V88Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.. When John has told Gaius what he would do well, he involves himself in the exhortation by speaking of “we”. He, John, ought to receive them like every other believer who has gone forth for the Name. In this way he shows that he not only tells the other person to do something, but he himself does it too in practice. He gives the good example. That is the best way to encourage one another in practical love. This exhortation forms an enormous contrast with the previous letter, wherein you were told that the least involvement in the advancement of a false doctrine causes you to have fellowship with evil works.
By supporting believers who preach God’s Word, in a practical way you become ‘a fellow worker with the truth’. In that way each person, including you, has an own place and function in the advancement of the truth. This is how the Philippians became fellow workers of the gospel through the gift that they sent to the apostle (Phil 1:55in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.; 4:1515You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;). They probably were no evangelists, but they cooperated with that work, for without their support the work could not be continued. He who works and he who supports receive the same reward from the Lord (Mt 10:4141He who receives a prophet in [the] name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.).
V99I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.. Gaius needs this encouragement because there is some Diotrephes in the church. Because the church is responsible for what happens in its midst, John “wrote something to the church”. That letter in which he writes about receiving those who preach the truth is anyway not written to Diotrephes, although he wanted to be the head of the church. The letter that John Gaius refers to has not been preserved for us.
Diotrephes is someone who ‘loves to have the preeminence among them’ (Mt 20:2626It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,), but does not do that the way the Lord instructs us to. Loving to have the preeminence or loving to be the first is an evil that hides in us all. The Lord indicates with the example of the foot washing how He is and how He wants us, who call Him Master and Lord, to be (Jn 13:1-201Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.2During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, [the son] of Simon, to betray Him,3[Jesus], knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,4*got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.5Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.6So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?”7Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.”8Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”9Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, [then wash] not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”10Jesus *said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all [of you].”11For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”12So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined [at the table] again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?13You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for [so] I am.14If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.15For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.16Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor [is] one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.18I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but [it is] that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’19From now on I am telling you before [it] comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am [He].20Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”).
Diotrephes loves to be the first. He acts out of love for taking sides and his own honor which is therefore fully in contrast with the mind of the Lord Jesus (Phil 2:3-43Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;4do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.). He even goes that far that he does not receive the apostles. According to the first letter it is a sign that he is not of God, for he who is of God, hears the apostles (1Jn 4:66We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.). This person Diotrephes loves to have the preeminence in influence and authority and therefore he puts himself above the believers. There is no reason to assume that he in a way adheres to anti-Christian doctrines. The important thing for him is himself.
It is interesting to see that there are person in the Bible with names that indicate a rank order. In that way there is mention of a ‘brother named Quartus’ (means ‘fourth’, Rom 16:2323Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. <), one called ‘Tertius’ (means ‘third’, Rom 16:2222I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.) and one called ‘Secundus’ (means ‘second’, Acts 20:44And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, [the son] of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.). However, a person by the name of ‘Primus’ (‘first’) is not to be found. That name is only to be ascribed to the Lord Jesus, for He is the One Who in all things has the first place (Col 1:1818He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.). Diotrephes arrogates this place to himself. He “loves to be the first”.
The contrast between Gaius and Diotrephes is great. Gaius walks in truth and love, loves the brethren and he even serves strangers. Diotrephes walks in pride, loves himself and hates servants who bring God’s truth. Both of them are in the same church. How often this situation has already repeated itself in the history of Christianity!
V1010For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire [to do so] and puts [them] out of the church.. John informs Gaius about some things concerning Diotrephes. He says that Diotrephes will experience the power of the apostle. This is not a way for John to make an impact. He will act with apostolic authority. He does not arrogate himself to put things in order by a command. Everything that John does is drawing the attention to the truth, even when a woman is concerned, like in his second letter.
He will confront Diotrephes with “his deeds” that are in contrast with the truth. The whole issue about whether or not receiving preachers is actually only determined by the doctrine that they bring. Do they not bring the truth? Then do not greet them. Do they bring the truth? Then receive them, in spite of all the Diotrephesses in the world.
Besides the fact that Diotrephes does evil works, he also talks nonsense. His “wicked words” are senseless, they have no ground at all. They are expressed in a wicked mind and are evil of contents.
He does not use only words. Out of his practices it seems that he is an evil man. He does not want to have anything to do with true servants, for he sees them as a threat for his own position. Therefore he refuses to accept their message and in that way also their Sender. He rejects them. He regards himself highly and despises others. He is like the one who starts to beat his fellow slaves (Mt 24:4949and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards;). The man may probably have had a good start, but later he became an enemy of God’s work and therefore of Christ. He cannot stand to see another person get more honor than he himself. This is what happened to king Saul too (1Sam 18:6-96It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments.7The women sang as they played, and said,
“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.”
8Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?”9Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.).
As a real sect leader he and he alone determines that no one is allowed to receive the true servant of God. Diotrephes seems to have taken in such a dominant position, that he independently throws everyone out of the church who does not agree to his policy and is disobedient to his commandment not to receive the brethren. To be thrown out of the church means to be refused access to the local church, for no one can remove another from the body of Christ.
Diotrephes has declared himself a dictator who sustains his power by intimidating the members of the church. What do they have to do with strange and probably less intelligent brethren? He is there anyway?
However, when a person brings the truth, we are to receive him. It is even very important that we listen to different brothers and to hear the Word from them. Each brother is limited and one-sided. The church is not served when it always has to listen or wants to listen to one and the same person only. There are to be possibilities for exercising different gifts.
V1111Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.. After portraying the situation with regard to Diotrephes and towards the total lack of love with Diotrephes, it must have been alleviating for the suffering that Gaius had to endure, John again addresses him with ‘beloved’. John appeals to him not to imitate “what is evil”, but in contrast with that to follow “what is good” (1Pet 2:2121For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,). We are to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:2121Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.). What is evil is presented in Diotrephes in the previous verses, what is good is presented in Demetrius in the following verse.
In the second part of verse 1111Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. you hear again the absolute language of John. Although we have to do with a poor travelling brother, the point is when he “does good”, if that is his characteristic, then it means that he has new life and he is of God. The same goes for doing evil. “The one who does evil” and walks in an evil way has no fellowship with God, although he has the preeminent place in the church or when he claims that to himself, like Diotrephes.
V1212Demetrius has received a [good] testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.. John draws Gaius’ attention to Demetrius. Demetrius seems to be one of the travelling brethren. He may probably be the person who came to deliver the testimony to John, regarding Gaius and the church. He also proclaims the truth. He has a good testimony, not only from the believers, but also from those who are outside (1Tim 3:77And he must have a good reputation with those outside [the church], so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.). The word “all” actually may refer to both believers and unbelievers (cf. 1Thes 1:88For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.). He has two kinds of witnesses: all people who know him, and the truth. The truth is as it were a person.
The fruit of his service testifies that he has brought the truth. His life is a continual expression of the truth. When someone looked at Demetrius and then at the truth, he saw that what Demetrius did met with what the truth prescribes. Also John testifies of him, as an emphasis of the previous testimonies. He presumes that Gaius will accept his testimony as truthful and not as untruthful or that he would reject it as insignificant.
V13-1413I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write [them] to you with pen and ink;14but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face.. Just like he did in the second letter John concludes this writing with a personal note. He does not want to write him only, but he hopes to meet Gaius soon and then talk with him further. Talking with one another is the best way to have fellowship. Whatever means we may use to have contact (paper, telephone, e-mail etc.), it is not the real substitution for the face to face contact. It is sad when in a local church the disagreements are being dealt with through letters by email and not by a face to face conversation.
V1515Peace [be] to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.. His wish to Gaius “peace [be] to you” is extra necessary in this church where Diotrephes is active and where there must have been great discontent. Nevertheless it is still possible to have personal peace in the heart in such a situation (Jn 14:2727Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.; 20:19,2619So when it was evening on that day, the first [day] of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace [be] with you.”26After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace [be] with you.”). This does not mean that there is some indifference with regard to a person like Diotrephes, but a confidence in God that He at His time (here by the coming of John) will make an end to that situation.
John calls the brethren here “friends”. This is how the Lord has called His disciples (Jn 15:13-1513Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.14You are My friends if you do what I command you.15No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.; cf. Jn 11:1111This He said, and after that He *said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”; Acts 27:33The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care.). It expresses an intimate relation and affection. In German the word for hospitality is ‘Gastfreundschaft’, which literally means ‘guest friendship’ which contains the word ‘friendship’. Hospitality makes friends out of brothers. Friendship relationships come into being.
There are friends with John and there are friends with Gaius. Those friends do not form an impersonal group, but there is a special bond with each of them. You know friends “by name”. That expression only appears once more in John 10, where you read that the Lord Jesus knows His sheep “by name” (Jn 10:33To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.). In this you see John obviously is a good imitator of the good Shepherd.
While John has ended his second letter with a family greeting, he ends this third letter with a greeting of friends.
Now read 3 John 1:8-15 again.
Reflection: Which characteristics does Diotrephes have and which does Demetrius have?