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3 JOHN 1:1-15

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 3, 2012

Please join me at the letter of 3rd John. 


3rd John was written by… John.  The apostle John.  3rd John is called 3rd John because its not 1st John or 2nd John. Its like the other Johns only different.  Point being that the reason 3rd John is called 3rd John is not because it came third but because its just gets identified that way.


As we get into 3rd John we’re going to see that 3rd John - like 2nd John which we looked at last Sunday - 3rd John is a letter of huge encouragement.  Life is filled with enough stuff to discourage us.  Yes?  3rd John is a letter of huge encouragement in all that - as we seek to follow Jesus through life.  Which is why the thumbs up.


Does it ever feel like most sermons are about how we’re really messing up and how we need to be doing better?  By time we’re done this morning, prayerfully, all us will hear in John’s words a thumbs up for how we’re living our lives and hopefully an encouragement to keep going and keep growing in the way we’re already progressing through life following after Jesus.  You’re on the right track.  Keep going!


3rd John - starting at verse 1 - which is John’s Greeting.  Verse 1:  The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.


John is in Ephesus - western Anatolia - on the coast of what is now Turkey.  Which - we talked about last Sunday - in the chronology of John’s life means that John has been to Rome where the Emperor Domitian tried to make him a martyr.  God had other plans.  God preserved John.


John has been exiled to Patmos - where he wrote The Revelation of John.  Now he’s back in Ephesus where he’s written his gospel and these short letters of 1,2,3, John.


These three letters - 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John were written in the mid 90’s AD.  Some have even speculated that John was pushing 100 -


John describes himself as “the elder” - meaning both that he has a position of earned respect and honor and leadership in the church - and also that John is up there in years.


3rd John is written to “the beloved Gaius.”


As we move through this letter we’re going to be introduced to 3 men - 3 men who are 3 examples to us of the kinds of people that are found in the church - not only in the first century - but kinds of personalities that have been found in the church in any age - either for good or for bad.


You’ll see on your Message Notes that the outline of the letter breaks down based on how John uses these men as examples to us.  Example number one is Gaius.  Who?  “Gaius.”

In John’s day Gaius was a common name.  John Smith.  Gaius may be one of three Gaiuses mentioned in the New Testament.  We’re really not sure.


We do know that John knew Gaius.  Look at how he greets him.  John addresses Gaius in a warm - friendly - way.  Calls him his child - meaning that John may have led Gaius to salvation in Jesus.  Gaius may have been John’s disciple.  Gaius is “beloved” - a man that John “loves in the truth.”


Going on in verses 2 there are three things that John says about Gaius  that are important for us to notice - thinking about Gaius as an example for us.


Verse 2:  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.


That’s an encouraging thing to say about somebody.  Isn’t it?  “I pray that you may be as sound in your body as you are in your soul.”


Think about that for yourself.  If our spiritual state - who we are inwardly in our relationship with God - if our spiritual condition was reflected in our physical condition what would that look like?  Would you be buff?  Strong?  Physically fit?  Or a sickly looking weakling barely able to move?  Just kinda creeping along through life?


Someone’s saying, “I wish what was inside was how I looked outside.”  Someone say amen to that?


Gaius was the kind of man who was strong spiritually.  Healthy spiritually.  So John could write, “I pray that your physical life would be as strong as your spiritual life.”


Then verse 3:  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.


We saw last Sunday that “walking in the truth” is about living the authentic Christian life.  Meaning that Gaius - from the core of who he is - Gaius has come to grips with his sinfulness - his need for the Savior - he’s confessed his sin - asked for forgiveness - trusted Jesus as his Savior - humbled himself before God - thrown himself on the grace and mercy and love of God - and from the core of who he is Gaius is loving God supremely.  And that inner love relationship with God is coming out in how he’s living the authentic -genuine - real - truly Christian life.


Hold on to that.  What impressed John was not that Gaius knew the truth but that Gaius  followed the truth.  He’s living the truth.  From the core of who he is, Gaius is living a consistent life in Christ.


Then third:  Verse 5:  Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers - which brothers? - 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 - these stranger brothers - 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.


These stranger brothers - brothers from someplace else that Gaius hadn’t personally known before they arrived - these strange brothers were traveling around why? for the sake of the Name.  The Name is Who?  Jesus.


