The Diagramming of 3 JOHN
A verse-by-verse explanation of the diagram
AN OVERVIEW OF THE DIAGRAM
In the 3 John "diagram," the first thing you should note is that I have tried
to link, in one way or other, concepts or phrases that go together. These
may be parallel, making similar statements about the same thing, or they
may be opposites. For instance, in verse 1, "my dear friend" and "whom I
truly love" tell us two things about Gaius. In verse 11, we see two phrases
which express a contrast between doing good and doing evil.
Observing such parallels or contrasts can be quite important when we are
studying and applying the Bible. Even though we might not immediately
see the importance - and we definitely don't want to "invent" a reason
when we don't see one - our awareness of it may be an important "building
block" for a future discovery.
Certain words and phrases are repeated in this passage. I have marked
some of them by using upper-case letters. Some examples include the
phrase "dear friend" (in verses 1, 2, 5 and 11), and the words "joy," "truth"
and "live," found in verses 3 and 4. I also used upper-case letters to
emphasize the connection between the phrase "go well with you" and
"going well with your soul" (verse 2), but in your analysis you might wish
to use some other method to point this out. There are a few other repeated
words and phrases that I have not marked, which you would probably
want to identify. You could point out the contrast between Diotrephes
(verses 9-10) and Demetrius (verse 12) - and their connection to verse 11.
Words which connect phrases together are very important, because they
show the relationships between different parts of a sentence or paragraph.
This would include words such as "and," "but," "so," "therefore," "also,"
and other similar words. Prepositional phrases will also show relationships
between different parts of a sentence. These are a few of the things you
could look for, and as you practice observing the way different parts of a
verse connect together, you will learn to identify more. (A person who has
studied the structure of language will benefit greatly from what he has
learned and may find it very easy to use this technique. However, anybody
who has a basic understanding of sentence structure can benefit, even if he
does not understand some of the technical details that an advanced English
student might have learned.)
Below are some observations about the relationships between parts of
the sentences in 3 John. The main purpose here is to help you understand
why I wrote this outline or diagram the way I did. If it already makes sense
to you, then there is no need for you to read them.
A VERSE-BY-VERSE LOOK AT THE DIAGRAM
Here we will examine the technical details which explain the various
aspects of this diagram of 3 John. Words or phrases that are quoted from 3
John itself will be shown in underlined italics.
- Two phrases are connected to the name Gaius: My dear friend, and
I truly love. As you study this book you will discover that the phrase
friend occurs three other times (v. 2, 5 and 11), and I have put the phrase
in capital letters each time.
- The word love occurs in verse 6, though it is in a slightly different context.
(Verse 1 mentions John's love for Gaius; verse 6 mentions Gaius' love for
- In some "literal" translations, the word truly is translated as
in the truth.
You may decide that this fits well with the message of vs. 3-4.
- Verses 2, 3 and 4 are connected, telling us about John's prayer, as well as
the reason for his prayer. His two prayer requests both start with the word
that and are connected with the word and.
- These requests have to do with health and circumstances, but they are
his primary desire for Gaius (which is described in verse 4). In a sense we
could say that these prayer requests are his secondary desire for Gaius,
because his primary desire (verse 4) has already been fulfilled.
- Both of these focuses can be observed when we compare the phrases
well with you (which expresses his secondary desire for Gaius) and
well with your soul (which reflects his ultimate and most important desire
Verses 3 and 4
- In this outline, I have put three "connector words" (for - v. 3;
therefore - v. 8; and so - v. 10) in bold font. (I probably would
have circled the words and used arrows, if I were writing it by
hand.) These connector words show the relationship between what
comes before and what comes after them.
- Also, I have added some words in brackets at the beginning of v. 3
("Why this prayer") and v. 4 ("About this joy"), to show the
relationship between verses 2 and 3, and verses 3 and 4,
respectively. (If I were writing this by hand, I might have used
- These verses tell us the reason for John's prayer request. The
connection to verse 2 can be seen in the word for. He prays the
things mentioned in verse 2, for (or because of) the great joy he
has - a joy that is wrapped up in the two words live and truth (seen
in both verse 3 and verse 4). Also, the phrase it filled me with great
joy (verse 3) is somewhat parallel to the phrase I have no greater
joy (verse 4).
- Within verse 3, two phrases are directly connected to it filled me. These
are: with great joy (which explains what he was filled with) and
Christian brothers ... (which explains when this joy came about).
