June 22, 2003
Introduction: the message, today, is the letter or the epistle of 3rd John. 3rd John is a letter written by the Apostle John after he wrote the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. John is about 90 years old, he has been released from the island of Patmos, and he is communicating through 3 letters to the early churches in Asia Minor. Historically, we know that John died in Ephesus, where he was the Bishop or Elder leader of that church. John could have written this letter to that local church telling of his imminent visit.
1st John was written to tell the Christians that the Body of Christ, the church, is marked by love, love for the Lord, love for the brothers and sisters. Brothers and Sisters in Christ are to love each other because they are in the family of God.
2nd John was written to warn the Body of Christ that there were antichrists preaching lies, and that the Christians were not to love those who were preaching lies against the Lord.
3rd John was written:
· to inform the Christians in a certain church of John’s plan to visit them
· to commend Gaius for his hospitality
· to encourage faithful brethren to continue to live lives that were imitating good and not evil.
· to rebuke and warn Diotrephes for his sinfulness
· to commend Demetrius for his good testimony.
1:2-8 Gaius the beloved
1: 9-11 Diotrephes who desires preeminence
1: 12 Demetrius is introduced as a good witness
1:13-14 the closing of the letter
The argument: John urges the church to support traveling missionaries and imitate good conduct.
The Key verse: verse 11 – beloved, do not imitate that which is evil, but that which is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has stopped seeing God.
Now let’s look into the verses of 3rd John. (I quote what is underlined in each of the following verses)
1: the elder, to Gaius, the beloved, whom I love in the truth.
John does not call attention to his title as Apostle, or even to his name, but to his position as an Elder in God’s church. The Apostle John only placed his name in one of his writings, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. John never tried to place the focus on himself.
(Verse 1-The elder, to Gaius, the beloved, whom I love in the truth) and in verse 4 we learn that Gaius is the spiritual child of John. As in any healthy family, the children are loved by the parents. The parents love the children and would do anything to see them prosper. But John says he loves him in the truth. We see this phrase “in the truth” used 5 times. So what is truth?
In John 14:6 we see Jesus saying “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me”.
John 17:17 thy Word is truth
John 15:26 Jesus said “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of me”
John 4:23 – Jesus said “the true worshippers of God shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth”
So we see in verse 1 that John loves his spiritual son, Gaius, who is walking in the truth of Jesus, revealed in the word of God, by the Spirit of God.
1 Ὁ πρεσβύτερος Γαΐῳ τῷ ἀγαπητῷ, ὃν ἐγὼ ἀγαπῶ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ.
The Elder, to Gaius, the beloved, whom I love in the truth.
Notice in verse1 - the emphatic “I”- this indicates that John loves Gaius, and implies that some do not. But John is saying “I” love you Gaius, my beloved son.
“The beloved” can be translated “dear to my heart”. Just as John is referenced by the other Apostles as the one whom Jesus loved: and this same John rested his head on Jesus’ chest in the upper room during the last supper; even now, this same John refers to his spiritual children as “dear to my heart”. “Love” is an active Indicative verb which indicates a fact that it is active now, at this time. John declares “I love, am loving” Gaius in the truth.
2 Ἀγαπητέ, περὶ πάντων εὔχομαί σε εὐοδοῦσθαι καὶ ὑγιαίνειν, καθὼς εὐοδοῦταί σου ἡ ψυχή
Beloved, concerning all things, I pray for you to prosper and to be in health even as your soul prospers.
Pray = is an indicative verb stating a fact and means “to wish for something for someone, but leaving the result to the Father”.
John again emphasizes his love for Gaius – beloved, (dear to my heart), and prays that Gaius might have a prosperous journey in this life and be in good health just as his soul prospers. The term “prosperous” can be a business term or just a general term of “have a good journey”. In either case, John is praying for God to give Gaius everything in this life, which is needed, in the material world, just as Gaius is prospering in his spiritual life. It is not wrong to desire to be prosperous in this life as long as “things” don’t become our drive, our main desire, our god in life. Gaius had the right attitude of “God first”. John hopes that God will give Gaius any physical prosperity that is needed to help give out the truth of God’s Word.
This same John loves those who love the Lord. John wanted Gaius to be prosperous in every aspect of his life.
John loves those who love the Lord Jesus. This is not some sentimental love, but love based in the Truth of God, through God’s Word, about God’s Son, revealed by the Spirit of Truth. When truth and love come into conflict, truth must prevail, love must be secondary.
3 ἐχάρην γὰρ λίαν ἐρχομένων ἀδελφῶν καὶ μαρτυρούντων σου τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, καθὼς σὺ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ περιπατεῖς.
