3 John Conclusion

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.”
(3 John 13-14 NIV)

As John winds down his letter to Gaius, we see the heart of a pastor coming out again.  John wants to encourage Gaius, but prefers to do so face-to-face, rather than writing him a long letter.  Clearly, John, the great apostle, the one whom Jesus loved, is a people person, not just a church administrator.

If you recall, at the beginning of our study of 3 John, we said that this letter is short, and was likely written on a single sheet of paper, one-sided.  In your mind’s eye, can you imagine the great apostle John writing this letter?  He has written everything that he must say, and now adds a few personal comments at the bottom.  He has likely run out of space, so the last few words are squeezed in at the very bottom of the page.

What is John’s first personal remark to Gaius?  “Peace to you”.

Those words must have been incredibly comforting to Gaius, considering the upheaval and turmoil in the church caused by Diotrephes demanding to control everything and everyone in the congregation.  Gaius had been very kind to the short-term missionaries coming and going through his town, and John had commended Gaius for that.  But from John’s letter, we can guess that this kindness had gotten Gaius in big-time trouble with Diotrephes.  In fact, Gaius may have been one of the people that Diotrephes kicked out of the church because of his kind actions towards these short term missionaries.

When we’re in the midst of upheaval and chaos, what do we want most?  Peace.

Where does peace come from?  Is peace simply the absence of external conflict, the ability to control the circumstances around us?  No, it runs so much deeper than our circumstances.  It comes from within, and is first and foremost governed by our relationship with God.

Paul writes to the Roman believers:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
(Romans 5:1-5 NIV, underlines mine)

Paul goes on to explain in verse 10 of Romans chapter 5 that we were God’s enemies because of our sin, but are now reconciled to God through Christ.

So that’s good for us who are Christ followers, but how does that enter in to our daily lives and circumstances?  We have a choice in how we conduct our relationships.  Paul brings this up a little later in his letter to the Roman believers:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:18 NIV)

Paul is not condoning or promoting peace at any cost.  He is saying that we have a choice whether to pass on peace to others in our relationships.  It’s our call, when we initiate conversations, in our actions, and how we choose to respond to others.

And that was what John was wishing for Gaius, even in the midst of all the chaos at the church.

John concludes by offering greetings from mutual friends (obviously too many to name), as well as offering greetings to everyone whom John knew at Gaius’ church.  John even says to greet them by name – again, these must have been mutual friends whom John had served with, or been close to.

Through this study of 3rd John, may we be encouraged to be faithful to God’s Word and walk in it, support the work of the Gospel through faithful servants, and stand firm in the face of adversity.

Blessings,
~kevin

A Good Example

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:

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors 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 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.

Blessings,
~kevin

Church Bullies

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.”
(3 John 9-10 NIV)

John continues his letter to Gaius, now warning him about a man in the church named Diotrephes.  This man had inserted himself into the church and had basically taken over, calling all the shots.  In today’s words, we would call Diotrephes a bully of the highest order.

So what was Diotrpehes’ issue?  Pride.

John said that Dioptrehes “loves to be first”.  This is actually one Greek compound word, which literally translated, means “friend” and “being first”.  Putting these two words together, it means “doing whatever it takes to be first”, or “to strive to be first”.  This word is a verb, and is an active word, not a passive one.  In other words, Diotrephes was not waiting for others to say good things about him – he was taking action to make sure he was in charge.

So what are John’s evidences against Diotrephes?

  • Diotrephes intercepted a letter that John had written to the church.  John implies that Diotrephes did not read the letter to the church, and may have, in fact, destroyed the letter.
  • Diotrephes would not welcome John into the church.  Diotrephes was a regular guy, and he was refusing to allow John, an apostle who walked with Jesus, to come to the church and speak to the congregation.
  • Diotrephes was also spreading rumors and gossip about John and others, undermining their character and credibility.
  • Diotrephes was not allowing the short-term missionaries who were passing through to join their church gatherings.
  • Diotrephes was blocking other believers in the church from practicing hospitality and helping out the short-term missionaries as they passed through (the very thing Gaius was doing well).
  • Diotrephes would kick people out of the church if he found out that they even suggested showing hospitality to the short-term missionaries as they passed through.

Does this sound familiar?  This story is as old as the struggle between good and evil.  Satan said he would be like God.  In the book of Esther, Haman said he wanted to destroy the Jews and take over.  The list goes on and on.  And now Diotrephes is essentially trying to take over the local church and put himself in charge, and not allow Jesus to be the head of the church.

Unfortunately, this is how many churches are run.  People become thought leaders within the church, and decide how the church will be run, rather than looking to Christ for direction and guidance.  In many cases, these people are not willing to serve in official church leadership positions, but instead, try to take over in the court of congregational opinion.  If  a new pastor comes in and suggests changes, they lead the opposition and start vicious rumors about the pastor.  If not stopped, the church bully turns the congregation against the pastor, and the pastor is forced to leave.

John was neither deterred nor intimidated by Diotrephes.  In fact, John said he would confront Diotrephes when he came to town, calling out his pride and ungodly behavior toward others.

So what are the lessons to be learned here?

