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Sunday School Lesson

May 3, 2015

Work Together for the Truth

 

 

Devotional Reading:2 Timothy 2:14-19

 

Background Scripture:3 John

 

 

Focal Verses

3 John

 

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.

 

Key Verse

 

We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. —3 John 8

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Summarize the work of Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius.

 

2. Suggest some modern activities these men might be involved in if they were living today.

 

3. Identify one faithful worker in the church and tell how he or she can partner with this worker.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. The Prosperity Gospel

 

One peculiarly American distortion of the gospel is known as the health and wealth gospel or the gospel of prosperity. Religion columnist Cathleen Falsani has put this teaching in her category of “The Worst Ideas of the Decade,” so this is not a false teaching hidden behind closed doors.

 

There are many variations to this teaching, but essentially it ties together physical, material, and spiritual health. Those who preach this doctrine tell their listeners that God wants them to be wealthy and healthy. To prosper in these ways requires strong faith, so the lack of a large bank account and/or a healthy body is a sign of spiritual failure. Sometimes this is tied to a teaching that faithfulness is measured by how much you give to a ministry and that God will multiply your monetary offering many times over in your personal life. This message has funded some very large ministries.

 

The gospel of prosperity has been picked up by preachers outside North America and delivered with gusto to the poor of Africa, Asia, and particularly Latin America. Christianity is proclaimed not so much as a message of reconciliation with God but as investment wisdom, a path to wealth. How all this will play out has yet to be seen, but the empty promises of this distorted gospel have already alienated many seekers of truth.

 

One Bible text used by prosperity preachers comes from 3 John, the focus of today’s study. We will look at the entire book to see what John really intended his friend Gaius to know in this area, among other things.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

We do not know the order in which 1, 2, and 3 John were written; they are simply arranged in our Bibles by length. It is likely, though, that 2 John (lesson 9) and 3 John were written at approximately the same time because of similarity in content. Therefore the background for the two is the same, so that information from lesson 9 need not be repeated here. We can add that 3 John is the shortest book in the Bible, containing a mere 249 words in the King James Version; by comparison, 2 John has 298 words and Philemon has 430 (all three are even shorter in the Greek). The little book of 3 John has many points of similarity with 2 John, but differs in being more specific regarding those addressed.

 

Both 2 and 3 John deal with the issue of hospitality in the first-century church. Nothing like our modern network of motels, hotels, and bed-and-breakfast lodging existed at the time. Therefore itinerant teachers needed to be hosted by families within a congregation. In 2 John, the apostle forbade extending hospitality to false teachers; this included denial of room and board as well as not allowing them to attend congregational meetings, which likely took place within the homes of believers. The opposite issue is addressed in 3 John.

 

I. Salutation

 

                                                                                       (3 John 1)

 

A. Name of Addressee (v. 1a)

 

1a. The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius.

 

As in 2 John 1, the author only identifies himself as the elder. This signifies that John enjoys a relationship of respect as a teacher and mentor with a certain Gaius. There are several men named Gaius in the New Testament (see Acts 19:29; 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14). Given that Gaius is a very common name in the Roman Empire, we do not know which, if any, of these men are in view here.

 

This letter has the tone of communication between close friends, with Gaius being addressed as the wellbeloved. The same word is translated beloved in verses 2, 5, and 11 (below), and John uses this same word to address many of his readers (see 1 John 2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11).

 

B. Status of Relationship (v. 1b)

 

1b. Whom I love in the truth.

 

For John to love Gaius in the truth communicates the nature of the author’s affection (compare 2 John 1, lesson 9). The warmth of this letter is striking, and we can see that John and Gaius must be very close.

 

II. Message

 

                                                                                     (3 John 2-12)

 

A. Commendation (vv. 2-8)

 

2. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

 

Translated very literally, this verse says, “Beloved, I am praying that in every way you have a good journey and be healthy, just as your soul has a good journey.” To “have a good journey” carries the resultant meaning of prospereth, which we see here. John’s twofold desire for Gaius are not separate things, but connected. John seems to be saying, “I’m praying that you might prosper materially and have good health, in coordination with your spiritual health.”

 

This verse has served as a proof text for promoters of the gospel of prosperity (see the lesson Introduction). There is no promise here, however, that spiritual health will result in physical and financial health. John is praying these things for Gaius, just as we have prayed for our sick brothers and sisters or for fellow Christians in financial distress.

 

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.

 

As in 1 and 2 John, the issue of truth is of paramount importance for the author. John commends Gaius in regard to truth in two ways. First, other believers have reported that Gaius is indeed one of whom it can be said that the truth is in him. This means that Gaius is demonstrating the truth of the Christian faith in his teaching.

 

Second, John’s commendation of Gaius as being one who walkest in the truth means that his life is an acted-out demonstration of what he teaches. True Christian teaching must have an impact that way. It is truth we live.

