Gaius – 3 John

When Leaders Become Bullies

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A short introduction

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Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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The meat! And what to do about it!

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Dessert Course

Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of the letter to Gaius (3 John) is to understand the significance of each of the people mentioned. This letter will appear to be nothing more than a benign and pious benediction unless the context and the individuals are properly understood.

 

The Elder (v1) is the senior pastoral overseer in the mother church, almost certainly the elderly apostle John at Ephesus.

Gaius (v1) is a key member of the satellite church who over the years has developed a ministry of providing hospitality to the mother church’s travelling ministers.

The brothers (v3,5) are the mother church’s travelling ministers.

The church (v6) is the mother church, (probably the church at Ephesus).

Diotrephes (v9) is the leader of the satellite church, who has become a bully. He is asserting his authority and independence from the mother church.

Demetrius (v12) is a mature Christian and one of the mother church’s experienced travelling ministers.

The friends (v14) are all the members of the mother church at Ephesus.


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above for an audio version of 3 John.

 

Download Audio    https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/

 

Download the Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling etc …

 

Listen to a ‘Negro Spiritual’ – the cry of a suffering people being bullied in slavery.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtLcELU1brA


Read
Read

Read this short letter aloud once every day for three weeks – and each time make notes on what strikes you.

 

Read the letter in the wider context of 1 John (especially 1 John 2:18-27), and the parallel letter of 2 John which addresses the matter of leaders teaching heresy.

 


Watch
Watch
Watch here

The Handmaid’s Tale

A Channel 4 TV drama about a woman being bullied by church authorities.

 

 


Study
Study

When you first read this letter to Gaius you will probably wonder why on earth such a passive, seemingly benign document ever managed to get into the New Testament. It may feel as soft and gentle as picking up the eggs laid by the hens in their overnight cages. However, the reader who has properly studied Gaius’ context and John’s argument will be shocked to realise they are holding not a warm freshly laid egg, rather nothing less than a ‘Gaboon viper’! It is chilling to understand the full implications of John’s message to Gaius.

 

In order to properly understand the issue at the heart of 3 John, it is necessary to do some very careful ‘spade work’ and master the context into which this short private letter is written. This will only happen when the significance of each of the people has become clear.

 

This letter is an outstanding model for learning how to give pastoral correction. Examine the stages in the development of the argument.


Meditate
Meditate

Suggested verses for meditation …

 

V1  ‘The Elder, to my dear friend Gaius whom I love in the truth.’

 

V11  ‘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.’


learn
Learn

Consider learning:

 

3 John 11   ‘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.’


Challenge
The Challenge

The Challenge

Explanation: We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that challenging questions motivate them to master a subject.

Here are ten questions about ‘The letter to Gaius (3 John)’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

Easy:

Q1   What is Gaius’ church ministry?

Q2   Who are the brothers and what do they do?

Q3   Who is the friend that John sends to Gaius to strengthen him in his ministry?

 

Straightforward:

Q4   Why is John filled with joy?

Q5   Which part of the letter indicates that Gaius is suffering stress because he is being bullied?

Q6   What standard of hospitality does John exhort Gaius to attain?

 

Difficult:

Q7   What are the six charges John levies against Diotrephes?

Q8   What will John do if the situation in Gaius’ church deteriorates further?

 

Testing:

Q9   Which is more important, our commitment to the truth of the gospel, or the fulfilment of our ministry for the gospel?

Q10   What is the chilling implication of John’s final phrase in v11?

 

 

Answers:

A1 – Providing hospitality for ‘the brothers’ who travel from the mother church and minister to the ‘satellite’ churches throughout the region.

A2 – The brothers are members of the mother church who travel at their own expense and minister to the members of the ‘satellite’ churches throughout the region. While visiting a church they would help with ‘evangelism’, run the equivalent of ‘Alpha Courses’, teach, preach, help minister to the poor, and generally serve and assist the local leadership in whatever way was needed.

A3 – Demetrius, who was also the letter carrier, and most probably had himself been ‘excommunicated’ either by Diotrephes, or by one of the other ‘schism’ leaders (1 John 2:19).

A4 – Because Gaius is remaining faithful to the truth of the gospel.

A5 – John’s prayer for Gaius’ health and his soul (v2).

A6 – John exhorts Gaius (to continue) to look after the brothers and send them on their way in a manner ‘worthy of God’ (v6).

A7 – 1) He loves to be first

2) He has nothing to do with us (the mother church)

3) He spreads malicious gossip about John and the mother church

4) He refuses to welcome the brothers

5) He stops those who want to welcome the brothers

6) He puts those who want to welcome the brothers out of the church (i.e., he excommunicates them).

A8 – John will himself visit the church and “call attention” (v10) to what Diotrephes is doing.  That is, in addition to writing this letter, he will publicly expose what Diotrephes is doing.

A9 – Commitment to truth is more important than our service in ministry, as evidenced by John’s statement in v3-4. Gaius’s ministry to the brothers flows out of his primary commitment to the truth (compare v4 with v8).

A10 – The real issue at the heart of ‘3 John’ is not hospitality, but loyalty to the truth of the gospel. The implication of v11 is that if Gaius gives in to Diotrephes’ bullying and stops his ministry of hospitality to the brothers, then Gaius is actually siding with evil, and by implication he actually has never known Jesus or the truth of the gospel.

 

 

 

Maps

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Video - The book explained in 4 minutes
    • Video
    • /
    • Summary
    • /
    • Dangerous issues in the Early Church
    • /
    • 3 John in a Picture
    • /
    • C21st Story

    Summary and Exhortation

     

    At first read, this short letter appears to be little more than a passive and benign exhortation to be hospitable. However, the reader who carefully explores the context and argument will discover it is the work of a pastoral genius addressing a terrifyingly dangerous issue of loyalty to Christ and the gospel.

     

    It is always true with every book of the Bible that the context directly influences understanding and meaning, but this is especially the case with the Johannine letters (2 & 3 John). The apprentice of Jesus must therefore begin by identifying and understanding each of the different characters and groups mentioned in these short 14 verses, and study how and why this wise pastoral overseer builds his argument with the uttermost care and courage.

     

    Context: It is around 80AD. The now very elderly apostle John writes with all his wisdom, pastoral skill and authority to strengthen and exhort his friend Gaius not to buckle under the pressure of the bullying church leader Diotrephes. This man has declared independence from the mother church and, to strengthen his own position, is preventing their travelling ministers from ministering in the ‘satellite’ church he now considers to be his own. Gaius is weakening under this pressure and seems likely to capitulate. So John sends Demetrius, a mature faithful ‘brother’, to Gaius with this letter.

     

    Essence: This letter is a masterpiece of pastoral intervention. In the context of divine truth and love expressed and lived out in the believing community, John gently but clearly and firmly exhorts Gaius to maintain his ministry of hospitality to the travelling missionaries. This is because, although the presenting issue is the provision of hospitality to the brothers, the deeper issue is one of loyalty to the mother church, and more specifically to ‘the truth’ (of the gospel) (v1,3,4,8,12). To capitulate to Diotrephes’ bullying would be evidence of loyalty to Diotrephes over John, and to side with the bully over the ministry of truth. To capitulate to Diotrephes would be to do evil, and so John builds his argument to the point where in v11 he chillingly warns his ‘dear friend’ that to capitulate to Diotrephes would be to demonstrate that Gaius does not actually know God.

