Read 3 John in your Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020,
The title of this message is “Four Guys,” so we will begin with a story about four guys. A doctor, a lawyer, a little boy, and a pastor were on a flight in a small airplane. Suddenly, the plane developed engine trouble. Despite the best efforts of the pilot, the plane started to go down. Finally, the pilot grabbed a parachute, yelled to the passengers that they had better jump, and he bailed out. Unfortunately, there were only three parachutes remaining. The doctor grabbed one and said "I'm a doctor, I save lives, so I must live," and jumped out. The lawyer then said, "I'm a lawyer and lawyers are the smartest people in the world. I deserve to live." He also grabbed a parachute and jumped. The pastor looked at the little boy and said, "My son, I've lived a long and full life. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Take the last parachute and live in peace." The little boy said, "Not to worry, Pastor. The 'smartest man in the world' just jumped off with my backpack."
Tradition says 3 John was written after John was released from exile on the island of Patmos, between 80-95 AD. If so, 3 John is the last book of the Bible. At just over 200 words, it is a still-timely reminder of the importance of the testimony of our reputation.
The Elder offered four examples of different reactions to God’s love.
1. Gaius: the guy who got it right. (1-8)
Gaius was a common name at the time; there are three mentioned in the New Testament.
The Elder’s love for Gaius is evident in calling him DEAR FRIEND four times in this letter. (1-2) Love and truth make for a healthy body and soul; that was the Elder’s prayer for Gaius to ENJOY GOOD HEALTH and that his SOUL got along well. In the Greek, the phrase THAT ALL MAY GO WELL is placed at the beginning of the sentence to give it emphasis. In the Greek, the phrase GETTING ALONG is a word picture of a pleasant journey.
Gaius was a good example; he walked in the truth. (3-4) The word TRUTH appears four times in these eight verses. Gaius’ truthfulness caused the Elder to feel GREAT JOY; in fact, there is NO GREATER JOY.
People cannot read our minds, but they can easily see how we act. If there is a big difference between a faith we claim and the way we act, the truth is not in us.
Gaius was a good example because he served the Church faithfully. (5-8) Gaius’ service was extending hospitality to itinerant preachers. In this Gaius did not show favoritism; he was hospitable to STRANGERS as well. The Elder knew this for a fact because those who had received Gaius’ hospitality came back with a testimony in his favor.
In the culture of this time hospitality was a virtue and a necessity. The itinerant preachers could not have visited around the churches without this hospitality. Verses seven to eight give three reasons specific reasons hospitality was so important.
One, FOR THE SAKE OF THE NAME. By serving one another, we ultimately serve Christ.
Two, they were RECEIVING NO HELP FROM THE PAGANS, which was good: we cannot expect or should even want help from unbelievers. Heeding Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 6:14, we should avoid being UNEQUALLY YOKED WITH UNBELIEVERS.
Three, SO WE MAY WORK TOGETHER FOR THE TRUTH. We cannot all go elsewhere to do Gospel ministry in person but by our gifts of support make us co-workers with those who do go.
2. Diotrephes: the guy with a harmful agenda. (9-10)
Diotrephes was the evil opposite of Gaius; selfish and inhospitable. His name means “nourished by Jupiter,” the chief of the Roman pantheon of Gods. This is the only biblical mention of the name.
Diotrephes was a bad example as he put himself first. (9) Colossians 1:18 says that only Jesus is to have FIRST PLACE in the Church.
He also set himself apart from the larger church, the ones over which John was the Elder (HE WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH US). (9) Diotrephes figured “his church” was better off without John and the preachers he sent. The only reason we are given for Diotrephes’ standoffishness is that he felt too highly about himself. We can speculate that he did not want competing views of how the church should be run and sought to eliminate the Elder’s influence.
Diotrephes was a bad example as he was a divisive influence in the church. (10) John predicted three instances of Diotrephes’ misbehavior.
GOSSIPING MALICIOUSLY. Sounds like politics in 2020, doesn’t it?
REFUSES TO WELCOME THE BROTHERS. As hospitality is a virtue, inhospitality is a vice.
STOPS THOSE WHO WANT TO be hospitable AND PUTS THEM OUT OF THE CHURCH. Arrogance is manifest in aggressive actions. Bullies want to force their will on the typically passive church people.
3. Demetrius: the guy with a good testimony. (11-12)
A willful person like Diotrephes can impress passive people and accumulate a following. The Elder would much rather have the church folks following the example of a good man like Demetrius.
We are to imitate good people like Demetrius who set an example in godliness. (11) The Elder kept it simple: there are only two kinds of people; those who are born again (FROM GOD) are characterized by doing GOOD. People who are not born again (have NOT SEEN GOD) are characterized by doing EVIL.
Demetrius set a good example. (12) His reputation was good: he was WELL SPOKEN OF BY EVERYONE. You know how hard it is to impress EVERYONE. It is harder still to be attested to BY THE TRUTH ITSELF. The Elder also attests to Demetrius’ good character, and Gaius knew full well the Elder’s TESTIMONY to be TRUE.
4. John: the guy with a pastor’s heart. (13-14).
The three letters of John are concerned with truth and love. These are pastoral concerns, especially in situations where they are colliding interests.
The writer of this letter identified himself as the ELDER, not by name. (1) Originally, the term “elder” referred to an older person. In the Church, it was a title, a term of respect for persons who had a reputation of wisdom & integrity. He is an example worth following because of these qualities
John provides a worthy example as he desired fellowship with other believers. (13-14) You know the Elder was a pastor because he had more to say: I HAVE MUCH TO WRITE YOU. However, he did not want to commit such personal thoughts to paper. That was wise. He preferred to communicate FACE TO FACE. In our time he might say, “I don’t want to use social media, but want to talk to you person-to-person.”
More than fellowship, the Elder desired peace in the fellowship. (14) For example, he gave the blessing of PEACE to Gaius. He exchanged greetings between the members of his church and Gaius’ church. Preachers prefer peaceful churches where everyone is FRIENDS.
The Elder offered four examples of different reactions to God’s love.
We all need friends and family; people to love us in the truth. I want to share a story that illustrates how we need each other.
It had been a typical Vacation Bible School until midway through the Wednesday session when a late-comer was brought into Mrs. Tullis’ class. The seven-year-old boy was missing his right arm. There was only time for the briefest of introductions before Mrs. Tullis had to continue with the Bible lesson for the evening.
While she was teaching, Mrs. Tullis’ mind raced. She was worried about how the other children would react to Davey. She dreaded them saying something embarrassing that might hurt the boy’s feelings. Six to eight-year-old children could be cruel even when they did not intend to be.
She pressed through the Bible lesson without incident. In her conclusion, she sought to illustrate what they had learned about the church with a simple rhyme and gestures. She said, “Let us make our churches. Here is the church and here is the steeple. Open the doors…” She realized, to her horror and shame, she had done just what she feared the children would do; she looked at her two hands together and saw too late she’d done something Davey couldn’t do and had drawn attention to his disability.
She sat there speechless, uncertain how to get out of this situation, her face flushed. A little girl seated next to Davey bailed Mrs. Tullis out. She reached across with her right hand, and lacing her fingers between Davey’s said, “Here, let’s make a church together.”
No surprise. That is how churches have always been made. Hand in hand. Friends in relationship with truth and love.
Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in 1, 2, & 3 John, Daniel L. Akin