3 John

The Elder,

To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:

John identifies himself as he did in 2 John, as “the Elder.” His age was not seen as a detriment but as an asset. With age (hopefully) comes experience and wisdom and the awareness of how God’s word is applied and lived in life.

John addresses his letter “To the beloved Gaius.” John affirms that he loves Gaius to whom he is writing, but also that he is loved by others. And John’s love is “in truth,” it is scripturally sound and rooted in the truth of Jesus (e.g. John 8:31-34; 17:17).

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.

Gaius the generous encourager. Those of the “name it, claim it,” or “word of faith” persuasion emphasize John’s prayer for prosperity and health (v. 2). “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” But John is simply stating a prayer rather than laying out a principle to be emphasized. We should pray for one another’s prosperity and health. But it is a prayer submitted to God and for His will to be done. Sometimes it is God’s will to go through trials (e.g. Psalm 66:10-12) or suffering (e.g. Job; 1 Peter 4:19). Trials and suffering are not necessarily indications of God’s displeasure or of spiritual immaturity. In fact, God uses trials to temper and build strong faith in us (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-9).

John was greatly encouraged and rejoiced to hear of that Gaius was walking in truth; that he was practically living out God’s truth. John said, “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” John the pastor tells us that his greatest joy was that his flock “walk in truth.” Personally, as a pastor, my greatest joy is to see people grow in the word of God; grow in understanding it; and grow in living it out in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now notice here that Gaius is an encourager simply by the way he practically lives out God’s truth. When we live out God’s truth we are an encouragement to other believers around us. It’s encouraging to see people in the body of Christ living our and growing in God’s word. In another epistle (likely Paul’s) it states, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

In 2 John the apostle John warned not to welcome false teachers into their homes or support their false ministries (2 John 10). In 3 John the apostle John is affirming and commending Gaius for having supported true ministers in their itinerant service. John states, “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, . . .” Gaius was described by John as “you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers.” And because he assisted them they didn’t have to depend on “the Gentiles” or unbelievers. The church should take care of its own. No minister should go begging to the world for their needs.

John justifies this by saying, “We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” In other words, we are “fellow workers for the truth.”  Those who financially support ministers take part in that ministry through their support. If it weren’t for those who support ministers materially they would simply not be able to survive. Material support is a big part of ministry. And Gaius was an encourager to other ministers by his generous support of them.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

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.

 

Diotrephes the greedy egotist. John the apostle of love, loved in truth. This means he did not ignore a brother who was out of line. It meant he loved him enough to correct him. This is wisdom as in Proverbs it states, “Open rebuke is better than secret love” (Proverbs 27:5). The New Testament command is to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Withholding truth from someone when correction is needed is not loving it is cowardly. We should pray for the Spirit’s leading and empowering, and then proceed in love to minister the truth. That is what John is doing here with Diotrephes.

Diotrephes was proud. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5-6). Diotrephes was so proud that he wouldn’t receive the Apostle John. The word “preeminence” (Greek verb philoproteuon: Present/Active/Participle of photoproteuo) means to love to be first, desire to be preeminent. One commentary states:

The verb philoprōteuō indicates an aspiration to achieve not merely prominence but preeminence. Although the New Testament uses it only once (3 John 9), secular literature of that time used it for “loving the chief place” and “desiring to be first” (Moulton-Milligan). In 3 John 9 the writer addressed the problem of Diotrephes. As noted by Brown, the verb appears in the present participle form here, “The-liking-to-be-first Diotrephes.” This construction that implies what follows is the direct result of his ambition to be first (Anchor Bible, 30:717).[1]

“The-liking-to-be-first Diotrephes.” This describes someone who takes all the credit and does little of the work. It describes someone greedy for attention. So much did Diotrephes like to be first and up front for attention that he refused the Apostle John probably because he didn’t want the spotlight to be off of him.

Another trait of someone who likes to be first is “prating” (Greek verb phluraron: Present/Active/Participle of phluareo) meaning talking nonsense, charging falsely, gossiping. This word means literally to froth up or stir up the waters. This is the person who because they want to be in the forefront will criticize and character assassinate others to put them down so they can seem higher than them.

The indictment against Diotrephes falls into two categories. First, he spoke against John and his associates. Phluarōn pictures empty or foolish speech like a pot that boils over, throwing up a froth of bubbles. But more than mere foolishness was involved. These unjust accusations were aggressive, evil attacks. Second, Diotrephes went beyond words to actions. He refused to accept the Christian workers who came from John. He moved to prevent any other Christians in the assembly from helping the itinerants. And he expelled any who refused to be intimidated.[2]

Diotrephes used “malicious” words (Greek adjective ponerois) or pain producing, grievous, bad, wicked, evil, depraved words. This was someone who used words to hurt and tear people down. This was a person that sought to elevate himself at the expense of others. This was someone with a critical judgmental spirit.

The end of Diotrephes behavior was that it caused division and broke fellowship. John concludes, “And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” He did not receive those John had sent and if anyone didn’t follow his orders to not welcome those sent by John, then they would be put out of the church. It’s a picture of greedy egotistical tyranny.

The solution as far as John was concerned was, “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.” John’s advice was for his readers to not follow the same practices. Don’t be an evil disciple of Diotrephes!

 

12 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.

 

Demetrius the good example. Instead of the poor example of Diotrephes John brings up the good testimony of Demetrius. Everyone spoke highly of Demetrius, not because he was a compromising people pleaser, but because he lived by and up to the standard of “the truth itself.” Demetrius lived by the truth and when you live by truth you will have a good testimony; you will set a good example. Live out God’s word. Practice the truth!

John vouched for Demetrius and he was able to say, “you know that our testimony is true.” In other words, John said, “Demetrius is a brother who lives out the truth of God. And you know when I say that, that I’m telling the truth.” Jesus calls His disciples to be light (Matthew 5:13-16). The way we do that is by our “good works.” We live out God’s truth in good works and we become a light to the world. Being an example is the best way to reach others. Talking a talk is easy. Walking the talk is harder but far more effective and powerfully impacting.

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. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

Again John expresses his preference for relaying his message from the Lord personally, “face to face,” through seeing them shortly. Personally face to face encounters are always the best way for ministry to happen. Take time to meet with others. Spend time with others. Fellowship face to face. This is the environment for ministry to happen.

 


[1] Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The - The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Sigma-Omega.

[2] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.