STUDY OF III JOHN

STUDY OF III JOHN

INTRODUCTION

The recipient of this epistle, Gaius, is a man that almost all pastors would love to have in their congregation, and the apostle John is thus appropriately complimentary of him, as we read in verses 1-4, 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. One thing I would like us to see from this book, III John, is that the recipient has a kind and gentle spirit. That is a rare thing to see in any time, but especially our time. In our day the rule is crudeness, discourtesy, vulgarity, incivility, and shameless behavior, among others. We have become a very rude society. Gaius is a gentleman. We are also a very judgmental society. In my devotional reading today from the “Back to God Hour,” the author said, “When a motorcycle club thunders past me on the road, riding their flame-decaled Harley-Davidsons and flying the national flag, I think I know all about “that type.” Or when I see people riding expensive bicycles for exercise and wearing neon, skintight clothes, I stereotype them too. I judge that I don’t have to meet them. But people have a way of surprising you. The Roman centurion in Luke 7, stationed in Capernaum, didn’t fit the stereotype the Jews had of the Romans. He loved their nation and had even built a place of worship for them. He was an understanding man, wielding authority compassionately. His servant was sick, and he came to Jesus for healing, believing that Jesus had the power to heal by just saying the word. And the servant was healed! My point is that we have much to learn from gentleman Gaius. Closely allied with all of these failings is the fact that our culture is dedicated to the proposition that prosperity is financial success. But, what is it really? Thus, our study of true prosperity. What is it? It is walking with Jesus, working with Jesus, witnessing with Jesus, and winning with Jesus.

I WALKING WITH JESUS

Clearly our Scripture says in verses 2-4, Gaius walked with Jesus, 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. As a Pastor for many years I know what the Apostle is talking about. When I hear reports of the activities of some of my previous congregants, my heart is strangely warmed. They have kept the faith, and they are growing. They are walking with Jesus. As Ian MacLaren comments, “The one thing which makes a man's soul healthy is to get Jesus Christ into it. That acts like the preserving salt, rubbed into a perishable foods, that arrests corruption and makes them tasty. It is the engrafted word that is able to save the soul. Many other things may contribute to the inner well-being and prosperity of a man, such as education and experience and family, but only one thing makes the soul prosperous and that is to have Christ and His word deeply planted and enshrined in his being.” In other words, by openness in the study of God's word, and bringing ourselves more and more under the influence of the truth as it is in Jesus, that truth makes prosperity take root within us. This is exactly what John sees in Gaius. Let us also remind ourselves that the apostle does not say only that Gaius believed and received the truth, but that he walked in it. All this is aptly set forth in Psalm 1:1-3, Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

II WORKING WITH JESUS

I began with a contrast between society’s preoccupation with financial prosperity versus spiritual prosperity. But now I must emphasize that very little can be accomplished in the kingdom of God without money. I don’t know any billionaires, but I do know a few moderately wealthy people, at least by my standards. These folks have been an enormous help to the churches of my acquaintance, and missionaries, and me personally. I know I could marshal a host of God’s servants who would agree. Such, I believe, was Gaius. John writes in verses 5-8, 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. Nobody could tell me that the help rendered, and spoken of here was without financial cost. In our Scripture John prays that all may go well with Gaius, and David has said the same thing in Psalm 1, “Whatsoever he does will prosper.” Of course, that does not mean he will become a billionaire, but simply that his life will be blessed, and be a blessing to others. It does not exclude material success. At the same time I must also stress that this passage does not support what has come to be known as the health and wealth gospel. There are preachers who tell their congregations that it is their birthright to be rich and always healthy. They are good examples of it usually living in expensive houses and driving luxury cars. But, they do so at the expense of the ordinary people who donate to the church in order to secure that health and wealth. They will find out someday what God thinks of that, because they, too, get sick and die. The world is filled with poor believers but they are rich in spiritual things, and so are deemed prosperous.

III WITNESSING WITH JESUS

The reference to Demetrius which the apostle makes in verses 11 and 12 would encourage the support of missions. 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. 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. The Demetrius we know was a silversmith in Ephesus who headed a guild that made idolatrous images of the goddess Diana. This is probably the same man to whom John is referring due to his long ministry in Ephesus. Demetrius violently opposed the ministry of Paul because it would affect the trade. Now, it seems, he is admired by the brothers. Although we have no Scriptural record, referring to him would be a powerful endorsement for the good ministry of supporting those who have “gone out.” Diotrephes, on the other hand is an excellent example of what not to be, as we read in verses 9 and 10, I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. He appears to be a person with some degree of authority who was exercised like some I have known about keeping all the resources local. Therefore he refused to support missions, and would not welcome itinerants or let others do so.

IV WINNING WITH JESUS

And now in the concluding verses , 13 and 14, we have the final expression of the apostle John’s affection for Gaius, I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. If you have ever been separated from a loved one or dear friend you might have experienced the same down to earth sentiment. I know I have. I once worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in a remote spot in Alaska before it became a state. After the mail arrived in the town, it had to be flown out to me personally by small plane. It gives new meaning to the modern term snail mail. I imagine it was worse in the end of the first century, AD. Pliny a Roman official at the end of the first century AD, wrote, “My wife heard that her grandfather had died and was so upset that she wanted to rush off and visit her aunt, and I found it very hard to refuse to give her a permit to travel by the imperial post, as it is the quickest way .... I relied on your kindness and acted as though I had already received the favor even though I had not yet asked you for it. I did not wait until I had asked you because if I had waited, it would have been too late.” When I was in Alaska my beloved friends and family expressed the same desire to meet again face to face. In addition to the Apostle’s desire to communicate directly face to face we must not miss the importance of the brotherly love. The love that wins the world begins with brotherly love. Jesus states clearly in John 13:34 and 35, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John also takes time to emphasize greeting people by name. That is an act of love. If you have a meeting with someone, especially some one important, and they address you by name, doesn’t it warm your heart? It does mine. Let us walk, work, witness, and win with Jesus.