     

    But beyond the issue of standing up to the bullying independent church leader, there is the wider question of church governance. At what point should a mission become a daughter church, and the daughter church an independent church? How should churches relate to each other within a network or denomination, and what action should be taken when there is a schism, perceived heresy, bullying leadership, reports of aggression, or accusations of other inappropriate behaviour?

     

    This briefest of Bible documents not only takes us to the very heart of these issues but, with economic precision, gives the essential seeds of the guidance that apprentices of Jesus need in order to respond in these situations.

    C21st Story

     

    Bullying Leaders

    In 1985 while travelling in the Indian sub-continent I visited missionary friends in Nepal. I was there on a Sunday and was able to attend the local Nepali church where my friends worshipped. They explained there had been some difficulties in the church and that after the service there would be an open meeting to try and address these. There were no chairs so the congregation of about 70 people sat on the bare floor. I remember enjoying the service even though the majority of it was in the local Nepali language. After the service I noticed a man take a prominent position at the front, and a number of other men who I didn’t see in the service joined around him. I remember that some of these men had aggressive looks on their faces. It transpired that the issue that was being addressed was something to do with this man assuming the leadership of this local church community. The ensuing meeting was conducted in the local language. I remember there were raised voices and that the tone of some of the comments was in sharp contrast to the spirit of the worship in the service. The whole event was beyond me because I could not understand the language so after about 20 minutes I left with some others. I don’t think the meeting resolved anything, and this man continued as the leader and pastor of the church for the next few years. I remember hearing some time later that a number of other missionaries had decided to move to another church. Some years after that, perhaps 10 years, I had the chance to meet Graham Scott-Brown, one of the pioneer missionaries to Nepal. He had given his life to ministering in Nepal and had, with others and through the grace of God, laid an excellent foundation for the growth of the new church in that country after it opened up to the gospel.  We had the chance to talk, and I asked Graham if he knew what happened in the pastoral situation in the church I had visited. He told me that this pastor had indeed continued as leader there, but that sadly there had been no fruit to his ministry. Indeed, he said that as he reflected on it, from this man’s whole ministry there had been, very sadly, no fruit in any place where he had ministered or led churches.

     

     

    A second Personal Story: During the ten years after we left Zimbabwe, a rogue Bishop was appointed to the Diocese of Harare. Bishop Kunonga has both tried to set up his own church, and has declare himself Archbishop of an independent Anglican Church, and also has taken over part of the Anglican Church in Harare. He has received substantial funding from the ruling political party, ZANU(PF) – so in terms of 3 John, he has done the equivalent of receiving help from the pagans (v7)! There are serious charges levied against Kunonga including attempted murder, and the US Government has frozen his financial assets. He has done extensive damage to the reputation of the Name (of Jesus) (v7), to the church as an institution, and to many church members. Needless to say, there has been no fruit at all from his ministry, only the most serious and extensive carnage. In terms of 3 John, the six charges that John applies to Diotrephes apply directly to Kunonga, and we should courageously, but fearfully, recognise that in his case Matthew 24:49-51 applies: “the master … will come on a day when he does not expect him … He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

     

    Both these stories describe situations where bullies have taken over the leadership of a church, and the outcomes have been very distressing. This is the sort of situation into which John writes to Gaius.

     

    You can read a third contemporary example of bullying in church, and how it was addressed, by visiting:

    https://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2014/December-2014/The-rise-and-fall-of-Mark-Driscoll

    Summary >
    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Have you witnessed church leaders bullying members of their churches?


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    Question 2 -

    Think of an occasion where someone has offered you overwhelming hospitality. Why is hospitality so significant for relationships in a church community?


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    Question 3 -

    What exactly is the Elder exhorting Gaius to do?


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    starter course

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    the essentials

    The Argument

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    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes
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    How to give pastoral correction

    Truth, authority and church governance in 3 John

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    Author:

    The author identifies himself simply as ‘The Elder’ (v1), and there is no mention of the writer’s name in the text. The author is the senior pastoral overseer in the mother church with authority to write letters on behalf of the church (v9), address issues publicly (v10, v14), and adjudicate on them. The title ‘3 John’, the history of the document from the early church, and the strong likeness of the literary style and content leave little room for any view other than this letter came from the ‘Johannine school’ that wrote 1, 2 and 3 John, and probably ‘The Gospel of John’ and ‘Revelation’. The title and term ‘elder’ is used several times in the New Testament, and very significantly Peter describes himself in 1 Peter 5:1 not an as an apostle, but as a ‘fellow elder’. So, since the term is used of an apostle in this way, the author of this letter could well have been the apostle John. It is likely that he is the (now very elderly) apostle John at Ephesus in the AD80s.

     

    Destination:

    John is writing from the mother church to his friend Gaius in one of the ‘satellite’ churches (the church plants). The New Testament lists about 10 churches in the region of Ephesus (notably in Revelation 2-3), with many of these located about 100 miles from the mother church in Ephesus. The three Johannine letters fit very well into this context. Acts 19 recounts how Paul ministered in Ephesus from 52-55CE. The church at Colossae is a very good example of such a situation, as demonstrated by the letters of ‘Colossians’ and ‘Philemon’.

     

    General historical context:

    The three Johannine letters, alongside the book of Jude, address axiomatic issues faced by the church leadership in the years after the mid 60sCE by which time most of Jesus’ apostles had either died or been executed. With the successive planting of new churches in different cities, often some distance from each other, the second generation of church leadership faced the issue of the ‘growing pains’ of church expansion, specifically related to doctrinal and theological orthodoxy, and ecclesiastical politics and power. These short letters address the issues of doctrinal orthodoxy and bullying leadership, while the letter of Jude addresses immoral leadership.

     

    The nature of the problem:

    In the wider church there is division and schism. In 1 John 2:19 we are given one brief, but very crucial, piece of information describing this contextual situation: ‘They went out from us, because they did not really belong to us.’ This fits perfectly with the description of Diotrephes’ actions in 3 John 9-11, although the point of contention described in 1 John 2:23 – 4:2 is a doctrinal issue, whereas the situation that Gaius faces with Diotrephes is both doctrinal (v3-4) and governmental, in that it is specifically about authority and who leads the local church (v9-11).

     

    The specific problem:

    Diotrephes, ‘who likes to put himself first’ (v9), is declaring the equivalent of a ‘UDI’ (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) from the mother church where The Elder has either sole, or perhaps joint, authority. In order to do this, Diotrephes must first end the influence that the mother church exerts over the satellite church through their travelling missionary pastors, ‘the brothers’. The Elder writes that Diotrephes ‘does not acknowledge our (the mother church’s), authority’, and he ‘talks wicked nonsense about us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and stops those who want to and puts them out of the church’ (9-10).

