Wrapping up our sermon series going through the Epistles of John today.
In 1 John, we learned how we in light of false teaching can be confident of your salvation as we walk in the truth and the love of the Gospel as found IN the Scriptures, not OUTSIDE of the Scriptures.
Then in 2 John, we learned about the necessity of theology in our lives and how our theology forms our behavior, thus having correct theology, a correct understanding and knowledge of God is vital to our walk with Him and others.
Now, today, in 3 John, which we will cover the whole book this morning, we will look at Four examples… 3 men who demonstrate for us what the teachings of 1 and 2 John look like, and 1 man who does not.
In 3 John, the Apostle John gets specific… just as I have named false teachers with influence within this congregation, John here gives biblical precedent for this practice in the man of Diotrephes.
3 John is the shortest book in the NT, but not only the NT, but in all of Scripture.
In the original language of Greek, it contains a mere 219 words.
2 & 3 John are sometimes referred to as “twin epistles” due to the similarities in length and structure.
3 John, is obviously a very personal letter… not that 1 and 2 John were not personal per se… but they were not addressed to a specific person as is the case with 3 John.
Whereas with 1 and 2 John, John spoke to and about particular groups of people, here in 3 John, he speaks to and about specific people of which he names.
These three men, along with John will help us understand what it looks like, and what it does NOT look like, to walk in the truth and be faithful in our service and ministry to the church.
READ 3 John 1-15
Clearly, the letter is addressed to a man named Gaius
Who was Gaius?
Ultimately, we don’t know beyond what is said of him in this letter.
Three other men who share the same name are mentioned in the NT, Romans 16:23, Acts 19:29, Acts 20:4… it’s a common name… so no reason to think he was any one of the others mentioned in the those verses
Gaius was Loved by John in truth… (1)
A love that is not merely sentiment… but grounded in the knowledge of our faith in our our Lord Jesus Christ.
This love is not a unique love within the body… maybe unique to the world
Yet, in the body, this is the love that is shared among ALL the saints
1 John 3:18
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.
So, this love expressed by John, it is special yes, because of what it is rooted in… but at the same time, this is the common love among the body of believers that unites us… a love rooted in the truth of the Gospel
This love is the love of which Paul speaks about in 1 Cor 13… love in the context of 1 Cor 13 is not a romantic love restricted to our spouses… it is the love that is expressed among the members of the God’s church, it is the love that you and I share towards each other.
Let’s read part of 1 Cor 13 to understand this love a bit more… 1 Cor 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside.
Notice, that last verse… the gifts pass away… but the love doesn’t.
Our brotherly and sisterly love that is rooted in the truth of which it rejoices in… is everlasting, it is eternal. We take it with us to our graves and carry it with us into eternity.
It is from that truth that Gaius is loved by John.
Then in verse 2 we see that Gaius is Spiritually healthy (2)
John prays for his physical health to be just as well as his soul
We don’t know if anything was physically wrong with Gaius
This is probably just a general greeting… but do take notice of the priority here...
While John prays for his physical well-being, he does so in light of his spiritual well-being
John wants him to be as physically well as Gaius already is spiritually...
Our spiritual health is the primary focus…
We, today, perhaps need to be more intentional in this focus… in two ways...
That one we care and pray for one another’s spiritual health as often, if not more than we pray for each other’s physical health.
Look at our prayer request lists… how many of those are physical requests?
How many are spiritual?
In our life groups, are our requests more physical in nature, than spiritual?
Let us be encouraged to pray for one another in regards to our spiritual health more often.
Areas to pray for could be:
Deliverance from temptation
Knowledge of His Word and obedience to it
To have God’s heart in us, rather than our own…
Protection from evil spiritual forces
Requesting His angels to minister and serve us as needed
To be filled with Holy Spirit in submission to Him, and so on...
A second way, is to be mindful of our physical health.
If we are not careful with the first way of focusing on the spiritual, we can become gnostic…
We do not focus on the spiritual to neglect the physical.
