Cruising Route 66
The Three Churcheteers
The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. III John 1-4
The writer doesn’t identify himself as John the Apostle but writes only as “the elder”. It seems that he was so well known, and his authority so well recognized that he could use this title without any further explanation. There were other elders in the church, but because of John’s position as the last of the Apostles, he was in a unique position, he was, literally, “the elder”.
John is writing a very personal and frank letter, which is largely an assessment of three people he knew in the church. I’ll call them the Three Churcheteers. They may profess “all for one,” but they’re not necessarily “one for all,” and all three are alive and well within the church today. Their presence is actively affecting the life of the church and the lives of those within it. Let’s begin by looking at Gaius, the one who serves others.
The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought, therefore, to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth. III John 1:1-8
Gaius was a person of responsibility within the local church, demonstrating qualities that bring about a healthy fellowship. For one thing, he seemed to abound in spiritual health.
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. John 1:2
Gaius may not have been physically well, because John prayed that his friend might enjoy good health, but whatever might have been his physical condition, his spirit was aglow, and his soul was brimming over with spiritual life and vitality.
This is the standard that God is looking for because it is what Jesus has made possible. Our Lord said, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” John 10:10. It isn’t God’s intention that we should live our lives as spiritual invalids. An invalid has life, but it’s a life that is endured rather than a life that is enjoyed. Gaius practiced what he preached.
It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. III John 1:3
Gaius’ life was a sermon that preached the truth. John’s assessment was that he “walks in the truth.” There was no conflict between what he professed and what he practiced. There was complete harmony between his creed and conduct.
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. III John 1:5-6a
I believe that there are many things that wound the heart of God. Two in particular are those who reject Him, and those who accept His gift of salvation, and those who are blessed with abilities and resources but who fail to use them for His glory.
The second Churcheteer is Diotrephes, the one who serves himself. He refuses to welcome the traveling evangelists, and like the three musketeers, Gaius and Diotrephes were members of the same assembly.
Paul warned Timothy (II Tim 3:5), of people connected with the Christian church who held the form of religion by their outward trappings but denied the power of it. Members of the visible church aren’t necessarily part of the true church, the Body of Christ. The “true church” is not identified by an organizational or denominational title, but by their submission to the commands of Christ, and their love for one another.
Diotrephes was proud and self-willed. He is a warning to us all of the characteristics we must guard against. John’s words are a penned portrait of a man to be avoided, like a “Wanted” poster on a Post Office – “This man is dangerous!”
John had written to the local church with a message for the members, but Diotrephes refused to acknowledge the writer’s authority. He may have even destroyed it. Whatever happened, the effect was to reject the instructions issued by John. Pride is sin fully manifested. It presents itself in several forms. As someone has said: “There is pride of place, pride of face, and pride of grace”.
Diotrephes waged a vicious campaign of malicious words against John. They were words that not only threatened the perception of John’s character but also threatened the church itself.
… Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. III John 1:10b
Diotrephes deliberately defied John by turning others away from the church. For some reason, he resented the arrival of these traveling Christians. He may have had a secret fear that if his congregation heard another type of ministry, his own would be overshadowed.
The third Churcheteer, is Demetrius, the one who attracts others.
Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone, and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. III John 1:12
It’s nice to be well-spoken of by everyone, but whether others say nothing but good about you, or can’t find anything good about you, one thing is true, other people’s opinions of us aren’t always correct. Self-assessment is valuable, but it can be biased! It never hurts to hear what others think, it may provide a perspective we have overlooked.
Sometimes it isn’t good when everyone speaks well of us. It can cause us to accept something as true when it really isn’t, and it can cause us to be blinded to a truth that needs to be applied to our life.
John’s assessment of the three churcheteers is done. Each is an example of the qualities that please God and the defects that can destroy His church. Two good examples and one bad one. Examples of a heart moved by love to serve, a life that is motivated by selfish ambition, and the value of a good reputation. John has made his searching assessment of these men, and he leaves us with this counsel:
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. III John 1:11
Until next time,