Few Lessons from 3 John
A preacher got caught in a conflict between a family who had a basement to refinish and a building contractor. As the conflict became more heated, this preacher got calls from both parties using all kinds of negative expressions. Eventually, the preacher himself shared some negative information with one of the parties about the other party. Pretty soon, the preacher was confronted, and he had to get both parties together so that he could explain himself better. He ended up by saying all three of us learned much about how negative expressions did little to find a solution to the conflict.
Secondly, we should also walk in truth because those who do not do so are severely condemned in the Scriptures. 2 Peter 2:20-22 states: “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’” Thirdly, we should walk in truth because it will bring joy—joy to those who taught us and joy to our own lives. John tells Gaius that he has no greater joy than to hear his children are walking in truth (verse 4)! Everyone who has had an active role in teaching and preaching to others can understand John’s joy when they know that those they have taught are remaining faithful to God and living by His truth! What joy Brothers Cloer, Horton, and Hamilton must feel when they continue to hear of your faithfulness! Jesus also told His disciples in John 15:10-11: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Keep my commandment to abide in My love, and the result will be that My joy, a full joy, will remain in you! Lucia was an Italian Christian whose service was exemplary, Sergio’s strength was his patience, and Roberto's forte was his perseverance. Bro. Henry of Gainesville, TX, manifested great leadership, Bro. Moore of Searcy, AR, displayed great kindness, and Bro. Richardson of West Memphis, TN, showed a marvelous love in his work with others. When we see others who are setting good examples in some way, let’s follow John’s lead and compliment them for following truth and for living out their faith in such a splendid way! Someone has observed: “Nobody has ever been bored by someone paying them a compliment.” Someone else noted: “People often work like a zipper—better after a little ‘soft soap.’” Someone else gave this new twist: “A compliment a day helps keep divisions far away.” We should walk in the truth and commend others when they do too.
Gaius seems to have welcomed those brethren, to have given them food and
lodging, and to have sent them on their way with “a little extra gas
By rendering such service, John calls Gaius a fellow worker for the truth. He had followed the words of 1 Pt. 4:9, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” and Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to entertain strangers.” We should also be willing to open up our homes and help other brethren. One of my fondest childhood memories is the numerous guests we often had at Mom’s Sunday lunch of roast and potatoes: elders in Brownwood, sailors in Hong Kong, families in Coleman and Gainesville, soldiers in Mineral Wells, preachers and missionaries who often shared the pulpit with my father, and college students in Searcy, AR. All were welcomed, and we learned that the world was much bigger than just the U. S. A survey was made about this time four years ago, and the question was: “How often do you have guests over for dinner? Here were the responses: once a week—6%, more than once a month—12%, once a month—21%, a few times a year—37%, rarely or never—24%. Are we letting the world set our standards? Are we just too busy to share some time and food with others? Romans 12:13 says that we are to be ready to distribute to the needs of the saints and to be given to hospitality. God has blessed many of us with homes; let us continue to use them to His glory in hosting young people, missionaries, evangelists, other brethren, and one another! Gaius’ hospitality was known in other churches. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful reputation for us to have as well? We should open up our homes and help brethren.
Let’s remember that we are a body (1 Corinthians 12), and EVERY member in that body is important, useful, and indispensable. A church leader once told me, “Paul, if I could get members to work for the good of the whole, and not for their own pet peeves, a thousand problems would be solved, and outsiders would take notice of that congregation.” We should work for the benefit of the congregation, and not for our own ideas.
Someone has noted: “The slanderer differs from the assassin only in that he murders the reputation of another instead of his body.” Someone else once said: “The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt, and to destroy. A deliberate insult is worse, for we openly disgrace our brother in the eyes of the world, causing others to despise him” (Bonhoeffer in Rowell). The apostle Paul admonishes us with these words in Colossians 3:12-13, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Let’s work hard to always say things that will edify and encourage one another and build up our congregation!
Sixthly, we should have a good reputation as a congregation.
