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3RD JOHN COMMENTARY
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INTRODUCTION TO 3RD JOHN

By John Thimothy
 

 

Date

Approximately 90 A.D.
Place From Ephesus
Author Apostle John
Key verse 1:5
To whom it was written To Gaius

Purpose

Appreciating Gaius’s hospitality

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Theme of Third John
Outline of Third John
Understanding Truth
Author and His Greetings
Praying for Material Prosperity
Missionaries: Gaius Hospitality
Diotrephes: Self Proclaimed Leader
Following Good Vs Following Evil (V11)

 

Theme of Third John

 

The main theme of this epistle is to appreciate the hospitality of Gaius. Few missionaries and evangelists would travel from one town to another helping others in establishing new churches. They depend on the hospitality of the local believers. Gaius was one local believer who received these leaders into his house. Genuine hospitality for traveling workers was needed then and is still important today. Apostle John appreciated his hospitality and to encourage him in the Christian life. Whenever you extend your hospitality to others it makes you partake in God’s ministry (3 John 1:8). This is a letter of recommendation for Demetrius, a traveling missionary (v7-8), who needs to be put up by a local church while he is evangelizing in their area.

 

There is a stylistic difference between 1 John and 3 John, although John himself might send a shortest personal letter resembling the longer one (1 John). It is unlikely that a forger would try to produce such a shorter document that added so little to the case found in 1 John. Further, a later forgery of 2nd John or 3rd John would have ordained it of its authority for the readers. The contents of 2nd and 3rd John indicate that the recipient knew the writer personally.

 

2nd and 3rd John is official letters; similar like that high priests could send to Jewish leaders outside Palestine. Both 2nd and 3rd John were probably limited to this length by a single sheet of papyrus on which they were written in contrast to most NT letters. The church congregation met in houses during the first three centuries. Money was not used to build edifies, but to feed the poor and to free the slaves. In Rome, apartment’s types of houses existed above their artisan shop. The Roman house churches were threatened with disunity among themselves, because Rome doesn’t allow Jews to assemble on any level other than local synagogues. All Christians are regarded as Jews.

 

 

Outline of Third John


1. Author: and his Greetings (v1)

The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

 

2. Apostle John's wish towards Gaius (v2)

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

 

3. Gaius: his walk in truth (v3 - v4)

            For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

 

4. Missionaries: Gaius hospitality (v5 - v8) 

5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers: 6 which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth

 

5. Diotrephes: Self-proclaimed leader (v9 - v10) 

9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

 

6. Following good Vs Following Evil (v11)

11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

 

7. Demetrius: Had good report from all (v12)

12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

 

8. Conclusion (v13, 14a)

13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face.

 

9. Benediction (v14b)

            Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

 

 

 

Understanding Truth

 

Meaning of truth:

Down these lines we are going to study lessons from 3rd John. In this letter we find the word "truth" five times. What does ‘TRUTH” mean? The truth in 3rd John is reality. Nothing in this world is real. Every thing you can see, touch, posses and enjoy is not real, but at best is just a shadow of whatever exists in this universe. Then what is real thing? It is "CHRIST", the reality of every thing. The food you take, the life you live is not real. In order you have real food and real life, you need to have Christ. Since Christ himself is "truth", and he is real food and he is real life. "If you have the Son of God, you have life, if you do not have the Son of God, you do not have life" (1 John 5:12). Jesus himself told, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man come to the father but by me" (John 14:6). He also said "If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31,32).

 

Understanding truth:

In order to understand truth completely, we have to experience this truth by ourselves. In Bible there are 5 that are true. Here the list goes.

                     - God is truth (Is 65:16,John 14:6)
                     - Word of God is truth (John 17:17)
                     - Gospel is truth (Galatians 2:5)
                     - Church is the pillar and the foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15,15)
                     - Covenant of God is truth (Micah 7:20).       

 

1} God is truth:

Lord God Jehovah mentioned in Bible is true God. Isaiah 65:6 says "That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes" Isaiah 65:6. This God loved the world irrespective of prevailing sin in it and gave his only begotten son. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life". Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the father, but by me" (John 14:6). This is the only way of salvation that's why He asserted that "no man come to the father but by me" (john 14:6).

 

When our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven He promised that He would send the "Comforter", who is Holy Spirit. And “This (Holy Spirit) is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (1 John 5:6).

 

So in this we know that God the father is truth (Isaiah 65:6) His Son Jesus Christ is truth (John 14:6) and Holy Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6).

