Because of the brevity of this book it is one that is often overlooked. It reminds me of “B” side songs that don’t get the attention that they deserve. But this is by no means a “B” side book, for in it is the wisdom of God for believers throughout time and eternity. The truth within these few verses we find a valuable information and two great examples for us as believers today. The first example is how we ought to live; the second how not to live. It is my hopes that we will hear from the Holy Spirit as we study this chapter. My prayer is that the LORD would bless this time in His Word as He is faithful to do so in all of His Bible.
[3Jo 1:1 NKJV]
The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:
The Elder here is a kind of code name that John uses in his letter to this group of believers. We should recognize that John was not being a covert Chirstian for any other reason than to protect those who were recieving this letter from being exposed and persecuted more than they already were. Other commentators state that John uses this greeting in the same manner the founding Pastor of Calvary Chapel, the late great, Chuck Smith, was called “Pappa Chuck.” The point being that by this introduction the recipients would know exactly who it was that wrote the letter.
But I would like to touch on this idea of being a covert Christian. There are some that regard their faith as “private” and they will not make mention of their faith in the public arena. They come to church and play the part on Sunday but the other six days you would never know they were believers. To convince them that sharing their faith is a part of being a believer is…well…Mission Impossible. But we know that when we confess Jesus before the men, that He will confess us before the Father (Matthew 10:32) and on the other side of the coin, if we do not confess Him before men, He will not confess us before His Father in Heaven (Matthew 10:33). When we confess the LORD before others we find instantly that we are held accountable to our profession of faith. Others will ask, and often do, “Are Christians supposed to do stuff like that?” And I would say that while we have Christian liberties, if we ever hear something like that, it is a tale-tale sign that perhaps we ought not be doing the thing. The last thing that we want to do is cause someone to stumble while we enjoy our own Christian liberties. Not that this is the only motive of the covert Christian for their willing obscurity, but it is certainly a reason.
John is writing this letter to a man named Gaius. Now the name Gaius was a very common name in John’s time, just as the name John is in our times. We are not certain, but perhaps this is the same Gaius that was mentioned in Acts 19:19; 1 Corinthians 1:14; or Romans 16:23. We can see from the passage a few things about this man Gaius. We know immediately that he was an acquaintance of Johns, he was a fellow believer, and he must have been a gracious and kind individual that John held in high esteem. Â We know this because John esteems him as such by referring to him as “beloved” and one that John loved “in truth.” And so John is writing this letter to Gaius and in doing so he is giving the believer an example of how we ought to be in light of our own callings.
[3Jo 1:2 NKJV]
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
This statement from John is a very kind blessing. John is saying essentially that he knows this man is righteous, and that he hopes his physical health is as bountiful as his spiritual health. I am reminded of an older Christian brother, Jerry Clifton, who jokingly says, “Live long and prosper and may all of your children look like their mother!” While this is more of your “red-neck” greeting, the vain in which it is delivered by Clifton is one of jest while still maintaining a truthful well-wishing. Some commentators state that this expression of John’s was not unique to John but was aÂ colloquialism of John’s time. David Guzik notes that the phrase came from the Latin expression, “Si vales, bene est; ego valeoÂ – “If you are well, it is good; I am well.”
Many in the camp of the prosperity camp will use this as a proof text that believers should be prosperous in all things, and yet we know that God can and does allow His people to live in poverty in this life and still have profound spiritual lives. We also know that there are many men and women of God who suffer from physical infirmities and have greater faith in Christ than most. So while John does wish prosperity in all things and health, John recognizes that this is secondary to the prosperity of the Spirit. John knows that by making this statement the readers would recognize this instantly as Johns compliment and bestowing of great honor to Gaius.
[3Jo 1:3 NKJV]
For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth [that is] in you, just as you walk in the truth.
The evidence of a true believer is the fruit that the believer bears in the Spirit. John proclaims that he rejoiced in the hearing of the report of Gaius. Gaius not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk. Not only did he have a sound theology, but he lived out his theology in truth. In other words, he was a practicioner of the Word of God. He was genuine. He was a sincere believer.
