These small group studies of 3 John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

3 John 9-15 Bible Lesson with Discussion Questions, Verse by Verse Commentary, and Cross References

3 John 9-15

Do Not Imitate What is Evil, but What is Good

Summary- John had already written to the church, but Diotrephes, because of his arrogance and selfishness, would not listen to him. Because of that, John was going to reprimand him for his wicked and unjust accusations, lack of hospitality, and threatening other believers, so that they also refused hospitality, lest they be thrown out of the church.

We are not to follow the lead of those who do evil, but of those who do good. Workers of good are of God. Workers of evil do not have a relationship with Him, or even truly recognize Him. Demetrius was one of these workers of good, having a good testimony before everyone, including John and his friends, and the truth itself.

Though John had many things to write, he would rather say them face to face, and planned to visit them shortly. In closing, he offers a blessing of peace and personal greetings.

Central Teaching- Do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.

Key Verse- 11

Key Words- Diotrephes, first, not accept, unjustly accusing, wicked, not receive, brethren, forbids, imitate, evil, good, Demetrius, testimony, truth, peace, greet

Ten things this passage says-

  1. Diotrephes loved to be first among the saints in the church.
  2. His selfishness and arrogance caused him to reject what the apostle said.
  3. John was not going to allow these wicked deeds to remain hidden.
  4. Diotrephes went beyond merely not accepting their words to unjustly and wickedly accusing them.
  5. Diotrephes not only refused to be hospitable himself, but he threatened the other members with expulsion from the church if they did not also refuse to be hospitable.
  6. We are not to imitate what is evil, but what is good.
  7. Those who do good are of God; those who do evil have not seen God.
  8. Demetrius received a good testimony from everyone, including John and the truth itself.
  9. John and those with him testified faithfully, unlike Diotrephes.
  10. John had a personal relationship with the church members, wishing them peace and greeting them by name.

Ten things this passage does not say-

  1. Diotrephes was humble, but just misguided.
  2. He had a sound, doctrinal reason for not accepting what the apostle said.
  3. In the interest of not causing unrest in the church, John was going to overlook Diotrephes’ sin and try to work around it.
  4. Diotrephes’ accusations had some godly foundation behind them.
  5. Diotrephes’ goal was not to ruin the reputation of John and his co-workers, and he kept his accusations and ill feelings to himself, not wanting others to be influenced by them.
  6. Diotrephes was inhospitable, but he didn’t care if others in the church showed hospitality.
  7. As Christians, we are not to imitate anyone.
  8. People can do good without knowing God.
  9. John was asking them to accept Demetrius even though his character was questionable and his testimony shady.
  10. John’s letter was impersonal and uncaring.

What does this passage teach us about God?

He does not approve of selfishness or arrogance.

He is truth, and desires for us to speak and comport ourselves in truth.

He desires his children to exercise hospitality.

Everything that is good is from Him, so when we are imitating good, we are really imitating Him.

A good reputation is greatly to be desired.

Good reputations are established in the truth, and God is truth.

He desires His children to be at peace.


What were Diotrephes’ character problems? V9

Was he an acceptable leader for a church to have? Why or why not? V9 (Mt. 20:20-28, Php 2:5-11, 1 Ti 3:3, 1Pe 5:3)

What did Jesus’ leadership teach us about the qualities a good leader should have? V9

Why is it a bad idea for one leader to have too much control or headship over a church? V9

What 4 things was Diotrephes guilty of, according to this verse? V10

What do you think his motives were in doing these evil deeds? V10

What did John say he was going to do about Diotrephes’ sin when he came? What is the biblical method of dealing with sin within the church? V10

What should we imitate? Why? V11

What should we not imitate? Why? V11

What did Diotrephes’ actions demonstrate about his spiritual state? V11

What did Demetrius’ actions demonstrate about his spiritual state? V11

Why do you think this verse was placed between the descriptions of Diotrephes and Demetrius?V11

Why did Demetrius have such a good testimony? V 12

Who testified to his good character? V12

What does it mean that “the truth itself” testified to his character? V12

How would you know that someone’s testimony was true? V12

What could be one reason behind John’s high praise of Demetrius in this verse? V12

   (Note, it is not that he bore witness to the truth, but that the truth bore witness to him. Demetrius was not the standard by which truth was tested. The truth was the standard by which he was tested; and having been so tested, he stood approved.- F.B. Hoyle)

Why do you think that face-to-face communication seemed preferable to written communication to John? V13

Why do you think God might have delayed this face-to-face communication between John and these churches, when that is how John preferred to communicate? What benefits might they have had on his character, for the church, and for us today? V14

Who is the Giver of peace? V15

Can anyone who is not a believer have this gift? V15

What is the bond of friendship that we as Christians have? V15

When he says to “greet the friends by name,” what does this indicate about the quality of Christian friendship? V15

Cross References-

3 John 9-

Matt 20:20-28

 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  26 “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,  27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;  28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Matt 23:4-8

 4 ” They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.  5 “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.  6 “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.  8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.

Mark 9:34

34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.

Luke 22:24-27

And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’  26 “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.  27 “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Rom 12:10

10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

Phil 2:3-5

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

1 Tim 6:3-4

3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,

Matt 10:40-42

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  41 “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  42 “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

Mark 9:37

37 ” Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”

Luke 9:48

48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”

3 John 8

8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.

Prov 6:19

19 A false witness who utters lies,

And one who spreads strife among brothers.

Prov 13:10

10 Through insolence comes nothing but strife,

But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.

Matt 18:17

17 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matt 24:48-51

48 “But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’  49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards;  50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know,  51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Mark 12:38-40

38 In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like  respectful greetings in the market places,  39 and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets,  40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”

John 9:34

34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.

Rom 12:3

3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Rom 12:16

16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

1 Peter 5:3

3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

3 John 10-

1 Cor 5:1-5

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. 3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction