Monday, May 12, 2014

What Will Be Said of Us

The letter called 3 John was written to an individual arguably about the same time that 2 John was written to the church. While 2 John was general in nature, 3 John specifically mentions three individuals. Two of the individuals were commended by John, but the other was not.


Working the text in reverse, the the first person mentioned is Demetrius. Verse 12 says he received a good testimony from everyone. John adds his endorsement as well. While there is little information as to who Demetrius really was, it is likely he carried this letter to Gaius. In verse 11, Gaius is exhorted not to imitate evil, but to imitate good. To help Gaius, John sent Demetrius to provide an example, as well as encouragement, to continue to walk in the truth.


John's exhortation for Gaius to imitate good in verse 11 comes immediately after John provides a warning against Diotrophes. Diotrophes was one who put himself first, not recognizing John's authority. He talks wickedness about John. This warrants a reminder that John was one of the Sons of Thunder. While spending three years with Christ, and decades of transformation had followed, such a challenge against John could not have made him happy.

But the biggest issue was more than the challenge against John. Diotrophes was charged with not welcoming the brothers (followers of Jesus who came to the church). But not only did he not welcome them, he prevented others from welcoming them, tried to kick people out of the church who did welcome the brothers. In 2 John, John wrote not to welcome false teachers, but Diotrophes was not welcoming true believers.

This is why John is telling Gaius not to imitate Diotrophes. This man is not out to help the church, but to help himself. He is not trying to build God's Kingdom, but his own. And anyone who gets in his way will be trampled. Notice in verse 9 John says Diotrophes.– he wants to be first – the word here really drives at preeminence. This isn't about being first in the church, this is (in a sense) about being the reason for the church. Colossians 1.18 says that Christ is preeminent. But Diotrophes wants to be. He wants to usurp Christ's place in the church! (Consider Christ's invitation in Matthew 11:  All who are weary, Come. And Jesus command is, Follow Me....Diotrophes sends a very different message. If you want to follow Christ, get out of “my” church.)

There are several theories as to what the issue between Diotrophes and the elder (John) were, but plainly, there was substantial disagreement and Diotrophes had an arrogance about it.

So, John wrote that Gaius should not imitate Diotrophes, but he should imitate Demetrius. Working our way back to the earlier portions of the letter, what can we learn about Gaius?


Gaius was called beloved (dear friend) in verses 1, 2, and 5. In verse 3, he is walking in the truth. He believed well. He lived what he believed. Verse 5 says that he was hospitable to the strangers (missionaries). Gaius may not have known these people, but knew they were from John, so he received them. In fact, it was these “strangers” who took the word back to John as they testified before the church (v6).

One thing we can conclude from these statements is that Gaius had a good soul. This is good because John makes his prayer in verse 2 tied to Gaius' physical health. John's prayer was that Gaius physical well-being would be like his spiritual well-being. We don't know what may have been wrong with Gaius, but one possibility (and this is a bit speculative), is that his ailments might have come at the hand of Diotrophes, because Gaius was one that welcomed these brothers in.

You and I

Of course, our names are not in Scripture, but people say good and bad things about us. Some things will be true (both good and bad). Sometimes people will say good things about us, even though we know they are untrue. But we don't want them to know the truth. Sometimes, people will say bad things about us that are untrue as well. But how do we respond?

Given the text of 3 John (and 2 John), this is about protecting the truth, and God's place in the church. As such, we are to seek unity – amongst ourselves, and among those who believe. We must stand together to guard the truth, and stand strong defending it even from those in the church who wish to refute it.

But what would be said of you?  Well, frankly, a part of the equation is who is doing the talking.

What if it's your closest family?
What if it's your boss, or coworker?
What if it's your “online” friends?

What if it's your biggest enemy? You know, the one who speaks badly about you to everybody.

The one who reminded your best friend, “Do you remember when ______ did that to you? That was so cruel! It's time to get even.”

But more importantly, imagine what this same enemy tells God.
”God how could You love that person? God, that person is such a sinner. He deserves death. She deserves hell. Yeah, God, send them all to hell."

Of course your greatest enemy isn't a person. It is Satan. And this enemy is definitely real. But...who else might say something about you. Well, if you have received the gift of salvation made possible through the blood of Jesus, then...

What if it's your Savior? “Father, forgive them for they know what they do. That is why I died for him/her.”

We may not be able to control what others say about us (our reputation). But we can control what is true about us (our character). The chances that someone reads a few lines about my life or yours in 2000 years is pretty slim. But the chances that our character will be known throughout eternity is definite. Why because it is ultimately Christ's character that we take upon ourselves...or not.

Our reputation is important, but it is as fleeting as other people's opinions. And, if we know anything today, it is that people's opinion's can change with the drop of a hat. But God looks at the heart. He looks at who we really are. After all, He made us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And while that is scary at times, it is also a blessing, because, too often, we begin to measure ourselves by what others think, instead of what God knows.

We might not know exactly what will be said of us. But we can strive, by the grace of God to be people like Gaius and Demetrius. We can do so by being people of integrity, control our actions, guard our character, and encourage others to do so as well. As we do, we honor God, and that is something for which it is worth being known.

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