was not, which resulted in animosity between the two. Commentators speculate as to the exact nature of the animosity and precisely what motivated it—other than the general observation that Diotrephes loved “to be first” (v. 9) (see Kruse, 44-47; Glenn W. Barker, “3 John,” in The Bible Expositor’s Commentary, vol. 12, 374). About people like this, another commentor notes: “Such people may be born again and perfectly orthodox, but they have brought into the church the spirit of the world, specifically ‘the pride of life’ (cf. 1 John 2:16). They have completely missed the spirit of servanthood that the Lord Jesus enjoined on His disciples (Luke 22:24-27). To love to have the preeminence is exactly the opposite of our Lord’s model of humble service!” (Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John, 285). But all agree that Diotrephes rejected the elder’s authority by refusing his request to provide hospitality to traveling missionaries.

These observations lead to the conclusion that John wrote for three purposes: to (i) reinforce Gaius’s commitment to the noble work of providing hospitality to travelling missionaries, something he was already doing (vv. 5-8); (ii) draw attention to the intolerable behaviour of Diotrephes and to foreshadow the steps the elder intended to take in response to it (vv. 9-10); and (iii) commend Demetrius (v. 12)” (Kruse, 47).

Central Message of the Text: 

Remain faithful to the truth revealed in Jesus by living according to his commands, especially his command to love one another.

Family Talk:

“I just ran into your son at Six Flags.” That’s a text that will make you smile and cringe all at the same time. My cousin noticed my 14-year-old son in line for a ride and took her granddaughter over to say hi. This wouldn’t be a big deal except the last time we saw this side of the family was before Covid. My son went from a little third grade boy to a gangly teenager who had no clue who this random woman was. I know I’ve got great kids and trust them to be well-behaved inside and outside of the home, but Six Flags with a group of friends could tempt boundaries for any teenager. Then there’s the added stranger danger of a random woman who knows his name. Things could’ve gone either way! My cousin was sure to text me how considerate, polite and well-mannered a young man he was. When other people speak positively about the behavior of our kids, it’s like a parenting paycheck. We feel an immense joy knowing all the things we’ve tried to instill in them — be kind to others, be friendly, look a person in the eye, make good choices — come into fruition. Not only did my son address an adult appropriately, but he was also polite to her, kind to her preschool granddaughter and caught obeying all the rules. It was fun to share this little story with him and I got an opportunity to encourage him to continue walking in the ways of the Lord. When do you catch your kids walking in the truth and faithfulness? How will you encourage them?