For I rejoiced greatly when the returning brothers bore witness of you in the truth, that you are walking in the truth.
Here John is rejoicing to the very depths: he could not rejoice any more. The same term is used when it is said of someone weeping bitterly. It is an action to the very depths of one’s soul. John rejoiced deeply in hearing that his child was walking in the truth of God’s Word, concerning Jesus Christ, revealed to him by the Spirit of Truth.
John is rejoicing because brothers in Christ, who have been around Gaius and have received his hospitality, are returning to John and are able to bear witness about Gaius to John first hand. They witnessed that Gaius was walking in the truth, the truth of God’s Word concerning Jesus Christ, revealed by the Spirit of truth. Gaius was putting the words of Christ into actual life actions. Gaius has a life style that is consistently walking in the truth of God’s word. Gaius helps those who need lodging and food, who are placing their lives in jeopardy to see that God’s message, His Good News, is being proclaimed to the lost.
The phrase “that you are walking in truth” – walking is a present active indicative verb stating the fact that Gaius is presently, now, in a life style that reflects a life that is walking in the truth of God’s Word. This is in direct opposition to the life style of those who do not believe (are not Christians) and are walking in darkness.
4 μειζοτέραν τούτων οὐκ ἔχω χαράν, ἵνα ἀκούω τὰ ἐμὰ τέκνα ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ περιπατοῦντα.
I have no greater joy than this - that I hear (pres., act., subj. used as a Substantival ἵνα clause) (that) of my children, the ones are walking (pres., act, part.) in the truth.
Is this not true of every mom and dad, every Sunday School teacher, every AWANA worker, every Pastor? There is no greater joy, than to hear from another visiting Christian that out there somewhere is a young man or woman, living for Jesus, whom you had some part in contributing to their spiritual journey. There is no greater joy.
5 Ἀγαπητέ, πιστὸν ποιεῖς ὃ ἐὰν ἐργάσῃ εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τοῦτο ξένους
Beloved, you are doing (acting) faith (dependably, trustworthily, you are faithful) in whatever you may have done (aorist, midd., subj.) for the brothers even though they are strangers. Aorist takes a snapshot of the action, subjunctive is a verbal action that is uncertain but probable.
John again calls Gaius, “Beloved” – “dear to my heart”. What you are doing is faith at work – you are acting out your faith, you have the true faith that produces good works, helping the brothers, in whatever need they have, even though, when they first came into your area, they were unknown – they were strangers. And yet Gaius takes time to find out what message they are giving out, and if they are brothers in Christ, he opens his heart of hospitality and meets any need they have.
Strangers – the same word in Matthew 25: 35 - I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. Whatever we do to strangers, we do to the Lord Jesus.
Strangers means foreigners, those from a foreign country. They were not local Christians, whom Gaius would have known personally. They were from a different culture, dress, and mannerisms, foreigners.
6 οἳ ἐμαρτύρησάν σου τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἐνώπιον ἐκκλησίας, οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψας ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ·
They bore witness (aorist, midd, Ind) to your love, before the church (ekklesias): whom you will do well (in) sending (aorist, act, part) them forward in a manner worthy of God.
John points out that these traveling missionaries returned to tell The Church of the hospitality and love of Gaius. John encourages Gaius to continue to do the good work in a manner which is worthy of God, Himself. Notice that John refers to The Church as the ekklesias without any city name. The Ekklesias is God’s church, as a whole. We have local assemblies in cities, in neighborhoods, and in countries, but it is “The” church, with house groups or congregations. These traveling missionaries came to report to the church, where John was living at that time. God does not have the Baptist church of Livonia and Berean Bible church of Livonia; He has “the” church, of which we are just a little house group. Do we, at Berean, have a love for the brethren that visit our local church, such that, when they return from their travels, they say “Those Berean Christians really love the Lord, because they treated me like I was a messenger from God, Himself”.
Gaius is doing well by sending these traveling missionaries on their way, in a manner worthy of God Himself. John is saying “well done Gaius”.
7 ὑπὲρ γὰρ τοῦ ὀνόματος ἐξῆλθον μηδὲν λαμβάνοντες ἀπὸ τῶν ἐθνικῶν
For they went forth (aorist, midd, Ind) on behalf of THE NAME, taking (pres, act, part) nothing from the Gentiles.
These traveling missionaries were going forth on behalf of THE NAME, and taking nothing (a participle modifying the verb, going forth) from the Gentiles or (ethnic groups) for their journey needs. How were they going forth? With the attitude of taking nothing from those to whom they were sent to give the message.