Rather, we motivate our physical health to get with the program and match our spiritual health. Healthy body - Healthy soul.
We desire a holistic approach…
We must not think that we can allow our bodies to waste away or we can neglect care of them for the sake of our soul… they go hand in hand.
How we steward our body is a reflection of our theology....
And the better we take care of our body, the better we will be able to serve the body of Christ as we age, and as we get ill, or suffer whatever calamity or disaster may come our way.
Of course, we must be gracious towards one another in this area… as all of this varies from person to person dependent on the various genetics and life circumstances God has given us.
Part of why John knows that Gaius is spiritually healthy is by how he walked spiritually… just as when I used to do gait analysis back in the day I could tell what was wrong with a person by their gait… likewise John assesses Gaius the same way… by the way Gaius walked, the way he lived, John knew he walked in the truth.
Gaius Walked in Truth
B/c he knew the truth… the same truth John has spoken about in 1 & 2 John
Gaius knew the truth of Jesus as Christ as the Son of God in the flesh
Gaius knew the good news of the Gospel that he has been reconciled with the Father by the blood of the Son
Thus, he lived the truth...
As we have mentioned before in previous weeks to live, or walk in the truth, is to love others in the truth… through good deeds borne out of good theology
And just as John mentions here and in 2 John 4, this brings him joy like no other.
For in this testimony of Gaius, John knows Gaius has eternal life. This knowledge and assurance, ought to bring all within the body of Christ joy.
When we share testimonies… the power of the testimony only carries weight if that person is still walking in truth… for if he or she isn’t… then there is no joy, as there is no confidence in that person’s salvation.
We must not think that a person’s testimony is restricted to the moment they come to know Christ… rather a person’s testimony as it is here with Gaius… is how they are currently living...
We are, in fact, walking testimonies
And John Goes on to expound on exactly how Gaius is living and what has been testified about him… in how he...
Faithfully serves the church (6-8)
Ministered to other teachers of the faith despite not knowing them (6)
In John’s words, ‘even though they are strangers’, Gaius loved on them
And so much so, these men shared the acts of love by Gaius to John’s church…
They testified, they witnessed of it before the gathering of John’s church… an example of a mission’s report of sort in the 1st century
So, John asks him to send them off worthy of God…
For these types of people should be properly supported.
They go out for the sake of the “Name” (Christ)
They are not serving to satisfy a bucket list item
They are not serving to “see the world”
Nor are they serving hoping to have a “life changing experience”… they’ve already had that experience when they were born-again and no experience will compare to it.
They are not serving for any selfish reason, but simply for the sake of Jesus Christ… and in doing so
They do not seek money from pagans
That is, they do not solicit support from non-believers… only from the body of Christ do they look to be supported.
See, they were not the only “street” preachers in the 1st century, there were others of various faiths and beliefs and many were known to request money from those of whom they were trying to persuade...
So, these men, as all good men of our faith, intentionally relied on the generosity of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, so they would not be identified with those seeking money.
This is a principle that the Apostle Paul himself emphasized in 1 Cor 9:15-18
But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
Therefore, Gaius ought to support people such as these… we, at Hope, ought to support people as such as these… and in doing so we share in the work of the truth… we become coworkers in cooperation with the truth.
Some are sent… those who go in the “Name” and do the ground work
Some support… those who give sacrificially in the “Name” so that the ground work can be accomplished
We each have our place within the body, no one place greater than the other… our measure of greatness is not found in our work, or what we accomplish, but found in the one of whom we place our faith. We have no grounds for boasting in any work we do for the “Name”, whether it is being sent, or whether it is supporting those who are sent. We do as we are tasked.
As such, some will be called to sacrifice much, and others not so much. In both circumstances, we are grateful and faithful to our tasks given from above.
After commending and encouraging Gaius, John now speaks of the work of another… and this work is not a good work, it is a bad work… unlike the work of Gaius.