     

    The letter’s purpose and intention:

    In 3 John, The Elder writes to strengthen Gaius whose loyalty to the mother church is wavering in the face of Gaius’ church leader, the bully Diotrephes. This central issue is actually very simple: Diotrephes, the leader of the local (satellite) church in the town where Gaius lives is trying to force Gaius to stop receiving the travelling missionaries (the brothers), sent out from the mother church, where the elder is based. The root issue at the heart of this letter is the question: who controls the local church? Who has the power, leadership and authority to determine what happens in the local (satellite) church?

     

    Genre:

    Perhaps we would begin to understand this letter better by thinking of the title as ‘Gaius’, because, like ‘Titus’, and ‘Philemon’, 3 John is a short ‘personal letter’ from one friend to another. Indeed this ‘letter to Gaius’ is actually the most typical of the personal letters written within the Greek and Roman culture of the 1st Century CE in the New Testament. It follows the following pattern: the identification of the author and the recipient; a sentence wishing the recipient well; the body of the letter; and the final greetings. 2 John and 3 John are case studies of 1 John and the three documents should be read and studied together.

    The structure (and argument) of The Elder’s letter to Gaius:

    V1       Address

    V2-4    Prayer and encouragement

    V5-8   John encourages Gaius to excel in his ministry of hospitality

    V9-10   John exposes Diotrephes as a bully

    V11   John warns Gaius very seriously not to capitulate to evil

    V12   John commends Demetrius to Gaius

    V13-14   John’s concluding remarks

     

    Main Themes:

    1. The instruction to practice hospitality is the presenting issue in the letter.
    1. Addressing and correcting bullying in a church.
    1. Authority, leadership and the proper exercising of authority in church.

     

    Literary Genre >
      The Argument -

    The argument in the Letter to Gaius (3 John):

     

    V1   The address The writer introduces himself and the addresses the letter to his friend Gaius.

    V2-4   Prayer and encouragementThe Elder generously encourages his friend Gaius, by articulating the substance of his prayers for him, by reporting back to him the very favourable comments of the travelling ‘brothers’, and by telling Gaius of the joy that he has because of Gaius’ continuing faithfulness to the (gospel) truth.  

    V5-8   John encourages Gaius to excel in his ministry of hospitality Having encouraged Gaius by writing of his joy in Gaius’s spiritual condition – his faithfulness to the truth – John now expressly encourages Gaius in his ministry of hospitality as a way in which he can directly support the ministry of (gospel) truth.

    V9-10   John exposes Diotrephes as a bully Having affirmed his friendship for Gaius and encouraged him in his faith and ministry of hospitality, John now lists the six things Diotrephes is doing that demonstrate that although he is the church leader, nevertheless he is actually a bully.

    V11   John warns Gaius very seriously not to capitulate to evil John has very lovingly affirmed his love for Gaius, Gaius’ faith and Gaius’ ministry of hospitality. John has also exposed Diotrephes as a bullying church leader, and now he makes the main point of the letter: Gaius must not be intimidated by Diotrephes’ bullying and stop his ministry of hospitality. To do so would not only be to capitulate to evil, but to demonstrate that he (Gaius) does not truly know God.

    V12   John commends Demetrius to Gaius Having very lovingly but firmly, exhorted Gaius to continue his ministry of hospitality and not to capitulate to Diotrephes’ bullying demands, John now commends Demetrius to Gaius both as an example to imitate, and as someone who will to continue the hospitality ministry.

    V13-14   John’s concluding remarks John now concludes this short private letter saying that he hopes he and Gaius will meet soon and be able to talk in much greater detail. Finally, he gives a blessing of peace and friendship.

      podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    How to give Pastoral Correction

    Truth, authority and governance in 3 John

    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    Have you ever stood up to a bully?


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    Question 2 -

    Do you know anyone who is always serving other people?


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    Question 3 -

    Have you seen a denomination, or movement, in schism? What are the issues that divide us today?


    Question 4 -

    Case Study: Study Mark Driscoll’s resignation from ‘Mars Hill’ Church in the perspective of the 6 charges against Diotrephes in ‘The letter to Gaius (3 John)’


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    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • V1 - Introduction and Address
    • /
    • V2-4 Prayer and encouragement
    • /
    • V5-8 John encourages Gaius to excel in his ministry of hospitality
    • /
    • V9-10 John exposes Diotrephes as a bully
    • /
    • V11 John warns Gaius very seriously not to capitulate to evil
    • /
    • V12 John commends Demetrius to Gaius
    • /
    • V13-14 John’s concluding remarks

    V1   The address The writer introduces himself and the addresses the letter to his friend Gaius.

    The author identifies himself simply as ‘The Elder’. However, the title, ‘3 John’, the history of the document from the early church, and the strong likeness of the literary style and content leave little room for any view other than this letter came from the ‘Johannine school’, (that wrote 1, 2 and 3 John, ‘The Gospel of John’ and ‘Revelation’). It is clear that the author has significant pastoral responsibility and authority in the mother church. The author has authority to write letters to the churches (v9), to visit and address pastoral situations (v10, v14) and to oversee ‘the brothers’ and speak on behalf of ‘the friends’ – which is almost certainly a reference to all church members. The title and term ‘elder’ is used several times in the New Testament, and very significantly Peter describes himself in 1 Peter 5:1 not an as an apostle, but as a ‘fellow elder’. So, since the term is used of an apostle in this way, the author of this letter could well have been the apostle John. The least that should be stated is that if the author was not the overseer of the mother church, he was clearly a man very close to the overseer.

     

    ‘The elder’ supervises the ministry of ‘the brothers’, who travel out from the mother church to the satellite churches in the region in order to assist the ministries of these local churches by evangelising, teaching, pastoring and assisting the local leadership and ministry. They are mentioned in 2 John 10. Perhaps in today’s language we would refer to them as “Provincial outreach ministry teams”. A modern parallel might be the sort of ministry that Alpha Ministries Zimbabwe follows, sending its ‘brothers’ into the Zimbabwean rural areas to evangelise, church plant, teach and disciple. Or, it could be compared to the way that the Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) interns and Alpha reps travel out across the world to service the church, and then return and report back to the mother church. Other churches may have similar ‘faith and sharing teams’. Marshall notes that the use of the indicates an unspecified number of ways or activities in this ministry. So, we should understand the situation to be similar to ‘the Minster model’ which has in fact been the dominant model of ministry in Britain over the past 1,800 years. A Minster is a strong established central community of believers able to support a number of specialised ministries and serving a wide range of outlying churches in the local region. We can reasonably accept that even in those times when travelling was much more dangerous (2 Corinthians 11:26), some women would have been part of these teams (Romans 16:1-4, Philippians 4:3), although their role may have been more limited and protected for safety reasons.

