February 16, 2020 – 3 John

Lesson Date: February 16, 2020

Focal Scripture Passage: 3 John 1:1-14

AIM: To lead students to discover that one way to identify evil workers in the church is by their rejection of traveling evangelists and missionaries, and to thank God for and commit to pray for evangelists and missionaries.


Before class: Read the notes on 3 John 1:1-14 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Find a picture of a house that has been destroyed by termites and a picture of one that has been destroyed by a tornado (use the attached pictures of destroyed houses or select your own). Write the word “Danger” on the marker board or chalkboard.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Show the pictures of the destroyed houses to the class. Ask them to speculate about what happened to the houses. After some responses, tell them the second house was destroyed by a tornado. Tell them the first house was attacked by something just as destructive – termites. Ask: “Which would you rather have happen to your house – a tornado or a complete infestation of termites?” (neither is desirable). Tell the students the only difference in the destruction wrought by tornadoes and termites is the speed at which it occurs. Hold up the second picture and tell the class that house was destroyed in a matter of minutes. Hold up the first picture and tell them this destruction occurred over the course of several years. Regardless of the speed of the attack, the end result is the same.

Direct the students’ attention to the word “Danger” written on the board. Tell them both termites and tornadoes represent danger. Tornadoes attack from the outside with sudden destructive force, while termites work quietly from within. Their damage may remain hidden for a long time; the house may appear strong and sound, while being at the point of collapse.

Remind the class that last week’s lesson (2 John) was about deceivers outside the church who seek to lead Christians astray. Today’s lesson (3 John) deals with evil workers within the church. They can cause great damage to the church, just as termites can cause great damage to a house.



Introduction to 3 John

      • The Apostle John wrote this letter about the same time as he wrote 1 & 2 John.
      • John also wrote the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation.
      • This letter was written to an individual church member.

Greeting and Rejoicing.

      • Ask a volunteer to read 3 John 1:1-2.
      • Tell the class that the elderly Apostle John addressed this letter to a friend named Gaius.
      • Ask: “How did John feel about Gaius?” (he loved him).
      • Remind the class that the word truth appeared several times in 2 John; they will see it again several times in 3 John.
      • Ask: “What did John wish for Gaius?” (prosperity and health).
      • Note that John wanted Gaius to be as prosperous physically as he was spiritually.
      • Ask: “If your material prosperity matched your spiritual prosperity, would you be very prosperous?”
      • Read 3 John 1:3-4.
      • Ask: What caused John great joy?” (learning that his “children” walked in truth).
      • Tell the students that brethren from the church to which Gaius belonged had come to John and reported that Gaius was walking in the truth.
      • Ask: “What does it mean to walk in the truth?” (to live in such a way that your life conforms to the teachings of God’s Word).
      • Tell the class this caused John great joy because he cared for and taught his “children” in the faith. Nothing brought John more joy than to hear that his “children” walked in the truth. The same is true for parents in regard to their children.   Tell the class as a Sunday School teacher nothing brings you greater joy than to see your students living in obedience to God’s Word.
      • Ask: “Are you walking in the truth?”
      • Summarize: Nothing brings more joy to Christian teachers and leaders than see that those they teach walk in the truth of God’s Word. This brings joy to the Lord, too.

John Commended Gaius.

      • Tell the class that in the next verses John commended Gaius for his godly behavior.
      • Ask a volunteer to read 3 John 1:5-8.
      • Explain that in the First Century Christian travelers would stay in the homes of other believers. Missionaries and evangelists traveled throughout the land in that day. They were housed, fed, and cared for by the believers in the local churches.
      • Tell the students that Gaius had been wonderfully hospitable, and the testimony of his faithfulness had spread throughout the churches.
      • Ask: “According to verse 7, did the traveling evangelists accept money from unbelievers?” (no).
      • Stress the fact that it is not the responsibility of the lost world to support God’s work. Believers are supposed to fund God’s work. That’s the reason our church doesn’t hold bake sales or car washes.
      • Ask: “What does verse 8 say we are, if we show hospitality toward those who are spreading the gospel through a traveling ministry?” (fellow helpers to the truth).
      • Tell the class the Greek word translated fellow helpers literally means a co-laborer, companion in labor, helper, or workfellow.
      • When we help those who are faithfully serving God, we are their co-laborers and we will share in their reward (see 2 John 1:11 for a contrast – when we help false teachers we are partakers in their evil deeds).
      • Summarize: We should receive and support evangelists and missionaries who travel to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. When we do so we are helpers in their work.