 

 

2} Bible is truth: 

  Bible contains 

           - The Scriptures (Daniel 10:21)
                        - His Words (John 17:17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13)
                        - His law (Psalm 119:142)
                        - His Commandments (Psalm 119:151).

3} Scriptures are true: The whole Bible is the scripture for us. It contains Holy writings. These Holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15) and these scriptures (including old Testament) contains writings about Jesus Christ. "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27)

 

4} His Words are true: In Bible we can find His words. He has spoken every word. But He answered and said; we are living in this world not by bread "but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God". (Mathew 4:4). Our faith should not be based on ideas but hearing His words should produce our faith. For this reason we have to listen to his words. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) Whenever we hear the Word of God, we have to meditate the same, day and night (Psalm 1:3) and keep His words in our hearts, so that we sin not before him" (Psalm 119:11) "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord". (Colossians 3:16) When we exercise this we are confident that there is some "truth in us" (3 John 1:3) 

 

5} His Commandments / Laws are true: Commandment means an edict, order or law. All the commandments that God gave on Mount Sinai are commandment. (Exodus 20:1-17) Once a Pharisee Lawyer asked Jesus “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?” For this Jesus Christ replied "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets". (Matthew 22:35 - 40) breaking of any these commandments is a sin. As New Testament believer we are not lawbreakers but we are fulfilling the law by Grace in Christ.

 

6} Covenant is true: The verse mentioned in Micah is related to Jews. We are now under new covenant that is of grace. This new Covenant established by Christ, supersedes the Old covenant of the Law with all its animal sacrifices and ritualistic practices. In that sense through the new covenant the old is fulfilled and its purpose is achieved. Because of one sacrifice, He [Jesus] has perfected for ever those who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:14)."This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin". (Hebrews 10:16-18)  

 

7} Gospel is truth: ‘‘to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.’’ (Galatians 2:5). Gospel was defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures". This word Gospel came to us (Ephesians 1:13) by various means through a person, pamphlet, TV, radio, open air preaching or Gospel rides. When people hear this for some one this Gospel became a word of truth (Ephesians 1:13) and Holy Spirit convicted them. So they believed and they are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). They are sealed until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13). So, for this reason we have to continue in the truth, and this truth has to continue with us. Many of them fallen astray by leaving gospel. Galatians has done this mistake (Galatians 1:6). We have to hold fast to the Gospel of truth (Galatians 2:6)

                   
8}
Church of God is the foundation and the pillar of truth: It is a spiritual house built of lively stories of true believers, upon the foundation of (corner stone) Jesus Christ, who is also the door. Since it is the house of God. We can expect him to do at least three things.

                     - God dwells in His house
                     - God lives in His house
                     - God works out His Life

The church of living God in opposition to, and distinction from the houses and temples of idols, which are inanimate and senseless creatures; whereas the true God is the living God, has life in himself, essentially, originally, and independently, and is the author and giver of life to others. It is added which holds forth the truth to be seen and read of all, as pillars that bear inscriptions; and which supports and maintains truth, as every true church of Christ does so long as it remains so; though truth is the pillar and ground of the church; for if once truth is gone, a church is no more. So therefore Timothy himself is here designed; and the sense is, that what was written to him was with this view, that he might the better know how to conduct himself in the church of God, as a pillar and ground of truth, to hold it forth and to secure it: ministers of the Gospel are called pillars, (Galatians 2:9) and that with greater propriety than the church itself, which is before called an house: though it may be best of all to understand it of Christ as incarnate, the great mystery of godliness; who as he is the ground and foundation of the church, and all believers, so he is the foundation of all true doctrine; and particularly the doctrine of his person, as truly God and truly man, is the pillar and ground which supports all other truths, and without which they fall to the ground: and so this clause may be read in connection with the following words, thus; "the pillar and ground of the truth, and without controversy, is the great mystery of godliness ".

 

Conclusion: May the good Lord help us to understand the real meaning of truth and to live a truthful life, Let us consecrate our life by holding to the truth, our God itself and live truthful life by holding to the teachings in Bible and abiding truthfully in his church which is the foundation and pillar of truth.

 

 

Author: and His Greetings (v1)

 

The elder unto the well beloved Gaius whom I love in truth (3 John 1)

Three things we are going to study in this verse 

                                a. Elder - John the Apostle

                                b. Well beloved - Gaius

                                c. Loving in truth. 