They were going forth on behalf of “The Name”: “The Name” – we must go back to the Word of Truth to find out what “The Name” is.
Acts 4:12 (speaking of Jesus) – there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
John 14:6 Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
These traveling missionaries went out, not seeking any support from those Gentiles, to whom they were giving the message of eternal life. But they did receive hospitality from Gaius, a Gentile believer. God was using Gaius as His instrument to meet the needs of these traveling missionaries.
8 ἡμεῖς οὖν ὀφείλομεν ὑπολαμβάνειν τοὺς τοιούτους, ἵνα συνεργοὶ γινώμεθα τῇ ἀληθείᾳ.
Therefore, we ought (are obligated, owe) to entertain (hold them up) (pres, act, Inf) such men in order that we should become (pres, midd, subj) fellow workers in the truth.
The phrase “in order that”, in the Greek is a subjunctive purpose-result clause, which means: if we hold up those who go forth to give out the Good News, the result is – we become co-workers in the work.
Because of these men and their purpose in verse 7, we ought to (we owe it to them and God to) hold them up in any way we can, with the resources we have. When we give them room and board, or a cup of cold water, or a meal, or clothes, we become co-workers in the truth, with them. What they accomplish, we have part in it. But we must make sure that we work in the truth. We should never help those who go forth, and utter lies about our Lord.
John is encouraging Gaius to continue to keep on with his life of truth. Notice that John never says “continue on in your life of Love”, but “continue on in your life of Truth”. When truth and love come into conflict, truth must prevail.
This closes out the section about Gaius.
Now we change to the second person mentioned in the letter, Diotrephes:
9 Ἔγραψά τι τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἀλλ ̓ ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων αὐτῶν Διοτρέφης οὐκ ἐπιδέχεται ἡμᾶς.
I wrote (aorist, act, Ind) something (we do not know) to the church, but the one loving to be preeminent (pres, act, part), Diotrephes, did not receive (accept) us.
We do not know what John wrote in the other letter, but whatever it was, Diotrephes opposed the message, opposed John, opposed his Apostleship, and opposed anyone associated with John. The something that John wrote to the church could have been the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ; we do not know – John never tries to vindicate or justify, himself.
But, in any case, if Diotrephes could not be number one, he was against it.
“the one loving to be first” can be translated “wishes to be first, or wants to be the leader”. Is Diotrephes a Christian? This will be answered in verse 11.
John wrote the words of Jesus to the Ephesians in Revelation 2:4 “I have something against you because you have left your first love”. This is the same church where John would be pastor until his death; which we know from secular history. This could have been where Gaius and Diotrephes were ministering. The church had already left its first love, the Lord Jesus Christ.
10 διὰ τοῦτο, ἐὰν ἔλθω, ὑπομνήσω αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα ἃ ποιεῖ λόγοις πονηροῖς φλυαρῶν ἡμᾶς, καὶ μὴ ἀρκούμενος ἐπὶ τούτοις οὔτε αὐτὸς ἐπιδέχεται τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τοὺς βουλομένους κωλύει καὶ ἐκ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἐκβάλλει.
For this reason, If I come (a clause stating his desire and hope to do so), I will call to mind his works which he does – prating (bringing forth empty unjustified charges) against us (John and those with him) with evil words, and not being satisfied with this, neither does he receive the brothers and he prevents those who purpose to do so (to receive the brothers) and puts them out (expels, casts out) of the church.
The elder, John, hoping and purposing to come to Gaius, will bring to mind all that Diotrephes is doing (pres, act, Ind) – slandering John and those associated with John with evil words; and if that were not enough, Diotrephes will not receive the traveling missionaries and even excommunicates (tosses out, ejects) those Christians who purpose to do so. Here is a self-centered Christian, who has lost his first love. At first, loving the Lord who saved him, but now leaving the Lord, for whatever reason, and becoming self-centered and bitter. He is saved, but he has left his first love. We see this illustrated even better in the next verse.
11 Ἀγαπητέ, μὴ μιμοῦ τὸ κακὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ ἀγαθόν. ὁ ἀγαθοποιῶν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν· ὁ κακοποιῶν οὐχ ἑώρακεν τὸν θεόν.
Beloved (dear to my heart), do not imitate (pres, midd, Imperative) that which is evil but that which is good. The one doing good (pres, act, part) is from God. The one doing evil (pres, act, part) has stopped looking upon (perf, act, Ind) God (or has stopped seeing God).