There are two things we need to know about the phrase "Christian
- First, the word Christian is added for clarity. Quite often, when the Bible
uses the word brother, it does not refer to a biological brother but to a
spiritual brother. (Also, words such as brother, in such a context, are
intended to include sisters, as well.)
- Second, two things are mentioned about these brothers, connected by the
word and. These are: they came and they told. Now what did they tell?
Two things about truth and its relationship to Gaius: the truth is in Gaius,
and he continues to live in the truth. In other words Gaius not only
the truth, but it affects the way he lives.
- In verse 4, we learn that this knowledge about Gaius' relationship to the
truth causes John to have the greatest joy that he could possibly have,
when he is thinking about his spiritual children.
- We also learn that Gaius is not only John's dear friend but also one of his
spiritual children - the word spiritual being added for clarification, to
prevent any confusion with the concept of biological children.
Verses 5 through 8
- Verses 5 and 6 tell us more about Gaius. Verses 7 and 8 tell us more about the
Christian brothers (mentioned in verse 5) and our responsibility toward them.
These four verses are connected - though in our analysis, we will separate them
into two parts.
Verses 5 and 6
- Again we come across the phrase dear friend.
- John mentions an encouragement and an exhortation: First, he encourages Gaius by telling
him that he (Gaius) has been faithful (in the way he responded to
the Christian brothers).
Second, he exhorts Gaius to continue in being faithful in this matter.
- Between these two statements (the encouragement and the exhortation), John makes a
brief comment about what the Christian brothers have said about Gaius - which is how
John knew that Gaius was being faithful.
- We learn two things about Gaius faithfulness: 1) he was faithful in what he did for the
brothers, and 2) he was faithful even though they were strangers. This faithfulness is one
of the ways Gaius was living in the truth (v. 3).
- These people were traveling Christians, perhaps similar to a traveling evangelist today,
and Gaius showed hospitality to them. When they came, he treated them as special,
expressing love to them.
- John encouraged (or exhorted) Gaius to also treat them as special when it was time for
them to leave. (This may have meant providing for some of the needs they would have
while traveling - see v. 7-8.) So when Gaius sent them away, it would be just as much an
expression of love as when he received them. Two prepositional phrases modify the
phrase send them. These are on their way and in a manner worthy of God.
Verses 7 and 8
- These verses tell us more about the traveling Christian brothers, as well as our
responsibility or obligation toward them.
- First, they are traveling for God. It was for his name's sake that they
went out (they left the
group of Christians they originally had fellowship with).
- Second, they went ... receiving no financial help. The rest of the verse (from those who do
not know God) explains further who they did not get help from - namely from those they
were going to proclaim the good news to.
- The word therefore connects verses 7 and 8, and depending on what we believe the
"therefore" connects to (in verse 7), we could outline verse 8 in one of two different ways:
- We could say they went out (beginning of verse 7)... and
we, therefore, ought to help them
- Or we could say they received no financial help from people
who do not know God (end of
verse 7)... and so we - people who do know God - ought to help them (verse 8).
- The second alternative is probably the best (and the word help shows a connection
between the two verses). But either way, we reach the same conclusion: We ...
- We also learn two things about the word help: Who we should help, namely
Christian brothers), and why we are to help them, so that we may be fellow workers for the
- This verse tells us about someone who not only was unwilling to help the Christian
brothers, but who tried to punish those who did. It seems that John had already written to
the people (the church) about this matter, but one of the leaders was trying to prevent this
expression of love from occurring.
- So we see a contrast between John (who wrote to the church) and
Diotrephes (who tried to
hinder), connected by the word but.
- In the second half of v. 9, we learn two things about this man, Diotrephes:
he loves to put
himself first (which is the opposite of love for God and neighbor), and he
will not a pay
attention to what we (the apostle John and others) say.
- This verse is connected to verse 9 by the word so.
- John will have to deal with this man's sin, and he tells us near the beginning of verse 10
how he plans to do it: He will point out what he (Diotrephes)
is doing. But this is all
dependent on the phrase if I visit - probably implying that he was
planning to visit, but allowed for God to "overrule" his plans (in the sense of James 4:15).
Alternate diagram variation
- I lined up the phrases if I visit and I will point out as both connected to the word
grammatically, the one phrase (if I visit) would modify the other (I will point out).
So I will point out if I visit,
what he is doing,
- When I did this study, I had decided to not change the word order - even though it is
perfectly acceptable for you to do so (if you don't change the meaning of the passage,
when doing it). Either way we learn the same thing about this passage.
