Overview and Study of 2 John,
3 John, and Jude
December 24th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Overview of the 2nd and 3rd Letters from John and the Letter from Jude

Three short letters bring the section of letters to a close with words of encouragement. 2 John and 3 John were authored by the same John as the first letter from John – “the Disciple who Jesus loved.” He was one of the three Disciples who accompanied Jesus on a few occasions where Jesus wanted a smaller group – such as the Transfiguration in which Moses and Elijah appeared next to Jesus.

These two letters are distinctly different from the first. The first one was addressed to a broad audience but these two are addressed to specific people. The first one has been divided up into five chapters, but the latter two are just one chapter each. All three were presumably written from Ephesus, the last two around 100 A.D. during a time of persecution and challenges from false teaching.

The letter from Jude was written around A.D. 65 by Jude, a brother of Jesus and James. Jude is noted in the Gospel as one of the twelve Disciples. Matthew and Mark called him Thaddeus (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18). Luke calls him Judas (Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13) (1). Judas addresses a wide audience of believers and encourages them to be vigilant, strong in faith, and wary of false teachers who use Grace as an excuse to commit whatever sins they want. This letter is also brief enough to fit into one chapter.

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Barclay, William, The Letters of John and Jude, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1960
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version , Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus, The Apostles, and the Early Church, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2007
  • “Sermon Library,” Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT www.norotonchurch.org/sermons/min_sermons.html

2 John, 3 John, and Jude (Three Pithy Letters)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does what is good is of God; whoever does what is evil has never seen God.

- 3 John 1:11 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

In his second letter, John addresses a specific lady at one of the churches. He emphasizes the basics of Christianity such as truth and love. For example, in verse 1:6 he says: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” John then tells her that anyone who denies Jesus is a deceiver. He closes the letter noting that he would rather talk more in person.

In the third letter, John commends a man named Gaius who has been faithful and respected by many. John compliments Gaius for his hospitality and encourages him to continue to host other leaders.

    Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

    - 3 John 5-8 (NIV)

He also warns Gaius about the deceivers and says he would like to talk more in person.

Jude addresses a wide audience and explains in verse 3 why he writes:

    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.

    - Jude 1:3 (KJV)

His letter is a bit longer than 2 John and 3 John as he takes time to describe some of the wayward people of the past, including a couple of characters from the book of Numbers: Balaam and Korah (see Numbers 16 and 22-24).

Jude characterizes these types of people as selfish ungrounded folks who grumble about others, boast about themselves, and follow an evil path. Having identified the opposition, Jude then encourages his readers to persevere in their resistance and remain in God’s love. They should not get sucked into the world of these deceivers, but should be prepared to show mercy to those who are in doubt. He closes with a doxology of praise to the everlasting God “who keeps you from falling (Jude 1:24).”

Reflection and Application

Who knows what other words of encouragement were offered in person by John and Jude, but we are grateful that they chose to take the time to put these words in writing and that the letters have been persevered for two thousand years. We don’t know the full context of each situation, but can infer.

In the second letter John wanted to encourage a woman so that her children would continue in her faith journey. Was she a widow? Or was her husband a non-believer or a passive believer? Many of us can picture people we know in each of these situations and can appreciate the challenge that this woman faced in leading the spiritual training of her children. This must have been exceptionally admirable in a society that was male-dominated.

We don’t know much about Gaius, but we can infer that he had a heart for hospitality. The Apostle Paul has told us that we each have different gifts. In the case of Gaius, his gift was hospitality. He didn’t need to teach or organize a choir or build a church, but his calling was to host travelling preachers and leaders. There is a lot of work in the preparation and hosting and cleaning up afterwards and it’s often somewhat unnoticed, but clearly an important role for this early church. There may have been inns, but perhaps none of them fit the budget of these travelers or none of them could compare in the Christian love and comfort offered in a home.

In an essay on the letter from Jude, Pope Benedict notes that Jude reminds us that “it is essential to keep clearly in mind that our identify (as Christians) requires strength, clarity, and courage in light of the contradictions of the world in which we live (2).” This essay is found in a book that contains a collection of essay about Jesus and each of the Apostles of the early church. Each easy is an easy read as the Pope related the lives and testimony of the Apostles to our own lives. He focuses on the messages intended for us and doesn’t get hung up in tertiary analysis – in fact, he says in a number of places that certain types of analysis should be “left to the exegetes." But this Pope is a down-to-earth communicator. Not only was this Pope a published author, but in 2011 he became the first Pope in history to post a Tweet on Twitter.

"Flashmob Christmas Medley"
unknown performers - they appear to be random shoppers

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What was your favorite hotel ever?
    2. Why do you think these three letters were included in the Bible and placed at the end of the letters?
    3. To whom can you write a letter of encouragement today?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you have inspired all of these letters. Help us to take time to understand your word.

    Prayer Concern
    Angels on Earth


    (1) Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus, The Apostles, and the Early Church, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2007, p. 101
    (2) Pope Benedict, p.103

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Overview of Revelations and study of Revelations 1-3 (Hear What the Spirit Says)

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