  • First, to look at our own lives, and make sure we are not a bully in our family, church, etc.
  • Second, to recognize and stand up to bullies, especially in the church.
  • Third, always make Christ head of our lives, and head of the church.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

Showing Hospitality

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors 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 people so that we may work together for the truth.”
(3 John 5-8 NIV)

John continues the commendation of his friend and ministry partner Gaius.

As the church at large grew and the Good News of Jesus Christ was spreading, a number of people were going out as missionaries, following Jesus’ command to share the Gospel to the world.  As these missionaries ventured out, some of them were passing through the town where Gaius lived.

John commends Gaius for showing hospitality to these brothers and sisters in Christ, even though Gaius did not know them until they arrived on his doorstep.  The Greek word John uses for “hospitality” means “to receive”, or “to welcome”.  Our modern interpretation and usage of “hospitality” often implies entertaining guests – as in a social visit.  John was commending Gaius for welcoming these travelers in, providing for their basic needs with a place to stay and a meal.

Just to put this in perspective, the folks in John’s day did not have phones or online bookings.  They did have courier service (prior to mail delivery), so if the travelers were well-organized and had extra funds, then could send a letter to Gaius, letting him know they would arrive on such and such a day.  However, that was the exception rather than the rule.  Most of these folks would show up on Gaius’ doorstep unannounced, weary after a long day’s journey.

A lot of these folks going out on their short-term mission trips were regular folks who worked hard and did not have much spare cash.  Being able to spend the night at a friend of a friend like Gaius was a huge help for them.  Gaius ministered to these folks out of love for the Lord, and not out of obligation.

As noted earlier, Gaius provided a place to stay, and a meal for these traveling missionaries.  John thanked and reminded Gaius to continue sending these folks “on their way” in such a manner that it honored God.  What does that phrase “send them on their way” mean?

Typically, this meant two things:

  • Providing for peoples’ needs during their next day of journey (food, water, maybe a little cash for needs along the trip)
  • Escorting them (walking with them) for part of the journey, possibly to the end of the town where Gaius lived, or maybe even to the next little town along the way.

In essence, John is commending Gaius for his love for these missionaries, and encouraging Gaius to treat them as if they were the Lord Himself.  John is reminding Gaius that by providing hospitality to these travelers, he (Gaius) is a partner in their missions effort and truth.

So what does that look like in our day?  Surprisingly, not a whole lot different than in John’s day.  We still can provide hospitality to those who are ministering the Gospel – a place to stay on their journey, a meal, encouragement, help with basic needs… pretty straightforward.  And all done with an attitude of love for the Lord and for the traveler.

The next time an opportunity comes your way (either planned or last-minute) to host and encourage those ministering the Gospel, don’t worry about entertaining them or having your house “perfect” – just love on them and care for their needs.  You will be surprised by what a joy it is to do so, and you will have made a new friend along the way.

Blessings,
~kevin

Intro to 3rd John

“The elder,

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

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. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
(3 John 1-4 NIV)

Today, we begin our walk through the book of 3rd John.

Like many other New Testament books, this is a letter.  Unlike many of the New Testament books, this letter is to an individual, rather than a church (like Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc.) or a group of believers (like James or 1 and 2 Peter).  The only other letter sent to an individual is Paul’s letter to Philemon.

The letter is attributed to the apostle John, who simply identifies himself as “the elder”.  The letter is short, and most likely was written on one page of papyrus (a plant-based fiber that was made into an early version of what we now call paper).

John addresses this letter to Gaius, a fellow minister of the Gospel.  While there are five different people named Gaius mentioned in the Bible, John does not tell us if they are one in the same or not.  Gaius was a very common name in that time, similar to present-day names like John, David, or James for men, or Mary, Elizabeth, or Barbara for women.

From the introduction, we see that John considered Gaius a dear friend and fellow follower of Christ.  As John writes his introduction, it’s clear that writing to Gaius brings John great blessing and joy.

John’s appreciation came not only from his remembrance of Gaius, but also from testimonies of mutual friends who shared the news of Gaius’ faithful service to the Lord as they communicated with John.

As John greets Gaius, we see John reminding Gaius of an important truth that applies to us as well:  as our soul prospers, so goes the rest of our being.  If we take care of that inner place where God lives inside us, the rest of who we are will be nourished and cared for as well.

John makes both a specific statement in verse 3 about how Gaius is walking with the Lord, and a general statement in verse 4 about how other “spiritual children” (those that John has discipled and invested his life into) are walking with the Lord, and how this brings John great joy.

As we stop for a moment to consider John’s greeting, the question comes to mind:  whom have we invested in as our spiritual “children”?  Our own kids?  Others that the Lord has brought across our path?

The great thing about the good news of Christ is that we don’t have to be trained as a pastor or have a degree in Biblical studies to be able to invest in others’ lives.  We simply need to stay in God’s Word, and share what we learn with others.

By way of application, a few questions and resulting actions to consider:

  • Who has invested in your spiritual growth over the years?
    Have you thanked them recently for their input into your life?
  • Whom have you helped with their spiritual growth and journey?
    Have you written them a note of encouragement lately, like John wrote to Gaius?

Blessings,
~kevin