This is a standard greeting in many ancient letters, which quite often began with a prayer for the readers health, and that all would go well with that person (not just material prosperity as some translators mention...).

 

This greeting might be similar for today’s saying "I hope you are well...” But this represents a sincere prayer that all is well with Gaius "wish prayer" or now "May God..." Addressing to those for whom the prayer is offered was considered as a genuine prayer in Judaism and were offered with the expectations that God would hear them.

 

a. Elder - John the Apostle: Apostle John calls him self as Elder. (V1, 2 John 1:1). He was about 90 years old at this time of writing. Apostle Peter also calls himself as Elder (1 Peter 5:1). Their exercise of authority is according to the will of God (Acts 8:14) John has written 5 books. (1 Gospel + 3 Letters + 1 Revelation of Jesus Christ)  In this small letter we can get beautiful heart of John. We can see John as:

 

1. Loving John              vs. 1

2. Praying John             vs. 2

3. Rejoicing John          vs. 3,4

4. Commending John    vs. 5-8

5. Rebuking John          vs. 9-10

6. Encouraging John     vs. 11-12

7. Hoping John             vs. 13-14

 

b. Well Beloved Gaius: There are 4 persons in bible whose name is mentioned as Gaius

 

1). Gaius: [Romans 16:23]. This Gaius lived in Corinth and his spiritual father was Apostle Paul. Apostle Paul baptized him. (1Corinthians 1:15). In his house there was a gathering (Romans 16:23). When Paul wrote his epistle to Romans this Gaius sent his greetings along with Paul and others (Romans 16:23)

 

2). Gaius of Macedonia: Not much detail we have about him except his native mentioned as Macedonia (Acts 19:29). He also lived at the same time of Gaius of Corinth.

 

3). Gaius of Derbe: Nothing is detailed about him except his native as Derbe (Acts 20:4). He was also the contemporary of Gaius of Corinth & Macedonia.

 

4). Gaius in 3 John: This Gaius is not the Gaius mentioned in 1Corinthians 1:15, Romans 16:23 and Acts 20:4 because of simple reason that Gaius in 1 Corinthians 1:15 is a Spiritual child of Apostle Paul where as Gaius in 3 John is a Spiritual child of Apostle John (3 John 4). This Gaius was with Apostle John. There is almost 30 to 40 years of age difference. John's Gaius and Paul's Gaius has same character being to the hospitable men, but differ in Place and time they lived. This Gaius of John is famous for his hospitality (3 John 1:5).

 

c. Love in Truth: Same expressions found in 2 John 1:1. What does loving in truth mean? Our God in whom we believe is true God (Isaiah 65:16. Deuteronomy 32:4) and he has expressed his truth by loving this world and given his only begotten son – Jesus (John 3:16). When Jesus lived in this world, He told, "I am the truth" (John 14:6). By his sacrificial atonement he became the only way to God (John 14:6). Without Jesus Christ we cannot see God. Whosoever accepts Jesus as his personal Savior can receive Holy Spirit in him (Ephesians 1:13,14) Holy Spirit enables us to love others in truth, because Holy Spirit himself is truth (1 John 5:6).

 

Elder John the Apostle wrote this letter to his beloved Gaius in truth, which is common in both of them.

 

 

Praying for Material Prosperity

 

Reading Portion: "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" - 3 John 2

 

Introduction: We saw in previous Chapter that this epistle is addressed to Gaius, a man whom John would want to prosper. "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" - 3 John 2. In this verse, John alludes to two kinds of prosperity.

1. Spiritual prosperity - ("just as your soul prospers") and

2. Material prosperity - (“you may prosper in all things and be in health”).

The manner in which John mentions and compares these two kinds of prosperity is interesting, and raises several questions worth considering.

 

What are the signs of spiritual prosperity? In Gaius life we can see the two-fold answer to this spiritual prosperity.

 

a. Truth was abiding in Him: John rejoiced greatly when he heard from others about the "truth" in Gaius - vs. 3a. The "truth" that was in Gaius was one indication that his soul was prosperous. What does it mean to have the "truth" in you?