 

4. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

 

To be one of John’s children means to be a student who listens to his lessons on the truths of the gospel, and Gaius is one such. There is nothing more satisfying than for elderly teachers to see that what they have taught over the years has made a lasting impact on their students. This brings joy to any teacher of the gospel, and such is the case here.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways to walk in truth daily?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In the workplace

 

In relationships with neighbors

 

In church involvement

 

In caring for the marginalized of society

 

Other

 

5, 6. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 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.

 

As we review John’s commendation of Gaius regarding his faithful behavior toward the brethren, and to strangers, we need to determine whether said brethren and strangers are two groups or one. The key is verse 6; strangers would not make such a report unless they were also fellow believers. Therefore the brethren in view here are teachers from other congregations who visit Gaius.

 

The fact that John encourages Gaius to send these teachers on their journey adequately provisioned (compare Titus 3:13) seems to speak to Gaius’s regular practice. Gaius should keep doing what he is already doing! This means ensuring that the visitors are well rested, have food in their packs, etc., as they depart to resume their travels. This demonstrates charity (love) in the best sense.

 

In the cultural setting of 3 John, strangers in town are seen as threats unless someone welcomes them into his or her home (compare Acts 16:15, 34, 40). Such a welcome changes the strangers’ status from outsider to guest. For Gaius to welcome traveling Christian teachers into his home involves more than provision for immediate needs of food and lodging. It also allows them to operate as temporary residents of the city. Such hospitality, then, is the reception of strangers who become members of the household as long as they are in town.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What does your church do to make Christian outsiders feel like welcome guests? What can you do personally to enhance this ministry?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding initial greeting

 

Regarding meal invitations

 

Regarding guest-friendly facilities

 

Other

 

7. Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

 

The name in view is that of Jesus Christ, a symbol of the Christian faith and the church. The visitors are not traveling so that they might be personally enriched or honored. They come and go as servants of the Lord, traveling in faith that they will be received by congregations that both accept their teaching and tend to their physical needs.

 

The traveling teachers do not expect assistance from the Gentiles, referring to the pagans of the cities they visit. The travelers might be able to utilize their own network of friends, relatives, or business contacts to meet their food and lodging needs regardless of whether such folks are believers. But since the travelers represent Christ, they choose not to do that; instead, they depend on Christians like Gaius to receive them into their homes.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Does this verse have anything to say about soliciting or accepting help from unbelievers today? Why, or why not?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Church fund-raisers that involve selling a

product (bake sales, etc.)

 

Church fund-raisers that involve providing a service (youth-group car washes, etc.)

 

Requests for donations

 

Other

 

8. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

 

John closes this section with a broad principle: when Christian leaders travel to teach and encourage other congregations, they should be received warmly. When congregations do this, they become fellowhelpers to the truth.

 

B. Contrast (vv. 9-12)

 

9. I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

 

The church to which John has written is probably the one Gaius attends, but that is not certain. In stark contrast with the gracious Gaius is the inhospitable Diotrephes, who also attends there. He is a man who fancies himself to be a leader in the church, but he is actually more of a bully and a control freak. This is the opposite of the kind of leader that Jesus talks about in Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-44. The fact that Diotrephes receiveth us not is at least an indication of inhospitality and probably more (next verse).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do we recognize that what seems to be a legitimate desire to be a church leader (1 Timothy 3:1) is actually an unholy desire for preeminence? What do we do in such cases?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Before an individual becomes a church leader

 

After an individual has become a church leader

 

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.

 

John has plans to visit personally. We presume that he will be staying with Gaius, not Diotrephes! This is an opponent with whom John has tangled in the past, and John intends to confront him concerning his unacceptable behavior at three levels.

 

First, Diotrephes has maliciously defamed certain people; the us includes the traveling teachers, John himself, and perhaps even Gaius. Diotrephes has attacked either their teaching or their character (or perhaps both).

 

Second, Diotrephes has refused to receive the brethren and render the expected hospitality. From the perspective of his culture, Diotrephes might be within his rights to do this, but from a Christian perspective, he is without justification. Third, Diotrephes has warned others in his congregation not to receive such visitors, even going so far as to disfellowship those who do.

 

Whether or not the church of Gaius and the church of Diotrephes are the same church, these two men seem to be acquainted. John uses this connection to draw a vivid contrast between them. Gaius, unlike Diotrephes, is a man of faithful love and hospitality. He receives teachers from John because of his desire to benefit from their ministry and his deep love for fellow Christians. Gaius acts in such a way that both the visitors and his congregation will benefit from the interaction that results. Gaius does not feel threatened by the itinerant teachers.

 

Diotrephes, on the other hand, sees the outsiders as a threat. They remain strangers to him, never becoming guests. It may well be that their message would undermine various false ideas that Diotrephes has been propagating, teachings that perhaps accrue benefits for him personally. In behaving as he does, this man rejects the authority of the apostle John.

