We'll see that 3rd John is very much along the same lines as 2 John was. We won't see any new doctrines presented. It's more of what John has preached across these 3 epistles; belief, obedience and love, all rooted in truth. God has placed people in your life; people to share joy with, to encourage you and to warn them when appropriate. That's what John was doing. He was that elder; that spiritually mature person who was speaking the truth into other lives. We thought last week about those people who poured into our lives. It's like God prepared us and then delivered someone to speak right into our circumstance, emotion or feeling. With that truth delivered in the right way, at the right time, it's like having an indelible mark on your life. And many times, these people who did this work have no clue they left a mark.
By the same token, we have no idea how many times God has prepared someone and delivered us to them. We don't always understand the power and affect of our words and actions. The world is starving for love and truth. If God's people won't boldly speak it, live it and even suffer in it, who will?
God won't ever stop growing us and sanctifying us. He'll continue to pour into you as long as you are in this body. And as we grow God grows us to the place where we discover that it's not about just taking and receiving and having someone feed me. As we mature the responsibility shifts to us. There's a time when all that's been poured into us needs to be poured out into others. That' difficult because those around you may not want to hear what you have to say.
We'll see a man in these passages that doesn't want to hear what John had to say. Now you know John got accused of cranky old curmudgeon, just stuck in his old ways. John probably felt frustrated at times trying to mentor the younger generation. But Jesus had given John a new heart and a ministry and experiences and a whole world to speak into. So John spoke. He spoke into many lives.
John probably wrote many similar letters to many people. This letter was preserved by God for us to learn and use as God pours into us through this letter.
The Elder, .....this is John. He was probably known as the The Elder, the old man. Some believe this could be a code used to protect his identity in a time when persecution was breaking out every where.
To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:
I think the mention of Gaius shows us "The Elder" isn't a code word; nor is the "Lady and her children" a code in 2 John. If these were codes then why not protect Gaius's identity also? If these were codes then John just threw Gaius under the bus. Gaius was a popular name at that time. Acts, Romans and 1 Corinthians all mention a Gaius. There's no reason to believe these are the same people.
2 Beloved, Beloved means "You who are loved." I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
The word "prosper" holds a greater meaning than comes through from merely reading the word. We tend to think of prosperity as money. It means "Have a good Journey" or "I hope things go well for you". The words prosper and health also both go together and are borrowed in part from a popular phrase of the day. This was a common saying or phrase in those days, particularly in letter writing. This saying was used so much in that time it was shortened to just a group of letters that were the initials of the latin words. Just like RSVP is respondez silv vous plait meaning please respond. Everyone sees those letters and knows what they mean. Now days there is an entire language of these things invented from texting. LOL.......Laughing Out Loud. BRB……Be right back. And it goes on and on, without rules.
So the letter writer in John's time might write SVBEEV (Si vales, bene est; ego valeo) and everyone would know it meant; I desire that you may prosper in all things and be in health, as I am in good health. But John changes up this standard phrasing. He wishes them prosperity and health in a portion equal to the prosperity of their soul. John is saying, you who are loved, may your life be filled with prosperity and good health, just as your soul is prosperous and in good health in Christ.
John prays that Gaius had physical health as good as his spiritual health. In this greeting, we can see John's sincere love for his friend in how he greets him. And you have to think his spiritual health must have been more apparent than physical health.
3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
This is just like 2 John. We once again we see the elder John finding Joy in hearing that his spiritual offspring were walking with the Lord. It does his heart good to hear this testimony.
People that Gaius knew; people he had helped or served; people in the church, all knew who Gaius was. They mentioned to John this man is all about the love of the Lord. What a great commendation to have John speak of your faithfulness to the truth. It was clear the truth was in Gaius and he walked in it. Gaius was authentic. He was the real thing.
5 Beloved, (you who are loved)........you do faithfully whatever you do.
John offers another compliment to Gaius. Whatever you do, brother Gaius, you do faithfully as if for the Lord.
Our heart is revealed by the work of our hand. Sometimes it seems like no one is watching, no one sees, cares or even notices. But others are watching and they are evaluating you and God by your works and words. Beside all that, the Lord is watching and He cares. Some day we will stand before Him and we want to hear:
Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' (Matthew 25:21)
Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord.
(You who are loved)........you do faithfully whatever you do, for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church.
The people of the church were saying, "This Gaius is a man of God." He ministers to us. He's the goto guy. He had a reputation among the brethren and strangers for the way he loved on them.
If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, 7 because they went forth for His name's sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles.
Those who came to Gaius were well taken care of. He sent the on their way in a manner worthy of God. This is God taking care of His people using His people to do it.
So when one of these itinerant ministers who were traveling among the churches needed a place to stay Gaius was there. He was an ambassador for Christ. As he welcomed these men of God, other ambassadors, it was like he was welcoming the Lord Himself. He didn't leave these guys to fend for themselves in the world, but took them in.
This is probably why John prayed for the prosperity of Gaius because he used it wisely. He was sharing and putting to work all that God had entrusted to Him. Gaius was a good steward of what the Lord had entrusted him with.
Gaius put the talents entrusted to him to work for the Lord. There was a day when Gaius returned those talents and more to the one who owned them all along.
8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.
In the early church the traveling prophets, evangelists and teachers were helped out by the rest of the body of Christ. We are the show hospitality to these people so we are working together for the truth. We all take part in the one core ministry. That is:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
We are all called to spread the gospel. Some are called to leave their home. Some are called to open their home in support. We all become fellow workers of the truth when we do 'that for which we were called.'
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.