Four possibilities:

i). It could refer to the abiding of Jesus in one's soul, as He is the truth - cf. John 14:6.

ii). It can refer to the incorporation of the teachings and principles of the gospel into our very heart and soul –

     cf. John 14:21-23, 1 John 3:24.

iii). It could refer to his interest towards the Gospel work done through the visiting missionaries (3 John 5-9) and

      His concern was for the church at his house.

iv). It is about the heart and mind that has opened it to receive all that Jesus taught and being feed daily

      Upon the Word of God, whereby spiritual growth is possible - 1 Pet 2:2 

b. Gaius walking in the truth: John could also joyfully write about Gaius "walking in the truth" 3 John 3b-4 In a sense, there is a mixing of metaphors here. The truth abides in Gaius and Gaius walks in the truth, Perhaps that simply illustrates the limitation of human language to describe about spiritual realities. To achieve prosperity, there must be progress. It is not enough to sit and say "I have the truth in my soul" One must be acting upon it and living it, as illustrated by Jesus in His sermon on the mount (Mt 7: 24-27). True blessings comes to the "doer" and not just a "hearer” James 1:22-25 and John 13:17.

 

What is the prosperity of praying for material prosperity? John thought that it is appropriate to pray for the material things for Gaius 3 John 2."That you may prosper in all good things" "and be in good health". Whether it be family, business, or personal health, it is right to pray to God that He might bless us in these. John was following the example set by David and Lord Jesus Christ, The example of the Psalmist - cf. Ps 144:12-15 and The example of our Lord - Mt 6:11 ("Give us this day our daily bread")

 

We have to pray for prosperity with proper perspective: If our desire for material prosperity is for personal gain, then we should not expect God to answer favorably James 4:2-4. We can pray for health, that one might live longer to serve the Lord in this life. We can pray for success in business, that we might have the means to help others. We can pray for peace, that we might further the spread of the gospel of course, it is much easier to pray with proper perspective when it is others we are praying for, and not ourselves (as in this case - our text!)

 

Would we want John to pray such a prayer for us? "Just as your soul prospers". John prays that Gaius should prosper materially just as he does spiritually. In view of Gaius’s spiritual prosperity (the truth abides in him, he walks in the truth), this prayer if answered would be a blessing to Gaius. Would we want God to answer such a prayer in our behalf to the degree that our souls prosper? Would we want Him to bless our physical bodies? Would we want Him to bless our families, our homes, our jobs, and our nation? I dare to say that in light of the spiritual condition of some Christians, such a prayer answered on their behalf would be a curse, not a blessing!

 

Material prosperity is Good and Essential but Spiritual prosperity is the Best and Eternal: As Paul writes, godliness has the "promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" - 1 Ti 4:7-8; 6:6-7. We can't take material prosperity with us, and it takes the spiritual prosperity on our part (i.e., wisdom from God) to properly use the material blessings we have - 1 Ti 6:8-10, 17-19

 

Conclusion: So while we may certainly pray for our material prosperity, may we never lose sight of the fact that our greatest need is spiritual prosperity, which lasts forever. Concentrate your efforts on prospering spiritually, and may the Lord in His Divine wisdom and grace bless you in all other ways accordingly! Are you walking in the truth?  Is the truth abiding in you?  Heed the call of the gospel today if you have not already... - cf. Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:36-38.

 

 Missionaries: Gaius Hospitality (v5 - v8)

 

In writing to Gaius, John has referred to his joy of hearing that Gaius is "walking in the truth" - 3 John 3-4. This area of Gaius' life was especially true in showing hospitality to traveling ministers - 3 John 5-8. In 2nd John, we can see the "danger" of receiving and supporting the false teachers who do not proclaim the doctrine of Christ - cf. 2 John 9-11. But here in 3rd John, we learn of the "good things" that was done when we receive and support those involved in the spreading of the gospel. Hospitality was a critical issue in the Greco - Roman world. Jewish people were especially concerned to take care of their own. Most inns promoted prostitution; making the visitor they’re appealingly out. The Jewish people could accept to find hospitality from their fellows. Jews preserved their social system. They normally carried letters of recommendation from someone to the hosts to substantiate their claim of good Jews. Christians had adopted the same practice. In this study, we shall consider -

   a. The scriptural authority for supporting ministers of the gospel.

   b. The reasons given by John for why we should be willing to do so. 

Scriptural authority for supporting ministries:  When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, He taught that "a worker is worthy of his food" - cf. Mt 10:5-10 and in sending out the seventy, He said, "The laborer is worthy of his wages" - cf. Luke 10:1-8. For personal reasons Apostle Paul generally chose not to receive any gift given to him. But Paul defended the right of supporting ministers - 1 Co 9:3-14, just as soldiers are not expected to support themselves 1 Co 9:7a, just as farmers and shepherds enjoy the fruits of their labors - 1 Co 9:b and Just as the Law illustrated with the command not to muzzle the ox that treads out the grain 1 Co 9:8-10. 