Paul uses a similar phrase in Romans 1:5:  “We have received apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His - Jesus’ - name.”  John writes in 1 John 2:12 “Your sins are forgiven for His - Jesus’ - name’s sake.” 


These brothers are traveling missionaries who’s sole motivation in life is to get the gospel out there.  That’s where God has called them to go and they’re going.


John writes that - as these strange brothers - traveled around for the sake of the Name - sharing the gospel and the Word of God - they hadn’t received any help from the Gentiles - literally - the pagans - those who were not God’s people. 


In the first century when someone packed their donkey and headed off on a trip there were no Holiday Inn Expresses to stay at - with work out rooms, heated pools, and a free hot breakfast.  Inns - if there were any - were more like brothels.  Not safe.  Not the best environment.  Very pagan - ungodly.


These stranger brothers didn’t need to turn to Gentiles for help - didn’t need to seek out a brothel for the night.  Why?  Because of brothers like Gaius - who provided for their needs.  Who showed them hospitality in a manner worthy of those who were on a mission for the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Provided for their needs as if they were providing for Jesus Himself.


One of the indications that a person really has given their life over to God  that God is at work transforming the heart of a believer - one of the indications is generosity.  Generosity of time - talent - and treasure.  Generosity - the total giving of their lives.  Generosity that comes from knowing that its all God’s anyway.  We’re just God appointed stewards.


Life is about Who?  God.  Stewardship of time, talent, and treasure is  about Who?  God.


These strange brothers - as they went around sharing about their experiences - God stories - they testified about Gaius - his generosity - his authentic living by the truth.  A huge thumbs up.  Thank you Gaius.


John writes - in verse 8 - that these goers are worthy of support and that we stayers are doing the right thing by supporting them.  John writes that as we support those who are traveling we become fellow workers - partners with them in the work - the effort - of sharing the gospel.


While these brothers are on a mission for God - traveling - Gaius - their fellow worker for God - Gaius is also on a mission for God but in a support role - staying.  Gaius gets a thumbs up as a fellow worker.  Encouraging?  Yes?  If that title were applied to you?  FWG - Fellow Worker for God..


Let’s be careful.  That some brothers - and sisters - are sent out there someplace - boldly going where no one has gone before - all that doesn’t mean that the rest of us are off the hook about being obedient to the Great Commission.  Right?


Go make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19,20)  That command applies to all of us.


Every believer is commanded to Go.  Its just a question of obedience to “Go-ing” where the Holy Spirit leads us individually to go.  Especially here in Merced which is the local manifestation of the overseas mission field.  Even here we all need to be obediently sharing the Name of Jesus with those around us.


Point being that we all have crucial God given roles in God’s work of getting the gospel to folks who need to hear. 


Gaius was faithful in his role - authentically living out His relationship with Jesus - knowing the truth - living the truth - generous - hospitable - a engaged in the great commission - a Fellow Worker for God of those who were called as traveling missionaries.


So John holds up Gaius as an example to us.  Gives him a huge thumbs up.  Good job Gaius.  You are doing what brings joy to John’s heart.


Example number two is Diotrephes.  Who?  “Diotrephes.”


Verse 9:  I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  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 - welcome the brothers - and puts them out of the church.


There are four issues that John has with Diotrephes.


Issue Number One:  He likes to put himself first.


The unholy trinity of me, myself, and I.  Which is a huge indication that Diotrephes - at the core of who he is - Diotrephes is operating by the flesh - by his own effort - his own whit, wisdom, and work - and not as someone who has given his heart and life over to God.


The sad reality is that - throughout church history - Diotrephes has been in good company.  Remember “The Church Lady”?  Diotrephes is “The Church Guy.”


There are plenty of men and women out there who desire to be at the head of the line.  They want to be the final authority.  They want the glory.  They want to make the decisions.  They get their jollies out of controlling the church. 


John writes that Diotrephes “does not acknowledge our authority.”


The English translation doesn’t fully capture all of what’s being said here.


One shade of meaning here - in the original Greek - is that Diotrephes completely rejected the authority of John to say anything about anything that was going on in the local church.  He may have even torn up John’s previous letter that John had written to this church.  Since Diotrephes was all about Diotrephes - Diotrephes refused to listen to John.  He totally rejected John’s authority.