     

    The fact is that the situation at Ephesus fits the context of this letter very well indeed. The book of the Revelation of St. John, (which was not yet written at the time of 3 John) begins with pastoral letters to the seven churches around (and including) Ephesus, and we know of others that are not in that list: Colossae, Troas and Hierapolis. And if we go with the tradition that John the apostle moved to Ephesus from Jerusalem in the AD60s, quite possibly to avoid the terrible civil unrest in Israel during that decade in which a million Jews died, then we find that the situation not only fits, but it actually fits very convincingly. If 3 John is dated around the AD80s, then John the apostle would have been based at Ephesus as an elderly man overseeing and administering the travelling ministers who regularly go out from the mother church to the satellite churches in the region. The letter describes this ministry in a confident, relaxed way so we should understand it as being mature and well developed.

     

    The letter is written ‘to my dear friend(v1), (ESV has; ‘beloved’). The description ‘friend’ ought to be considered carefully because the word occurs six times in this short letter. John had heard Jesus himself call his apostles ‘friends’ in John 15:15, because ‘everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you’. Three times in this letter, at the beginning of three of the four main paragraphs, John addresses Gaius as ‘dear friend’. This demonstrates the foundation of genuine loving concern that John has for Gaius, who is buckling under pressure from a bullying church leader. John actually has a firm, indeed very serious, message for Gaius, but he couches it in the strongest affirming and loving way that he can employ; Gaius is truly John’s ‘dear friend, whom I (emphasised in the Greek, possibly in a deliberate contrast to Diotrephes) love in the truth’.

     

    Gaius was a very common name at the time, just as Dave, Mike, or Tom are common names in Britain today. There are at least four Gaius’ mentioned in the New Testament. If this Gaius is the same as any of the others, then it is probably the Gaius whose hospitality Paul commends in Romans 16:23: ‘Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings’. But Romans was written from Corinth around AD55 so this Gaius would have needed to have moved to this town in the province of Ephesus in the intervening thirty years, which although certainly possible is nevertheless unlikely. It is better to understand him as a mature Christian man with a family and a home big enough to host travelling ministers without difficulty. Clearly Gaius has in earlier years spent a good deal of time with John and they have developed a deep friendship in the faith.

    V2-4 Prayer and encouragementThe Elder generously encourages his friend Gaius, by articulating the substance of his prayers for him, by reporting back to him the very favourable comments of the travelling ‘brothers’, and by telling Gaius of the joy that he has because of Gaius’ continuing faithfulness to the (gospel) truth.

    John has only a short space (the document would have been about the size of a postcard) in order to communicate both affirmation and a serious message of warning and exhortation. He builds his argument brilliantly. While every phrase and sentence has genuine integrity, each phrase also builds carefully to the point where in v11 John can in the most genuinely loving way warn Gaius of the truly terrifying repercussions of capitulating to Diotrephes’ bullying. By articulating his prayers, John lovingly acknowledges and ministers to the wounds that Gaius’ hospitality ministry has already suffered. He then affirms Gaius’ faithfulness to the truth of the gospel; the word ‘truth’ occurs four times in the first four verses.

     

    V2   The literal word for word translation from the Greek is: “Beloved concerning all things I pray you to prosper and you may prosper to be in health as your soul prospers”. At first this looks like a generous, warm-hearted greeting from one friend to another, and there are certainly examples of such good wishes in other letters of that time, but the length and repetition of the words indicate that there is something deeper going on here. Positively, John is able to affirm that ‘(your) soul is getting along well’, which must mean that Gaius is spiritually strong and healthy – a fact that John focuses on in the next sentence, where he affirms that Gaius has remained faithful to the truth. But the statement that John is praying for Gaius’ health and general wellbeing implies that he has heard from the group of brothers, recently returned to the mother church, that the stressful situation in the local church is detrimentally effecting Gaius’ health. If we accept this perspective, then there may also be a hint behind the petition ‘concerning all things I pray thee to prosper’ that Gaius has recently suffered damage financially and socially as a result of the bullying from Diotrephes. Those who see in this prayer the justification and license to preach a gospel of prosperity are not only giving public evidence that they have not understood the situation and context of the letter, but more seriously, they are actually leaning towards the evil example of Diotrephes. We should take note that one of the main reasons for church leaders declaring independence and setting up their own church is in order to make money out of the pastoral ministry. The warnings of 1 Timothy 6:5-10 apply here – a passage written to Timothy in Ephesus.

     

    V3   John now takes a first step in his message of correction to Gaius, but he paves the way by building a foundation of encouragement. John Collins used to counsel his pastoral leaders at Holy Trinity Brompton to give seven words of encouragement before you give one word of correction. Some of the brothers – the travelling ministers from the mother church – have ‘returned’ (the present participles indicate the repetitive nature of their visits to and from the satellite church).  They have reported to John, ‘the elder’, and the mother church congregation about Gaius’ spiritual health, that is, his ‘faithfulness to the truth’. John specifies two features: Gaius’ ‘faithfulness to the truth’ means that he continues to believe the truth of Jesus and the gospel, and second, Gaius ‘continues to walk in the truth’, which means he is continuing to live out what he believes in his daily life. The significance of this encouragement becomes very clear once we have understood that the wider context is one of schism over doctrine (1 John 2:18-27). Gaius is remaining faithful to the truth while others in the wider regional context are departing from the true doctrine about Jesus; John expounds this heresy in 2 John. Although John never charges Diotrephes with departing from the truth, it would seem likely that some of those loyal to Diotrephes had become influenced by heretical doctrine.

     

    V4   John speaks from his heart with his next phrase: ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth’. The description ‘children’ indicates either a mentor / mentee relationship, that at an earlier stage The Elder has actively discipled Gaius, or it could mean more, that The Elder led Gaius into a genuine conversion and commitment to following Jesus Christ as Lord. Although this is an unusual term in the British church, this way of speaking was commonplace among clergy in the Diocese of Harare. This verse strongly parallels 2 John 4.

    V5-8   John encourages Gaius to excel in his ministry of hospitality Having encouraged Gaius by writing of his joy in Gaius’s spiritual condition – his faithfulness to the truth – John now expressly encourages Gaius in his ministry of hospitality as a way in which he can directly support the ministry of (gospel) truth.

    Gaius’ confidence in his ministry of hospitality to the brothers travelling from the mother church has suffered a serious blow as a result of Diotrephes’ bullying, (which John will state in v9,10). So with great pastoral skill, John patiently and carefully encourages Gaius to continue his ministry of hospitality to these ministers from the mother church and to do so in a ‘manner worthy of God’.

     

    V5   Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you.’ Gaius is regularly opening his home to the travelling ministers from the mother church, some of whom are not even known to him until they arrive. This is evidence of a mature, established ministry. Gaius’ home is a regular landing point and base for the travelling ministers where they would receive board and lodging, laundry and provisions.