From the principle of reasonableness:  if one sows spiritual things, is it a great matter to reap material things? –

1Cor 9:11. For example: Those serving in the temple can partake of the offerings on the altar 1Cor 9:13. Even the Lord commanded:  "Those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (Mt 10:10, Luke 10:7 and 1Cor 9:14).

 

Paul chose not to receive any such personal support under normal circumstances for the following reasons...

 1) It was one of the few areas in which he could boast 1 Co 9:15

 2) He could not boast in preaching the gospel, for he had been divinely commissioned - 1 Co 9:16-17

a) He must do it as a steward of Christ

b) He had no choice if he were to be saved.

(Such is not the case of those who preach today. Unless the Lord appeared to us and commanded us to preach (as He did with Paul), it is something we do willingly and thereby have a reason to boast) 

3) Paul had a reason to boast, because he freely gave up his right (authority) to receive support 1Cor 9:18 except in some instances (2Cor 11:7-9; Ph 4:10-16)

 

Paul in another passage mentions the scriptural truth of supporting the teachers - Gal 6:6. With the approval of Jesus and His apostle Paul, there should be no question about the scriptural truth of supporting ministers of the gospel.

 

Scriptural motivation for supporting ministries: As we return to our text (3 John 5-8), we find that John gives us six reasons that ought to motivate us to do so. 

 

  1. It is a testimony to our faithfulness: John wrote of Gaius:  "Beloved, you do faithfully..." 3 John 5. When we show hospitality to brethren (and ministers), it demonstrates our faithfulness to the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

  2. It is a testimony to our love for one another: John said of those who had received Gaius's hospitality that they "...had borne witness of your love..." - 3 John 6a. We demonstrate that we are keeping that "new" commandment first given to us by the Lord Himself - cf. John 13:34-35. In light of the value of such love ("by this all will know..."), we ought to look to be grateful for such opportunities to bear witness of our love for the brethren.
  3. It honors God: John makes reference about sending such ministers on their journey "in a manner worthy of God" - 3 John 6. "Worthy of God" means, "as befits God". Thus the way in which we support ministers of God can be a reflection upon God Himself. If we do not consider His faithful ministers worthy of support, what do we think of God? We honor and support those servants who faithfully proclaim His Word, because we honor and respect the One they serve!
  4. It is a testimony to the Lost: The ones Gaius was encouraged to support were those who were "taking nothing from the Gentiles" - 3 John 7. This likely means they would not solicit support from the unsaved. Depending instead upon their brethren. When ministers of the gospel solicit help from those lost souls they are trying to save, it sends a bad message. Perhaps the ministers are in it just for the money. If what they taught was worth anything, why don't their own followers support it? When the gospel is offered free of cost and being supported whole-heartedly by those who know that it’s the best, it can be a powerful testimony of the value we place on it!
  5. It obeys God: John, by inspiration of the Spirit of God, tells us "We therefore ought to receive such" - 3 John 8a. Thus, supporting ministers of the gospel is not only an opportunity, but also an obligation! Paul exhorted the same in Gal 6:6. Exchange of material things for spiritual things considered reasonable by Paul in 1 Co 9:11; cf. also Ro 15:26-27.
  6. It makes us a fellow worker of the truth: We learned Gospel is truth. By supporting the ministry we are becoming fellow workers of truth. As John concludes in verse 8:  "that we may become fellow workers for the truth". When we support a teacher, we become co-workers in what they do. If we support teachers of error, we share in their evil deeds - 2 John 10-11. But when we support teachers of the gospel, we have fellowship in their work - Ph 1:3-5; cf. 4:15-16. As co-workers, we will one day enjoy the same rewards - cf. Mt 10:40-42.

Conclusion: So we not only have scriptural authority for supporting ministers of the gospel, but many reasons to do so! Such people as Gaius facilitated the growth of the early church and the rapid spread of the gospel. Aquila and Priscilla, allowed the church to meet in their homes - Rom 16:3-5a, 1 Cor 16:19. Philemon, who let the church meet in his house, and could be called upon without hesitation to provide lodging for the apostle Paul - Phil 1-2, 22. Today, as the wall that once stood preventing the free course of the gospel has tumbled down, there is still a great need to support those who preach the gospel. May the spirit and liberality of Gaius fill the hearts of today’s Christians and churches that would dare to be the fellow workers for the truth!

