“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. 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.”
(3 John 11-12 NIV)
John has just finished speaking about Diotrephes, and all the havoc he has created by trying to control everything and everyone in the church.
John tells Gaius that Diotrephes is evil, and not to follow in his footsteps, not to imitate him. Similar to James’ message to the churches he wrote to, John tells Gaius that a person’s words and actions show their heart, either for or against God. Clearly, John insinuates, Diotrephes has not seen God; Diotrephes was all about Diotrephes. God was nowhere in his picture.
John switches gears now, and talks about a positive example – a man named Demetrius.
Why would John introduce a new person in his letter to Gaius? The answer is right here in John’s letter.
Let’s roll back and re-read John’s paragraph before he talked about Diotrephes:
“5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”
(3 John 5-8 NIV)
When we pull out the paragraph about Diotrephes, and continue with the paragraph about Demetrius, we see John commending Gaius for showing hospitality to brothers and sisters in Christ who are passing through on short-term missions projects, even when Gaius did not know them personally.
John was saying here, “Gaius, you have been so faithful in sharing your home and loving on those brothers and sisters who are on their way to serve our great God. Let me introduce you to another faithful servant of the Lord – his name is Demetrius.”
We don’t know if John wrote this letter ahead of Demetrius’ arrival, or if, in fact, Demetrius showed up on John’s doorstep with John’s letter in hand, as John’s introduction. Chances are that Demetrius carried John’s letter of introduction with him and gave it to Gaius when he arrived.
So what does John have to say about Demetrius?
- Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone – no detractors, no negative press.
- Demetrius is well spoken of by truth itself (he is faithful to God’s Word).
- Demetrius has John’s blessing and vote of approval as well.
When we insert the paragraph about Diotrephes back in, we see the rest of the story. John is basically saying, “Gaius, I know the persecution Diotrephes is inflicting on you for hosting these short-term missionaries as they pass through your town. Keep doing the right thing, brother, even when it’s hard and you want to give up. And here’s one more person I want you to help out when he comes your way. His name is Demetrius – he is a man of God, everyone in the church loves him, and he has my stamp of approval as well. Give him a chance to share from God’s Word when he is with you, and you’ll be blessed as we have been.”
OK, a nice heartwarming story, but what does that have to do with us today? Several applications jump out:
- Character still matters, as contrasted in the lives of Diotrephes and Demetrius
- God’s Word still needs to go forth, through godly folks like Demetrius
- God’s people still need encouragement and help, through godly folks like Gaius
- All are used for God’s glory, whether preaching or showing hospitality
- Don’t give up or quit, even when faced with opposition and bullying
Whether you are more like Gaius or Demetrius, may you be encouraged as you listen in on John’s letter today.