3 John - Letter To Gaius

INTRODUCTION: The letter known as 3 John is addressed specifically to Gaius, and John made reference to a previous one sent to the church. John stated that a man named Diotrephes did not accept John's words and even made serious accusations against him. That man apparently exercised a strong position in the local church because he did not accept some brothers in Christ, and prevented others from doing so. The elements in this letter have more to do with difficulties among believers, than with the cautions about false teachers that John discussed in his first two letters recorded in scripture.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


A - JOHN THE ELDER TO A BELOVED SON IN TRUTH

3John "1 The elder to Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth. 2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be healthy, even as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly, when brothers came and testified about your truth, even as you walk in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear about my children walking in truth."

COMMENTS: John opened this letter with a personal comment of affection to a man who shared in the truth of faith in the "I am" who is the way, the truth, and the life. As John called Gaius beloved, he said his prayer for him was that he would prosper in all things and have good health. This was a positive prayer for pleasant conditions in the present life to continue for him because John believed the soul of Gaius was prospering in steadfast faith. John expressed joyfulness as brothers in the faith had come to John and gave the report that Gaius was living the truth he believed, and used his prosperity with a perspective toward heaven. John said he had no greater joy than to hear that his children in the faith were living the truth. Paul spoke of the new life we have in Christ, and how it should affect us. Colossians 3 "1 If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory."


B - ASSIST FELLOW WORKERS FOR THE TRUTH

3 John "5 Beloved, you do a faithful work in whatever you accomplish for those who are brothers and strangers. 6 They have testified about your love before the assembly. You will do well to send them forward on their journey in a way worthy of God, 7 because for the sake of the Name they went out, taking nothing from the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may be fellow workers for the truth."

COMMENTS: John commended Gaius for his faithful assistance to those who are fellow believers even though they were strangers to him. Apparently some who had received those blessings from Gaius, had given a good report about this to the assembly of believers and that word got back to John. John advised Gaius to do well in sending those brothers on to the journey set before them in a manner pleasing to God. They went out with no support from Gentiles because their purpose was to carry the name of the Lord forward, and this seems to imply that the Gentiles who could have supported them were not part of the Lord's church. Therefore John advised that those who are of the Lord's church ought to receive such people, and support them to become fellow workers with them for the truth that needs to be offered to others. If support for the work of the LORD comes from those who are still of the world, there will likely be unintended consequences and loss of blessing for not placing full dependence upon the LORD.


C - JOHN HAD WRITTEN TO THE LOCAL CHURCH

3 John "9 I wrote to the assembly, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, doesn't accept what we say. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words. Not content with this, neither does he himself receive the brothers, and those who would, he forbids and throws out of the assembly. 11 Beloved, don't imitate that which is evil, but that which is good. He who does good is of God. He who does evil hasn't seen God."

COMMENTS: John had written a letter for the benefit of the entire assembly of believers, but the man named Diotrephes, who loved to be first among them, did not accept what John wrote. John had authority as an apostle of Christ to give sound guidance to other believers; and he also knew that a local church is to have unity, not domination by someone who promotes his own position. The Apostle Paul advised believers at Rome, and he said it was even as he had been given grace from God. Romans 12 "3 For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith. 4 For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don't have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." Therefore, John said if he came to that assembly, he would call attention to the deeds done by Diotrephes starting with the unjust accusations he had made against John with wicked words. Diotrephes was not content alone with maligning John. He did not receive Christian brothers who had come to him, and he also forbade and threw out of the assembly those who would receive those brothers. John condemned such action as evil and told Gaius not to imitate that which is evil, but that which is good. John placed strong condemnation on the actions of Diotrephes when he wrote, "He who does good is of God. He who does evil hasn't seen God."

Paul shared the perspective John had about church leaders as he gave the following guidance to those at Rome. Romans 12 "16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Don't set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don't be wise in your own conceits. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honourable in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men." It is not always possible to be at peace with all men even in the church, especially if someone is very conceited and openly shows disrespect to others. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he was willing to confront such people for the sake of the assembly and the gospel of Christ. 1 Corinthians 4 "15 For though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the Good News. 16 I beg you therefore, be imitators of me. 17 Because of this I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every assembly. 18 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord is willing. And I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 20 For the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. 21 What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?"


D - JOHN WANTED TO ADD TO HIS BRIEF LETTER THROUGH A PERSONAL VISIT

3 John "12 Demetrius has the testimony of all, and of the truth itself; yes, we also testify, and you know that our testimony is true. 13 I had many things to write to you, but I am unwilling to write to you with ink and pen; 14 but I hope to see you soon, and we will speak face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name."

COMMENTS: John mentioned Demetrius as one who is very well spoken of by all who knew him, and he said the truth that was in him was evident as well. This likely was a man well known by both John and Gaius. John added his own commendation of Demetrius, and then he stated he was confident that Gaius knew John spoke the truth. John said he had many things to write to Gaius, but he was not inclined to write another letter, but rather desired to go to Gaius soon so they could talk to each other in person. When there are difficult matters within a group of believers, it is important to work through them in a discrete manner and try to avoid further disruption. John closed his letter with the encouragement to Gaius that he should be in a state of peace. John and the other apostles had been personally given such a word of encouragement by the resurrected Christ after he had been crucified. John 20 "19 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be to you."

Though John did not use specific names, he said the friends sent their greeting, and he asked Gaius to greet the friends by name. It seems John was asking that Gaius give personal greeting to certain ones near him, and not to the unsettled assembly in a general fashion. Paul gave a greeting of grace and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ to those who had faith in Christ Jesus, and also love toward all the saints. Colossians 1 "2 to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which you have toward all the saints." When we remember the unique peace that Christ Jesus gives to us as believers who love other saints, we can experience far less anxiety from difficult circumstances around us. Paul advised that our hearts would be guarded by the peace of God, not necessarily that all difficulties would be eliminated. Philippians 4 "6 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." The world without Christ can neither understand nor experience the peace that only the LORD can give.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

LORD, I ask that by your grace whatever prosperity I experience in this life will remain secondary in my heart to the prosperity of my soul found by walking in your truth. What a blessing it must have been for Gaius to receive this letter from a chosen apostle of God who opened by calling him beloved in truth, and then stated that he prayed for his prosperity and health because his soul was prospering. Give me discernment, LORD, so I will have a welcoming attitude toward genuine Christians who come across my path, so we may share in the ways you have gifted each of us to serve you. Guide each of us LORD, to be careful about accepting the support of non-believers to promote the work of spreading the gospel of Christ, so we may place our full dependence on the way you choose to supply.

Help me to be diligent, LORD, to pray as you lead if it appears that someone in my local assembly of Christians begins to act in a manner similar to that of Diotrephes. Anyone who concentrates too much on promoting their own position in the church, and diminishes the importance of other members of the body of Christ, may be in danger of being worthy of John's warning: "He who does good is of God. He who does evil hasn't seen God." May I be diligent in my own walk with you, LORD, so that couplet does not apply to me. I thank you that in this letter the Apostle John emphasized love and truth, and at the same time pointed out a problem that needed attention. This was not a matter of false doctrine, but John was willing to journey there to bring about the proper balance among believers within a local church. I praise you, LORD, for the many lessons to be found within your Word. Amen.

Published 7 December 2014