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Summary: In the old silent movies you could tell the good guys by their white hats and the villains by their black hats. There are two "good guys" and one "bad guy" in this short postcard. This Bible study examines them and their character.

The Cowboy Postcard

Series: New Testament Postcards

Chuck Sligh

January 27, 2013

TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to 3 John


We have a tendency to look at the past through rose-tinted glasses. Have you ever heard anyone talk about “the good old days”? Well, the good old days really weren’t all that good. We forget about having to use candles and lanterns for light, going out to the outhouse in the middle of the night, and no air-conditioning or running water.

Illus. – Back in the days before electricity, a tightfisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his girlfriend.

“Why,” he exclaimed, “when I went a-courtin’ I never carried one of them things. I always went in the dark.”

“Yes,” the hired man replied, “and look what you got!”

No, the good old days aren’t always as good as we think they were. That’s what I think when people say, “Oh how awesome it would be to live in the days of the early church! If we could only return to that time of pristine purity and precious unity.”

Hmm. They must be reading a different Bible than mine! My Bible tells of the New Testament as filled with problems, sin, hypocrisy, doctrinal impurity, division and strife.

• Almost every book, including Acts, records conflict and strife among God’s people.

• Paul had to warn the Galatians not to devour and consume one another. (5:15)

• And boy were some New Testament churches sinful!—Christians involved in the occult over two years after their salvation in Ephesus; a man living with his step-mother in Corinth, and others committing fornication in Corinth, not to mention abuse of the Lord’s Table and believers going to law against one another; idolatry and immorality in Pergamum; and false teachers in Corinth, Galatia, and Thytira.

And yet the New Testament is also filled with wonderful saints, tireless laborers, virtuous believers, holy martyrs, bold preachers, great sacrificers, generous Christians, godly teachers, and faithful disciples.

When you read John’s short postcard that we call 3 John, you see the same kind of contrast.

Illus. – In the days before movies had sound, certain visuals were used in cowboy movies to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. – The good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. – In this short little letter—the shortest book in the New Testament, John writes concerning two good guys with white hats, and one villain in a black hat.

Like 2 John, the author simply refers to himself as “the elder” in verse 1 which we saw last week has traditionally been ascribed to John the apostle, and no doubt he is the author since his writing style and favorite themes shine through so clearly in this little letter.

As we saw last week, the term “elder” was probably used to emphasize John’s preeminent position and authority in the church as the last surviving apostle.

Now let’s watch our cowboy movie:


• One thing sticks out about this man: John REALLY loved him.

He calls Gaius “wellbeloved” in verse 1 and “beloved” in verses 2, 5 and 11. And in verse 1 John refers to him as, “Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”

• He must have been a very spiritual man – For in verse 2, John says, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

It has been speculated that he may have been in poor health. John wishes that he would be as healthy physically as he was spiritually, which must be pretty healthy since he says that Gaius’s soul prospered.

• Third, Gaius “walked in the truth” according to verses 3-4 – “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

Gaius didn’t just talk the talk; he walked the walk.

Illus. – He was not like the believer a Chinese warned a missionary not to place in leadership. – When asked why, he said “His walky no matchy his talky.”

No, Gaius LIVED OUT what he professed to believe.

When we do that, there are two good results in our lives:

1) First, people see it and give a good report of us.

John tells how the brethren testified how the truth was in him, and how he lived the truth out in his life. That’s what I hope people say about me so that Christ receives glory.

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