The Latter Epistles – 3 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 1:1-14

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

3 John 1-2 ‘greeting’:whom I love in truth.  Because Christians have common knowledge of the truth, they have the common source of love (2 John 1).  While some have taken the phrase to mean simply ‘truly’ or ‘really’ (Mark 12:32; John 1:47), John’s usage of this phrase elsewhere in these letters, where truth takes on such a significant meaning, suggests that the elder intended the kind of love that is consistent with the fundamental truths of the faith (cf. v. 4; 1 John 2:21; 3:19).  Pray.  John’s prayer for Gaius is significant.  Gaius’s spiritual state was so excellent that John prayed that his physical health would match his spiritual vigor.  To ask about one’s health was standard custom in ancient letters, but John adapted this convention in a unique manner to highlight Gaius’s vibrant spiritual state.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

3 John 4 ‘children walking in truth: “It is grievous to see how some professing Christian parents are satisfied as long as their children display cleverness in learning or sharpness in business, although they show no signs of a renewed nature.  If they pass their exams with credit and promise to be well fitted for the world’s battle, their parents forget that a superior is calling, involving a higher crown, for which the child will need to be fitted by divine grace and armed with the whole armor of God.  If our children lose the crown of life, it will be but a small consolation that they have won the laurels of literature or art.  Many who ought to know better think themselves superlatively blessed if their children become rich, marry well, strike out into profitable enterprises, or attain eminence in their profession.  These parents will go to bed rejoicing and wake satisfied – though their boys are on the road to hell – if they are also making money.  They have no greater than that their children are having their portion in this life and laying up treasure where rust corrupts it.  Though neither their sons nor their daughters show any signs of the new birth, give no evidence of being rich toward God, manifest no traces of electing love. Redeeming grace, or the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, yet the parents are content with their condition.
“I hope no parent will allow their children to grow up and leave their root without knowing the doctrines of the gospel, the life of Christ, and the great precepts of Scripture – without having as clear an understanding as possible of the great principles and plan of salvation.  It should be the holy ambition of every parent that his entire family should be renewed by the holy Spirit.  Happy as a marriage day is that day when a parent sees his child surrendered to the people of God, having first given his heart to Christ.  The joy pf the text is that the children ‘walk in the truth’ – the actual demonstration of the power of the gospel in their lives.  This proves that the teaching was well received, the feeling was not mere excitement, and the profession was not a falsehood but was done in truth.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

3 John 9-11 ‘A Church Boss’: “Next we come to the problem personality in Gaius’s church, a man named Diotrephes. …
“This is the first example in the New Testament church of a church boss, someone who feels it is his or her job to run everything and everybody in the church.  A church boss might be an elder, a deacon, a pastor, or even a layperson who has no official role in the church.  Often, it is a wealthy, influential person, respected or even feared in the church and the wider community.
“Church bosses often represent the real but hidden power base of a church.  While the pastor and church board may be the official leadership center of the church, the real (but unofficial) power may reside in another person who actually calls the shots.  That, of course, is not how the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to function.
“A church boss can be a man or woman…”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring through the Bible

3 John 13-15 ‘peace prevailing’: “John does not desire to communicate many more things by ink and pen.  Discretion calls for an urgent personal visit. To his personal wish for Gaius’s peace, John adds that of Christian friends.  With their greetings they add their authority to John’s.  He also entreats Gaius to greet loyal friends individually, thus seeking their support in correcting the problem in the church.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

3 John ‘challenge’: “The love of the Lord Jesus Christ was a great, passionate, outpoured thing that caused Him to give Himself completely.  It is said, ‘Christ pleased not himself’ (Romans 15:3).  Even our Lord pleased not Himself.  But do you know what is wrong with us?  We are self-pleasers.  We live for ourselves.
“There are people who would buy a new car even if it meant their church went broke and had to close its doors.  There are women who would dress in the latest style even if the mission cause died and every missionary had to be sent home.  Yet we’re saints, we’re born-again, we’re believers – we have our marked New Testament!”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God I

My Thoughts

The Apostle John starts this letter with glowing praise for Gaius, a man of faith.

Those that want to misinterpret for their own ends might say this was more than just Christian love, but the key is love in truth.  Do not read anything physical or sexual in this type of love.  They both love Jesus, and that love is evident, and they see that love of Jesus in each other which grows that bond between brothers even stronger.  While the secular world can say that Christians are obsessed with sex, it is the secular world that keeps bringing it up, as Stephen McAlpine mentions in his book, Being the Good Bad Guy.  It is their obsession, and it seems to be an obsession to flaunt their sin before God proudly.  I have had several Christian friends in my life that I have loved a great deal, but I may have never even had a bro-hug with them.

