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3 John

May 18, 2009

Background

I. Intro – I Wish You Well. III John 1-2

II. You Make Me Glad. III John 3-4

III. Others Commend You Too. III John 5-8

IV. Ignore Diotrephes. III John 9-11

V. Receive Demetrius. III John 12

VI. I Am Coming To Help You. III John 13-14

Background:

There is little question that the author is the Apostle John. Gaius is evidently
a close friend. Gaius is a common name and could be anybody. See a good Bible
dictionary or commentary for a discussion of possibilities. But the bottom line
is that we do not know for sure the real identification of Gaius other than
he is a friend.

This letter is no doubt written to a small or a new start-up congregation
in Asia Minor. I say this because there appears to be a schism forming in this
church between Gaius and Diotrephes. I will comment more on this in the Commentary
portion. It is believed that John filled a void in Asia Minor after Paul and
Peter were martyred and before he was arrested and sent to the Isle of Patmos.
Looking at the seven churches that John wrote to in The Revelation, one could
speculate that Gaius was a member of one of these churches. If so, I would guess
it to be either Sardis or Philadelphia. But all this is pure speculation; interesting,
but not important to the message about which John is writing.

John’s message is to Love the Brethren. He is encouraging Christians everywhere
to be hospitable to visiting pastors and to encourage them in their calling.
We are to be known by our love. It’s a theme repeated over and over in John’s
writings. It was emphasized by Christ himself and is a critical principle for
advancing His Kingdom.

Introduction – I Wish You Well                                                       III John 1-2

The Elder [John] expresses his love for Gaius because Gaius loves the Truth.
He wishes Gaius prosperity and health equal to the prosperity and health of
his faith. He wishes it to be like his faith and not because of his faith. John
is not teaching a prosperity gospel. He is wishing a true friend the best life
can offer. Likewise, we should not hesitate to wish the very best to our believing
friends. We wish them success in all their endeavors, especially those for the
sake of Christ. That’s what  true friends do; encourage and support one another.

You Make Me Glad                                                                III John 3-4

John continues what he started in verses 1-2; expressing his pleasure for
Gaius’s faith. He is walking in the Faith. It is an active faith, not a passive
faith. We need to define our gifts [talents] and actively use them in the exercise
of our faith just like Gaius did. Think of people you know who make you glad
because of what they are doing for Christ. Thank them and tell them just how
much you appreciate their faith. You will encourage them. You will refresh their
hearts just as Philemon did. Joy will abound.

Others Commend You Too                                                  III John 5-8

John goes from expressing pleasure to commending Gaius for his faithfulness
on behalf of the believers, especially those who pass through. In addition,
John has heard of the good things Gaius is doing from others who have passed
through. Those passing through could be travelers and they could be visiting
pastors/evangelists/missionaries like Demetrius who is mentioned later in this
letter. Gaius was evidently hospitable to them. He, no doubt, opened his house
to them, fed them, listened to them, and shared what God is doing through each
of them. They encouraged one another. They fellowshipped and worshipped together.
He provided both physical support and spiritual support to them.

This is easier done in small churches than in large churches. It used to be
common to have visiting pastors and missionaries in your home for meals and
even for lodging. But with larger churches and larger towns and greater resources,
visiting ministers are place in hotels/motels. It’s more convenient for having
quiet times for preparation purposes but we are missing the opportunities for
real fellowship and sharing with each other. The sharing becomes one way; from
the visitor to the congregation. We need to realize that the congregation has
a purpose and an obligation to share with and encourage the visitor too. True
fellowship is dialogue, not sermons.

Finally, it is important to hear praise for what you are doing assuming it
is true and not flattery. It comes more naturally from friends but is even more
important when it comes from acquaintances. They are always the most objective.
Praise motivates one to even greater heights. It is one of the factors used
in the workplace to motivate employees and build morale and loyalty. We humans
want to know when we are doing a good job. We desire to please and be valued.
True praise accomplishes just that. If we are doing a good job and others acknowledge
just that and show appreciation through kind words, we are more apt to take
on more difficult tasks and be motivated to do an even better job. Working in
God’s Kingdom is no different than the workplace. In fact, it is more important.
Do your part to follow these principles and encourage others to follow your
lead.

Ignore Diotrephes                                                                                   III John 9-11

Diotrephes is evidently a self-appointed leader in the local church. He does
not agree with or support the ministry of Gaius. He is autocratic and tyrannical.
He feels and shows no love for the brethren. In fact he is causing a split in
the congregation because he is asking those who accept others to leave. He wants
to be the whole show. Nobody is better than him.

Again this is more apt to happen in small congregations because there are
naturally fewer people with the gift of leadership. So it becomes easy for a
strong willed person to take over whether he is qualified or not. A strong willed
person is needed in times of crisis but a competent leader will never stop listening.
Diotrephes evidently gave orders and never listened to others, including God.

Nobody is good enough for Diotrephes, not even the Apostles. But John is coming
and will confront him personally. Confrontation is always best left to those
in authority. John has the authority but it is doubtful that Diotrephes will
listen to him either.

John encourages Gaius not to follow Diotrephes but to keep on doing what he
is doing. Everybody follows their heart. We need to ask ourselves these questions.
Is our heart following God or self? Is our motivation for Him or for us? Are
we looking for His fruit or for our power?

Receive Demetrius                                                                                     III John 12

Demetrius is coming to visit and John vouches for him and his ministry. He
is a good man and should be treated kindly. Fellowship with the messenger is
as important as receiving the message he brings. We are to encourage one another.
See the comments made before under verses 5-8. They apply here as well.

I Am Coming To Help You                                                                III John 13-14

John will visit soon, speaking in person seeking to correct and resolve the
local problems. Greetings by name are exchanged but no references are made.
Evidently John and these people were very close and they knew who was with John
and John knew who was strong in the faith at this church other than Gaius. They
will meet soon and work together to heal the schism.

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