 

The Desire to Be “Somebody”

 

President Calvin Coolidge once said, “It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.” By this Coolidge was calling attention to the danger of thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, something the apostle Paul warned about in Romans 12:3. What is true for presidents and others who have climbed to the top of the ladder of earthly success is just as true for those who are anywhere else on that ladder.

 

Those who aspire to do good in a spiritual sense are also in danger in this regard. As Allen Wheelis has observed, “The greater evil is wrought by those who intend good, and are convinced they know how to bring it about; and the greater their power to bring it about, the greater the evil they achieve while trying to do it.”

 

Both President Coolidge and Dr. Wheelis could have been speaking about Diotrephes. It is possible that his desire to be “somebody” in the church was prompted by the belief that he was doing good, but the apostle John’s inspired insight saw through the man’s self-deception.

 

Jesus showed us the way to true significance. It is found in serving others, as John makes clear in his critique of Diotrephes’s conduct. “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).—C. R. B.

 

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.

 

As John brings us back to his beloved friend Gaius, we see the marked contrast between that man and Diotrephes. Gaius is the good example who is to be imitated, while Diotrephes is the evil example not to be followed. Gaius is of God, a true brother in Christ. Diotrephes has not seen God and is a false brother (compare 1 John 3:10).

 

Character is revealed in deeds. Gaius and Diotrephes act the ways they do because of what is in their hearts. Gaius truly loves God, so hospitality for visiting Christians comes naturally for him. But Diotrephes sees such visitors as threats to his personal empire, the domain of his control; this reveals a lack of relationship with 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.

 

The exhortation of verse 11 to pattern oneself after “that which is good” is immediately followed by an example of someone who can serve as such a pattern: a certain Demetrius. It is very possible that he is the one who ends up carrying this letter to Gaius. One theory holds that this Demetrius is the silversmith of the same name who led the riot against Paul and Silas in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41). If so, this would be a remarkable conversion story! But ultimately this proposal is speculative.

 

In any case, the Demetrius in view embodies the things John emphasizes in the letter: spiritual health, walking in truth, faithful actions, and avoidance of evil. We expect that Gaius will receive Demetrius with all the hospitality he shows to the other teachers and that Gaius will welcome with anticipation the coming of John himself.

 

Following a Pattern

 

Telemachus, who died in about AD 404, was a monk who was credited with being instrumental in stopping the gladiatorial games in Rome. Theodoret of Cyrus tells us how this happened:

 

A certain man of the name of Telemachus had embraced the ascetic life. He had set out from the East and for this reason had repaired to Rome. There, when the abominable spectacle [of gladiatorial combats] was being exhibited, he went himself into the stadium, and stepping down into the arena, endeavoured to stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another. The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the triad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death.

 

When the admirable emperor was informed of this he numbered Telemachus in the number of victorious martyrs, and put an end to that impious spectacle.

 

To walk faithfully in the path of truth can be costly, indeed! But we are to walk that path wherever it leads. Although our ultimate pattern in this regard is Jesus, it helps to have contemporary models who walk in truth. For Gaius, the apostle John says the model can be Demetrius. For some who lived in the fifth century AD, it could have been Telemachus. For those who live today, could it be you?—C. R. B.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some traits and behaviors that result in a person having a reputation that is worthy of emulating in the church?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding personal practices

 

Regarding relationships with other believers

 

Regarding reputation among unbelievers (1 Timothy 3:7)

 

Other

 

III. Closing

 

                                                                                    (3 John 13, 14)

 

A. Desire (vv. 13, 14a)

 

13, 14a. I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: but I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face.

 

John expresses the same desire as in 2 John 12: he prefers face to face communication over that of a letter. John has much more to say to both Gaius and Diotrephes!

 

B. Blessing (v. 14b)

 

14b. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

 

John ends the letter with personal touches. The desire for peace is the traditional Jewish blessing for health and well-being (see v. 2). The writer also passes greetings for friends on both sides of the letter; Gaius has friends in John’s church and these folks have friends in the church of Gaius. We can imagine that John and Gaius have stayed in some of their homes in the past. This is a long-standing relationship joined in faith, bound together in mutual hospitality, and maintained by love.

 

Conclusion

 

A. Spiritual Health and Hospitality

 

If we are spiritually healthy, we will more easily bend our lives to the needs of others. This may result in extending hospitality to folks we barely know, with many applications in churches today. I have been a guest teacher or preacher in numerous churches over the years. Sometimes it has been necessary for me to stay in a hotel; but, when possible, I have always enjoyed staying with one of the church families. I get great meals, have a clean bed, and make new friends. I especially enjoy it when there are children in the household (since my children are adults), so I can again experience the world through the eyes of a child.

 

Such hospitality makes my time of teaching and preaching all the more meaningful and precious to me and to the congregation. I come as a stranger, become a guest, and leave as a friend.

 

Churches may also live this out when they support field missionaries. I have always thought that a church should have at least one missionary family for whom it provides at least partial funding, so that a long-term, fulfilling relationship may be developed with these folks. When the member of a missionary family is home on furlough, he or she should be given proper hospitality while visiting the church. This is more than money. It is friendship, encouragement, and acceptance.

