TRUTHS FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING, PART 4

CLASSIC EXAMPLES OF GOOD AND BAD LEADERSHIP

3 JOHN

John probably wrote his letters after he wrote the Book of Revelation. If this is the case, then these epistles were written at the close of the first century, close to 100 AD when John was an old man. Even though all three letters were written by the same man, and probably written close together, and have similar themes, they are all quite different. The first letter stresses the importance of the love that holds the family of God together. In his second letter, John warns about the treacherous nature of false teachers and false teaching. As we come to the third letter, we note that it is similar to the second one in that t is also a personal letter, addressed to an individal. It’s theme is also the importance of truth. But it is different. 3 John deals with personalities; with three real people who influenced the church.

1. Gaius: Faithful and helpful, verses 1-8

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. (vs. 1)

This is address on the envelope. Like in his second letter, John refers to himself as “the elder.”

a. Heartfelt expressions, vs. 1, 2

“Gaius” was a very common name in the New Testament era. In fact, Paul knew  three of them! Whoever this Gaius was, John thought a lot of him; his relationship with him was founded on love and trust. Four times the elder refers to this Gaius as “beloved” or “(my) dear friend.” He must have had a wonderful, Christ-like character, and this impressed John. When John wrote that he loved Gaius “in the truth” he is indicating that Gaius was a man of sound doctrine. He believed in the deity of Jesus Christ; he believed in the teaching of the apostles. This must have been refreshing to John who, like Paul, spent so much of his time fighting false teachers and encouraging believers to remain faithful. Here was man who was faithful! John’s wish for Gaius is something we ought to wish for all believers:

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

John is hoping that Gaius would continue to be healthy and prosperous; he  was interested in Gaius’ whole life, not just his spiritual life. There is nothing wrong with praying for either good health or prosperity.

b. Reasons to rejoice, vs. 3-8

The “brothers” whom John refers to in verse 3 were probably traveling evangelists or missionaries. They apparently ministered in Gaius’ church and eventually met up with John and told him all about Gaius. Obviously they impressed the brothers greatly. But what was it that impressed these men so much? A clue is given in verses 5-8:

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of 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 men so that we may work together for the truth.

John praises Gaius for this man’s faithful conduct. Not only did Gaius believe the right things, but his conduct grew out of his beliefs. He had given visible proof that he was walking in the truth. These traveling preachers had told John about the kindness of Gaius. Gaius received these “strangers” as friends; as brothers in the Lord. He opened not only his heart to these strangers, but also his home. He showed them “hospitality,” putting these strangers up for a time. This was a big deal, even though it seems like such a simple thing. Traveling preachers and missionaries depended on the hospitality believers, which they didn’t always receive. Recall what Paul, a traveling preacher, asked of Philemon:

And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. (vs. 22)

An interesting piece of extra-biblical writing shows how missionaries and evangelists should both behave and be treated. From “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” we read this:

Let every Apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord, but let him not stay more than one day, or if need be a second as well; but if he stay three days, he is a false prophet.

Those who devote themselves to the ministry deserve to be cared for by the Church. Verse 7 seems to indicate that John considered it admirable that these itinerant peachers devoted themselves completely to God’s work, literally not engaging in any kind of secular work at all. Not all members of the church are called to be traveling preachers or missionaries. But helping to support such individuals makes those who stay behind “partners.” Every single believer is a priest, we are all responsible for doing the work of “the ministry” and taking Jesus to the lost. Those who write the check or provide lodging are all involved in doing just that.

2. Diotrephes: Sinfully ambitious, verses 9-11

After heaping much praise on Gaius, John gets to the heart of the matter: a jerk named Diotrephes. He is totally different than Gaius; a polar opposite, in fact. Obviously, Diotrephes was an arrogant person, but elder John comes short of judging him. Instead, John says he will try to visit the church personlly and deal with him in person.

a. Beware of this person, vs. 9-10

We know nothing about this man, except that his name means “foster child of Zeus,” which suggests he was of Greek ancestry. He was leader in Gaius’ church, but he appeared to be using his position for his own personal advanage.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

Diotrephes “loves to be first,” meaning that instead of serving his congregation, this man was proud man didn’t recognize any other authority and did what he pleased. His behavior was exactly contrary to the admonition of Jesus found in Matthew 20:26, 27–

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave…

To make matters worse, refusing to recognize John’s credentials, Diotrephes was making it impossible for the elder to do his job by spreading false stories and tall tales about both John and the other disciples. Not only that, while Gaius behaved like a true believer, Diotrephes did his best to stop any other preachers from coming to “his” church.” He was a meddler at best, and dictator at worst. We may wonder why John felt the need to discuss Diotrephes with Gaius when both men are members of the same church. One possible explanation could be the fact that Gauis freely submitted to the authority of John, while Diotrephes wanted to assume full authority of the church. This little “power struggle” was probably playing out in churches all over the world at this time, as the death of the apostples was leaving a kind of “leadership vacuum.”

b. Following godly examples, vs. 11

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

Diotrephes was a terrible example for any believer to follow, so John warns Gauis accordingly. John is not saying that Gauis is following a bad example, but evil is powerful. Every believer needs to be reminded to shun evil.

3. Demetrius: Highly respected, verses 12-14

Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

a. A man of integrity, vs. 12

Here is a man sound in the faith! Dependable and reliable; the kind of man you’d like to have as a friend. Demetrius was probably one of the members whom Diotrephes was giving a hard time; likely a missionary made to feel unwelcome in Gaius’ church. This is the only time he is mentioned in ScriptureWe know only these things about him for sure:

  • His good reputation preceded him. Notice that “everyone” spoke well of this man.
  • His devotion to the Gospel was obvious to all. He lived according to the teachings of Scripture, and people noticed that.
  • Other elders like John, thought highly of Demetrius.

Given what Demetrius had going for him, Gaius should feel comfortable in not only receiving Demetrius and extending him hospitality.

b. Final words, vs. 13, 14

I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

Even though John wrote the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, two of the longest books of the New Testament, he writes here that he would rather rather talk “face to face” than send a letter. 3 John is a true gem that gives us some powerful insights on personal relationships in the church. The koinonia—fellowship—of 1 John is not easily achieved within a local church and its even harder to maintain. It was even more difficult in the first century. But in these three letters, we see the ideal and the way to achieve it. Godly fellowship is made possible only through the way of love. Fellowship cannot be built on any other foundation.

(c) 2012, WitzEnd

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