The bad work of Diotrephes
Diotrephes is not mentioned elsewhere so all we know of him is what John shares...
Quite simply, Diotrephes is a false teacher or at the very least a false leader of some sort...
For those looking for a biblical example of calling out false teachers by name… wondering if it is a biblical thing to do… here is one situation. As such John provides reasons why in the letter and intends to explain more in person.
The exact issue at hand is not clear beyond what is provided here in 3 John...
Though there is no evidence of it necessarily being doctrinal
The charges that follow are rooted in personality issues and submissiveness to the authority of the church...
But as has been clear in 1 and 2 John… our deeds, how we engage with others, especially within the church, is a reflection of the knowledge that we know… of the doctrine of which we claim...
The first charge John brings is about Diotrephes pride...
He’s prideful… loves to be first
Yet only Christ is to be pre-eminent (Col 1:18)
He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.
Along with that Diotrephes refuses fellowship with the Apostle and his disciples
Does not submit to the authority of John and the church...Similar to the false teachers of 1 John
In doing so he speaks nonsense, or gossip against them
This is sort of like when people on social media call out some sort of sin supposedly being made by a particular group of people, or maybe even a specific person, yet, provides no evidence of it… shows no support for their claims… just talking to be heard and to be divisive… it is a power move… an attention seeking play...
Diotrephes also refuses to support those sent by John and even goes as far as stopping others from supporting the ministry
And refusing the ones sent, is the same as refusing the one who sent them… an idea that John clearly paints for us in his Gospel with the words of Jesus
John 5:23, John 12:44-45, John 13:20, John 14:24
so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
But Jesus shouted out, “The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me,and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me.
I tell you the solemn truth, whoever accepts the one I send accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.
Diotrephes was creating distance, space from the influence of John.... perhaps trying to start his own church, on his own terms...
Be wary, when you have a pastor, especially one who pastors a church that is part of a denomination or association that shares the same statement of belief that wants nothing to do with that denomination or association… that wants nothing to do with having any sort of fellowship or accountability with fellow pastors in that denomination…
You could probably even apply this to the church as a whole if it’s the elders of that church who desire separation as well...
That is a big big red flag… and you don’t have to go far to find a present day example of this.
And this is a key characteristic of a false teacher…
A person can spout heresy from their mouth but it’s not until I see this kind of behavior that I identify them as a false teacher...
We can be wrong in our understanding… but if we refuse to even be open to the idea of being corrected… our heart is not that of God’s. Teachability, correctability, accountability, and a willingness to engage in kind humble dialogue over differences rooted in Scripture… are all characteristics of a godly teacher.
Having perfect knowledge and understanding or pretending to is not… thankfully. We’re fallible people… and if a teacher is unwilling to acknowledge that and humbly engage in reasonable discussion on the issues of which he/she may be wrong about… they are acting in the same spirit as Diotrephes
John moves on from Diotrephes to encourage Gaius not to imitate him, not to imitate evil, but imitate what is good. Specifically, the example of Demetrius
For who does good is from God
Who does not, is not from God...
Again, here we have biblical precedent for specifically calling out people by name, who pretend to be of the faith, that are not of the faith, who are not saved, who have influence within the church…
And in our day that person does not have to be physically part of our church… the online world has exposed the local church to risks beyond the physical borders of our community.
This is part of the role of a shepherd, and of elders… to protect the flock from the wolves…
It is not to be done lightly, but it is also not to be avoided
So, who ought we to imitate?
Christ of course! He’s always the answer.
But we still need examples in the flesh… think of Paul’s words in 1 Cor 11.1
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
This is discipleship in its most basic form… imitating the one you follow.
Therefore, John provides a person of which Gaius ought to imitate in the person of Demetrius (who was possibly the letter bearer of 3 John)… why?
He is well-spoken of by everyone… the perfect tense here in the Greek informs us that this is a behavior witnessed to over a period of time… this is a key characteristic for those called to be sent....