 

That may be reciprocated if members of the church take the time and expense to visit the missionary family on the field, something that was unthinkable 30 or 40 years ago. Hospitality between Christians builds a bond that strengthens ministry and contributes to the mission of spreading the truth of the gospel to all. The need to extend hospitality endures, and the words of 3 John on this topic continue to be of great value for us.

 

B. Prayer

 

God of peace and truth, may we love our fellow Christians as You would have us! May we open wallets, homes, and lives to them. In so doing, may You prosper our souls in the grace of Your abundant love. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Measure prosperity by your relationship with God.

 

 

 

How to Say It

Ceres Sir-eez.

Demetrius De-mee-tree-us.

Diotrephes Die-ot-rih-feez.

Gaius Gay-us.

Philemon Fih-lee-mun or Fye-lee-mun.

Telemachus Taw-leh-maw-kuss.

 

 

Kids’ Corner

Sunday, May 3,  2015

Coworkers with the Truth

                                            

Lesson:III John 1:1-14

Time of Action:90-95 A.D.

Place of the action:It is believed that John probably wrote from Ephesus

                                                                                                

Golden Text:“We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth” (III John 1:8).

 

  

I.  INTRODUCTION.

Loving other believers is a priority for God’s church.  However, love must be discerning because there are deceivers outside the church who want to lead believers astray from God’s truth.  Our lesson this week is the complete Book of Third John.  This letter gives us an important glimpse into the life of the early church.  It is addressed to Gaius, no doubt a prominent Christian in one of the churches.  John writes about the need for showing hospitality to traveling preachers and other believers.  He also warns against a would-be church dictator named Diotrephes, and teaches that when we demonstrate love and care for others, we may face opposition even from within the church.  But if that occurs we should never cease being coworkers in the truth.

 

 

II. BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON.

During the days of the early church, leaders traveled from town to town helping to establish new congregations.  They depended on the hospitality of fellow believers.  Gaius, to whom the letter was addressed, was a believer who welcomed these church leaders into his home.  However, while complimenting Gaius, John rebuked Diotrephes who not only refused to offer hospitality, but he set himself up as a church boss.  Pride disqualified him from being a real church leader.   

 

 

III. JOHN’S COMMENDATION (III John 1:1-8 )

 

A. John’s greeting (III John 1:1). 

Our first verse says “The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”  The apostle John calls himself “The elder” as he also does in II John.  Some have suggested that the writer of both II John and III John was a certain John the elder, and not John the apostle.  However, comparing these epistles with I John and John’s Gospel makes it clear that the same person wrote all of these books.  It’s not unusual that the apostle John would call Himself an elder for at least two reasons.  First, he was very old at this time, which is one meaning of the word “elder” in the New Testament (see I timothy 5:1).  Second, as a church leader he could appropriately be called an elder, just as Peter was (see I Peter 5:1).  We should also be mindful that in a personal letter like this one, it doesn’t seem out of place for a man of John’s age and spiritual leadership to refer to himself as an elder, stressing his spiritual maturity.  John wrote this letter to “the wellbeloved Gaius.”  Since there are several men in the New Testament with this name (see Acts 19:29; 20:4; Romans 1:23; I Corinthians 1:14), we can’t be sure whether it was one of these men or another with the same name.  “Gaius” was a common Roman name.  John addressed “Gaius” as “the wellbeloved” or literally “the beloved.”  To be known by such a title spoke well of one’s reputation.  This title also indicated that the whole Christian community held Gaius in high esteem.  John added his own feelings about Gaius when he said “whom I love in the truth.”  He was someone who John loved dearly.  It’s possible that Gaius had shared his home and hospitality with John at some time during John’s travels.  If so, John would’ve appreciated his actions, because travelling preachers depended on expressions of hospitality to survive (see Matthew 10:7-16).  Here “the truth” refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ which binds all believers together.

 

 

B. John’s desire (III John 1:2).

In this verse John continued to say to Gaius “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”  Again, showing his love for Gaius, John referred to him as “Beloved.”  Then the apostle said that “above all things” or in all things, his desire for Gaius was that “thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”  John wished prosperity and health in all areas of Gaius’s life.  The remarkable thing about John’s desire for him was that he made Gaius’s spiritual health the standard for measuring his material and physical welfare.  The words “even as thy soul prospereth” indicate that Gaius had already reached a spiritual level most Christians were trying to reach.  Note:  Even in this wish for his physical and material prosperity there lies a commendation for his spiritual stature.  How many of us have ever had people say to us, “I hope you are doing as well physically as you are spiritually”?  Earthly wealth and health are not to be despised, but they must be secondary to godliness.

 

 

C. John’s joy (III John 1:3-4).

1. (vs. 3).