An interesting side note: when we think of the word “truth” we find the synonym “sincere” is appropriate. The word for “sincere” in the Greek is “eilikrinÄ“s” and it means exposed to the sunlight. In John’s days it spoke of pottery or statues that were sold in the marketplace. Often times when a merchant would have a piece that was broken or chipped and he did not want to discard the item, he would affix the broken piece with wax. A person may buy the item not knowing that it was broken. But if you examined the piece carefully under the scrutiny of sunlight, the light would expose the defect. And so many of the merchants would mark thier pieces with the word “eilikrinÄ“s” or wax free.
We also note that the Word tells that by the mouth of two or more a word is established (2 Corinthians 13:1), and by the same witnesses that can condemn a man, these testimonies can establish the worthy conduct of a man. John reports that brethren (plural) had testified of the truth that was in this man Gaius.
[3Jo 1:4 NKJV]
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
Being a pastor, it would have been a joy to John’s heart that one of his own “spiritual offspring” was growing in his faith and not only that, but became renown for his walk. To walk in truth means that a person has a sincere walk. This would be the opposite of the hypocrite. This was a joy that came from seeing the fruit of his own work lived out in the lives of others to continue a legacy of godly living.
Another interesting side note is the word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word, “hypokritÄ“s” and is the picture of a stage actor. During the time of John actors were traditionally male and acting guilds generally had all male casts. Men would play the parts of both men and women. To accomplish this feat they would generally wear masks to play another character. This is where we get our English colloquialism, “two-faced” from.
[3Jo 1:5 NKJV]
Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers,
The committed service of a child of God is done faithfully and is not a respecter of persons. The believer does not give preferential treatment to anyone but loves like Christ loves. If we only love those who love us how are we different than the unbeliever (Luke 6:32)? The key is that we love faithfully. This is the Greek word “pistos” and it means that we love like a personÂ who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties. It is the picture of a soldier under the authority of a greater authority. In our case, we are to love others as officials of the Kingdom of God, that is with the same love that Jesus loves us.
We are to live by the standard of the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) and without partiality, for God does not show partiality towards us (Romans 2:11).
[3Jo 1:6 NKJV]
who have borne witness of your love before the church. [If] you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well,
When we offer service to others an interesting thing takes place, we gain a good reputation. This is one of the requirements for leadership interestingly enough (1 Timothy 3:7). What we find here is that this man Gaius had a solid reputation before the church. John commends him and advises him that if sends those who he encounters forward on their journey armed with the message of hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ than he does well.
It was customary in John’s time that traveling Christians were practically all itenerate preachers, and so in the aid of the spread of the Gospel it would be a show of hospitality and the good grace of the host to show traveling mercies to those who were “on tour,” so to speak, sharing their faith.
[3Jo 1:7 NKJV]
because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles.
The Bible teaches us that the worker is worthy of his wages (1 Timothy 5:18). And so those who would go forth with the Gospel message should be cared for. They should not have to rely on the Gentiles for support when the church should be the one that supports the missionary. John knew that Gaius was a man that would show the support of the body and so John commends Gaius for his generosity and favor for fellow believers.
[3Jo 1:8 NKJV]
We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.
John’s statement here is that Gaius’ behavior was model behavior. He encourages Gaius and others who would recieve his message as well as us today that our fellowship amongst the body of the saints is such that we ought to receive fellow believers in a like manner; thereby, becoming fellow partakers of the Gospel of grace. Â John distinguishes Gaius here as the exemplary believer and pays respect to him by boasting of his work in the LORD.
And so we see in Gaius the type of character that all believers should have. But in stark contrast to this man Gaius, we learn of an anti-type. There was another character in the church that was quite the opposite of this honorable man Gaius. We learn of this man and his deeds in the next verse.
[3Jo 1:9 NKJV]
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.
Not only in opposition to the character of Gaius, this man Diotrephes was in opposition to John, the church, and the body of Christ. We see in this verse that John does not speak highly of Diotrephes. Diotrephes had a very uncommon name. His name meansÂ “nourished by Jupiter.”Â Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout theÂ RepublicanÂ andÂ ImperialÂ eras, untilÂ Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire by decree of Emporer Constantine. InÂ Roman mythology, Jupiter negotiates withÂ Numa Pompilius, the secondÂ king of Rome, to establish principles of Roman religion such as sacrifice. Apparently this man Diotrephes knew the origins of his name and had quite the “god-complex.”