     

    V6   Over the years those travelling ministers have returned to the mother church (at Ephesus) and ‘told the church about your love’. John has now encouraged Gaius by first telling him of his joy over both his spiritual faith (v2-4), and second, his ministry evidenced by ‘faithfulness’, a characteristic which in the Psalms frequently describes the essential nature of God himself. Then, for the first time, there is a hint of correction in John’s next sentence: ‘You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God’.To send them on their way’ means to provide provisions for their ongoing journey to other satellite churches, and/or for their return journey to the mother church. Perhaps Gaius, feeling the pressure from the bullying leader, had stopped doing this, or was now only providing basics, where previously he had provided much more than was needed. It seems that the very last group of brothers to return from the satellite church reported a significant deterioration in the hospitality and service they had received from Gaius, causing John to now fear that in future Gaius might give way completely and no longer receive the travelling brothers at all! Given the seriousness of the imperative in verse 11, this seems to be what is happening. Although Gaius is standing firm in his faith, his ministry of hospitality appears to be in danger of ending completely! The word ‘worthy’ is significant. Jesus taught in his mission discourse ‘Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave’ (Matthew 10:11). Since this is exactly what Gaius has been doing under John’s supervision, it strengthens the argument that the author is indeed John the apostle. There are latent parallels here with other aspects of the mission discourse in Matthew 10. Paul and Barnabas scolded the Jews at Pisidian Antioch for resisting the gospel message and demonstrating that they were not ‘worthy of eternal life’ (Acts 13:46). Our hospitality and service to the disciples should be worthy of God himself. In other words, it should be the best we can do. Perhaps ‘in as much as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it for me’ (Matthew 25:40) applies here. The example of Abraham’s hospitality to the three travellers in Genesis 18 is THE leading example of hospitality in Scripture.

     

    V7   Having spoken of his loving care for his friend Gaius, and specifically encouraged him in his ministry, John now steps up the message of correction by addressing Gaius’ motive: ‘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’. The Greek words strongly emphasise ‘We ought’. The Elder is emphasising and building his point from the previous verse. ‘We’ – he identifies and unites himself in the exhortation and carries an implied general responsibility that we shall see includes Demetrius also; ‘ought’ – this is clear and direct, and The Elder is reminding Gaius of his responsibility to discharge this ministry even in the face of Diotrephes’ hostility, and the possibility of an aggressive reaction from the bullying leader. The motive is clear, we are serving Jesus and his great ‘Name’; his reputation, his ministry and his Lordship. Reputation is crucial in the ministry of hospitality; indeed, it is almost everything. If a hostel gains a reputation for great service and value and atmosphere, then it will be popular and successful. But if the reputation is poor, then travellers will tend to avoid the place, unless they are desperate. So it is with the ministry of hospitality. If the ministry establishes a reputation for loving kindness, excellence, going the extra mile and friendliness, then honour will come to ‘the Name’ of Jesus and the gospel.

     

    ‘The Name’ is a fascinating reference from the earliest days of the church community in Jerusalem, when ‘the apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name’ (Acts 5:41).  Saul was commissioned to suffer for the Name (Acts 9:16), and this is another interesting argument in favour of John the apostle himself being the author of this letter (see John 15:21). It is also a reference to the Lord’s prayer. The first petition, ‘hallowed be thy name’, is actually the greatest petition any disciple can pray, because we are asking God to be honoured in every situation. His intervention in any and every situation will always be the best possible outcome for everyone. So the brothers focus their entire service and energy to achieve the honouring of God’s (Jesus’) name in every situation. John sees Gaius’ highest calling and service to be contributing to this by serving them.

     

    The verse also shows us how this travelling ministry operated. In saying that ‘they went out, receiving no help from the pagans’, John is not making a banal point – no one would ever expect non-Christians to finance Christian mission – rather, he is emphasising that the funding of this ministry rests entirely on the church community and the brothers themselves. Underneath this phrase lies the axiomatic Christian principle that the proclamation of the gospel must always be free, without cost to all humanity (1 Corinthians 9:18). The primary right of every man woman and child throughout all humanity and time is to hear the gospel message of salvation, and this must be without financial cost. In the first phase of evangelism, Paul and his team ‘worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone’ (1 Thessalonians 2:9). Now, a generation later the travelling ministers could, and John is arguing should, expect at least some help from the believers in the local churches. A similar situation lies behind the letter of Galatians where the errant leader is taking action to stop financial support for those loyal to Paul and the gospel of faith, so as Paul ends that letter he includes the following: ‘Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor’ (Galatians 6:6).

     

    V8  ‘Ought’ – the Greek is clear: Gaius ought to extend this hospitality. The brothers and Gaius are both serving Jesus, and they will all answer (give account) to Jesus. We are working together in our different ministries for the truth – the gospel. This is our highest love and aim, and we should not compromise on giving the very best. Gaius, under pressure from errant bullying leadership, has lost sight of this pure and simple goal. After encouraging Gaius, John’s second step has been to focus his motive back on Jesus; to use Paul’s words to the Corinthians ‘that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord’, (1 Corinthians 7:35).

     

    V9-10   John exposes Diotrephes as a bully Having affirmed his friendship for Gaius and encouraged him in his faith and ministry of hospitality, John now lists the six things Diotrephes is doing that demonstrate that although he is the church leader, nevertheless he is actually a bully.  

    John can now address the central issue directly, because he has lovingly affirmed his friend Gaius’ standing and ministry, and clarified what his motivation should be. These two verses describe Gaius’ context, and explain why he has lost his confidence in his ministry of hospitality for the travelling brothers from the mother church. Diotrephes, Gaius’ church leader, is actually a bully, and John carefully articulates six things that he is doing which prove this is the case.

     

    V9   John gets straight to the essence of the problem in the church and clarifies the facts: ‘I wrote to the (local satellite) church (in Gaius’ town), but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.’ John has written to the church – that is a letter addressed to the eldership, to be read out publicly to the whole church community – but a response of submissive obedience has not been forthcoming because Diotrephes has usurped the leadership of this satellite church and is resisting all contact with the mother church. It is unclear as to whether or not Gaius knew about this letter, it is possible that he did not. Clearly Diotrephes has discarded it by suppressing its reading and circulation. John is writing as a pastor addressing a conflict situation which has the potential of spinning dangerously out of control. His purpose in this paragraph is to state the central facts openly, because only through the open statement of the truth and accurate fact reporting can a conflict move towards resolution. He does this directly and specifically in this verse, first by pointing out Diotrephes’ faulty motive, and then listing five things he has done fact by fact. We should not miss the irony here, because while John himself was one of Jesus’ closest friends, when they approached Jerusalem he and his brother specifically asked Jesus for the chief positions of power and authority in his cabinet. Fifty years later, John is now addressing a situation where the younger Diotrephes has gone one step further and usurped that authority for himself.

     

    V10   ‘So if I come’ – John will follow up the letter with a visit. Jesus taught the community ‘if your brother offends you go and see your brother’ (Matthew 18:15).  This must mean that the satellite town and church is some distance from the mother church, perhaps around 100 miles (Colossae was 120 miles east of Ephesus). John says ‘I will call attention to what he is doing’, because Jesus taught ‘if he refuses to listen … tell it to the church’ (Matthew 18:17). Again, this is significant. Paul taught about bringing everything into the light (Ephesians 5:12), and this was certainly his practice in different pastoral situations, for example the grossly immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5, and the conflicts in the church in 2 Corinthians 13:1.