 

                                                                                      

Diotrephes: Self-Proclaimed Leader

 

Introduction: In our study of 3rd John, we have noticed the commendable spirit found in Gaius. The truth was in him – vs.3. He walked in the truth – vs.3 & 4 and He demonstrated love and hospitality towards the brethren and for strangers – vs.5-6. Unfortunately, John remembers to record another man in this letter who did not possess the spirit of Gaius. His name was Diotrephes. John felt it necessary to relate what Diotrephes had done, and what he (John) had wanted to do in response – vs.9-10. While there are many people today who possess the spirit of Gaius, to bless the Lord's church accordingly, it is not uncommon for "The Spirit Of Diotrephes" to be found in some churches to tear apart the love and unity that ought to prevail in every congregation. We must be on guard against "The Spirit Of Diotrephes" or in this lesson we shall learn to identify exactly what characterized the spirit of Diotrephes. Consider how it was so contrary to the principles taught by our Lord and His apostles.

 

1. The Spirit of Diotrephes:

 

a. Desiring Preeminence: In the case of Diotrephes John wrote that he "loves to have the preeminence". The word "preeminence" in Greek is "philoproteuo" {fil-op-rote-yoo'-o} It means to be fond of being first i.e., ambitious of distinction; love to have the supremacy. It was his love of being first (a sin in itself) that led to other sins that he committed. Unfortunately, Diotrephes failed to consider that "SIN" is spelled with a capital "I" (i.e., "self" is at the root of all sin)

 

b. Teachings of scripture: When the mother of James and John expressed a desire for her sons to be given preeminence, Jesus taught the principle of humility and service - Mt 20:20-28. He did so again as he spoke out against the scribes and Pharisees - Mt 23:6-12. Paul taught that in matters of honor we should give preference to one another - Rom 12:10. Indeed, we must not have the sort of selfish ambition found in Diotrephes, but the humble servitude found in the mind of Christ - cf. Ph 2:2-8. Whereas "sin" is spelled with a capital "I", the cross is an "I" that has been crossed out. (I.e., denying "self" is a cardinal principle of Christianity)

 

c. How about today: We live in the "me first generation" where the spirit of Diotrephes reigns supreme. It should not surprise us, when the church is so often influenced by the world, to hear people say: "But I want..." "But I think..." But there is no room in the kingdom for the "me first" mentality; where it exists, more sins and problems are bound to follow. We see that to be the case as we notice that "The Spirit Of Diotrephes" was also one of...

 

2. Rejecting Apostolic Authority:

 

a. His non-acceptance: In the case of Diotrephes John writes simply "[he] does not receive us" vs.9. It may seem incredible that one would refuse to accept and submit to the disciple whom Jesus loved! An apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ! But because of his love to be first, there was no room in Diotrephes' heart for someone over him in matters of authority.

 

b. The teaching of the scriptures: It is important that we appreciate the proper chain of authority in the kingdom. As Creator, God inherently has all authority. However, the Father has delegated all authority to His Son - Mt 28:18; Eph 1:20-22. Jesus in turn has delegated authority to His apostles - John 13:20. He sent the Holy Spirit to assist them, and guide them into all the truth - John 14:26, 16:12-13. Thus they could speak and write with the authority of God behind them - cf. 1 Co 14:37, 1 Thessalonians 2:13. This is why we find that the early church "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine..." - Ac 2:42

 

c. How about today: The spirit of Diotrephes appears to reign unchecked in those churches that reject the authority of the apostles, but prefer their own authority over councils, synods, or conferences. The clear teachings of the apostles concerning issues as like as homosexuality, immorality, etc. are side tracked. Apostolic precedent (whether by command or example) to authorize any church practice that suits their fancy and the spirit of Diotrephes reigns supreme in the lives of those professing Christians who reject the apostles' call for holy and sanctified living. They choose their own sexual preference and lifestyle, so that they can put their own personal interests first, before the kingdom of God. Yes, living in a narcissistic society such as ours, it is quite common to find the spirit of Diotrephes present in so many peoples' lives. Then it is found in the lives of Christians, things can get ugly rather quickly.  As we see in our text, "The Spirit Of Diotrephes" can manifest itself in Christians by...