John went on to say “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.”  John could speak of Gaius’s prosperous soul or spiritual development because he had heard reports that he “walkest in the truth.”  In other words, Gaius not only believed the true doctrine, he also practiced it.  The word “walkest”or walking is in the present tense indicating that it was a habit for Gaius to apply the truth in his life.  The reports about Gaius and his successful walk with the Lord came to John from “the brethren” who were fellow believers, most likely travelling teachers or missionaries who had encountered Gaius in their travels and were impressed with his godly behavior.  These fellow believers “testified of the truth that was in” Gaius.  In other words, they told John that Gaius was faithful to the truth of God’s Word because his life reflected it.  The phrase “For I rejoiced greatly” means that John was tremendously overjoyed when these brethren reported to him that Gaius was walking in the truth.

2. (vs. 4).

In this verse John says “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”  There was no greater joy for John than hearing that his “children walk in truth.”  The term “children” probably refers to those who were converted through John’s witness.  Gaius was one of these.  The aging apostle John had seen him mature and now he was carrying the Christian torch wonderfully.  This no doubt assured John that his ministry had not been in vain and that the gospel was producing fruit.  Note:  We should learn from John whose greatest delight was to hear favorable reports about other believers.  The church today has too many who get their greatest joy from hearing and spreading reports of Christians’ faults or failures.  Negative news does not strengthen the church; instead it drives wedges and discourages Christians as well as discrediting the body of Christ in the eyes of unbelievers.

 

 

D. John’s encouragement (III John 1:5-8).

1. (vs. 5). 

Here John writes “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers.”  The phrase “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest” was meant to encourage Gaius for the support and aid he gave to “the brethren, and to strangers.”  There were some in the church who were not hospitable (see III John 1:9) so Gaius probably needed to be reassured that he was doing a faithful thing and making a valuable contribution to the work of Christ.  Both terms “brethren” and “strangers” refer to the same group, Christian brothers, but who were strangers to Gaius.  In the next verse we learn that they were travelling teachers or preachers who had stopped at the church to which Gaius belonged and he had opened his home to them.  It’s still a blessing to offer hospitality to visiting teachers and evangelists.

2. (vs. 6).

John continued to say “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.”  The phrase “Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church” refers to back to the travelling Christian brethren and strangers mentioned in verse 5.  John said that once these missionaries had returned to him, they had “borne witness” or reported “before the church” or publicly, Gaius’s expression of “charity” or love.  This love was expressed in the way he provided for these travelling believers.  Note:  The travelling Christian workers probably had reported on their tour at a church gathering, just as Paul and Barnabas did at Antioch (see Acts 14:27).  These traveling Christians upon returning from their mission, had singled out Gaius as a man who knew how to apply Christian love “in deed and in truth” (see I John 3:18).  The reference to the “church” should be understood as an assembly of believers in a particular location.  In this case probably Ephesus.  Church buildings didn’t come into existence until long after the New Testament period.  Nevertheless, these missionaries publicly affirmed Gaius’s love toward them.  The phrase “whom if thou bring forward on their journey” seems to indicate that these teachers and evangelists, all missionaries, were leaving on another mission (see Romans 15:24; I Corinthians 16:6) and John was urging Gaius to continue his good deeds toward them.  This included more than just hospitality in his home or going a short distance with them when they left.  It also included supporting them with the necessities for travel---financial support, as well as food, lodging, and fellowship.  Gaius was to send these missionaries on their way “after a godly sort” which means “worthy of God.”  Gaius was to treat God’s servants just as he would treat God (see Matthew 10:40).  John said that if Gaius treated these travelling brethren and strangers as he would treat God, “thou shalt do well.”  In other words, whatever Gaius did for these missionaries would be a good thing, and pleasing to God.

3. (vs. 7).

John went on to say “Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.”  The word “Because” leads into two reasons why John believed these missionaries deserved this loving treatment.  First, it was because they “went forth” or continued on their missionary work “for his name's sake.”  The name they represented was Christ’s.  As they made Him known through their witnessing, it was only proper that other believers help them in prayer and material support.  The second reason they deserved to be treated lovingly was because they were “taking nothing of the Gentiles.”  Here the word “Gentiles” refers to unbelieving pagans (idol worshipers), or non-Christians.  Just as there are in our day, in John’s time there were religious hucksters who took money wherever they could get it to use for their own gods.  But those preaching the gospel should receive their support from God’s people and not unbelievers (see Luke 10:7; I Corinthians 9:14; II Corinthians 11:7-9; Philippians 4:15-17).  Christian causes should be supported by Christians.  Let’s not allow our stinginess to drive God’s servants into the temptation of depending on the world and compromising their testimony.  Note:  Jesus never intended for the gospel to be supported by non-believers.  When He sent out the Twelve and the Seventy, He instructed them not to take provisions but to rely on the hospitality of those who accepted their message (see Matthew 10:7-14; Luke 10:3-11).  John here upheld the principle that God’s work should be supported by God’s people.  We should not ask the world we are trying to win to pay for preaching the gospel to them.

