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II and III John

HOW OUR JOY CAN BE COMPLETE
II JOHN

and

TWO GOOD EXAMPLES AND ONE BAD EXAMPLE
III JOHN

 

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
II JOHN

 

How are we to treat each other? (Part I) (1-6)

How are we to treat false teachers? (7-11)

How are we to treat each other? (Part II) (12-13)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of II JOHN

1. The author:  The author refers to himself as "The elder" in verse one.  III John was also authored by "The elder" (III John 1).  The fact that the letter is titled "II John," shows clearly that the traditional and agreed upon view of evangelical scholars is that the author was the apostle John—the same author as I John.  John Stott in his commentary, The Epistles of John, however explains in detail how Eusebius, a Christian who lived in the century following the apostle John, believed that "The elder" and John the apostle were two different people.  John Stott, though, concludes that the historical evidence for this John "the elder" is weak and that it is most likely that John "the elder" was also John the apostle—the last living of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Compare John 13:34-35 and II John 5

2. The recipients of the letter:  the recipients of the letter are "the chosen lady and her children."  The two most likely interpretations of the identities of these individuals are that this letter was addressed to (1) a Christian lady and her children or (2) that the letter was addressed to a church and its members that are figuratively referred to as a woman and her children.  The content of the letter seems to be directed to a church and the people of that church.  For example, verses 4-6 appear to be written to a church.  "It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love."  Other verses in this short epistle also fit better with a letter written to a church rather than a letter written to a mother and her children.

Some, though, think that one or both of the Greek words were names: eklekte kuria-"Electa Kyria."  But, the NIV translation, "the chosen lady and her children," is the most likely translation of these Greek words.

It makes little difference, though, in the understanding and application of the teaching found in this short letter whether it was written to a lady and her children or to a church and its members, for what John's words mean and its application to us is the same; it is written to Christians in both cases.

 

THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF II JOHN

What can we do "so that our joy may be complete"?  John gives us guidelines on how we should live "so that our joy may be complete."  And he warns us about how we should treat false teachers who can lead us away from the joyful style of life that God wants us to experience.  This is a short book, but it contains wisdom on relationships and our relationship with God from the last living apostle and the apostle that had quite probably the closest and deepest relationship with Jesus Christ that has been experienced.

HOW ARE WE TO TREAT EACH OTHER? (PART I) (1-6)
In just these few verses, we find that John, the apostolic expert on relationships, teaches about what is required for us to have God's type of relationships with each other.

1. We are to "love in the truth." (1-3)  "Instead, speaking the truth in
love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is,
Christ." (Ephesians 4:15)
"The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

Thought Question #1:  What is love like if it is not combined with truth?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What will it be like if there is an emphasis on truth, but not an equal emphasis on love?

 

 

What if we love, but we do not include truth in our love?  This is the type of love the world most often defines as love.  It is an anything-goes type of love.  It is a sentimental love that tolerates what the Bible calls sinful.  This type of love, for example, will tolerate a sinful practice like sexual relationships outside of marriage.  It is love without any guidelines for behavior.  It is actually not really love, for it tolerates what God declares to be destructive in the life of the person that supposedly is being loved.  It is a doting type of love.

What, then, about truth without love?  This is correction without compassion.  Truth without love breeds a harsh and judgmental spirit without any concern for the impact of the judgment on the one being judged.  Being doctrinally correct becomes more important than whether or not we love others with God's unconditional love.  Jesus gave us the model for the perfect balance of "truth" and "love."  He loved the disciples with great patience.  He affectionately and actively sought after their best.  But He also did not hesitate to teach them the truth and to correct them with the truth.  He did it, though, always out of a heart of love for them.  John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:24), learned this balance of love and truth from Jesus.  This balance of love and truth was then practiced by John and Jesus' other apostles.

"whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:"  We see here the premiere importance of truth to the early church and its leaders.  The truth is what is real and actual compared to a fantasy-like view of life.  Christians are those who share a true perspective on life.  The light of God has shined in our hearts and we see the world as it actually is; we see ourselves as we actually are.  "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:5-7, 9)

It is our common view of reality that binds Christians together.  And that truth is in us through the "Spirit of truth" who now lives in us.  "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17)  And that truth lives in us forever.  "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:17)  We who live in the truth will live in that truth forever.  Christians are those who have chosen to seek the truth and to seek Him who is "the Light of the world." (John 8:12).  "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:20-21)

"Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love."  What do "grace, mercy, and peace" have to do with "truth"?  The light of "truth" reveals our sinfulness.  We need God's "grace" and "mercy" to be able to live in God's "truth" without living in a continual and horrible state of condemnation.  We see this combining of "truth" with "grace" and "mercy" resulting in "peace" in I John 1:5-2:2:  "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. . . . My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 1:8-9, 2:1-2)  We have "peace" before God and not condemnation before God because of the "mercy" of God through Jesus having taken our condemnation upon Himself.

"Grace" and "mercy" speak of God giving us what we do not deserve and not giving us what we do deserve.  Truth tells us that we deserve God's judgment.  God's "grace" and "mercy" show us that through Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross God has chosen to bless us eternally instead of giving us the judgment that we deserve. 

Since "grace" and "mercy" come from both "God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son," Jesus Christ must also be Deity.  For no human being could provide "grace" and "mercy" to all of mankind.

2. We are to combine truth with obedience to God (4)
"It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that John's learning that his spiritual children were "walking in the truth" brought him "great joy"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is it like if someone has obedience without truth?

 

 

We learn here that "truth" is to be combined with an obedient "walking in the truth."  It gives John great joy to learn that some of his children are "walking in the truth" just as God "the Father commanded" them to walk. 

Just as with "truth" and love, it is possible to have an attempt at obedience to God without "truth," and to have "truth" without obedience.  Cults have obedience without the "truth."  Those in the cults are often obedient to the lies that they are taught.  Also, we who have the "truth" can be disobedient to the "truth" that we know.

What does obedience to "the truth" look like?  James urges us to obey the truth:  "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:22-25)  Jesus taught that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments:  "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."  Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'" (John 14:21, 23) See also I John 2:4-6

Now that we have God's truth and know what is real and true, we are to choose to obey what we know to be true.  For example, now that we know that God is love and God is always the sovereign ruler of all that happens, we are to obediently live as those who believe in His love and His sovereign control of all circumstances.

"It has given me great joy" In II John, John expresses similar feelings:  "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 4)  Joy comes when we experience our relationships with others, our relationship with God, and others' relationships with God dynamically functioning the way God desires them to function.  Here's an example of how it works.  Your car begins to have a number of problems at the end of a long trip.  The engine is sputtering rather than humming, the brakes are not reacting in the same way they once did, and the steering is pulling to the right.  You limp into town.  Early, the next day, you take your car to your very capable local mechanic.  Later that day, the mechanic calls and says that your car is ready for you.  You pick up the car and drive away.  The engine is humming, the brakes feel great again, and the steering no longer pulls to the right.  You feel great joy—everything is functioning right again!  The car is now running as it was meant to run.  We also feel great joy when our spiritual children are living the way God designed them to live!

3. We are to combine love and obedience. (5-6)
"And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." See I John 2:7; John 14:15

Here, we see that for the church to be what God wants it to be, we need both "love" and "obedience" to God's "commands."  What if we have "obedience" without "love."?  In Revelation 2:1-7, another book penned by John, Jesus' disciples in the church at Ephesus at that time obeyed God, but they did it without "love."  "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love." (Revelation 2:2-4)  They were an obedient church, but they were obeying God out of duty rather than because of their love for God.  We are to practice the Lord's Supper regularly so that we will not forget why we are to serve God.  We are to serve God and serve others out of love for God and love for others.   "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11) See I John 3:23, 4:21, 5:2-3, John 14:21, 23, 15:10; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:8-10

John, here as in I John, speaks of what is contained in our relationship circle with God.  God loves us by giving His Son to die for us and by giving us the "truth."  We are to respond to His "love" and the "truth" by obeying Him and the "truth," and by loving others as He loves us.  It is the opposite of the vicious circles of hate and unforgiveness that we find in the world.  It is God's glorious circle!

HOW ARE WE TO TREAT FALSE TEACHERS? (7-11)

1. Watch out for false teachers. (7-9)
"Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son."

Thought Question:  What do John's words tell us about false teachers?

 

 

We find similar warnings about false teachers in I John:  "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 John 2:18-19)  "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God," (1 John 4:1-2) See also I John 2;18, 27, 4;1-6; Matthew 24:3-5, 10-11;   I Timothy 4:1  With the information we have from I John and from these verses in II John, we learn that there were false teachers who had begun as members of the church but had left the church and were spreading false teachings that were significantly different from " the teaching of Christ."  Specifically, they were teaching that Jesus had not been a flesh and blood human like we are.  It is believed that the false teaching that John describes here was an early form of Gnosticism.  Gnostics believed that matter and flesh are evil; so, therefore, Jesus could not have been made up of flesh which was evil.  Some Gnostics taught that Jesus only appeared to be a man (docetism).  Other Gnostics taught that the Christ (the divine part of Jesus Christ) came upon the man Jesus at His baptism and left him before He died (adoptionism).  The Christ adopted the man Jesus for a short period of time.  Both of these teachings were false: (1) the teaching that Jesus was a phantom and not a man and (2) the teaching that Jesus the man was adopted by the divine Christ.  They were false because they are not what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ—that He is fully God and fully man, yet one person. 

Jesus needed to become fully a man to fulfill His purpose to be the last Adam.  The first Adam sinned and mankind died and fell into condemnation because of his sin.  Jesus, the last Adam and a man like us, represented us when He fully obeyed God's law and took the penalty for our sins as a flesh and blood man like us. See Romans 5:12-19  Also, if Jesus had not become a man like us, He could not have understood the temptations that we struggle with.  He is the perfect Mediator between God and man for He is both fully God and fully man.  "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)

These false teachers were "the antichrist," for they were against Christ.  They taught what they taught because they were in opposition to the teachings of Christ.  Just as Jesus sent out His teachers, so the devil sent out his teachers then and now has also sent out his false teachers.

"Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully."  Christian and church leaders are always to be alert for false teaching.  We are to "watch out"!  Today, false teaching comes in many more ways than it did in John's time.  It can come through radio, television, over the internet, in books, on tapes, on videos, as well as coming right up to our front doors.  We need to be even more alert to prevent it from gaining headway in the church.

"that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully."  There is disagreement among commentators and Bible language experts about whether the "you"s in this part of verse 8 should be all "you"s (NIV), a mixture of "you"s and a "we" (NASV, NEV) or all "we"s (NKJV).  "Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. " (2 John 8, NASB95)   "Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward." (2 John 8, NKJV)  Since evangelical scholarship is so divided on which of the manuscripts that are available to us represent John's original words, it is difficult to choose which was the in the original—"you" or "we."  Therefore, I will seek to interpret these words in a way that will apply to us whether it was "you" or it was "we."

If we allow false teaching to creep into the church, it will have many negative effects:  1) Truth in our generation will be mixed with lies which will severely weaken today's church.  2) Then, this false teaching will be passed on to the next generation and severely weaken the church of tomorrow.

This type of thing has happened many times throughout church history.  Today, there are what we call churches in every community, yet each week they teach error instead of the truth.  We call them liberal churches, cults, and Roman Catholicism.  Over the years, truth was replaced with false teaching until whole denominations have arisen based on the false teaching.  They are found in every community.  Early in the history of many of these churches they had strong Bible-believing leaders.  Instead of these leaders seeing their good beginnings rewarded with good Bible-based churches throughout the centuries, error has successfully taken over these churches.  These leaders will not see the fruit of their labors realized—the repetition of their strong Bible beliefs being passed on from generation to generation.  Instead, their hearts must be saddened as they look from heaven at the churches they began producing people steeped in error, promoting the very opposite from what they taught.  These churches are often even named after them, but they are now ruled by the spirit of "the antichrist."

"Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son."  Here, we see the importance of teaching the truth and being obedient to the truth.  It is the basis for our fellowship with God the Father and God the Son.  If leave the truth, we also leave our fellowship with "the Father and the Son."

John brings out here, a common way that error is presented to us.  Error is presented as a new revelation that is an improvement on what was written in the Bible.  These teachers are running "ahead."  John Stott says that the false teachers of John's time had gone ahead of the church and "left God behind them." "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Tyndale Press."

The Mormons like to classify themselves as traditional Christians who also have some more recent revelations from God that enhance and improve on what is taught in the Bible.  Their teachings, though, are not an improvement, but are false teachings from "the antichrist."

Instead, we need to walk in "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3)  We need to seek to understand what is true, based on what is taught in the Bible.  Then, we will be in true fellowship with "the Father and the Son."  "See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father." (1 John 2:24)

2. Do not welcome deceivers. (10-11)
"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work."

Thought Question:  How do these verses apply to the way we receive a missionary of a cult who appears at our door?

 

 

John's words in III John appear to contradict these verses:  "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you.  They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church." (3 John 5-10)  In III John, John encourages the welcoming of strangers and stands against Diotrephes who will not "welcome the brothers."  Why is John not contradicting himself where he says "do not take him into your house or welcome him."  The answer is the following: they were to use discernment about whom they were to welcome.  They were to welcome followers of Christ, but they were not to welcome those whose teachings were of the antichrist.

Today, we can travel all over our country and safely stay in motels.  But, in John's day, because the inns were not safe places for Christians to stay, traveling missionaries regularly stayed in peoples' homes. See Acts 9:23, 10:5-6; Romans 12:13; I Timothy 3:2, 5:10; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; I Peter 4:9

How do these verses apply to how we receive a missionary of a cult who appears at our door?  Cults error in the same way that the false teachers of John's time erred: they distort and alter the teaching about the deity and/or humanity of Jesus Christ.  Cults also tend to teach error about how we are saved, the Trinity, and they have other authorities beyond the Bible.  These are the type of false teachers we are not to welcome.

What does John mean by "do not take him into your house or welcome him."  In John's time it certainly meant that they were not to give the false teacher a place to stay for the night, thereby helping him or her to propagate his or her false teaching.  But how does it apply to the false teachers who come to our door?  Many welcome these visitors at their door as an opportunity to share the gospel.  But, this is dangerous pattern, especially for the new believer.  Rarely are these cult missionaries receptive at all to our message.  Their goal, on the other hand is to "worm their way" into our homes. (II Timothy 3:6)  We provide them an opportunity to do this when we invite them in.  Others may disagree, but my interpretation of John's teachings here is that we stop the false teacher at our front door.  Otherwise, we are giving them the feeling that we are welcoming them rather than rejecting them and their false teaching.

HOW ARE WE TO TREAT EACH OTHER? (PART II) (12-13)
"I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your chosen sister send their greetings."

Thought Question:  What do you believe will make your "joy"
"complete"
?

 

 

The "you" here that he is writing to is a plural "you."  So, it is the lady and her children or the church and the church members.  This letter is only a small portion of what John the elder wanted to communicate with them.  He held off from communicating all he wanted to say to them until he visited with them face to face.

"so that our joy may be complete."  What would make his and their "joy complete"?  Certainly, fellowship among Christians who are walking with God leads to "complete" "joy."   Recently, in my personal reading, a couple of authors have emphasized that what addicts are looking for and what we are looking for is the pleasure that comes from thoroughly enjoyable relationships.  In pursuing this joy in the wrong ways, they become controlled by all kinds of addictions that never give them "complete" "joy."  A completely enjoyable relationship with God and with fellow Christians is what we need to have to feel truly good about our lives.  John has taught us in this book how "our joy may be complete." 

"The children of your chosen sister send their greetings."  If "sister" refers to a "sister" church, then this church sends their greetings through John to their "sister" church.  If the "sister" is a person, then the lady John is writing to knows to whom John is referring.

What will make "our joy" "complete"?  A fellowship with God and with each other that combines truth, love and obedience to God will make our joy complete.  Are you presently experiencing this type of joy in your relationship with God and others as John did?  John's three letters provide His guidelines so that "our joy may be complete"!

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
II JOHN

 

The first Good Example: Gaius who loved the truth and loved those who love the truth (1-8)

The bad example: Diotrephes who loved to be first and hated those who love the truth (9-10)

The second good example: Demetrius who was well spoken of by everybody (11-12)

Final words to Gaius (13-14)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of III JOHN

1. The author:  As in II John, the author refers to himself as "The elder."  Once again, the fact that this book is titled III John, demonstrates that the traditional view of evangelical scholars was that it was the third letter written by the apostle John.

2. The recipient:  This letter addressed: "To my dear friend Gaius."  Gaius was a common name at that time. See Acts 19:29, 20:4; Romans 16:23; I Corinthians 1:14

The purpose and the theme:  The purpose of this short letter by John was to help Gaius to reject the evil Diotrephes and to receive the good Demetrius.  In the letter, he describes what was evil about the first and what was good in Gaius and Demetrius.  In the message of III John, we learn that in the church we will find men who do evil and men who do good.  John introduces us to Gaius and Demetrius who did what was good.  He also introduces us to Diotrephes who did that which was evil.  May we learn from Gaius and Demetrius the type of Christian God wants us to be.  May we learn from Diotrephes the type of person we do not want to be like.

 

THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF III JOHN

What type of person do we desire to be like?  Are there Christian role models that you have come to admire?  It is these Christian men and women that we are to seek to pattern our lives after.  John provides us with two men that can also be role models for us in this book and a man that we should not want to at all to be like.  May John the apostle's description of them affect the type of Christian we seek to become.

THE FIRST GOOD EXAMPLE: GAIUS WHO LOVED THE TRUTH AND LOVED THOSE WHO LOVE THE TRUTH (1-8)

1. He loved the truth. (1-4)
"The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about how we can pray for our fellow Christians?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  A group of television preachers and others use these verses to teach that God wants all Christians to be wealthy.  Are they right?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

In these verses, we can look into the heart of John as he expresses his love toward his "dear friend Gaius."  We learn here that John desires that "Gaius" will have a prosperous life.  "The verb eudomail ["go well"], lit., means to have a good journey, but it came to denote prosper in any way." "Taken from The Epistles of John by W.E. Vine. Copyright 19070 by Zondervan." 

"even as your soul prospers" John was confident of Gaius' walk in the truth (see verses 3-4) and as a result, knew that Gaius was benefiting spiritually and benefiting in his soul as a result of his faithful walk with God.

These verses reveal to us that it is appropriate to pray for the health and prosperity of our fellow Christians.  It does not mean, however, as some television preachers teach, that God's goal is for every Christian to be completely healthy and wealthy.  Although it is appropriate to pray that our fellow Christians prosper, we must also realize that God's ultimate goals are much higher than that we be healthy and wealthy.

"It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."  Verse four has been one of my favorite verses in the Bible.  The reason is that I also have known this joy.  Over the years, God has blessed me by making it possible for me to be present when those who have become my lifelong friends have prayed and became new creatures in Christ.  I have known this great joy each time I have learned they have been continuing to choose "to walk in the truth."

Here, we learn that John learned of Gaius' "walk in the truth" from some Christian "brothers."  It is refreshing to hear that Christian "brothers" delighted to give a good report about "Gaius."  Too often, church people delight to give a bad report about someone.  Why does hearing that our spiritual "children" are "walking in the truth" bring the greatest "joy" to us?  "Joy" and delight comes when something is functioning as it should function.  Our computer stops responding to the key pad.  We are stunned.  Is our computer frozen?  Have we lost everything on it?  Then, suddenly, it is working again.  We are joyous.  It is working again like it is supposed to work!  We lead someone into a relationship with God.  Then, we see their life dramatically change.  They begin to live like they were meant by God to live.  It brings us much joy to see them function in the way God created them to function.  It appears that John lead "Gaius" into a relationship with God.  Now, he rejoices as he learns that "Gaius" is a man who walks "in the truth"!

2. He loved those who loved the truth (5-8)
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth."

Through the years, God's workers have been dependent on other Christians for their needs while they pursue after the work of the ministry.  Evangelical churches typically support ministries and Christian workers who work outside of their church's ministry.  We see here that this pattern began in the early church.  Missionaries of their time depended on Christians to house them as they traveled across their world, traveling and returning from their various places of ministry.  "Gaius" was a man who showed his love for these servants of God by showing "hospitality" to them.

Notice, he did not just "show hospitality" to his Christian friends, but he did so for "strangers."  As long as they were serving God, that was all that was important to "Gaius."

"You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God."  John urges "Gaius" to give them some type of provisions to help them in their travels after they leave him.  God has given us grace upon grace, so we should give generously to those who are busy in His service.  Paul asked for this type of assistance from the Roman Christians: "I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while." (Romans 15:24) See I Corinthians 16:6; Titus 3:13

"they went out, receiving no help from the pagans."  Just as Paul did not receive financial help from the non-Christians he was seeking to reach with the gospel message, so these early missionaries that John is speaking of did not seek financial support from the pagans they were seeking to reach.  If they and Paul had tried to get money from the pagans, it would have given them the impression that they were nothing more than manipulative salesmen who were trying to use them for financial gain. See II Corinthians 2:17; I Thessalonians 2:5-9

"We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth."  "'Ought' is apheilo, 'to have a moral obligation.'" "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1954 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."  If we love the truth, we have an obligation to support workers of the truth.  For the most part, through the years, the evangelical church has responded very well to that obligation.  Missionaries from all over the world who are ministering in every part of the world are supported by today's Christians just like "Gaius" supported the missionaries of his time.   Thereby, we are working "together for the truth"! See Romans 15:30

Why should we support Christian missionaries?  We are given strong reasons in verses 5-8:  1) When we support Christian missionaries, it is an encouragement to other Christians to do the same: "They have told the church about your love." (6a)  2) When we support Christian missionaries, we are doing it "for the sake of the Name." (7a)  3) When we support missionaries, they do not need to look for help from the pagans they are seeking to reach with the gospel.  "receiving no help from the pagans." (7b)  4) When we support missionaries, we become workers "together for the truth." (8b)

THE BAD EXAMPLE: DIOTREPHES WHO LOVED TO BE FIRST AND HATED THOSE WHO LOVE THE TRUTH (9-10)
"I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe it was appropriate for John to mention Diotrephes by name and then say such strong things about him?

 

 

This description of Diotrephes by John the apostle is a description of what a church leader should not be like.  He should not be one who "who loves to be first."  Jesus taught that we are to love Him and put Him first.  Though Diotrephes was in the church and a leader in the church, he loved himself and put himself first.  Diotrephes' goal was that he be glorified in the church.  It is always a temptation for pastors to seek success and fame for themselves.  When we think of a famous church, we often call it by the name of the pastor.  "It is John Doe's church."  It is hard for a pastor to be selfless when a church appears to be successful because of his dynamic personality.  Ray Stedman, my first pastor, said he did not go to the back of the church after the service because he said that it was hard for it not to go to his head when nice things were said about him and his message.  He said a human reflex occurs when someone pats us on the back—our heads swell up.  Diotrephes, though, was unashamedly seeking after his own glory.

Warren Wiersbe makes the following observation about how something similar to what happened to Diotrephes, "who love[d] to be first," can happen to our modern-day leaders:  "During my years of ministry I have seen the model of ministry change, and the church's suffering because of it.  It appears that the 'successful ministry' today is more like a Madison Avenue tycoon than a submissive servant.  In his hands he holds a wireless telephone not a towel; in his heart is selfish ambition and not a love for souls and for God's sheep." "Taken from The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1996 by Victor Books."

"The name 'Diotrephes' is the English spelling of the Greek diotrephes.  The word is made up of Dios (of Zeus) (Jove), and trepho 'to nourish,' and it means 'Zeus-nursed.'  Zeus was the chief of the gods in the Greek pantheon.  The custom of the early church was for a Christian Greek to discard his pagan name and take a Christian name at his baptism. . . . Diotrephes had never changed his name although he was a professing Christian." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1954 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."  It is possible that he did not want to give up a name that would make him highly thought of in the Greek culture.

"So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us."  It is significant that John mentions "Diothrephes" by name.  It appears that John wrote a letter to the church where "Gaius" and "Diotrephes" were members.  "Diotrephes" appears to have completely rejected both John the apostle and what he had to say.  "Diotrephes" accepted no authority but his own authority.  To make it worse, he "gossiped maliciously" about John and others.  John openly rebukes Diotrephes for his misbehavior and says that he will do so in person if he is able to visit them.  In short, "Diotrephes" believed that the local church that he was part of was his church and not God's church.  It was not his church, nor does any church belong to us today.  None of us died for the church and none of us indwells each believer.  Jesus is the only Head of the church.  "And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." (Colossians 1:18)

"Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church."  Not only does he reject John and his authority as an apostle, but he rejects the missionaries that John sends their way.  He not only does not receive them, but he forces people out of the church that do welcome the missionaries that John sends to them.

We see here that there was a leader in the church of John's time that was in opposition to God's goals for a local church.  Is this the last time that this will occur?  Sadly, personal success can still become more important than God fulfilling His goals in the lives of the people in His church.  Just as it did in John's and Diotrephes' time, there can be those like Diotrephes in the church today who see their local church as their church.  As long as you abide by their rules it will be okay.  But once something occurs that challenges their rules of the church, a power struggle will occur just as it did between "Diotrephes" and John so many years ago. 

A. T. Robertson remembered the following experience as he commented on these verses: "Some forty years ago I wrote an article on Diotrephes for a denominational paper. The editor told me that twenty-five deacons stopped the paper to show their resentment against being personally attacked in the paper." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1997 by Broadman Press."  We see in I Peter 5:3 how church leaders are not to lead and how they are to lead: "not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."

THE SECOND GOOD EXAMPLE: DEMETRIUS WHO WAS WELL SPOKEN OF BY EVERYBODY (11-12)
"Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true."

Thought Question:  What does John mean when he says that Demetrius was "well spoken of . . . even by the truth itself"?

 

 

When one person does what is evil to us, the human temptation is to retaliate by doing something evil to that person.  As the old saying goes: "two wrongs do not make a right."  John guides "Gaius" to "not imitate what is evil but what is good."  He quickly gives him someone to imitate: "Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself.  We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true."  It is likely that this letter was delivered by "Demetrius."  Though "Diotrephes" would reject "Demeturius," John was confident that "Gaius" would welcome him.

What is mean by "well spoken of . . . even by the truth itself?"  Vine gives the following answer to this question: "His life corresponded to the truth of Scripture and therefore was directed by 'the Spirit of truth' (I John 5:6), the truth thus vindicating his conduct.  The effect of this would also be that his conscience was happily confirmatory of the truth." "Taken from The Epistles of John by W.E. Vine. Copyright 1970 by Zondervan."

Vine also observes that John provides us with a three-fold witness that confirmed the good character of "Demetrius":  1) He was "well spoken of by everyone."  2) "Even  . . . the truth itself" affirmed the type of person he was.  3) John also spoke "well of him."  Although "Diotrephes" would still not receive him, John was confident the "Gaius" would receive him.

At the beginning of these verses, John gives a way of testing someone to determine whether or not they know God.  "Anyone who does what is good is from God.  Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God."  John appears to be saying that "Diotrephes" who was doing "evil" had "not seen God."  Truly seeing what God is like and then doing that which is evil does not make sense.  When we truly see God's goodness and His goodness toward us, we will not then choose to do evil toward others.

FINAL WORDS TO GAIUS (13-14)
"I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name."

Thought Question:  What do you learn about what the relationships in the early church were like from John's final words to Gaius?

 

 

John ends III John much the same as he ended II John.  This short letter introduces "Gaius" to what John desires to talk about with him, but he will talk in greater detail with him about these subjects when they see each other "face to face." 

As I read these two letters, it was remarkable to me that the aged John was still traveling.  How did he in his 80s or 90s still travel?  There can be at least 2 reasons: 1) he was still physically able to, and 2) the last living apostle maintained his concern for the members of Christ's church until the end of his life.

"Peace to you."  Certainly, "Gaius" needed God's peace as he dealt with the man of war "Diotrephes" and the unpeaceful effect that he was having on the church that "Gaius" was part of. See Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 6:23; I Thessalonians 3:16; I Peter 5:14

"The friends here send their greetings.  Greet the friends there by name."  John Stott observes that this reference to fellow Christians as "friends" "is unique in the Epistles. . . . Nevertheless Jesus called the Twelve His friends (Jn xv. 13, 14) and Paul's friends in the city of Sidon are mentioned in Acts xxvii. 3." "Taken from The Epistles of John by John Stott.  Copyright 1964 by Tyndale Press."

"Greet the friends there by name."  These words are an encouragement to me personally.  John knew the Christians he was serving by name.  They were not just numbers, as can be true in our numbers-oriented and success-oriented churches today.  But to John, they were people with life-stories, personal needs, and purposes for living that were important to God.  John knew them by name and desired that they be addressed individually be name.  So ends John's last letter.  The apostle that loved Jesus and that was loved by Jesus also loved individuals in His church as Jesus loved them.

We have learned in this short letter who we want to be like and who we do not want to be like.  Let us seek not to be at all like "Diotrephes" who loved "to be first" and did what was "evil."  Paul encouraged Timothy to do that which comes "from a pure heart, and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (I Timothy 1:5)  So, we should we seek after these Christian heart attitudes so that we will not be like "Diotrephes."  Let us, instead, seek to be like "Gaius" and "Demetrius" who "walked in the truth" and were "well spoke of by everyone."

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Other Digging For Gold Studies

The Battle For The Sunshine Psalms Vol I
The Battle For The Sunshine Psalms Vol II
How To Live A Full Life In An Empty World Ecclesiastes 1-6
How To Live A Full Life In An Empty World Ecclesiastes 6-12
God Is Ruler Of The Times Of The Gentiles Daniel 1-6
God Is Ruler Of The Times Of The Gentiles Daniel 7-12
When God Seems Far Away Habakkuk
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 1-7
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 8-14
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 15-22
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 23-28
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 1-6
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 7-12
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 13-18
The Word Became Flesh! John 1-6
The Word Became Flesh! John 7-12
The Word Became Flesh! John 13-17
The Word Became Flesh! John 18-21
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 1-4
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 5-8
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 9-11
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 12-16
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 1-6
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 7-11
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 12-16
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 1-7
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 8-13
Rediscovering The Joy Of The Gospel Galatians
Seeing The Church From God's Perspective - Seeing The Riches Of God's Grace! Ephesians 1-3
Seeing The Church From God's Perspective - Seeing The Riches Of God's Grace! Ephesians 4-6
How To Be A Joyful And United Church Philippians
Pursuing Our Fulness In Christ Colossians
A Message To New Christians I Thessalonians
A Second Message To New Christians - A Wider Focus On The Christian Life II Thessalonians
God's Plan For Order In The Church I Timothy
How To Finish Strong In The Lord II Timothy
Doing What Is Good Titus
How To Motivate Others To Do What God Wants Them To Do Philemon
We Should Always Move Forward In Our Faith Hebrews 1-9
We Should Always Move Forward In Our Faith Hebrews 10-13
From Double-Minded To Single-Minded Christianity James
How To Live In Tough Times With An Eternal Perspective I Peter
How To Have Wholesome Christian Thinking II Peter
The Glorious Circle That Is Eternal Life I John
How Our Joy Can Be Complete &
Two Good Examples And One Bad Example
II & III John
What To Do When The Church Gets Off-Track: Contending For The Faith! Jude
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 1-5
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 6-11
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 12-16
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 17-22