John wrote; Dear Diotrphes, I'm planning on coming to visit soon. Please receive me. Diotrophes writes back; Dear Elder, No, we're pretty busy and all our homes are full. Sorry, maybe another time. What kind of Pastor or elder would turn away the last living apostle? What kind of church was this? What kind of ego or pride did this pastor have?
John could speak first hand accounts of Jesus.all day he could tell stories. Diotrephes didn't want to hear them because he wanted the preeminence. He didn't want this apostle coming in and drawing attention away from him.
The word preeminence shows up only in this one place in scripture. This is someone who is selfish and self centered. McArthur says the language suggests Diothephes was a self promoting demagogue who served no one.
So we went from Gaius who everyone was speaking well of; who was a servant with a great reputation, to the self centered, self promoting, Diotophes who wouldn't even welcome the last living apostle. Were these guys in the same church?
10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. (The old man John still has a little son of thunder in those old bones. He's going to put this man in his place.) And not content with that (malicious words), he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
Wow, this is guys a piece of work. Where's the love? I wonder if he put Gaius out of the church yet? John feels completely comfortable and biblical in calling out this man before the church. He has apparently publicly called out John and those who believed as John did. John said he was prating against them and spoke malicious words.
The word prating literally means 'spreading gossip' or making false accusations. But its tied closely to a word that meant to boil up. This man was whipping people up with lies and gossip. Speaking malicious lies and boiling up emotions against them.
And he wasn't even content with that. He closes the door to the brethren, forbids others to offer hospitality, even to the point of putting them out of the church. You have to wonder what was his agenda? It clearly wasn't the work of the Lord.
11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.
This guy Diotrephes was really messed up. He was a church wrecker. If this guy acts this way toward John just imagine what the people of that church are being taught.
I think you have to go back to what John said in 2nd John; look to yourselves so that you do not lose the things you work for. If you see these kinds of things as being characteristic in the church you need to run. Our obligation is to the Lord and to His truth, not to a false teacher or any church that deals in false teaching.
Don't imitate what is evil. I think John is suggesting that Diotrophes is evil. Is John being a little judgmental here? That's what the world would say. He might even get arrested for hate crimes talking like that today.
John calls evil just what it is, evil. Don't get drawn into boiling up lies and slander. To do so is to follow the lead of people who don't know the Lord.
Here was Gauis, known for his love. Whatever he did he did it faithfully. This was good; this is of God. This is to be imitated. And Diotrophes, whatever he did was apparently done for himself. This is bad; evil in fact. This is not to be imitated.
12 Demetrius has a good testimony from all, (not by most but by everyone. What a great witness this guy has.) and from the truth itself.
His testimony doesn't just carry weight with a few but everyone; and not just that it stands up in the presence of truth itself.
And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.
The apostle bears witness also. Everyone is in agreement, this man is not going to be very popular with Diothophes. He is in fact, by his very nature going to fight against Gaius and Demetrius to maintain preeminence. This sounds very much like a certain fallen angel we all war against.
It's important that Gaius hear of the testimony from everyone for at least a couple reasons. First, Gaius needed to know there were others among this church that were walking in the truth. He wasn't alone. Second, when John got there to that church to deal with Diotrophes there were three of them walking in the truth. This looks like church discipline. By the testimony or witness of 3 a thing is established.
13 I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face.
We saw John's fire in first and second John regarding these false teachers. I think John wasn't going to sit idly by and let Diotrephes destroy this church. He told Gaius that he has a lot more to say and he's coming.
Diotrophes had turned John down but John heard of Gauis and others in the church who walked in the truth and who would receive them in Christian love. John was making a reservation. He would be there shortly, received by Gaius in spite of the wishes of Diotrophes, and speak face to face. Don't you wish you knew what happened. Wouldn't you love to have seen John deal with this situation? I'm sure Diotrophes was dealt with. I'm sure the Lord's will was done. I'm also sure that for every Diotrophes that is corrected or otherwise dealt with others pop up in the wake. Satan's attack on the truth has never stopped. In fact, the intensity seems to be picking up. But He's not winning, he's already been defeated.
Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.
And that completes the small epistle of 3rd John.
Isn't it interesting that 2 John was written to the lady warning about showing hospitality to those who were unbelievers. If these people bring other doctrines or other teachings you owe them nothing. They are evil, antichrists and you are not to receive them. This is somewhat of a call of purity for the church. It's protecting the truth in love. So that maybe we have a faithful church keeping the wolf out. It's noteworthy that this wolf appealed to them from the outside, in love but he didn't have the truth.
Then in 3 John he is encouraging Gaius because of his testimony. John didn't want the church to overreact and turn away the legitimate itinerate ministers. John tells Gaius he is doing well. Then we meet a dark hearted man Diotrophes and then another good man, Demetrius. Diotrophes leads and controls this church and it rejected John. In this case the wolf seems to be standing in the pulpit or at the very least as a leader in the church. The evil and the godless were right in the church with Demetrius on one side and Gaius on the other.
In 2 John, John writes a godly woman about her family. In 3 John, John writes to a godly man about his church. In 2 John the false teacher appealed in love but had no truth He made his appeal from the outside. In 3 John the wolf appeals in truth but has no love and he is in the church, as a leader, maybe even the pastor. I wonder if he was one of these itinerant ministers that turned out to be a false teacher who failed to move on.
Throughout these 3 epistles John has warned of the counterfeit. It looks close, sound reasonable at times. It may appeal to us; be very religious. But authentic and genuine Christianity will always be balanced with truth and love. They are inseparable.
©2014 Doug Ford
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