Please note that the first nine minutes of this lesson did not record. For the beginning of the lesson, please read the following text of this lesson.
The apostle John’s third letter has many parallels to his second letter. Both letters are addressed to individuals, yet both letters are discussing issues affecting the church where these Christians are. Further, both letters appear to be the practical application of the message taught in John’s first letter. As we read this letter please notice the continued emphasis on truth just as John emphasized the truth in his second letter.
John’s Prayer For Health (1-4)
John begins his letter to Gaius with a prayer for his health. He prays that everything goes well with Gaius and that he may be in good health, as it goes well with his soul. Would you want someone to pray that prayer for you? Would you want someone to pray that your physical health mirror your spiritual health? I pray that you are as healthy and prosperous physically as you are spiritually. Have you ever thought what that would look like? Can you imagine if our physical health was a reflection of our spiritual health? Many people would be dead. Many people would be very sick. Many people would seem to never get well. Many people would seem to hardly get sick. Think about the confidence John has in Gaius to be able to utter those words in prayer to the Lord. John knows that Gaius is walking in the truth. This news about the spiritual health of Gaius brings great joy to John. In fact, John says that he has no greater joy than to hear of God’s people walking in the truth.
Walking In Truth Displays Love (5-8)
John now commends Gaius for his faithful working in the kingdom of the Lord. Notice the gushing praise John has for Gaius. Gaius is helping out Christian brothers, even though he does not know them. These Christian brothers are testifying about the love Gaius has shown for them. Verses 7-8 give the picture that Gaius is showing hospitality and giving financial support to these Christians who are evangelizing in various areas. He is supporting the workers in God’s kingdom and helps them be sent out on their mission into the world. This is a beautiful picture of the love Gaius has for the brethren and a picture of walking in the truth.
The principle we learn is that of generosity toward those who proclaim and teach the gospel. It is not a principle that needs to be spelled out. It is an implied principle from the fact that we are love our brothers and sisters in Christ. I am shocked how evangelists can be so poorly treated from their brethren. It is treatment that I cannot understand. How can we justify the idea that we can poorly treat those who proclaim the gospel either financial, physically, or emotionally? Preachers have told me about how they are neglected by their congregation in consideration of receiving pay raises. Many are treated as if they are being paid too much even though they make very little. There is no room for Christians to act with such negativity and malice toward those who have sacrificed their lives to proclaim the gospel. Teaching the gospel is not a venture for money. You are not going to make a lot of money. No one should enter the work thinking about the money. But we should generously want to support those who do the work. Is there a more important work on this earth? Now, I understand that there are teachers who discredit themselves. They are not worthy of their wages because they do not spend their efforts in God’s word and proclaiming the gospel. They spend time in their hobbies and other activities rather than taking seriously the work they have undertaken. Make no mistake, a preacher is living on the Lord’s money that has been generously given by the brethren in a given location. The preacher must take his work seriously or else he is stealing directly from God. The work of those who teach the gospel should be evident. I appreciate so much the generosity of this congregation and your love for those who proclaim the good news. Your generosity has been shown over the decades toward those who proclaim the gospel afar and those who proclaim the gospel here in this city. I encourage you to continue to have generous hearts because this is a faithful thing. The apostle John says that we ought to support such workers for the truth (vs. 8).
Watch Out For This One! (9-15)
The letter now takes a turn from the praising of Gaius who is excelling in the work to a fellow who is needs to be condemned by John. There is a person in the church where Gaius is at who is named Diotrephes. John says that he loves to put himself first. We do not know anything about what Diotrephes was doing except for what is revealed by John in this letter. But the problem is very clear. He needs to be number one. He needs to be important. He needs to be heard. He needs people to pay attention to him. He needs to have control. He needs to be involved. He needs people to focus their efforts on him. He needs to get his way and he is always right. This is completely contrary to the definition of being a disciple of Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus is to be humble and submit. Being a disciple of Jesus is to put others ahead of us. Being a disciple of Jesus means placing the focus and the attention on others and not ourselves. If you feel like people should pay attention to you, that you need to be heard, that you have something to say, or that people need to focus on you, then you are a Diotrophes. You are not walking in the truth. You are not a child of God. Under the guise of Christianity you are selfishly seeking your own interests. The problem happens more than we likely realize. Members of the church fall into this trap and cause problems because need to have attention. Elders fall into this trap and begin to lord their authority over the flock rather than caring for the interests of the flock. Preachers fall into this trap falling in love with being in front of the flock and loving the attention they receive. I have seen churches whose website is the name of the preacher. I disagree with having the preacher’s name on the sign out front. The only person that matters here is Jesus. I don’t wear suits because I don’t want any special attention. I do not introduce myself as a preacher because that is not important. I did not even want my name in the bulletin but visitors kept saying that they wanted to know who they just heard preaching. Worship is not about us. Nothing about our gathering is about us. It is all for the glory of God. A Christian does not put himself first. Jesus is always first. Jesus receives the preeminence.
Notice some of the actions of Diotrophes. He is speaking against the apostles. The arrogance of rejecting the word of God so that we can be put first. Further, Diotrophes has taken so much power to himself that he refuses to welcome Christian brethren into the church. Somehow, he causes so much trouble that anyone who wants to welcome these brethren into their Christian family he puts out of the church. It really makes you wonder who this guy is! But I have seen this kind of power run amuck and you might have also.
We learn an important principle from this letter: Just because one person won’t get behind it in the church cannot stop the church from doing its mission. We might have people kick and scream, stir up trouble, and threaten to leave over the things we do. If we are doing what is scriptural, then we cannot stop just because one person or a few people do not get behind it.
Another principle John teaches: Imitate good, not evil. Don’t look at these guys and think that is the way things are supposed to be. You may have been at a church like what we are reading in this letter who had people like Diotrophes. You may have felt the pain and destruction that comes from a place where one person runs the show. Do not give up on God just people unfaithful people who claim to be Christians show themselves not to be such and are condemned. You will find places where this love to be first is found. Reject such places and find a congregation of faithful Christians that rejects such sinful behavior. Do not be like that guy. Instead be like Gaius and Demetrius.
In verse 12 John praises Demetrius who have a good testimony from everyone. Demetrius is one of the good guys. It makes us wonder if Demetrius is one who had been cast out of the church by Diotrophes or had been slandered by Diotrophes. Listen to the high praise that Demetrius receives and it is a goal for our lives. Not only does Demetrius have a good testimony from all the brethren, but he also has received a good testimony “from the truth itself.” Demetrius’ devotion to the truth was self-evident. His life was consistent with the truth revealed in God’s word. Walking in the truth means we take a step back, humble ourselves, and quietly work in the kingdom of the Lord. Put Jesus first, not ourselves.