Acts 6:3 in reference to the selection of deacons
But carefully select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well-attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task.
Acts 16:2 in reference to Paul putting Timothy under his wing
The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.
Of course, probably not “everyone” liked Demetrius… Diotrephes, for example, probably did not
When you hold to the truth and walk in it… even within the church people will disdain you
Even the Truth, the Gospel itself testifies of Demetrius… he walked it, he was devoted to it
You could read the teachings of Scripture and look at the life of Demetrius and see the Word of God lived out in the flesh...
Do we have the same testimony? Can people look at how we behave… how we speak in person, online, and see the Word of God?
Granted, in order for people to do that… they themselves must know the Word of God…
And for us to live that way, we ourselves must know the Word of God… so let us continue to strive in our knowledge of God’s Word, and seek to live out, so that others may testify of us, as John testifies of Demetrius
Speaking of which, it is not just the truth that testifies of Demetrius...
John and John’s church testify of him.
When we send missionaries out, or commission anyone to do any work, we must understand we place our credibility upon them… it is no small thing.
This goes back to the idea, that the ones sent are representative of the ones who do the sending… therefore to accept/reject the sent ones is to accept/reject the ones who send.
In that principle, also lies the truth, that the ones sent… what they believe… how they act, their character… is representative of the ones who sent them....
We must be wise and prudent in whom we send and support in regards to missions or any ministry of the Gospel.
After commending Demetrius to Gaius… John ends his letter demonstrating to us his love for Gaius and the church of Christ.
The love of John
John ends this letter almost in the very same fashion as he does 2 John...
There is much that John has to say...
Otherwords, there is much on his heart… and he desires to share it with Gaius in person...
This is how I feel every week when I preach… there is much I want to say...
But often much of what I have to say is best done in dialogue…
The hard things of Scripture and life, are best absorbed when you and I can wrestle over it together.... question and answer… or perhaps just question and question followed by praying and seeking understanding b/c we don’t....
This is why I so desperately desire to meet with you all as you are able and willing....
Nothing fills my soul more than sitting with another believer talking theology… talking God… talking Christ… talking life and eternity… and this is the same for the Apostle John..
John hopes and desires, to see Gaius face to face… distance just won’t cut it...
Email is not enough
The phone is not enough
Zoom is not enough
Only in person… we are people made for physical fellowship… not some form of gnostic spirituality that sacrifices physical intimacy in the name of comfort, safety, or whatever fill in the blank excuse you want to put in there.
As great as “online” or “virtual” church has been… it is lacking… it’s like eating a microwaveable TV dinner… versus a homemade meal… it satisfies the hunger but it ain’t good for the body. You’ll live… but you won’t thrive with that kind of diet.
Online church is how it is now… but it is not how it is supposed to be… nor is it what we are called to do… we are called to gather together… how else can we observe the ordinances commanded by our Lord and Savior? A requirement of communion is the physical presence of the body… not a virtual presence. Virtual fellowship is not true fellowship… just look at how people act online versus in person…
And when we do gather back again, church will not be different… not permanently anyway… we might do things differently initially, and we’ll make some settle changes...
Ultimately though, how we do church will be according to the Word of God… as He commands us to worship… which is how we have been doing church, before COVID-19 showed up.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together wrote:
“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer… The believer need not feel any shame when yearning for the physical presence of other Christians, as if one were still living too much in the flesh.”
We must learn from John, from God, if we haven’t already, to love one another in the truth.
We must desire to grow in our knowledge of God, for the purpose of glorifying God as we love one another by walking together united in the truth.
And in doing so, we model the behavior of Gaius, Demetrius, and John…
And we must be wary of those who act like Diotrephes… and we pray for those who do act like Diotrephes, and we pray for those who act like Gaius and Demetrius and John… for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ… those of whom we love now and will love for all eternity.
And in all of this we model the life of the one whom died for us, Jesus Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, who is our Lord and Savior.