     

    This crucial sentence clarifies the issue at the heart of the difficulty. First of all, John exposes Diotrephes’ evil motivation, saying that he ‘loves to be first’. It is important to note that John does not charge Diotrephes with heresy (the issue at the centre of 2 John). In fact, there is not a single hint that Diotrephes was unorthodox in his faith, rather he has set himself up as leader and boss. John lists five specific charges against Diotrephes:

     

    First, he ‘will not welcome us’, that is, formally and publicly recognise and ‘extend the right hand of fellowship’ as taught in Galatians 2:9, the offering of official public recognition and support for ministry thereby acknowledging the ministry as authentic, genuine and worthy of full and total support by all Christians. Although at a daily level the kiss of peace would be the normal greeting between Christians – today we might say “the holy hug”.

     

    Second, Diotrephes is ‘gossiping maliciously about us’, or as the revised NIV reading says, ‘spreading malicious nonsense about us’. Plummer comments: “it conveys the idea that the words were not only wicked, but senseless”. We should understand this as premeditated, intentional, critical, untrue, aggressive, and continuous.

     

    Third: ‘Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers’ – this welcome refers to offering proper hospitality to the visiting travelling ministers from other churches.

     

    Fourth: ‘He also stops those who want to do so’ – Diotrephes actually stops and prevent other Christians who want to welcome other believers, and specifically the brothersthe travelling ministers from the mother church. Realistically, this means that one or two quite nasty incidents have taken place probably involving some force and even violence. The wording leaves open the possibility that other ‘mother’ churches are also occasionally sending out their travelling ministers to the satellite churches – a practice that has John’s full support.

     

    Fifth and most serious, he ‘puts them out of the church’ – that is, Diotrephes excommunicates from the local satellite church those who welcome and show hospitality to travelling ministers from the mother church. Diotrephes is a bully. He is autocratic and is operating independently of the mother church. Diotrephes has effectively declared UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence, a term used in international politics) and made the local church into a cancer operating independently of the mother church. Stott comments: “Diotrephes slandered John, cold-shouldered the missionaries and excommunicated the loyal believers because he loved himself and wanted to have the pre-eminence. Personal vanity lies at the root of most dissensions in every local church today”.

     

    Excommunication is a dangerous and very sensitive matter and the church should always exercise severe caution before excommunicating anyone. Nevertheless, there are scriptural precedents and reasons why this is sometimes necessary. There are two clear examples in scripture: first, gross immorality, as in 1 Corinthians 5, and second, those who cause division (Titus 3:10). Since Paul excommunicated Alexander and Hymenaeus (1 Timothy 1:20) for blasphemy and false teaching (2 Timothy 2:17), false teaching could be added as a third, although this might be more properly seen as the factor underlying divisiveness.

     

    V11   John warns Gaius very seriously not to capitulate to evil John has very lovingly affirmed his love for Gaius, Gaius’ faith and Gaius’ ministry of hospitality. John has also exposed Diotrephes as a bullying church leader, and now he makes the main point of the letter: Gaius must not be intimidated by Diotrephes’ bullying and stop his ministry of hospitality. To do so would not only be to capitulate to evil, but to demonstrate that he (Gaius) does not truly know God.

    With exceptional literary and pastoral skill, John now makes the central and leading point of this short personal letter to his ‘beloved’ friend. But even here, the essential force of John’s argument is more implied than stated. John’s exhortation is that Gaius should imitate him (John) at the mother church, and that he must never imitate the evil behaviour of Diotrephes. This point is clear enough, but John’s deeper point is almost terrifying. John states that to capitulate to the bullying Diotrephes and stop his hospitality ministry to the travelling ministers from the mother church, however understandable such action might appear to be, would actually be to make a public statement of Gaius’ inability to see, know, understand and obey the will of God, and therefore to align publicly with evil.

     

    V11   ‘Dear friend’  is not just a reminder of John’s love for Gaius (expounded in verses 2-6); John has been building up to this imperative (admonition) from the first word of the letter. By repeating this loving appellation ‘Dear friend’ for the fourth and final time, the reader is left in absolutely no doubt not only that John loves Gaius, but that Gaius is in grave danger of capitulating to Diotrephes. John is emphasising as strongly and as lovingly as he possibly can to Gaius ‘do not imitate what is evil but what is good’. To imitate Diotrephes would be to imitate evil; to imitate John (and Demetrius) is to imitate what is good. In wavering to the pressure from the bully Diotrephes and sending the brothers ‘on their way in a manner (that was somehow not) worthy of God’, Gaius was failing to ‘show hospitality’ (v8) in the way he should, and was therefore ‘imitat[ing] evil’, because his behaviour imitated Diotrephes! John is forthright and clear: ‘Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God’ – and Diotrephes is without question in this latter category. His action shows that he wants the privilege and authority of being church leader, while refusing to answer to anyone outside in the wider church. For all Diotrephes’ years as a ‘Christian’, and despite his ability to lead and any gifts he may have, John is quite clear: Diotrephes is demonstrating publicly by the evil things he is saying and doing that he ‘has not seen God’ regardless of any claims he may make (see for example 1 Corinthians 4:19 concerning a different but parallel situation and issue). To put it differently: leaders must always be appointed on the basis of godly character first, and ability and gifting second. Leadership without godliness is demonic (1 John 2:18-19), and Diotrephes is an example of this.

     

    John is also clear that if Gaius further yields to the pressure from Diotrephes and stops his ministry of hospitality then Gaius will fall into the same category as one of those ‘who does what is evil’, and therefore the wider church will be forced to conclude that in fact Gaius also ‘has not seen God’ either! This is strong, direct and uncomfortable, but it is also the true reality of things. This severe warning is the reason for the letter, and John, even though an old man, will back this up by visiting Gaius personally soon (“shortly” in the Authorised Version).  Marshall comments that the lack of Christian character is to be regarded as a mark of the absence of true Christian experience. This pastoral situation is the specific outworking of the principles expounded by John in his first letter. The issues are the same: truth (v3,4), love (v6) and goodness (v11).

     

     

    V12   John commends Demetrius to Gaius Having very lovingly but firmly, exhorted Gaius to continue his ministry of hospitality and not to capitulate to Diotrephes’ bullying demands, John now commends Demetrius to Gaius both as an example to imitate, and as someone who will ‘strengthen him’ to continue the hospitality ministry.

     

    John is deeply aware that Gaius needs more than just a letter to help him continue with the hospitality ministry, so he is sending Demetrius to him along with the letter.