4. (vs. 8). 

Considering everything that he had just written John concluded in this verse that “We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.”  In the Greek, the pronoun “We” emphasizes the contrast between believers and unbelievers or Gentiles.  As believers we should “receive such” which refers to those who preach and teach God’s Word, with our hospitality.  Supporting the missionary enterprise of the church is not a voluntary thing for believers. John used the word “ought.”  We are morally obligated to welcome God’s servants who proclaim His saving message.  We can support them by showing hospitality and contributing to their financial needs.  The word “receive” in this context has a far reaching meaning.  We are to welcome the Lord’s servant and to support them financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  We are to be a friend and brother to them.  In this way we become “fellowhelpers to the truth.”   This simply means that while not everyone can be directly involved in preaching or missions, supporting those who are enables us to be “fellowhelpers” or partners in spreading the truth---the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  Just as anyone who gives support to false teachers becomes a “partaker of his evil deeds” (see II John 1:10-11), likewise the one who supports true ministers is a partner with them in spreading good seed for a spiritual harvest.  Note:  The help we give enables us to be fellow workers with other gospel workers.  Not all of us can go to other parts of the world or may even want to.  Not all of us are equipped and trained to minister to the medical needs of those in foreign lands.  Not all of us are capable of learning a foreign language or adjusting to another culture.  However, all of us can support those who go overseas.  We can also give money and pray.  We can write letters to encourage the Lord’s servants. My former pastor, Rev. G.B. Marignay defined mission work this way: go, let go, and help go.  This reflects that we all can do something when it comes to mission work. It’s vital that we emphasize the things we can do rather than dwell on the things we can’t do. We should do what we can instead of using our limitations as an excuse to do nothing.          

 

 

IV. JOHN’S CENSURE (III John 1:9-10)

 

A.  John censures for usurping power (III John 1:9).

In this verse John says “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.”  John informed Gaius that he had previously written to the “church” which probably refers to the congregation to which both Gaius and Diotrephes belonged.  Then John said “but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.”  The phrase “who loveth to have the preeminence among them” means that “Diotrephes” loved having a prominent position in the church so much that he wanted to have total control over it.  It was this attitude of pride that led him to refuse to recognize the authority of the Apostle John or any other church leader.  This is the meaning of the words “receiveth us not.”  Diotrephes was a power hungry church leader who rejected both John and his representatives.  He really didn’t want to have anything to do with them.  It appears from the text that Diotrephes didn’t have a problem with doctrine or teaching.  His problem was being self-centered and determined to rule their church.  Does that sound familiar?  This behavior had to be dealt with!  Note:  Sadly, there are still people in church leadership who love to be supremely in charge.  Frequently, they want to make all the decisions and chastise anyone who challenges their so-called authority.  While there aren’t many details in the New Testament concerning church government, it seems to be evident that leadership was shared (see Acts 6:3; 14:23; 15:6, 22).  Those who serve as church leaders are not to be dictators, but servants and examples to the flock (see I Peter 5:3).

 

 

B. John censures for hindering the work of Christ (III John 1:10).  In this verse, John goes on to say “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.”  The word “Wherefore” connects this verse with verse 9.  Diotrephes’s behavior needed to be addressed so John said “if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth.”  Here the word “if” can mean “when.”  The apostle anticipated a visit to this un-named church to deal with Diotrephes.  The word “remember” means to “call attention to.”  When he visited that congregation, John intended to confront Diotrephes publicly, or in a public church meeting and rebuke him for “his deeds which he doeth.”  John then continued to identify the deeds that this church tyrant was guilty of.  First, John said that Diotrephes was guilty of “prating against us with malicious words.”  In other words, he was constantly slandering the Apostle John and his associates with “malicious” or hurtful gossip.  The phrase “and not content therewith” means that Diotrephes wasn’t satisfied with doing that, and “neither doth he himself receive the brethren.”  In other words he was also guilty of not receiving or showing hospitality to the “brethren” which again was a reference to the travelling missionaries who needed assistance.  Third, Diotrephes “forbiddeth them that would. and casteth them out of the church.”  John was saying not only did Diotrephes refuse to show hospitality to other believers, but he also “forbiddeth” or prevented those who wanted to receive them from doing so.  But he went even further than that.  Those who wanted to aid the travelling missionaries Diotrephes “casteth them out of the church.”   This probably refers to either excommunicating members of the congregation or not allowing them to worship with the rest of the church.  Note:  No one person has the authority to put anyone out of God’s church.  But Diotrephes was so power hungry that he usurped the authority from the body to excommunicate or put people out of the congregation.  Like many “church folk” today, He had to have total control.  This might be seen as strength, but it actually reveals a very weak and insecure person.  Unfortunately, sins such as pride, jealousy, and slander are still present in the church, and when a leader, or anyone for that matter makes a habit of encouraging sin and discouraging right actions, they must be stopped!  If no one speaks up, great harm can come to the church.  We must confront sin in the church in whatever form it appears.  If we try to avoid it, it will continue to fester.  A true Christian leader is a servant not an autocrat.