The second shade of meaning here is that when John would come to town - Diotrephes wouldn’t have anything to do with John.  The NIV translates it that Diotrephes, “will have nothing to do with us.”   It was the opposite of the - from the heart sold out to God hospitality - thing that Gaius was so good at.  Diotrephes stiff armed John - physically rejected John - to keep him from threatening Diotrephes’ position in the church. 


Have you ever run into someone like this?  Sure.


The late Ray Stedman - speaking on this passage - Ray Stedman said, “I remember reading some years ago that Dr. H. E. Robertson, an outstanding leader among the Southern Baptists and a great Greek scholar, once wrote an editorial in the denominational magazine about Diotrephes.  Later, the editor reported that twenty-five deacons wrote to cancel their subscriptions, feeling personally attacked.” (1)


Issue Number Two:  He is slandering John - “talking wicked nonsense against us.”  Meaning he’s spreading malicious gossip - vicious rumors - about John - and those with John.


It is brutal - the hard way to go through life - relying on our own strength - our own abilities - our own adequacy - rather than relying on God - learning to trust Him to make us adequate for what He leads us through in life.  Have you been there?  Where everything depends on us trying to control what is ultimately uncontrollable.


Here’s Diotrephes.  Who’s all about... Diotrephes.  Outward he’s “The Church Guy.”  Mr. I’m the authority.  Mr. I’ve got it together.  But inside woefully inadequate. 


Have you experienced this?  Someone, who feels their inadequacy, knows they’re living a potential epic fail - someone who would rather tear down someone else rather than have anyone notice their own shortcomings - would rather shred someone else to get the attention on the other person - do anything instead of dealing with their own issues - taking responsibility for their own lives.


Maybe even letting God really have control of their lives.  Not just saying it - the words - talking the talk.  But actually - authentically - letting God have control of their heart.


Issue Number Three:  He’s refusing to welcome the brothers - the traveling missionaries - who were going from town to town sharing Jesus.  He rejected them.  He had nothing to do with them.  He refused to allow them to speak in the congregation.


“God loves a cheerful giver.” ( 2 Corinthians 9:7)   Because cheerful giving comes from a heart sold out to God.  Not true of Diotrephes.


Issue Number Four:  He kicked people out of the church who did welcome the brothers.


The smaller the pond the bigger the... Fish.  If you want to be a big fish keep the pond small.  Are we together?  Less water means even a small fish takes up a lot of space.  Small fish just seems bigger.


Diotrephes’ is a small fish pretending to be big.  His plan is to keep the pond small - because Diotrephes is all about Diotrephes.  Reject John and John’s authority to teach the church about welcoming traveling missionaries.  Reject the missionaries.  Reject those who would welcome the missionaries.


Grab onto that John’s issues with Diotrephes aren’t necessarily about doctrinal issues.  Although what one believes ultimately comes out in how one acts.  But John’s issues with Diotrephes deal with the outward expression of what’s lacking in his relationship with God.  They’re about authentic living issues - walking in truth issues.


One can have great doctrine - great theological understanding - outwardly sound very convincing - very Godly - and be totally messed up spiritually.


We could almost hear Diotrephes.  “We’re not necessarily against people coming to Christ.  But let’s be clear that we don’t want things to get out of hand.  God is a God of order after all.  John isn’t from this church.  He doesn’t know what we deal with here.  We need to pray about this more.”


One of the primarily debilitating issues with the church in America today is that the church in America today is mostly about the church in America today and not about God.  Sacrificially - humbly - from the heart loving and serving the Head of the Church - The Savior Jesus Christ.


Which is what results when we focus on me, myself, and I and not God.  When we operate out of our own selfish flesh and not because we love God supremely from the core of who we are giving our lives totally to Him.


We’ve got to let go.  Its not our church its His church.  The size of a church - numbers wise - what the ministry of a church is to look like - how it operates and the scope of that ministry - church isn’t about us.  Its about God and what God wants to do in and through His people when and how God wants to do what He wants to do in and through His people.


On one hand Diotrephes is an example of what not to do.  On the other hand he’s a huge thumbs up for us if we’re not living focused on ourselves and we really do get that church - ministry - is about God not us.   


