This week I studied 3 John and would like to share with you my thoughts on this fascinating scenario in which selflessness is contrasted against self-promotion.
I suspect this scenario is still played out today, where men and women seek to be "first" to the detriment of the body of Christ.
3 John is written by “the elder" unto Gaius.
In vs 4 the “elder” says there is “no greater joy” than to hear that his children “walk in truth”.
This is almost identical to 2 John 4, which was written to the “elect lady”.
4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth.
The fact that “children” are mentioned in both 2 John and 3 John suggests to me that this is speaking of disciples rather than literal children.
The word “children” is defined in the Strongs concordance as follows…
In the NT pupils or disciples are called children of their teachers, because the latter by their instruction nourish the minds of their pupils and mould their characters
In 3 John 3 we see that Gaius himself “walks in truth”.
How do we know we are IN truth? because we “walk” in it, meaning our lifestyle reflects truth.
Hence being IN truth is not an intellectual exercise, it’s about yielding one’s heart to truth and doing it.
1 John 4:6 calls the Holy Spirit…the Spirit of truth…
The Spirit is both truth and love thus truth and love go hand-in-hand.
In 3 John 5-8 we see that Gaius had a reputation for faithfully loving both brethren and strangers.
Brethren may refer to the “children” Gaius discipled, whilst strangers may refer to itinerant evangelists who in the course of their travels, called at his house.
Vs 7 …for his names sake they go forth…
Vs 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.
The “such” we “ought to receive” are those who go forth “for his names sake”. Meaning, they are not in it for themselves. Their motivation is pure.
“Receive” means to show hospitality towards.
In showing hospitality towards “such” we are fellow helpers to the truth.
In contrast to the actions of Gaius and the pure, selfless motives of those whom “for his names sake" went forth, are the actions and motives of Diotrephes.
In vs 9 the elder says
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
Preeminence philoproteuo means to desire to be first
We see in vs 10 that the desire to be “first” manifested itself in evil deeds such as:
- prating against us with malicious words
- not receiving the brethren
- forbidding them that would
- casting them out of the church.
“Prating against us with malicious words” means
to bring forward idle accusations, make empty charges, to accuse one falsely with malicious words.
In vs 11 Gaius is warned by the elder
"follow not that which is evil…he that doeth evil hath not seen God" rather follow "that which is good. He that doeth good is of God."
Both Gaius and Demetrius had a "good report of all men and of the truth itself" because their behaviours and attitudes reflected truth.
They were selflessly serving God and loving the brethren.
Diotrephes however, had a bad report of men. The elder said in vs 10
...I will remember his deeds...
He was not selflessly serving God or the brethren, on the contrary he was serving himself.
Due to his desire to be “first”, he would not receive Demetrius lest he outshine him.
Working together with fellow members of the body, for the edification of the body, requires love and humility.
1 Peter 5:5
…all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility:…
The desire to be “first” manifests in evil deeds such as false accusations and divisiveness.
Such deeds reveal the fact that one is not of God.
In contrast, those who go forth “for his names sake” and not their own, will have a “good report of men and of the truth itself” for they manifest good deeds.
They that do good are of God.
It’s important that we’re able to identify who is of God who is not of God and that we follow not that which is evil but that which is good.
We ought to receive those who go forth “for his names sake”, those who “walk in truth”, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.