The present, active, participles “ones doing good” and “ones doing evil” are the present tense actions of an outward lifestyle – actions that are happening “now”, “this moment”. The one who is presently doing evil has stopped looking upon God, the perfect tense showing that this was an act in the past with present consequences. The Christian who takes his/her eyes off of God, will begin to replace good acts with evil acts. Our eyes must remain upon God. “Keep your eyes upon Jesus” is a song that expresses this idea. Can the Christian sin? Yes. Does he/she need to sin? No.
We see the messages written to the 7 churches in the book of the Revelation, that Jesus said to some of the churches “you have left your first love”, “you have taken your eyes off of me”. Yes, Diotrephes is a Christian, who has taken his eyes off God, for whatever reason, and placed his eyes on himself. The result is “a lifestyle that begins to do evil and continues in doing evil” at that instant, at this moment, now. Beware Christians, for we will be doing evil, when we take our eyes off God.
Notice God’s grace and mercy with Diotrephes. Diotrephes is still alive and still doing evil actions in the church, and God, his heavenly Father, will chastise him. John, an elder, has the responsibility to confront Diotrephes for his evil doings.
When truth and love come into conflict, truth must prevail.
Verse 11 is the theme of 3rd John. Imitate that which is good, not that which is evil. How do we imitate good? By looking upon Jesus, who is the Truth, reading the Word of Truth, and listening to the Spirit of Truth. When you stop looking to the Truth, living the Truth, listening to the Spirit of Truth, you will begin to do evil actions.
The 3rd person is now introduced, Demetrius, another Gentile, a Greek.
It is as if Demetrius is being presented to Gaius; probably Demetrius was carrying the letter from John to Gaius, and so is introduced to Gaius as another Christian who is witnessing of the truth. This was a common way, in those days, of sending letters.
12 Δημητρίῳ μεμαρτύρηται ὑπὸ πάντων καὶ ὑπὸ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας· καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ μαρτυροῦμεν, καὶ οἶδας ὅτι ἡ μαρτυρία ἡμῶν ἀληθής ἐστιν.
Demetrius has a (good) witness from all (everyone), and from truth itself; and we also bear witness, and you know that our witness is true.
Demetrius has a good witness just as Gaius has. He has been measured up to truth and found adequate. Truth bears witness of Demetrius – what is truth? John and those with him also bear witness that Demetrius walks in the truth.
We now enter into the final section of this epistle.
13 Πολλὰ εἶχον γράψαι σοι ἀλλ ̓ οὐ θέλω διὰ μέλανος καὶ καλάμου σοι γράφειν·
I had (imperf, act, Ind) many things to write to you, but I do not want to write with pen and ink.
John wishes to say more, and could, but will not, in a letter.
14 ἐλπίζω δὲ εὐθέως σε ἰδεῖν, καὶ στόμα πρὸς στόμα λαλήσομεν.
But I hope to see you shortly (immediately) and we will speak mouth to mouth (face to face).
John is hoping to come shortly to see Gaius and speak face to face. Some things are best not put down in writing, but spoken face to face. John will also confront Diotrephes, and that will not be pleasant, but it is necessary. “When truth and love come into conflict, truth must prevail”. Pastor pointed out in Ephesians about unruly children “I love you too much to let you continue to act this way”.
15 εἰρήνη σοι. ἀσπάζονταί σε οἱ φίλοι. ἀσπάζου τοὺς φίλους κατ ̓ ὄνομα.
Peace to you (be in health). The friends (the loving ones, those kindly disposed) greet you. Greet (Imperative) the friends by name.
“Peace to you” was a standard way to end letters in that day. But for the Christian, it means much more. John asks for the peace that passes all understanding to rest on Gaius.
“The friends greet you” – this was a standard welcome, as a person would enter a house in those days by saying “Greetings to you”.
Those who are with John, the friends of all who stand for the truth, send greetings to Gaius. John asks Gaius to greet the friends, as they come to him, by name. The friends of the Lord are your friends, greet them with warm wishes and greet them by name.
John is writing to his spiritual child, encouraging Gaius to continue
in doing good,
standing for the truth,
living for the truth,
and loving those who also live for the truth.
Be imitators of that which is good, not that which is evil. Continue in the fight for truth. Truth is worth living for. Truth is worth fighting for.
We see three characters, Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius, 3 Christians. Demetrius and Gaius have good testimonies of their lives that reflect Jesus Christ. Diotrephes is a Christian who has lost his first love, and now lives for self.
Let us be imitators of good and not imitators of evil, lest we fall under the loving, rebuking hand of the Father.
Let us pray.