 

 

V. JOHN’S CAUTION (III John 1:11-12 )

 

A. John exhorts Gaius to do good (III John 1:11). 

Now John says “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.”  Again referring to Gaius as “Beloved,” John encouraged him to “follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.”  The term “follow” means “imitate.”  John’s advice to Gaius was to avoid imitating anybody who was evil, but instead he and others should pattern themselves after those who are good.  Diotrephes was not an example of that which is good and right among God’s people.  Therefore, his behavior should not be imitated.  John continued to say that “He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”  Since God is good, doing good reveals that we are of God and He is our spiritual Father.  But on the other hand, anyone who practices evil “hath not seen God.”  Of course we all fall into sin at times.  However, John was talking about habitual sin. The word “doeth” is in the present tense indicating the practice of sin.  To have “seen God” means that we have come to know Him through the eyes of faith.  Anyone who habitually commits evil shows that he or she has no idea who God really is. 

 

 

B. John praises Demetrius (III John 1:12). 

In this verse John writes “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.”  It appears that John is introducing Gaius to “Demetrius” who may have carried this letter from John to Gaius.  All we know of “Demetrius” is what’s written here.  The book of Acts does mention an Ephesian silversmith named Demetrius who opposed the Apostle Paul (see Acts19:24), but this is most likely another person.  In contrast to Diotrephes, John said three things in praise of Demetrius’s character.  First, he said that “Demetrius hath good report of all men.”  Everyone who knew him, both unbelievers and believers spoke well of Demetrius.  Second, Demetrius had a good report “of (from) the truth itself.”  John personified “truth” or God’s Word as a witness to Demetrius’s character and teaching.  In other words, if “truth” could speak, it would have only good things to say about Demetrius’s character.  Third, John said that “we also bear record (or witness); and ye know that our record is true.”  In other words, John and others who were with him declared their confidence in Demetrius, and Gaius would not doubt John’s word, because he knew that if John witnessed, or vouched for anyone, whatever he said would be true.      

 

 

 

VI. JOHN’S CLOSING (III John 1:13-14)

 

A. More to say later (III John 1:13).

Now John says “I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee.”  The apostle said that there was more he wanted to say to Gaius, but he preferred not to do it in writing with ink and pen.  John intended to visit Gaius to talk to him in person (see III John 1:10).  The language used in this verse is basically the same language used in the closing of II John, thus providing more support for the belief that this epistle was written by the apostle John.

 

 

 

B. Face-to-face sharing (III John 1:14).

In our final verse John says “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.”  The word “But” connects this verse with the previous verse where John said that he had more to share with Gaius.  Now he said “But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face.”  John desired to see his friend Gaius and continue to instruct him in the things of God “face-to-face” or literally “mouth-to mouth.”  Sharing “face-to-face” is very effective and always meaningful.  It has the power to send a stronger, more passionate message than can be expressed in writing.  In an age when most of our communication is done by text, e-mail, face-book, instagram or twitter, John reminds us that there is no better way of sharing, especially God’s Word, than “face-to-face.”  In the last part of this verse, John concludes with a short benediction.  First, he said “Peace be to thee.”  Pronouncing “peace” to Gaius brings to mind the greeting of “peace” Jesus used when He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection (see John 20:19, 21, 26).  Note:  John was wishing Gaius peace of a good conscience, the eternal peace of universal friendship among believers, and the heavenly peace of future glory which begins even in this life.  Second in his closing, John said “Our friends salute thee.”  John is the only New Testament writer to refer to fellow believers as “friends.”  However, Jesus once called His apostles “friends” (see John 15:13-15) making it a special designation for Christians.  True “friends” share the most intimate secrets.  For Jesus said to His disciples, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”   Finally, in his closing, John told Gaius to “Greet the friends by name.”  Since Gaius was part of the congregation with whom he worshipped, most likely he considered them friends, and he would know them by name.  Therefore, Gaius could share John’s greeting with each one of them individually which would be most encouraging to these Christians especially knowing that John, the elder, considered them as his “friends.”

    

 

                                   

VII. Conclusion

Having served in the local church both as a member and a pastor covering a span of fifty years, I have seen a lot.  One thing I’ve noticed is that we can grieve the Holy Spirit of God when we lose sight of what God’s church is all about.  We are to glorify God by worshipping Him, by building up the believers, and by reaching out to unbelievers with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When our sight becomes clouded, people become prideful and desire to usurp authority over one another like Diotrephes, rather than worshipping and serving God like Demetrius.  Let’s make up our minds to imitate that which is good, follow godly examples, and share our loving fellowship with those who are faithfully serving our Lord.  Yes, we all have an opportunity to be coworkers with those who carry the gospel message fulltime, so let’s do so through prayer, hospitality, and financial support.