John Condemned Diotrephes.

      • Tell the class that the next verses tell about a “termite” (an evil worker) within the church.
      • Read 3 John 1:9-11.
      • Ask: “How did John describe Diotrephes in verse 9?” (he wanted preeminence in the church). Diotrephes was fond of being first and eager for attention.
      • Ask a volunteer to look up and read Philippians 2:3 and another to look up and read Colossians 1:18.
      • Ask: “Who is supposed to have preeminence in the church?” (Jesus Christ).
      • Ask: “According to verse 10, what had Diotrephes done to John?” (spoke against him with evil words).
      • Ask: “Did Diotrephes receive the traveling evangelists and missionaries?” (no).
      • Ask: “What did he do to those who wanted to receive and help them?” (forbid them and cast them out of the church).
      • Diotrephes was a deceiver, propagating lies and trying to lead others astray. He was a deceiver inside the church.
      • Ask: “According to verse 11, how are we told to respond to evil workers within the church?” (don’t follow them).
      • Ask: “What are we told to follow?” (that which is good).
      • Ask: “Was Diotrephes truly saved?” (no: “he that doeth evil hath not see God”).
      • Direct the students’ attention to the Tests of True Salvation Tell them this is a restatement of The Test of Our Sin.
      • Ask: “Is your life marked by good or evil?”
      • Summarize: We must not follow those who seek preeminence in the church and speak against godly leaders. Such people are lost and they are evil workers.

John Commended Demetrius.

      • Read 3 John 1:12-14.
      • Ask: “What did John say about Demetrius?” (he was a good man with a good reputation). Tell the class Demetrius held to the truth of God’s Word, proving he was a good, godly man. John could testify about the good reputation of Demetrius.
      • Ask: “Why didn’t John write more to Gaius?” (because he planned to see him face to face before long).
      • Summarize: We should strive to maintain a good reputation among the people of God.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the students’ attention back to the word “Danger” written on the board. Tell them that God warns us about deceivers who may attack from either outside or inside the church. Both are extremely dangerous. Remind the class that last week’s lesson taught us to reject those who come to us from outside the church spreading false doctrine.

Tell the class that there are also deceivers within churches. Show the picture of the house destroyed by termites to remind the students of the destructiveness of termites. Over time, they can do as much damage as a tornado. Deceivers are much like termites. They speak malicious words against Christian leaders. They desire prominence and power in the church. They encourage others in the church to disobey God. They reject and try to run off those who obey God. The Bible tells us not to follow them.

Tell the students that we are told to generously support those who are traveling evangelists and missionaries, if they are faithful and preach sound doctrine. It is our duty and joy to be able to do this, since they do not seek support from the lost world. When we give to godly evangelists or missionaries, we are “fellow helpers to the truth” (3 John 1:8). Encourage everyone to thank God right now for evangelists and missionaries, and to commit to pray for them.

Remind the students of this important truth: Don’t follow the example of evil workers, but do follow the example of those who do good. Lead a closing prayer.


CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize 3 John 1:11. Encourage them to express thanks to their pastor or some other godly worker in the church this week. Next week’s lesson is from the little book of Jude. The week after next we begin a study of the Old Testament books of Ezekiel and Daniel. Give everyone present a copy of the new Sunday School Member Quarterly.

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