I love the Spurgeon tangent, even if slightly out of context.  When you read the verse alone, it clearly says that we should teach our children well.  But taken in context of the paragraph, it seems to relate how the “elder” (John) is treating Gaius as a son and his heart is warmed by the faith and love of the younger man, knowing that the Gospel will be spread for another generation.

That being said, the Rev. Spurgeon’s admonition for us to be more concerned about our children’s salvation than for their earthly success is deserving of more than mere mention.  I know of a man who had a son who made some bad mistakes and did the responsible thing. The father told told him that if he loved Jesus and devoted his life to Him, the father could care less about earthly success, and one mistake was not the end of the world.  His son flew into a rage.  From that moment on, at each crossroads, the son chose the path further from God.  With whom was he really angry?  We can have the attitude Rev. Spurgeon admonishes us to have, but that does not guarantee our children will follow.  The rebellion of our children should never stop our prayers, but there will always be that crevice that could be filled with “greater joy” that is empty.

On the other hand, in thinking of what Rev. Spurgeon wrote, I have talked with countless aging parents who try to convince me that their child(ren), who have rejected Jesus, are saved because they are nice people with good intentions.  They did as Spurgeon suggested, praised them in earthly success and ignored their spiritual health.  Now, late in life and seeing their personal end, they try out their argument, that they have prepared for God, with their Sunday school teacher.  But when I do not waver, they use the excuse that I am only a Sunday school teacher.  I have heard some say, “What do you know, anyway?!”

Our influence with our children is while they are still living under our roof.  We must not waste that time.

Again, the Apostle John speaks of hospitality, showing hospitality to those who share in the love of the Lord, doing things in the name of Jesus.

And then, we come to the church boss.  I have known many.  I have sat in church leader meetings with church boss wannabes.  They posture and preen and ignore you when you bring up Jesus.  If this “business meeting” turned into a church service, they would be in a boat without an oar or rudder.

I was once in a church leader meeting and a decision was made.  You know, proposed, seconded, voted, passed.  Then someone said, “It will never fly, because the church secretary will not like it.”  The church secretary was a church member, and she only did what she wanted.  The pastor could not fire her, because she would take half the congregation with her when she stormed off.  She did not like what the ruling body had decided, and it never happened.

I know a situation with two elders that disagreed with a third elder’s comments and wanted him disciplined, but they were the ones who were disciplined, for being judgmental.

I know of one church where a particular group did nothing without one person’s okay, long after that person was no longer an officer.  Each new officer was only elected after this one person approved them – in other words, someone that the church boss could manipulate.  When this church boss passed away, the group still made decisions based on their dearly departed church boss’ pattern of decision making.

In each of these cases, the church boss was glorified instead of God being glorified.  And sadly, most churches have at least one.

The next paragraph talks about another test of faith, sort of.  Those that do good are of God and those who do not do good are not of God.  But too many atheists have joined the do-gooder gravy train to bigger and better endorphins.  Doing good to God’s glory and trying to stay out of the spotlight?  I think that is what John meant.  But this paragraph can tie back into the church boss issue, in that the church boss must be dealt with, but without anger and negative consequences, at least as much as possible.  Trying to redirect them to something better rather than through confrontation.  That for me is easier said than done.  I tend to be the bull that lowers his head and charges.

And John again ends with a notation that there is more that needs to be said, and the best way of doing so is face-to-face.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. How can you reflect Gaius’ desire to be of help to itinerant Christian workers?
“2. Has suspicion about the false motives or messages of some pastors / teachers soured you against them all? What needs to change so you will not hinder the work of God by failing to encourage his true servants?
“3. Do you find opening up your home (or your small group) to new people easy or difficult?  Why is this?
“4. In picking close friends (like Gaius was to John), what do you look for?  How can you be that kind of friend to others?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

In question 3, answer the question for yourself or your small group based on the intended meaning of the question, in sharing the Gospel with others.  There are countless books that would counsel against breaking up a working small group or adding new members.  We could write a few pages here on the optimal size of a small group, when to split the group into two groups for expansion, and how to build small groups so that they grow.  But here we are looking at a willingness to share the Gospel and when the group grows, you may be sharing with those that you do not know so well.  If you cannot trust the new members, will the great group discussions go from great to okay to “why bother?”  In writing this, it gives some ideas as to the second part of the question, but while there are pros and cons, we should look at both here, pros and cons, compared to getting lopsided in the discussion and shutting down the opposing view.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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