Notice how Demetrius was very admired; he had a good reputation from
other brethren, from the truth itself (he was living it), and from the
apostle John also!
Look at the good example we find in 1 Thess. 1:6-10:
“And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the
word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became
examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in
Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.
Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say
anything. For they
themselves declare concerning us
what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God
from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son
from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us
from the wrath to come.”
Here is a congregation with an excellent reputation!
Their faith, their devotion to God, and their longing for
Christ’s return were known to other churches in other provinces.
If someone had to write an evaluation of this congregation, what
kind of reputation would be described?
We need to have a good reputation for at least three reasons.
First of all, we are not in this battle alone, and other members
are watching us (1 Peter 5:9 encourages us to resist Satan and realize
that others are suffering for their faith along with us).
Secondly, others in our city are watching us (Colossians 4:3 encourages
us to walk in wisdom towards those who are outsiders).
Thirdly, we will also be judged according to our reputation
(Revelation chapters 1-3 teach that our Lord disciplines congregations
if their reputations need to be changed).
A general once told his officers, “You can lose battles, but never lose your integrity!” Maybe we will lose a few battles, but let’s never lose our good reputation! We should have a good reputation as a congregation!
Lastly, we should work for peace.
Notice the apostle John’s work at peace-making.
Note in verse 9 that John had previously written to the church,
and one wonders what he might have said about Diotrephes on that
Am I reading too much into the letter when I conjecture that Demetrius
may have been sent by John to serve as an ambassador of good will to try
to help this congregation get through a difficult moment?
It amazes me that John does not command Gaius and the
congregation to disfellowship Diotrephes instantly.
John says that he will confront him in the near future and work
out the conflict. There is
much in this letter that is left unsaid, but I think we can see fairly
clearly that John wants the best for Gaius and the brethren in this
troubled congregation. And
it seems that John has tried again and again in numerous ways to help
strengthen them. Maybe,
like Paul, he will still have to make a painful visit to finally get
everything running smoothly again, but I admire John for his
perseverance in trying to bring about peace.
Someone made this interesting observation: “'The Fort Worth Star
Telegram' reported that firefighters in Genoa, TX were accused of
deliberately setting more than 40 destructive fires.
When caught, they stated, ‘We had nothing to do.
Well, two farmers, Paul and Oscar, had a conflict that soon became a feud. Paul wanted to build a fence and split the cost, but Oscar was unwilling to contribute. Since he wanted to keep cattle on his land, Paul went ahead and had the fence built anyway. After the fence was complete, Oscar said to Paul: 'I see we have a fence.' What do you mean “we”?' Paul replied. 'I got the property line surveyed and built the fence two feet into my land. That means some of my land is outside the fence. And if any of your cows set foot on my land, I'll shoot them.' Oscar knew that Paul wasn't joking, so when he eventually decided to use the land adjoining Paul's for pasture, he was forced to build another fence, two feet away. Oscar and Paul are both gone now, but their double fence stands as a monument to the high price we pray for unresolved conflict” (Wride in Rowell). Are there any double fences that we have here in this congregation? No, you really can't see them, but most everybody knows the conflict that keeps them standing. Such double fences are great for keeping in grudges, and for keeping out unbelievers!
Living by the truth (which includes being complimentary), opening up our homes, working for the benefit of the whole body, speaking only that which edifies, imitating the good, maintaining a good reputation, and striving to keep peace are all worthy actions for us from 3 John. There’s an Italian proverb which says: “Fra il dire e fare, c’e’ in mezzo il mare.” The translation is: “Between the saying and doing, there lies an ocean.” We’ve done much talking, now may God help us to close the gap of the ocean and make these actions become realities! Have you been hospitable like Gaius? Have you guarded your reputation like Demetrius? Have you been selfish and pushy like Diotrophes? Have you been encouraging and peace-making during conflicts like John? Do you need to come today to confess sins or to confess Christ as Lord and bury your old lifestyle in the waters of baptism?