- If you wish, you could also place John's comments about visiting (the beginning of verse
10) as a parenthesis in the middle of a larger description about Diotrephes, since the verse
continues by telling us more about Diotrephes. Either arrangement would be O.K.
Verse 10 (continued)
- The rest of the verse tells us more about what he (Diotrephes)
is doing - things that John
will point out.
- First we find out that Diotrephes is verbally attacking John and those who were with John
(spreading false rumors about us).
- Second we find out that he is not satisfied with just
that, but he does two more things: As
far as the Christian brothers are concerned, he refuses to welcome them. But then he goes
even further: he tries to punish those who do welcome the Christian brothers, going even
so far as expelling them out of the church - which meant that he would treat them as non-Christians. (The word "church" refers to
people who belong to God, not to a building or to
- No wonder John had to encourage Gaius to be faithful in his expression of love to those
brothers (v. 5-6)! He wanted Gaius to be faithful regardless of what Diotrephes might do
to him (such as expelling him out of the church).
- Once again, this phrase dear friend occurs. As before, John has a wonderful, encouraging
word for Gaius. No matter what Diotrephes may do to Gaius, he was still a dear friend to
- Here, John encourages Gaius to imitate (follow) a good example, rather than a bad one.
- The word imitate occurs only once in this passage but I added it a second time in brackets,
because it is implied. Adding it makes the parallel nature of these two phrases more
visibly obvious. You could arrange these phrases some other way if you wish to. You
could even rearrange the words if desired, like this:
Imitate... not what is evil
but what is good
- We have already read about a bad example (Diotrephes), and we will read about a good
example (Demetrius) in the next verse. But first we come to the second half of verse 11,
which contains two parallel phrases that explain why we should imitate the one and not the
other: the one (the good example, implying Demetrius) is from God, and the other (the bad
example, implying Diotrephes) has not seen God.
- This implies a lot about Diotrephes. Even though he seems to be a prominent leader in the
church, he isn't even saved! (Obviously, Diotrephes would strongly disagree, as would
similar people today. But as Jesus said, we will recognize them by their fruit.)
Verses 12 through 14
- In the last three verses, my main reason for indenting some of the sentences is to make the
diagram easier to read. But in most instances there is some type of connection between the
indented sentence and that which comes before it.
- Here we read about the good example, Demetrius. We do not know much about this
person, but he is someone Gaius would have known quite well - at least well enough that
he could be considered a good example (someone to imitate). By implication he was doing
the things that John was encouraging Gaius to do.
- How good was his example? People ("everyone" - referring to those who knew him and
who followed the truth) spoke well of him.
- The truth itself spoke well of him. (Perhaps you might want to see if there is a connection
between the word truth in this verse and the word truth in verses 3 and 4.)
- John and his friends ("we") also spoke well of him. This testimony is connected (by the
word and) to the fact that Gaius knew that their testimony was
- John was an apostle who was sent to bear witness to the truth - the good news from God.
It is quite likely that Gaius first learned from John (and John's friends) the very truth that
spoke well of Demetrius! If it did happen this way, Gaius would have heard John explain
the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit would have used those Scriptures to bring Gaius to
salvation. Then as Gaius continued to examine the Scriptures (as he continued
to live in
the truth, mentioned in vs. 3-4), he would have recognized that John was a man
characterized by truthfulness and integrity - a person who lived in the truth (compare to v.
3-4). Because of this, he would know that John's testimony could be trusted.)
- You might be interested in looking for verses that use the words
testimony, testify, witness,
etc. These words all come from the same basic group of New Testament Greek words, and
John uses them quite often in his writings.
Verses 13 and 14
- Verse 13 first tells us two things about John, connected by the word
but. He: 1) has many
things to say, but he 2) doesn't want to write them down with pen and ink.
- Verse 14 tells us what he would rather do: 1) He wants to see Gaius
soon (you could
connect this to the phrase if I visit at the beginning of verse 10), and 2) he wants to
face to face with him.
- Verse 14 continues with a blessing of peace (or or an expression of
John's desire that Gaius have peace). It ends with greetings. The greetings are from John and various friends who are
with him. They are extended both to Gaius and to others with Gaius, who would be considered
After I finished this study, I focused on the application of what it says. Some of my
thoughts about how the message of this book can be applied to one's life can be seen in the
Study Guide for 3 John, located here:
Dennis Hinks © 2004
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