For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 25, 2008
John addresses this short epistle to Gaius, a man about whom we know very little other than the fact that John wrote an epistle to him. Gaius was a common Roman name, and there are a few men by the name of Gaius mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.
"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." (vs. 1-4)
Perhaps John wrote this about wishing Gaius' physical health would prosper as his soul because Gaius was a sickly individual or had a medical condition. Or it may have been a more general greeting. Either way, John is obviously pleased with Gaius and his ministry on the whole, although there are a couple of issues John wants to address. John calls Gaius one of his children in verse 4. Most likely this means that Gaius was a spiritual son of John. It is unlikely a Jew like John would give his son such an obviously Roman name.
"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." (vs. 5-8)
In 2 John, the Apostle addresses problems that arise when well-meaning Christians help false teachers. In 3 John, he addresses the problems that arise when Christians do not do enough to support genuine servants of the Lord. These traveling teachers probably were similar to what we would consider evangelists now. They traveled from church to church, teaching sound doctrine directly from the Apostles and further encouraging the churches. Gaius and his congregation were apparently not doing their part to further these men's ministries. What a shame it is that, even today, false teachers rake in donations by the millions while those who are really doing a good work for the Lord seem to struggle to get by. Now I know that there are a lot of issues involved, but the fact remains that those of us who know the Lord and are trying to live by the Word of God should be giving more to help brothers and sisters who are honorably doing the Lord's work. I know the Lord tells us to give as we see fit, but the fact still remains (at least for me) that I need to see fit to give more.
As a passing note, when John says these men accepted nothing from the Gentiles, John is most likely using that term to describe the lost world. The word Gentiles is used in that context several times in the epistles. Basically it means that the church was the only means of support for these teachers.
"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 and puts them out of the church. 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." (vs. 9-12, ESV)
People like Diotrephes are a detriment to the church. Doubtless Diotrephes was well-respected in the community and the church. Many may have called him a natural leader. But unfortunately he was using his God-given abilities (and probably wealth and other influences) to stir up trouble in the church. He was very critical of these teachers that John mentions earlier as honorable servants of God. He personally did not like them, and tried to run off or even discipline those who did. Diotrephes was probably a big reason Gaius' church was not doing enough to meet the needs of the evangelists.
Church leaders need to be very careful whom they put in leadership. Someone like Diotrephes can wreak so much havoc in the church it is scary. Not only in the church, but his stubbornness and hatefulness even reached outside the church, affecting these evangelists and causing the Apostle John enough grief that he felt compelled to write this letter. The church has to be bigger than any one man.
Later John mentions an example of a man who deserved more esteem in the church, namely Demetrius. Perhaps Gaius needed his eyes opened to see the problems that were right in front of his face. It seems that he and the church as a whole were relying too much on Diotrephes for leadership, a critical, narrow-minded man, and were overlooking the gifts of Demetrius, a humble, generous man who was doing the Lord's work without drawing much attention to himself. Lord give us more Demetriuses and fewer Diotrepheses in our day!