3 John

3_john_title3 John

1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true. 13 I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. 15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

Todd Bumgarner has written an interesting article for church planters entitled, “6 Types of People You Meet in Church Planting.” This is helpful article for church planters but, in truth, I believe it could apply to most churches in general. Here are Bumgarner’s “6 Types”:

Family

These are the folks who are all-in. They’ve caught the vision and want to help in any way possible. They are servant-leaders and their commitment is apparent via a verbal conversation in which they express it…Folks who are in the family use phrases with first-personal plurals like “our church” or “we can do this.”

Fence

These are people who are interested in what you’re doing, excited about what you’re doing, have come to one or more of your vision meetings, or otherwise expressed their interest/excitement. People in this category require patience. Often people on the fence are plugged in to other church communities, and asking them to uproot from that to join what you’re doing is a complicated decision and process.

Fans

On Facebook, having a lot of fans is great; in a church plant—not so much. Fans love what you’re doing, express their excitement, follow you on Twitter, meet you for coffee, let you buy them lunch, but never come to anything that you organize. Fans are typically podcasting Driscoll, reading Piper, and can give you the latest update on Chandler’s cancer faster than it takes for you to find it on the web.

Fans will suck the energy out of you.

Friends

Friends are typically gospel-centered people who are playing in the same league but on a different team. They are interested in what you’re doing, realize the importance of it, and want to support you in any way they can, but in the end are plugged-into and committed to another church. Friends are great, but they’re not family.

Farm

The farm is made up of people who were on the fence and turned out not to be in the family when you called them to commit, or folks who were fans that you simply had to move to the farm, as they were much more interested in hanging out in the grandstands than ever making it onto the field. Instead of being all-in, they’ve verbally or non-verbally stated that they are out. The sad reality of a church planter is that once people are on the farm, it is typically a distraction from the mission to continue to pursue them. If they want to rejoin the fence, trust that they will on their own.

Foes

Foes are the critics and the opposite of “family.” We’ve had a few of these in our short history as a church plant…[1]

Maybe you can see yourself somewhere in these categories or maybe you are in your own category altogether! 3 John is interesting because it introduces us to three more categories. Actually, John introduces us to three individuals in 3 John, but we may take these types as well.

Gaius: hospitable and missions-minded.

We begin with Gaius, the hospitable and missions-minded friend of John.

1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

Gaius was not an unusual name, and this has made it a bit frustrating for people to identify specifically who this is. Danny Akin notes that there are three men named Gaius in the New Testament: “Gaius of Corinth (Rom 16:23), Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), and Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4).” “Because the name was common,” writes Akin, “it is unlikely the Gaius of 3 John should be identified with any of these.”[2]

So we do not know what Gaius was, but we do know a great deal about the type of person he was. Based on 3 John 1-8 we can conclude the following:

  • Gaius was loved by John (v.1).
  • Gaius loved the truth (v.3).
  • Gaius walked in the truth (v.3-4).
  • Gaius showed hospitality to traveling Christian missionaries (v.5).
  • Gaius had a good reputation based on his kindness to others (v.6).

Gaius showed hospitality to these traveling ministers because Gaius understood and entered into the missionary life of the Church. But who were these men that Gaius assisted? John tells us that they had “gone out for the sake of the name” and that they accepted “nothing from the Gentiles.” Meaning, they were preaching the gospel of Christ and they were not seeking to take money from nonbelievers. As a result, John wrote “we ought to support people like these.” This is precisely what Gaius was doing.

Edward McDowell offers some helpful background information on what was likely happening with these men.

            Traveling philosophers, teachers, and lecturers were a common sight on the Roman roads in the first century. They were often entertained in the homes of their disciples or friends. Christianity was a missionary religion. This, together with the demand which arose early for teachers, led the Christian evangelists, missionaries, and teachers to follow the example set by their pagan counterparts by taking to the highways to propagate the faith and give instruction in its doctrines. The roads were excellent, busy with the traffic of commerce and pleasure, and often thronged with pedestrians of all descriptions. But the inns were questionable and often the centers of crime. They were shunned by Christians as places of disrepute.[3]

Shunning the disreputable inns, these traveling Christians had to be housed by the Church or else go without. Gaius, for one, argued that the Church should care for such as these. We might imagine that there was no small amount of skepticism then just as there would be in our day. Even so, once their orthodoxy and good intentions were established, they received the assistance of Gaius and men like him.

