COMMENDATION TO THOSE
WHO STAND FIRM AGAINST ERROR
3 John 1:1-14 (KJV)
1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;
6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:
7 Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.
8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.
9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.
13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:
14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
John wrote this epistle of III John when he was around 90 years of age, and about the same time that he wrote I and II John. The reason for this writing was the rejection of his ministry by a man called Diotrephes.
Gaius is commended here. There was a Gaius in Corinth (I Corinthians 1:14, and Romans 16:23). There is a tradition that he later became John's scribe. Also tradition tells us that John later appointed a certain Gaius to be the bishop of Pergamos. If this is the same Gaius, then in the book of Revelation written by John several years later, he would soon receive a stern warning (Revelation 2:12-17).
This Gaius was a person whose soul was prospering (vs. 2). He had the truth in him (vss. 3-4). He was sincere, and held true to the faith. He also did "faithfully" and showed hospitality toward the brethren. Even those of the faith, that he did not know, he was faithful to be helpful.
Gaius was not prospering well financially, and was not in good health. John tells him that he was praying that he would prosper and be in health in the same way as his soul was prospering. Therefore, those who teach that if we prosper spiritually, we will naturally also prosper financially and physically, are wrong. A Christian can have temporal, as well as spiritual blessings. It is not wrong to prosper, but it is also not mandatory that if we are spiritually prospering, we also will prosper in all things.
John had warned of loving the things of this world.
I John 2:15-17
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world... is not of the father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
When John said, "I wish above all things..." (III John 2) means that Gaius did not have these temporal blessings, but John felt it would be good if he did. Yet, John does not teach that he should spend his time and effort to achieve carnal blessings.
John had gathered a group of teachers and preachers about them, and had taught them the truth of the gospel. Some of these had gone to the church wherein Diotrephes was the minister. Gaius had taken them in, but Diotrephes had rejected them, and any who wanted to take them in.
John had written an epistle to the churches, and as his ministers were delivering such message to them, Diotrephes was rejecting his writing. These ministers who were traveling with the writing of John, were doing their ministry "for His name's sake..." (III John 7). They were taking nothing of those who were receiving them, and they were not in violation of the principles taught in the Didache of the early church.
John tells them that the church congregations should "receive such" and be "fellow helpers to the truth." It is the duty of the church congregations to listen to the message of the Lord. Sometimes this is from the local minister, local teachers, and yet, not always. Evangelists, prophets of the Lord who travel about, writings of those inspired of the Lord in our day, television and radio speakers that are truly inspired of the Lord, should be heard, tested, and if found to be of the truth, should be accepted and blessed by us.
We can "bring forward on their journey" (vs. 6) those with such ministries today. This refers to the supplying necessary provisions for their journey. The Didache definitely warns us of those with fake ministries which seek to prosper personally from their hearers... This is evil, and to be rejected.
Diotrephes was likely a minister of a church somewhat near to Gaius. John writes Gaius to warn him of the false ministry of Diotrephes, and to certainly speak to the situation in that area. Diotrephes refused to accept the ministers, and the letter of John. Likely, he was one of the false ministers referred to in I John, and was likely a gnostic or a convert to their perverted gospel.
Early in the church age, a doctrine of making some people to be a step above the other Christians, a clergy... and somehow more holy, more gifted, more deserving, or more in communication with God that the laity began. This doctrine was called the "doctrine of the Nicolaitanes..." Note what Jesus said about it in Revelation.
"But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate."
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth..."
Christ loves the ministers of a church, and the people of the congregation alike. He wants to use all of them in His plan to evangelize the world. No person is to exalt himself (or herself), as a "lord" above others. This is commanded in the Word of God, that ministers are to be "examples" to the flock of God, and not to be "lords".
I Peter 5:3
"Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock..."
In John's day, some like Diotrephes had already begun trying to make the ministry to be a higher level in status before God. Likewise, in our day, there has arisen afresh a "shepherding" movement. Some pastors think it is their job to command the congregation, to direct the details of the lives of others, to be the priestly mediator between the congregation and God. Diotrephes tried to do this to his congregation.
