By Joseph Ametepe
The epistle of Third John is the shortest book in the New Testament and the entire Bible. It contains only 219 words in the original. In fact, this personal letter is just long enough to fit a single papyrus sheet (10 inches by 8 inches), conforming to the pattern of letters of that period. It is the sixth of seven general epistles in the New Testament, all of which are titled according to their author (namely, James, 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st John, 2nd John, 3rd John, and Jude). The letter of Third John is also the only New Testament book that does not directly mention Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit is not referenced. Bible Teacher, Pastor, and Author Chuck Swindoll shares this poignant insight about Third John: "This is another postcard in the New Testament, but one that carries quite a wallop when it comes to telling God's people "straighten up" and seek unity." Dr. McGee also makes this remark about the Letter of Third John: "This epistle deals with my life for God, and it has to do with walking and working in the truth. Love can be very sloppy, it can be misdirected, and it certainly can be misunderstood if it is not expressed within the boundary of truth.
The point of these quotes is simple and straightforward. Although Third John is the shortest book in the entire Bible, yet it is a great book with a great message. It's great message calls on all true believers in Jesus Christ to living a life of balance:-the balance of love and truth. Often some Christians emphasize one of these two to the exclusion of the other. The result of this imbalance can be devastating. Churches often go through divisive battles when they lose their balance:-the balance of love and truth. The Lord Jesus Himself, the Head, Lord, Savior, Sanctifier, and Redeemer of the Church exemplified the balance of truth in His ministry on earth. His Church must follow in His footsteps. The church to which Gaius, the recipient of Third John belonged, was exhorted to maintain the balance of love and truth. The believers who were in this first century church were also charged to continue their practice of Christian hospitality as well as be steadfast in the face of opposition.
Certainly, the message in Third John is relevant for our times. Just as the believers the apostle John exhorted to maintain the balance of love and truth, so also Christians today must endeavor to maintain the balance of love and truth in their walk with God. Just as the early church practiced Christian hospitality for the sake of the gospel, so also the Church of today must do in order to advance the cause of Christ. Just as the early Christians were exhorted to be in face in the face of opposition, so also must believers in the twenty-first century Church be steadfast in the face of opposition. Just as the first century Church walked in the truth, so also the Church today must rely on the Holy Spirit to walk in the truth. Just as the first century Church faced dictatorial leaders like Diotrephes in her midst, so also will the twenty-first century Church face such leaders and must learn how to deal with them.
The prominent doctrines vividly illustrated in Third John include: the person of God, prayer, the prosperity of the believer, the pleasure of ministry, proper conduct in the truth, partnership in the gospel service,, the people of God, the practice of hospitality, and the peace of God. Third John is the smallest book in the entire Bible. But it has a great reservoir of relevant and practical lessons for God's people today. It is therefore our prayer that the Holy Spirit will enable us to pay close attention to the truths revealed in it. And that, in doing so, He will draw us closer to God's heart and deepen our worship of Hom, walk with Him and our witness of Him in such a time as this. May God richly bless you as you listen to the verse by verse exposition of the smallest yet significant book of the Bible.
Third John was probably composed by the apostle John at Ephesus in the latter part of his life and was probably sent to a place near Ephesus in the map below.