Toward the end of the Bible is Third John. Though short (less than 300 words in length), this letter is rather fascinating, particularly when you consider it is likely John “the disciple whom Jesus loved” an Elder, writing to Gaius, who it would seem is a church member.
3 John 1:1-15
“The Elder, to the beloved Gaius,…I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth.… Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 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, because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 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. 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…” (NKJV)
What makes Gaius stand out?
Truth is in this man. He also walks in the truth. (Inward and outward)
He does faithfully whatever he does for the brethren and for strangers (He is not preferential) (Nor does he treat some people better than others)
He is loving. (His actions are being noticed as love)
What is John exhorting Gaius to do?
Send out and receive brethren in a manner worthy of God, because they are choosing this for God’s name sake.
“We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” (Joining together as a body in working for the truth, whether people in the same place or those coming and going from a place)
But, then who is this Diotrephes?
He loves to have preeminence among even the church. (He likes to be first and treated different and better than others)
He does not receive even the Elders of the Church (Does not recognize the authority of even Jesus’s disciples)
He prates (talks foolishly or tediously) against us with words of malice (tending or intending to do harm).
He doesn’t even stop there. He refuses to receive the brethren and even goes so far as to refuse others in the church who wish to receive these brethren, on pain of being thrown out of the church. (It sounds like he has even already done this to some.)
What is John’s exhortation immediately following his description of what Diotrephes has been doing?
“Beloved [Gaius], 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…”
John points out what Diotrephes is doing, calls it evil, and basically says, “Do not imitate this man, he is not of God.”
Question: Is John gossiping by writing to Gaius about Diotrephes?
Well, let’s look at what John says in another letter, 2 John 1:9-10, which he wrote to someone else. “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”
If this is John’s mindset on those not living out God’s ways, what is John’s goal in telling Gaius what he writes about Diotrephes?
We don’t necessarily know if Gaius and Diotrephes attend the same church, but by the sound of it they do. So assuming they do, what do you think is going to happen when Gaius DOES send and receive the brethren? Do you think he might end up facing Diotrephes? Do you think he, too, might be presented with the possibly of being put out of the church for sending and receiving brethren?
Have you ever ended up in a situation where there was something you felt God wanted you doing, something you would do, except that you knew a person in authority over you did not want this thing to happen or for anyone to do this thing?
It’s a trick place to be in, because we are told in the Bible to honor those in authority. Yet, here, John is telling Gaius to do exactly what Diotrephes is forbidding those in the church from doing. John then clarifies this instruction, though, by saying: what Diotrephes is doing is evil. You do what is right, what is of God.
Challenge: Do not let the fear of man (even men in the church) keep you from doing what is right. Follow God and His commandments first and foremost! 1Jo 2:3 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”