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Sabbath School Lessons on 1, 2 & 3 John
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 13: Power Struggle *
Introduction: Have you ever read a book and wished it were longer?
Were you sad when you came to the end? That is how I feel with the
letters of John. This week we come to the last in our series of
studies on John's letters to the church. Let's dive into our study
of Third John. While we are at it, we will pick up on a discussion
that we left unfinished last week!
- Read 3 John 1:1-2. John starts out with a comment about
the health of Gaius. This is a short book, why spend any
time at all on this subject? (John shows a personal
interest in the life of Gaius. God has a personal
interest in our life and His followers should reflect
this concern about others.)
- Is this just a kindness? Or, is there a spiritual
dimension to our physical health?(God wants us to
enjoy physical and mental health. I believe there is
a link between the two. Thus, John's greeting is not
just a waste of time. John is telling us (and Gaius)
that we should be concerned not only about the
spiritual condition of those around us, but about
their physical health as well.)
- Read 3 John 1:3-4. John first says "I hope you are
well," and then in the next two verses he compliments
Gaius. Is this also part of some spiritual lesson for us?
(John is encouraging Gaius in right-living. We should do
that for our fellow believers.)
- Read 3 John 1:5. Why mention that those being helped by
Gaius are "strangers?" (It demonstrates that Gaius has no
hope of personal gain from this. He is helping these
strangers because they are Christian brothers, not
because of selfish interests.)
- The Church
- Read 3 John 1:6-8. Why would the "brothers" who stayed
with Gaius expect help from pagans? (This suggests that
they were evangelists. Gaius took them in while they were
doing evangelistic work in his area.)
- Assume that you do not have the gift of public
speaking, does that make you less important in God's
work? (Gaius is showing hospitality. John tells us
that the work of the church is a team effort: "we
may work together for the truth." Every one on the
team is important to the final outcome. God
recognizes the worth of every team member.)
- Read 3 John 1:9-10. If you asked the local church
members who they thought was more important to the
church, Diotrephes or Gaius, what do you think they would
say? (If Diotrephes has the authority to put people "out
of the church," the members must look up to him.)
- John points out that Diotrephes (unlike Gaius)
refuses to welcome the brothers. If Diotrephes is
the leader of the local church, is he not entitled
to make that decision?
- What independent authority does God place in
the hands of local church leaders?
- Read Matthew 16:17-19. Doesn't this give church leaders a
great amount of authority and leeway in dealing with
- Look again at 3 John 1:10. Since John is the
"Elder," why does he not assert his authority to
"bind" Diotrephes? Why merely "call attention" to
John's concerns about him?
- Read John 20:19-23. Last week, when we were discussing
John's advice about error and the anti-Christ, a few
members of the class mentioned the Catholic Church. I
hate to attack fellow believers, so I explained some
things I appreciate about the Catholic Church, but said I
disagreed with some of the doctrines - including my
concern about the distortion of Jesus' role as our
mediator. A Catholic member of the class asked "What
about John 20?" Let's look at this issue for just a few
- Who wrote John 20? (John - the same fellow who wrote
the letters we are studying.)
- Who was Jesus speaking to in John 20:23 when He
bestowed this authority? (John! Among others.)
- If John knew (because he wrote it down) that he
had the authority to keep Diotrephes' sins of
pride and gossip from being forgiven, why not
say that? Why merely say that he was going to
"bring attention" to his sins?
- As you consider John 20:23, who do you think Jesus
was giving this authority? Just the disciples in the
room? All Christian leaders? All evangelists? All
- If you think Jesus was giving authority to more
than those in the room, consider again 1 John
5:16-17. Should Jesus have added a footnote to
John 20:23 saying "Offer limited to those sins
which do not lead to death?")
- If the believer (or leader) has the
authority to forgive sin, why does John
tell us ( 1 John 5:16) to "pray and God
will give him life?"
- Context is important. What is significant about the
context of John 20:23? (Jesus had just risen from the
grave. He had just defeated sin!)
- What change did this make in the way sin was
forgiven? (No animal sacrifices any more. Jesus had
died once for all sin. Hebrews 7:27.)
- What role did the disciples play in alerting the
world to this new solution to the sin problem? (This
is primarily what I believe John 20:23 addresses: if
the disciples share with others this solution to
sin, then the listeners' sins can be forgiven. If
they do not share this, then the world will not
- Focus again on John 20:22-23. Part of the context is the
giving of the Holy Spirit. What role does the Holy Spirit
play in the forgiveness of sins? (Read John 16:7-8. Part
of the role of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our
- Read Matthew 12:31-32. What does this suggest about
the relative role of humans and the Holy Spirit in
the forgiveness of sins? (It teaches that the active
agent in the conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit.
If we "speak against" (reject) the Holy Spirit then
the power of conviction leaves and we will never
confess our sins.)
- Can anyone tell me if anywhere in the New Testament
we read of the disciples forgiving or retaining the
sins of others? (John did not suggest he could do it
with Diotrephes and nowhere in the New Testament do
we find this practiced by the disciples.)
- Read Matthew 6:14-15. Does this suggest that we have
the ultimate power to forgive sins?
- Read Acts 10:43. How does this suggest that we
receive forgiveness of sins? (Through the name of
- Let's look again at John's writings. Read 1 John 2:1-2.
Who does this say has the authority to forgive sin?
(Jesus has the ultimate authority over sin.)
- Read Luke 24:45-49. What elements are combined here for
the forgiveness of sins? (I believe this text is the
ultimate explanation of John 20:23. Jesus' life, death
and resurrection defeated Satan, sin and death. This is
the essential element to the forgiveness of sin.
However, another essential element is the Holy Spirit. If
we drive away the Holy Spirit we cannot be forgiven - no
matter what Jesus might have done or humans might do for
us. The third element to the forgiveness of sin is the
partnership between the Holy Spirit and humans to share
- Is that all Jesus means in John 20:23 - that we are
to be witnesses to others? (Read Matthew 9:2-9.
Reading the Matthew 9 story and understanding John
20:23 as some delegation of Jesus' authority, I
think there is more to this than mere witnessing.
How much more, I do not know. The limit on John
20:23 is that ultimately, the forgiveness of sins
involves three elements: Jesus, the Holy Spirit and
- Read 3 John 1:11. What is our role in daily living for
Jesus? (To do what is good. We can get into complex
discussions about what role humans have in the
forgiveness of sins, but we must not lose sight of the
fact that our personal goal is right living.)
- Read 3 John 1:12-14. Friend, would you like to be a
Demetrius? As we close our study of John's letters, I
believe his main message to us is to take the path of
light (the path to eternal life) and every day move
forward towards righteousness. Will you accept that
- Next week: We start our study of the book of Numbers!
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.