 

3. Speaking evil of brethren (10a)

 

a. In the case of Diotrephes: John relates that Diotrephes was guilty of "prating against us with malicious words". The word "prating" in the Greek is phluareo {floo-ar-eh'-o}. It means to be a babbler or trifler by implication and to berate idly or mischievously. The word "malicious" is poneros {pon-ay-ros'} meaning "hateful, cruel, wicked". Diotrephes gave little concern then, how he spoke with evil and hurtful words concerning his brethren.

 

b. The teaching of Scriptures:  We will be judged for the idle words that we use - Mt 12:36-37. We are commanded not to speak evil of one another - Jam 4:11-12. To do so is to speak evil of the law of God! To do so is to set us up as judges. While it may be necessary at times to "rebuke" our brethren (cf. 2 Ti 4:2).. We are given the proper tools (i.e., the Scriptures themselves) - 2 Ti 3:16. We are instructed how to approach those in error - 2 Ti 2:24-26; Gala 6:1

 

c. How about today: Does not the spirit of Diotrephes manifest itself when Christians engage in malicious gossip? Does not the spirit of Diotrephes reign when overzealous and self-appointed "guardians of the faith" lambaste their brethren with whom they differ? Indeed, it is often the desire for preeminence that prompts Christians to reject apostolic teachings concerning brotherly relations and to engage in malicious prating. The use of malicious words is not the only weapons used by those possessed by the spirit of Diotrephes. However if in their love for preeminence they have actually gained positions of influence, it is not unusual to see "The Spirit Of Diotrephes manifested in.

 

4. Abusing the church discipline (10b)

 

a. In the case of Diotrephes: Not content with using prating with malicious words, Diotrephes is described as one who "does not receive the brethren" and "forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church". In two ways, then, he was abusing church discipline.
 

a. Refusing to associate with those worthy of association

b. Using it as a weapon to manipulate others to do what he wanted

 

b. The teaching of the scriptures: Jesus taught there might be times when church discipline is necessary - Mt 18:15-17. Paul described such a time on two occasions, and gave instructions for carrying it out.
 

1). If a man was living with his father's wife - 1 Co 5:1-13 and

2). If a Christian refused to work - 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15. So there are times when we must "put away from yourselves that wicked person" But there is also the possibility of abusing this method of church discipline, as in the case of Diotrephes

 

c. How about today? That church discipline could be abused back then, means that it can be abused today. This is not to be an excuse to never exercise church discipline, but to do so carefully. Just because another church has carried it out against someone does not mean that they did so properly. A “Diotrephes” may have prompted it as part of a power play. The ones being withdrawn from may be innocent. Thus the need to exercise discretion and to know the facts before accepting the disciplinary action of another church

 

Conclusion: "The Spirit Of Diotrephes" can be summarized as one of...

                        a. Desiring preeminence

                        b. Rejecting apostolic authority

                        c. Speaking evil of brethren

                        d. Abusing church discipline

 

One must not have all four of these to be guilty of sin. Anyone of this kind is an abomination before God! Any one can destroy brotherly relations! May John's description of "The Spirit Of Diotrephes" serve as a warning for us!

 

 

Following Good Vs Following Evil (v11)

 

Introduction: After describing "the spirit of Diotrephes" in verses 9-10, John encourages his beloved Gaius to be careful about what he imitates: "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. Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true." 3 John 11-12 Following upon the condemnation of Diotrephes, and followed by the commendation of Demetrius, it is easy to infer that John was warning Gaius not to be like Diotrephes and encouraging him instead to be like Demetrius.

 

But why does John feel the need to exhort Gaius in this way?

   a. Haven't we seen that Gaius was a man whose soul was prosperous?

   b. Haven't we observed that he was walking in the truth?

   c. Haven't we noticed that he was commended for his hospitality?

   d. Wouldn't this make Gaius himself a man worthy of imitation?

 

Yes and perhaps this should tell us something about ourselves as imitators about the need for everyone to have good role models. In this chapter, "Imitating The Good", I would like for us to reflect on the idea of being imitators. Let's begin by observing that.

 

1. We are naturally imitators:

 

a. Children imitate Parents: Especially in their early years, children seem to delight in imitating their parents. They quickly pick up their parent's mannerisms: the way they talk, walk, etc.. It is as though there was some innate reason for them to imitate mom and dad.

 

b. Teenagers imitate their peers and popular idols: As children get older, they may not seek to imitate their parents, but they are still active imitators. For better or worse (usually worse), they seek to emulate those in their peer group, or those whom they hold in high regard (athletes, musicians, etc.). Despite frequent claims to want to "be themselves", you can usually tell by their behavior who they have been watching or listening to.