Each one in a congregation may go directly to God and hear personally from Him. Therefore, the minister is not the mediator that is needed to tell us how to live. The Word of God, and the Holy Spirit tell us how to live. The minister is to teach and preach the Word. He is to help feed the flock of God. He is not their Lord... only Jesus is our Lord. The "shepherding movement" has resulted in divisions, debate, error, and divisiveness. The pride of the pastors who hold to that ancient "doctrine of the Nicolaitanes" had need beware... for the Lord still hates that doctrine.
At the baptism into water, we pledge ourselves to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. We are not pledged to any man, for mankind can fail, backslide, or become a heretic, as did Diotrephes. If we have exalted mankind to a position of "almost deity" - the shock of their failure will make us fail also. This has been seen in recent events regarding the failures of some prominent ministers. When a "Jim Bakker", or a "Jimmy Swaggart", fail - many of those who have followed them in the manner of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes will also stumble, or cease to be a Christian. Unfortunately, this happened.
No minister should allow, if he can, others to exalt him as being different than any other person of the congregation. Surely, we can honor them for their work for God, and we can appreciate their spiritual concern for us, we can love them for their teachings of the Word of God... but we must not esteem them as the mediator between us and God. We must all learn to go to God directly for guidance and answers. The Lord may confirm what He tells us by the use of spiritual gifts in the congregation. The minister may be one of those so gifted... but we are not to see him (or her) as the one who is to direct us... The Lord Jesus is the One Who is "Lord".
Diotrephes was bold enough to defy John openly. He not only refused John, but cast out of his church any who did receive them. This "church splitter" had much in common with many church splitters of our day. Many church splitters are the leaders, or those in power of the congregations. Too many blame those who depart, but often the ones who depart, depart because they have been turned away for standing for sound doctrine, for Christian love, and for correct Scriptural dogmatism. Most church splits have the correct ones leaving, and the false and hypocritical ones staying in the church. That is why some congregations have split after split.... The splitters are not the ones leaving, they are staying and therefore causing many splits.
Diotrephes loved to have the pre-eminence" and wanted to hold control and rule. He prated against the ministers of John with prating words, and was not content to just refuse them, but spoke openly against such true ministers of the Lord. He forbid (who made him to be 'Lord'?) them to take in these messengers of John.
We cannot allow congregations, and ministers to follow the examples of Diotrephes. Too often the church has chosen the wrong heroes, have put ministers into positions of shepherding, and have abdicated their own responsibility to hear what the Lord would tell them to do. We are to follow only people who lead as the Lord would lead... and if we blindly give allegiance to some who may totally backslide (as did Diotrephes) we will blindly stumble over the same cliff.
III John 11
"Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God."
Demetrius (verse 12) was probably the bearer of this letter (III John). In Paul's day, there was a Demetrius in Ephesus (Acts 19:24). If this is the same mob leader who had sought to kill Paul, then he must have later become an esteemed Christian convert. This Demetrius had a good report of others, and had been a good convert to the "truth".
We, like John, should judge the ministry of others by how they line up with the gospel truth. Truth, and our adherence to it, is of vital importance.
Note the use of "true" and "truth" in III John.
John loved Gaius "in the truth" (vs.1).
Some came and "testified of the truth..." (vs. 3)
Some walked "in the truth" (vs. 3)
John said that there was no greater joy,
that to know his children "walk in truth..." (vs. 4).
We are to be "fellow helpers to the truth" (vs. 8).
Demetrius had a good report "of the truth itself" (vs. 12).
John told them that they already knew that "our record is true..." (vs. 12)
Truth is vital to John. In all three epistles, and in his gospel, he spends much time talking of "truth." He worked hard to preserve the truth that he had learned of the Lord, and had taught to others. We need to seek truth, defend truth, and shun error and its proponents.