We do know that he was one who loved to have preeminence amongst the brethren. And we know too that there was some degree of enmity between this man and the the Apostle John as well as authority and general.
Galatians 6:3 points out the deception that an attitude like this brings. This man was self-deceived. Apparently, the man wasn’t the most gracious either. Sure there are going to be people that we run into that just rub us the wrong way but Romans 12:18 gives us a mandate that we all should live by. This man would not recieve the Apostle or his companions and so you get the sense that he was more concerned about his own pride and authority than he was at being a blessing and hosting those who loved the LORD.
Luke tells us in Luke 14:10-11 how we ought to position ourselves amongst others. This man would have been the one who took the best seat. And as we see here this man is forever shamed in the annals of biblical history.
The fact is that Jesus is the Preeminent One, and anyone who would take away the focus, as this Diotraphes was doing is in for a great fall.
[3Jo 1:10 NKJV]
Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting [them] out of the church.
John uses the word, “therefore,” and as my old college professor, Dr. Walter Lumpkin would always say, “What is the therefore, there for?” John is saying, in light of the fact that this Diotrophes guy is a pompous meany-face (nice way of saying it) who will not recieve God’s people, I am going to make it known what kind of person this guy really is.
Notice here that John says if he comes… John is going to take this guy to the mat if given the opportunity. John’s desire is to be with his “little children” as he so affectionately calls those that he has discipled. And so John says if he can make it out there he wants to handle some business up front, and the first order is to call out this Diotrophes. Diotrophes was not just a hater, but he was an aggressor. Notice it says here that he prates agains the Apostles with malicious word. The word “prating” here comes from the Greek “phlyareĹŤ” and means to falsely accuse some one maliciously. This is in direct violation of the 9th commandment which forbids us to bear false witness against our neighbor. Diotrophes was doing this very thing. And note that John says, not only is he slandering us, but look, he is going out of his way to make sure that not only does he recieve us, but that if anyone else does they will be excommunicated.
This guy is totally the opposite of Gaius. Where Gaius is commended because of his godliness, Diotrophes is condemned by by his godlessness. And so John warns the believers and us in the next verse.
[3Jo 1:11 NKJV]
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.
This comparison between Gaius and Diotrophes is a perfect example for us. Here we have two people with the same opportunities. One who trusts in the LORD and gives of himself, another who trusts in himself and denies those who love the LORD. John tells us not to imitate what is evil. We should not be like Diotrophes. But we should imitate what is good. We should be like Gaius. Gaius, according to John, has seen God, and Diotrophes has neither seen nor known God.
[3Jo 1:12 NKJV]
Demetrius has a [good] testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.
John also points out the good testimony of Demetrius. And John tells them that he is trustworthy. Perhaps Demetrius had fallen victim to Diotrophes and John is countering, I am not completely sure, but it is possible. Either way, John speaks on behalf of Demetrius whether to restore him or to commend him.
[3Jo 1:13 NKJV]
I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink;
John was more of a relationship oriented person it would seem. Rather than send an email he preferred a face to face. Of course there was no email then, but you get the point. We could take a page from John and put aside emails for the occasional face-to-face.
[3Jo 1:14 NKJV]
but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.
John closes with his desire to see them again. He leaves them with a closing salutation that was common for his day. He says Peace to you. And we know that God has called us to live at peace with one another (even if we are surrounded by people like Diotrophes). John speaks again in a cryptic way here as he says our friends greet you. Apparently the recipients of this email would know the people that were with him. And finally he says gree the friends by name.
It would not surprise me that this guy Diotrophes was turning people over to persecution. I get the picture that he was a real shady character. It would make sense that John would not disclose names in this letter other than those who where openly vocal. But his commendation were those who were godly and his condemnation was aimed at Diotrophes who was pubilically vocal as well against the church that he claimed to be a part of.