Ancient manuscripts unanimously name the author of this letter as John, the son of Zebedee who also authored the Fourth Gospel. The style and vocabulary of 1–3 John and the Fourth Gospel are so similar that it seems they must have come from the same hand. Some scholars, however, believe a different John (that is, someone other than the apostle) is responsible for these New Testament books. Others claim they are a product of a “Johannine school”—the work of early followers of John. Nevertheless, the view with the best support is that John, the disciple of Jesus, is the author.
Second-century Christian sources report that John eventually relocated to Ephesus and ministered to churches there. He continued his pastoral work in that region until nearly AD 100. Thus, Ephesus is the likely location from which John penned 1–3 John. These letters could have been written at any time in the last quarter of the first century.
Message and Purpose
John is the apostle of intimacy. He’s very concerned with our fellowship—that is, our closeness with the Lord. His epistles form a trilogy of intimacy. John wrote to Christians, whom he addressed in 1 John as “little children” (2:1, 28; 4:4; 5:21). He speaks of obedience, walking with God in righteousness, submission to the truth, and functioning together in love as being key elements of intimacy with God.
In 2 John 1:1, the apostle addresses the church as “the elect lady and her children,” since the church is the bride of Christ. He writes about truth and love. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured, and love is the expression of that truth in our care for others. John says that when the church operates in truth and love, we experience true intimacy with God
In 3 John, he addresses Gaius, a hospitable leader who loved to bring in outside teachers who presented the truth. But the church had a problem in the person of Diotrephes, who tried to reject these sound teachers. So John warned about this power-seeking man and the evil behind any attempt to stop true teachers of the Word.
All three epistles seek to promote intimacy with the King as well as with the fellow citizens of the kingdom.
Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2019), 1 Jn.