 

 

PRACTICAL POINTS:

 

 

1.  Believers must love and pray for fellow Christian workers (III John 1:1-2).

 

2.  We should rejoice when God uses us to draw others to faith and Christian service (III John 1:3-4).

 

3.  Hospitality is one evidence of Christian love (III John 1:5-6).

 

4.  Christian churches and believers are responsible to support those who are called to full-time ministry (III John 1:6-8).

 

5.  Believers must confront and oppose the actions of leaders who set a bad example (III John 1:9-10).

 

6.  Believers must support and imitate the deeds of those who provide a good example (III John 1:11-14).

 

 

 

Facing Liars in the Church

3 John 1:1-15

Sunday, May 3, 2015

 

“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” (3 John 1:10—KJV).

 

“So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in

spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church” (3 John 1:10—NRSV).

 

Remember these encouraging words: “Indeed, all who want to

live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-13). When persecuted, Christians can face persecution the way Paul did: “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure” (1 Corinthians 4:12). The Apostle John suffered persecution from a powerful church leader, who even expelled from his church those who disagreed with him. Different translations reveal that Diotrephes spread “false charges” or “wicked nonsense” or “malicious words” about John and others. Not content with just lying about John and others, he refused to pass on John’s letters to his church and he refused to welcome the true believers that John sent to his church. Indeed, Diotrephes was going “from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived.” Because Diotrephes was destroying the spiritual well-being of some, preventing others from being saved through a true faith in Jesus Christ, stopping the spread of the Gospel through Christian missions, and not walking in truth and love, John wrote that if he visited Diotrephes’ church that he would “call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges.” We do not know if Diotrephes repented of his sins and turned from putting himself first to a true faith in Jesus Christ. We do know that Gaius and Demetrius were prepared by God to replace a godless church leader.

 

 

Facing Liars in the Church

3 John 1:1-15

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Name____________________

 

Thinking Further

1. Give some reasons John loved Gaius.

 

 

2. Why do you suppose it was well with Gaius’ soul?

 

 

3. What gave John “no greater joy”?

 

 

4. How did “the friends” conduct their ministry?

 

 

5. When we support true Christian workers, what do we

become?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. Give some reasons John loved Gaius.

They both loved the truth. Gaius loved and helped the friends. Gaius was faithful and walked in the truth.

 

2. Why do you suppose it was well with Gaius’ soul?

He was filled with the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. He was faithful and he walked in the truth. His behavior indicated to John and the friends that he put Jesus Christ first in his life.

 

3. What gave John “no greater joy”?

Hearing that his children, his spiritual children, are walking in the truth.

 

4. How did “the friends” conduct their ministry?

They conducted their ministry for the sake of Christ and accepted no support from nonbelievers (or pagans).

 

5. When we support true Christian workers, what do we become?

Co-workers with the truth or fellow workers for the truth.

 

 

 

Word Search

Coworkers with the Truth

3 John 1

Sunday May 3, 2015

Name________________________

 

 

S A I H J L R H X S I T K Z U

S U R U O E Z C F J O V W I G

E F D E Y O J R E V O U A C D

N R M W K G W U Z W T M L H F

L I S B A D S H L D L W K J C

U F T Q O U X C G T R U T H U

F D A H J D I O T R E P H E S

H N E I S R E G N A R T S T Q

T L E M T M B C B P W Q Y M K

I Y S R E H G E S D N E I R F

A T Z L D T F H L Z U V Y G M

F X R O I L R U K O E F A H R

Y A G V T F I I L Y V I O G T

L M I E H X P H U L U E N V A

C Q W X P W Y Q C S Y S D Z Y

 

Gaius

Love

Truth

Beloved

Soul

Overjoyed

Faithfulness

Walk

Joy

Children

Faithfully

Friends

Strangers

Church

Diotrephes

Demetrius

 

 

True and False Test

Coworkers with the Truth

3 John 1:1-15

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Name_____________________

 

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. John loved Gaius in the truth as a faithful friend in Christ. True or False

 

2. John trusted Diotrephes to pass on his letters to the church. True or False

 

3. John told Gaius to obey Diotrephes, because he was a church leader. True or False

 

4. John was concerned for people’s physical health and their souls. True or False

 

5. John praised Gaius for walking in a way that made him many friends. True or False

 

6. Diotrephes put Christ and the needs of others first. True or False

 

7. John never intended to tell anyone that someone was lying about him. True or False

 

8. Those who do evil have not seen God. True or False

 

9. Everyone, and also the truth, testified favorably about Demetrius. True or False

 

10. John commended the believers who got support from unbelievers. True or False

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

3 John 1:1-15

Sunday, May 3, 2015

 

1.  True

2.  False

3.  False

4.  True

5.  False

6.  False

7.  False

8.  True

9.  True

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

God of peace and truth, may we love our fellow Christians as You would have us! May we open wallets, homes, and lives to them. In so doing, may You prosper our souls in the grace of Your abundant love. In the name of Jesus, amen.