“From the elder, to Gaius my dear brother, whom I love in truth. Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, just as you are living according to the truth. I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth.” (3 John 1:1-4 NET)
In the letter we call “3 John” we find correspondence from the writer, who identified himself as “the elder,” to a Christian named Gaius. It has long been attested that the writer was the apostle John, which would seem to be accurate. In this letter we find three men who can each tell us something about what being a Christian should look like.
Gaius is commended for “living according to the truth” and his faithfulness (3 John 1:4-5). Gaius had a reputation which all knew: he was a follower of Jesus and practiced what Jesus had taught. Gaius, in particular, was known for showing hospitality by keeping travelling Christians. He did not even know them, but they knew they could find a welcome in Gaius’ home. In this way Gaius became a co-worker with them in the work they were doing for Jesus (3 John 1:8). This is something that we, too, should be doing as we try to follow Jesus.
But all was not a bed of roses in the group of Christians that Gaius was with. There was a man named Diotrophes. Diotrophes was a problem. He “loves to be first” (3 John 1:9), which would seem to be referring to his wanting to be the one in charge. He wanted this so badly that he would not acknowledge the authority of the apostles. In addition, he refused to welcome travelling Christians and would go so far as to throw those who did help them out of the congregation! No wonder John summed this man up by saying, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is bad but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does what is bad has not seen God” (3 John 1:11). This is definitely not the type of person anyone should want to be like!
Instead, there was a lovely man named Demetrius. This is what John wrote about him: “Demetrius has been testified to by all, even by the truth itself. We also testify to him, and you know that our testimony is true” (3 John 1:12). This is all we know about him – but wouldn’t we like to know more?! All testified about his goodness and even “truth itself” commended him (as well as the apostles). Gaius was told to be like Demetrius, not Diotrophes.
This short letter tells us that there have been good Christians as well as Christians that really did not follow Jesus since the good news of Jesus was first proclaimed. Sadly, it is those “who likes to put himself first” and “does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 1:9 ESV) who cause the most heartache for Christians, as they create discord in the body of Christ. Instead, we should be like Demetrius, who “has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself” (3 John 1:12 ESV).
Notice as well what John said of Gaius – he prayed that Gaius would be as physically healthy as he was in spiritual health (3 John 1:2). If that were said of us, would we be healthy or very ill? That is worth thinking about!
Readings for next week:
12 December – Revelation 7-8
13 December – Revelation 9-10
14 December – Revelation 11-12
15 December – Revelation 13
16 December – Revelation 14-15