This short letter was written from John to Gaius. Its purpose is to commend Gaius and others like him for the hospitality they show to missionaries and get his help to have the church help Demetrius in his work, even though another man Diotrephes is actually working against helping missionaries to the point that he is throwing people out of the church when they do.
This letter shows us another important way to love one another by supporting the work of God done throughout His kingdom. Verses 1-4 read,
“The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
John addressed Gaius with real affection and showed concern for his total well-being. One just can’t fake genuine love. But John also told Gaius that he had heard about the way Gaius walked in truth. That Gaius and the others lives were a testimony to Christ and glorified Him. Gaius didn’t just act like a Christ follower when he was with the congregation, he imitated Christ wherever and with whomever he was.
Verses 5-8 describe some of the good work being done.
“Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.”
Not everyone is called to go from town to town as missionaries. Not everyone is called to go out to the streets and minister, or be a full-time teacher, pastor, evangelist, or whatever. But we all do our part. We all do what we were called to do as well as supporting the work that others are called to. In the case of missionaries, we support them financially, we give them a place to stay and food to eat while they are with us, and we send them out equipped, refreshed and with all they need. In supporting the each other’s work, we are cohorts in the work. While you may not be living in a slum in a third world country feeding the poor and teaching them about Jesus, when you give supplies, money, letters of encouragement, and prayer you are working alongside those who are.
To hear about the good work our brothers and sisters do in Jesus’ name gives us all joy. If it doesn’t, then you may want to check your pride and self-ambition. It is possible to be in a church, even be a leader of the church and have a self-promoting agenda rather than a Christ glorifying life. It happens without our even knowing it, and it is good to check yourself, have brothers and sisters give you feedback, and of course ask the Spirit to reveal truth to you.
That is what was happening with Diotrephes. He had stopped putting God first and instead put himself first. His position in the church was high enough that he could get people put-out of the congregation. His influence was pretty heavy. His self-ambition was hurting the work of spreading the Gospel and leading people away from the truth. Verses 9-10 read,
“I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.”
As a church we are supposed to be united in truth. We submit to one another in reverence to Christ. We put God first always. Sometimes people don’t even notice when someone has begun to put themselves first. The people of Diotrephes congregation hadn’t noticed. They probably thought they were doing good things by putting people sowing discord out of the church. The thing was it wasn’t those who wanted to support the missionaries sowing discord, it was Diotrephes. When John tried to tell him, he wouldn’t hear it. So John had to turn to Gaius to set it straight.
Are you able to rejoice for your brothers and sisters? Are you able to support the work of the truth? Are you concerned with proving your worth or Christ’s? If someone has come to you with a difficult truth about yourself can you submit and receive it? Or do you get offended and become defensive? Find out who you are putting first. If you can’t even bring yourself to ask your brothers and sisters, or if you do not think you need to ask the Spirit to reveal it to you, then chances are your pride is standing in your way.
Use the wisdom and discernment the Spirit gave you. If someone is delighting in the truth of Jesus and the way of God then you will know if you open your eyes and look with the eyes of God. If someone is speaking wicked nonsense against his brothers, if he is refusing to support God’s work, if he is not submitting to church authority or his brothers and sisters, then you have to confront him with truth in love. John did that for Diotrephes, and Diotrephes proved his evil. Part of loving one another is knowing one another well enough to see the real us and still love.
Verses 11 and 12 read,
“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.”
John reminded the church not to follow men, but instead to follow God. We follow Jesus and imitate Him. We imitate those who imitate Jesus by doing good. John sent references for Demetrius so that the church would accept him and support him. They didn’t know Demetrius, but they knew John and they knew He walked in truth and love through Jesus. We do not always know the workers we support, but we know Jesus and we have the Spirit.
Remember loving one another is not just something we say it is how we live. It is by that love that the world sees Jesus. It is by that love that we build each other up and equip one another. It is by that love that we sharpen one another.