There is a lesson here for us: we too should care about the wider ministry of the Church, even when it is carried out by those we do not personally know. To be sure, we must be wise. There are wolves who dress like sheep. But when a reasonable confidence concerning the good will and Christ-honoring ministry of those with whom we have only recently become acquainted has been established, we are wrong not to help.

Diotrephes: self-serving and controlling.

On the other end of the spectrum we find Diotraphes, a self-serving and controlling power player in the Church.

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

What can we conclude about Diotrephes?

  • Diotrephes liked “to put himself first” (v.9).
  • Diotrephes rejected the authority of John and, presumably, the other apostles (v.9).
  • Diotrephes talked “wicked nonsense” against John (v.10).
  • Diotrephes was not showing hospitality either (a) to these missionary brothers or (b) to John’s delegation who had attempted to bring to the Church what John had written (v.10).
  • Diotrephes had enough authority in the Church to cast members out of it (v.10).
  • Diotrephes was evil (v.11).
  • Diotrephes had not seen God (v.11).

Rightly does Mcdowell observe that Diotrephes “must have been an obnoxious, unlovely person” and went on to theorize that Diotrephes “must have been the moderator of the congregation or chairman of the deacons.”[4] Surely this terminology is anachronistic. Did the early Church have a “moderator” or “chairman of the deacons.” Not in so many words, perhaps, but undoubtedly the church had lay leaders who exercised authority. Perhaps Diotrephes was a powerful layman who ruled the Church. Perhaps he did indeed lead the deacons. A.T. Robertson called Diotrephes an “ancient church-boss” and reflected on what position Diotrephes might have held in the church.

This ambition of Diotrephes does not prove that he was a bishop over elders, as was true in the second century (as Ignatius shows). He may have been an elder (bishop) or deacon, but clearly desired to rule the whole church. 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.[5]

This is a humorous anecdote, but let us be clear: to say that Diotrephes might have been a deacon is not to say that deacons are like Diotrephes! What is more, there is also the possibility that Diotrephes was not a deacon but was rather the pastor! We cannot rule that out.

Beware Diotrephes! Beware those who do not have, like Gaius, a wide view of the ministry of the Church at large and who seek to frustrate those within the Church who want her to be a part of this mission. Beware those within the Church who seek to elevate themselves, pastor or layperson. Above all else, beware those that reject the sound teaching of the apostles that has been passed down to us in the scriptures and which we must ever study and never depart from (Acts 2:42).

Demetrius: a good reputation.

We began with noble Gaius. We then moved to ignoble Diotrephes. We have traveled, then, from a mountain top to a valley, but now we come back to the mountain top, to a third person and therefore a third type: Demetrius, the bearer of a good reputation.

12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true. 13 I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. 15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

What can we conclude about Demetrius from John’s words in verses 12-15?

  • Demetrius had a good reputation with everyone.
  • Demetrius had a good reputation with the truth.
  • Demetrius had a good reputation with John and his party.

John’s reference to the truthfulness of their testimony concerning Demetrius alludes to the ancient standard for truthfulness. Two or three witnesses were required for a testimony to be considered true. Paul spoke of this in 2 Corinthians 13.

1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

It is a settled fact, then: Demetrius was a man of good reputation and high character. Be Demetrius! Live in such a way that your character is established beyond dispute. Live in such a way that a positive claim concerning your character can stand up to scrutiny.

There are many different types in the church. This is not always a negative thing. However, whatever your unique qualities and characteristics may be, we must heed 3 John carefully and say this: have the missionary heart of Gaius – reject the arrogant heart of Diotrephes – be a person of good reputation and character like Demetrius!

 

[1] http://churchplants.com/articles/3458-are-you-missionally-intense.html

[2] Daniel L. Akin, 1,2,3 John. The New American Commentary. Vol. 38 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), p.239.

[3] Edward McDowell, “3 John.” The Broadman Bible Commentary. Vol. 12 (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1972), p.229.

[4] Edward McDowell, p.230.

[5] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol. VI (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1960), p.265, 263.

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