     

    V12   ‘Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself’. This takes us by surprise, there has been no mention of this man Demetrius before, and to introduce him abruptly and immediately after the leading statement of the letter indicates that Demetrius much more than the ‘postman’ bringing the letter. In the context of this letter, Demetrius is either one of the people Diotrephes has excommunicated from the local satellite church, or he has been thrown out of one of the other churches as a result of the wider schism referred to in 1 John 2:19. John is highlighting Demetrius and his behaviour as an example of the exemplary way that Gaius should, but doesn’t yet, behave. John’s point is simple, straightforward and emphatic: Gaius, follow Demetrius’ example! Even if Diotrephes excommunicates you from the local church as a result. Don’t do evil in order to maintain a semblance of peace, or in order to avoid conflict. The phrase ‘and even by the truth itself’, is strongly reminiscent of 1 John 2:20-27 in which John seems to refer to the prophetic activity of the Holy Spirit to both guide and lead the church community into the truth, and also give discernment as to where this is not happening. For John this is not passive, but a dynamic, clear prophetic action in the Spirit which can be appealed to as evidence in the way that Jesus himself claimed his Father to be his witness. John lists three defining complementary statements praising Demetrius’ godly character.  ‘We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true’ – pure Johannine writing, and very strong stuff! John is appealing to his own personal integrity, and absolute godly honesty.

     

    V13-14   John’s concluding remarks John now concludes this short private letter saying that he hopes he and Gaius will meet soon and be able to talk in much greater detail. Finally, he gives a blessing of peace and friendship.

    These final concluding sentences are full of love and wisdom, peace and friendship.

     

    V13   ‘I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink’ – strictly a non-sequitur, but the meaning is quite clear.

    V14   ‘I hope to see you soon’ – the Greek word actually means immediately and is perhaps best captured by the Authorised Version translators who use ‘shortly’. If it is not in the forthcoming visit where John will confront Diotrephes and expose his sin to the whole church (v10), then John may see him later in a personal visit to Gaius, or possibly when Gaius next visits John in Ephesus.

     

    ‘…and we will talk face to face’ – again, we need to realise the force of this. Gaius is slipping in his loyalty and John wants to meet him ‘immediately/shortly’ as he has much to resolve and put right with Gaius. The way to resolve difficulties and conflict is to talk face to face (Matthew 18:15). This will involve an elderly man walking a distance of about 100 miles both ways, and doing so ‘immediately’, in order to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3). John knows that there needs to be repair and restoration in his fellowship, and possibly even in his friendship with Gaius. The brevity and quickness with which this letter finishes emphasises John’s intention to sort out the matter quickly and face to face. This again emphasises the seriousness of the possibility that not only Gaius and the satellite church, but possibly other churches will capitulate to Diotrephes.

     

    ‘Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.’ The friends (specifically referred to here) are the members of the mother church, and John closes this brilliantly crafted letter by affirming their genuine, personal love for Gaius. But Gaius also now has a task to do. Now that John has encouraged him, he must now search out the other faithful believers in the satellite church and ‘greet them by name’ ; that means Gaius must strengthen them also to remain faithful to the truth, the mother church, John himself and all the other ‘friends’ in the area. The implication is that just as John has strengthened Gaius, so Gaius must now strengthen all the others who remain loyal to the mother church. And so the work of grace and love through this letter spreads out geographically and historically down the years to tens of thousands, even to us as we read this letter today!

    V2-4 Prayer and encouragement >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Applications
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of ‘the letter to Gaius’:

    Put briefly, John writes to tell Gaius: ‘Gaius, don’t give in to Diotrephes and do evil like him, but do what is good by imitating me (John) and Demetrius.’

    In this letter, The Elder (John) at the mother church writes to exhort his ‘dear friend’ Gaius to continue his ministry of hospitality to the mother church’s travelling ministers in the face of the bullying church leader Diotrephes who has taken over the leadership of the church where Gaius worships, and is trying to prevent the mother church having any further influence over them. John writes to strengthen Gaius, whose commitment is wavering, and warns him that to capitulate to Diotrephes would be to side with evil in a betrayal that would indicate that he Gaius did not actually know God. This letter therefore touches on issues of church governance, control and autonomy within a wider context of maturity and growth in the early church.

    The leading imperatives:

    V8   We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people (the travelling church workers) so that we may work together for the truth.

    V11   Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.

    The implied imperatives:

    V2   Apprentices of Jesus should love (each other) in the truth, and pray for each other.

    V5   Each apprentice should fulfil the ministry that he/she has been called to. Those with the ministry of hospitality should send people on their way in a manner that honours God.

    V9   Church leaders should welcome the ministry of other (true and faithful) believers.

    V9-10   Apprentices should not ‘spread malicious nonsense’ about other apprentices of Jesus (v9), but if this does happen we should call such behaviour to the attention of the church (v10).

    V10   Church leaders should never bully other apprentices of Jesus.

    V14   Talking face to face is always the best way of encouraging other apprentices and resolving disputes.

    V14   We should greet (and encourage) one another by name.

     

    Apprentices of Jesus should not…

    1. … love to be first (v9) – want the primary position of influence in the church. Jesus was emphatically clear with his disciples about this (Luke 22:24).
    2. … have nothing to do with (v9) the wider church, especially leaders in the wider church.
    3. … gossip maliciously (v10) about others, especially Christian leaders.
    4. refuse to welcome (v10) Christian ministers who come to visit us from other churches and ministries.
    5. stop those who (v10) do welcome them…
    6. put them out of the church (v10), that is, excommunicate them.

     

    Applications:

    Apprentices of Jesus should give proper support and hospitality to the church’s missionaries and workers; send them on their way in a manner worthy of God’ (v6).

     

    We should stand up to those who bully and cause schism in the Christian community.

     

    Apprentices of Jesus should always take care to be loyal to the truth.

     

    We should help those who are tempted to fall and learn how to give effective correction and encouragement.

     

    In our leadership we must learn both patience and courage so that new churches and ministry initiatives are planted and established for the Lord in a way that honours him and does cause destruction.

     

     

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    Ideas:

    • Practice addressing conflicts with courage and love.
    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    How is the substance of John’s prayer for Gaius (v2) related to the way Diotrephes is treating Gaius?


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    Question 2 -

    The Elder uses the word ‘truth’ six times, so he is clearly concerned with doctrinal orthodoxy. However, beyond that there is little comment on any doctrine. Is this significant?


    Question 3 -

    This letter is a model for learning and giving pastoral correction. Examine the stages in the argument.


    Question 4 -

    Why doesn’t The Elder just accept that Diotrephes is now running the satellite church, tell Gaius to get used to the new leadership, and pray for peace to prevail throughout that church?


    Question 5 -

    If this letter to Gaius was not in the New Testament, what would we be missing?


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    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A Prayer based on 3 John

     

    Lord, when you were bullied you didn’t give in, help me not to buckle when people put pressure on me to stop doing what you have called me to do.   Amen.

     

    Commentary:

    Lord, when you were bullied you didn’t give in, help me not to buckle when people put pressure on me to stop doing what you have called me to do (v11).     Amen.

     

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    ‘Comments on the Commentaries’

     

    BfL Recommends:

     

    Jobes, K.H.             1, 2, & 3 John (Exegetical Commentary on the New

    Testament; Zondervan 2014)

    This outstanding commentary succeeds in getting to the heart of this letter, in understanding the context and articulating the central issues clearly. It also applies the situation superbly to our contemporary situation. It is readable and accessible.