 

c. Christians imitate those they hold in high regard: I have observed that many brethren often reflect the attitudes, dispositions, and conduct of those preachers or elders for whom they have much respect. This can be good, but in some cases it is not. I have known some Christians (including preachers) whose behavior greatly disturbed me, wondering how they could justify their conduct. But when I saw their peers, or those brethren whom they held in high regard acting in the same way, I began to understand for whatever reasons.

 

Thus, we seem to be natural born imitators. Once we are aware of that fact, we are in a position to appreciate John's exhortation to Gaius in verse 11.

 

2. We should imitate only Good

 

a. According to our text: "He who does good is of God". The one who does good, truly and naturally, bears evidence that they have been born of God - cf. 1 John 5:18. Such was the case of Demetrius, whose life bore testimony from all who knew him - 3 John 12. "He who does evil has not seen God". The one who consistently engages in evil demonstrates that he or she is has not seen God, and is in fact a child of the devil! - cf. 1 John 3:6b,10. The implication seems to be that Diotrephes was demonstrating that he had not seen God. Who is a better role model for us? The one, whose life bears witness that they have come to know God, and are led by Him or the one whose life demonstrates that despite their claims to the contrary they have yet to come to know God?

 

b. There is another reason to imitate only the Good: We become like those we imitate! Yes, I know this is redundant. But it needs to be stressed, for some believe they can act like others, dress like others, and yet somehow not be like them. Children become like their parents, teenagers like their peers and idols, Christians like those they hold in high regard. If we imitate the good, we become good; if we imitate the evil, then it is evil we become! So if by nature we must be imitators, then let us be selective in whom we follow.

 

3. We have many good examples to imitate

 

a. We can imitate deity: As Christ encouraged us to do, in showing kindness to our enemies - Mt 5:43-48 and as Paul instructed the Ephesians to walk in love - Eph 5:1-2. What better example do we have, than that of God and Jesus Christ? Indeed, some of the very titles we wear imply such imitation:
 

                        a. Children of God

                        b. Disciples of Jesus Christ
  

As believers there are 8 things we need to follow:

 
1. Follow the Christ  Matt 4:19, 8:22,16:24 ... Mk 8:34.10:21 ...  Luke 9:23 ... John 21:19
2. Follow the Love 1 Corinthians 14:1 ... 1 Timothy 6:11 ... 2 Timothy 2:22
3. Follow the Good 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ... 3 John 11
4. Follow the Righteousness 1 Timothy 6:11 ... 2 Timothy 2:22
5. Follow the Godliness  1 Timothy 6:11
6. Follow the Faith 1 Timothy 6:11
7. Follow the Peace 2 Timothy 2:22
8. Follow the Holiness Hebrew 12:14
 

Do you seek to learn as much about God and Jesus as you do other role models?

b. We can imitate New Testament examples: To the degree they imitate Christ, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians - 1 Co 11:1. The New Testament is filled with good examples for Christians today. For married couples, there is the example of Aquila and Priscilla Rom 16:3-5. For those blessed with things of this life, here is the example of Philemon and Gaius - Phil 1-7; 3 Jn 5-8 for women, there is the example of Dorcas - Acts 9:36,39. For young men there is the example of Timothy - Ph 2:19-22

This does not mean to preclude many fine Old Testament examples as well: Joseph, Daniel, Barzillai the   Gileadite, (an old man who helped David in his affliction - 2 Sam 17:27-29, 19:31-39) and many others.

Indeed, the Scriptures are filled with many wonderful examples worthy of our emulation!

 

c. We can imitate many of our fellow Christians today: As Paul encouraged his fellow Christians to imitate those who provided a similar pattern as he - Phili 3:17. Yet we should be careful, for not all who profess to be Christians behave as they should - cf. Phili 3:18-19. It is important, therefore, that we know the Scriptures well enough to know when someone is worthy of our emulation

 

Conclusion: Since it appears that we are creatures who will imitate something, let us make the choice to imitate the good! Only then do we have the hope of being "of God" Only then can we have a testimony like that of Demetrius, to which all bore witness. The only alternative is to imitate the evil, which prevents us from ever "seeing God".

 

We close by adding these words of the writer to the Hebrews:" And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." - He 6:11-12

 

Let us therefore look to the example of Gaius and Demetrius and

Beware of the Diotrephes’s!

 

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