In verse 11 John comes to his third example.  Example Number Three is Demetrius.  Who?  “Demetrius.”


Verse 11:  Beloved, do not imitate evil, but imitate good.  Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.  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.


Demetrius was probably a strange brother.  Maybe the leader of these traveling missionaries.  Someone that Gaius hadn’t met yet.  One of the brothers who’s coming to Gaius’ church and needs to be welcomed - needs hospitality - needs assistance.  Gaius may have heard about Demetrius.  But he didn’t know what kind of person he actually was.


Its probable that Gaius was carrying with him this letter from John - 3rd John.  John writes this letter - in part to tell Gaius about Demetrius - to testify of Demetrius’ godly character - to commend him to Gaius.


What we’ve got written here is a huge thumbs up for Demetrius.  Look at what John writes.


Verse 11:  Demetrius is doing good.  Demetrius is from God.  Demetrius has seen God - knows God personally.  That’s a thumbs up.


Verse 12:  Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone.  Who’s everyone?  Everyone.  For sure, people in the church.  But also, people in the community.  As he’s traveling around sharing the gospel he’s being seen as authentic.  He’s got a well deserved good reputation in the congregation and the community.


Demetrius has received a good testimony from the truth itself.  Which means that Demetrius is living the kind of authentic relationship with Jesus that we’ve been talking about.


Then John adds his own testimony.  We can vouch for him as well.  Imagine that on your resume - as a reference - John the Apostle.  Talk about name dropping in an interview.  “By the way did I mention that was THE Apostle John.”


We know - from what John wrote about these traveling missionaries - that They’d gone out.  Left things behind.  Possessions.  Family.  Friends.  What was familiar to them.  Maybe even a career and a well paying job.  They were traveling light - dependent on the hospitality of the church.  Living by faith.  Dependent on God providing through their siblings in Jesus.


Their motive was for the sake of the Name - for Jesus - to get His gospel out into the world.  The Holy Spirit had called Gaius to a role of stay and support in the Great Commission.  The Holy Spirit had called Demetrius to a more traveling “Go” role in obedience to the command.


Here’s the point.  Demetrius is about God - not Demetrius.  That’s why he gets the John the Apostle thumbs up.  Demetrius is doing good.   


Verses 13 to 15 are John’s Blessing.


Verse 13:  I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink.  I hope to see you soon, we will talk face to face.  Peace be to you.  The friends greet you.  Greet the friends, every one of them.  


There are times when even Facebook falls short.  Texting has its limits.  Presence is huge.  Being with each other as we serve God.  Let the joy of the fellowship of the brethren and sistren increase.


Thinking about what John writes and about where we are this morning it would helpful for us to take another look at verse 11.  We kind of blew by verse 11.  And yet, verse 11 is really the key to how all this applies to us.


In verse 11 John writes, “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.  Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”


Those are imperatives - commands.  “Do not imitate evil”  “but imitate good.”  Here are three examples to follow of men to show you what I mean.


The Apostle Paul - in 1 Corinthians 11:1 - writes something would be absolutely arrogant if it wasn’t the Apostle Paul writing it.  Paul writes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”


Ultimately we need to be imitators of Jesus.  Yes?  But, what does that look like?


In life, God gives us examples of godly men and women who are from the heart being transformed by God into authentic followers of Jesus.  So that as they do life it is as if Jesus was doing their life through them.  When we follow them - learn to imitate how they are doing life - we learn what it means to imitate Jesus - as if Jesus were doing our lives through us.


Are we together?


Three examples.  Good Guy.  Bad Guy.  Good Guy.  Question:  Which Guy are you imitating?


One last question.  Perhaps the toughest thing to think about this morning.  Is your life worthy of imitation?


Probably there are areas of your life that if John were writing 3 John today he might use you as a good guy or gal example and give you a thumbs up.  Praise God for that.


Yet, way too often we find ourselves knowing that there is more to go in that process of imitation.  Yes?


May each of us know Jesus at the sold out from the heart core of who we are level.  May we be growing in our imitation of Him.  May we allow Him to use us as He chooses - to lead others to Him.  May we be authentically worthy of imitation because God is making us so.





1. Ray Stedman from his sermon “3 John:  A Tale Of Three Men”


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.