     

    Houlden, J.L.         The Johannine Epistles (1994, Black’s NT Comms.)

    The introduction is outstanding and it quickly reads and presents the heart of the issues and context of these three letters. It is well written, approachable and useful for study.

     

    Marshall, I.H.        The Epistles of John (NICNT) (1984, Eerdmans)

    Thorough, academically alert and informed, and readable. While Marshall gets to the heart of the context and understands the situation well, he nevertheless does draw back from understanding the full implications of the text and therefore the seriousness of the situation. This is arguably the best and most useable of the commentaries on the Johannine literature.

     

    Smalley, S.             1,2,3 John, (Word Biblical Commentary) (1984 Word

    Book; Waco Texas)

    Substantial and thorough. 385 pages, but while the exposition is technically full and accurate, it lacks the penetration and insight of a commentary such as Houlden. Smalley fails to understand properly the context and situation as a unity and therefore fails to apply his textual insight to the situation being addressed. While the summary introduction is arguably better than most, it is very brief. 

     

    Strecker, G.           The Johannine Letters (Hermeneia Series) (1989

    Fortress Press)

    This commentary articulates the heart of the context and issue, and is thorough and helpfully insightful. Its unique sectional approach gives the opportunity to explore different lines of thought and enquiry.

     

     

    Also:

     

    Stott, J.R.W            The Epistles of John (1966, Tyndale Press)

    A little too brief to be much use. He sees the letter as three separate sections, but does not relate them to each other. He therefore misses the main context and point, and fails to give just weight to the chilling warning of verse 11. Nevertheless, his introductory comments to the letter are original and useful.

     

    Moody Smith, D. First, Second and Third John – Interpretation – A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. (1991, John Knox Press)

    A lightweight commentary that fails to discern the heart of the issue between the three parties in the book. This only succeeds in shedding occasional helpful insights.

      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Series Title:           Standing Under Pressure

     

    Comment:   ‘3 John’ is an excellent letter to be taken as the subject of a day’s retreat, or a church weekend. There are three or four specific subjects that can be addressed alongside one (or two) study sessions.

     

    Text Subject Subject
     3 John

     

    Key verses: 6 & 8 

    ‘Practice hospitality’ The context is complicated and will need to be outlined very carefully, as a basis for proper engagement with this letter. The four individuals and their history will need to be explained, and then the issues clarified. Since the presenting issue is hospitality, an exposition of this and the full meaning of ‘send them on their way in a manner worthy of God’ (v6) should be explained and exhorted.
    3 John

     

    Key verses:

    9 & 10 and (& 1 John 2:19)

    ‘Address schism’ Since the main problem underlying this letter is schism, the handling of schism should be the next substantial exposition. At the heart of the issue is the matter of handling power in church. This should include a careful exposition of the six charges that John levies against Diotrephes, with an explanation of how we should avoid these and handle power and authority with godliness and always be loyal to the truth.
    3 John

     

    Key verse:

    11

    ‘How to admonish and correct’ This letter is an exceptional example of correction. Here is a chance to study the development of the argument throughout the 15 verses.  John’s combination of love with clarity for what is needed is absolutely exemplary.

     

     

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    At what point does a church (a community of believers in Christ) loose its status as either an identifiable Christian community, or as an orthodox Christian community? In other words, when is a church no longer a church?


    watch video

    Question 2 -

    Suppose Diotrephes was actually the orthodox church leader and “The Elder” was the heretic out of whose control the church led by Diotrephes was succeeding in establishing its own independence? How do we know what makes ‘orthodoxy’ orthodox, and ‘heresy’ heretical?


    Question 3 -

    Why do many commentators fail so badly in understanding this letter to be nothing more than an exhortation to practice hospitality?


    Question 4 -

    Does it change the situation if ‘the letter to Gaius’ is understood to be intentionally fabricated in order to address the issue of loyalty to the truth in a highly charged context where many church congregations were struggling with the issues of succession and power grabbing by schismatic leaders? ‘3 John’ and ‘2 John’ would therefore be case studies within the overall context of ‘1 John’. Does this present a hermeneutical problem? Should it?


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Questions relating ‘3 John’ to the 21st C.

     

    Taster Course Questions:

     

    QQQ

    Think of an occasion where someone has offered you overwhelming hospitality. Why is hospitality so significant for relationships in a church community?

    Comment:

    People are looked after through hospitality, so hospitality is a direct application of Jesus’ command to ‘love one another’ (John 13:34-35), and Paul’s summary of the law: ‘serve one another in love’ (Galatians 5:13-14). A large part of Jesus’ ministry took place in the context of hospitality and sharing meals together.  

     

     

    QQQ

    What exactly is the Elder exhorting Gaius to do?

    Comment:

    Continue to give hospitality to the brothers (the travelling ministers from the mother church), that is, to invite them to stay at his house, feed them and look after their needs while they minister to the local church (v8).

     

    Starter Course Questions:

     

    QQQ               

    Have you seen a denomination, or movement, in schism? What are the issues that divide us today?

    Comment:

    Bullying should not be tolerated in a church. There are “secondary issues” such as the style of worship, different policies on baptism, or different theology about Israel or the end times over which different denominations will reach different conclusions. The more serious disputes tend to be focussed on the boundary lines surrounding the key imperatives in the New Testament. In view of the imperative ‘Flee from immorality’ (1 Cor 6:18), and Paul’s first imperative to the Thessalonians, ‘this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3), to what extent should churches hold those who are not practicing this? Similarly, in view of the imperative to ‘flee from idolatry’ (1 Cor 10:14), to what extent should we blur the boundaries and accommodate heresy?

     

     

    QQQ               

    Case Study: Study Mark Driscoll’s resignation from ‘Mars Hill’ Church in the perspective of the 6 charges against Diotrephes in ‘The letter to Gaius (3 John)’

    Comment:

    Very sadly Driscoll appears to have committed most of the six charges John levies against Diotrephes. His resignation was therefore the correct response.

     

    Main Course Questions:

    QQQ             

    How is the substance of John’s prayer for Gaius (v2) related to the way Diotrephes is treating Gaius?

    Comment:

    Gaius’ health and general welfare has been significantly damaged by the stress of being bullied by Diotrephes (v10).

      

    QQQ             

    The Elder uses the word ‘truth’ six times, so he is clearly concerned with doctrinal orthodoxy. However, beyond that there is little comment on any doctrine. Is this significant?

    Comment:

    ‘Speaking the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15) describes the essence of the Christian life. 

     

    QQQ

    This letter is a model for learning and giving pastoral correction. Examine the stages in the argument.

    Comment:

    1. John affirms his love and prayers for Gaius (v1-2)
    2. John encourages Gaius for his faith and love (v3-4)
    3. John affirms Gaius’ ministry of hospitality (v5-6)
    4. John clarifies the pure motive for this ministry (v7-8)
    5. John clarifies the facts of the church problem (v9-10)
    6. John gently but firmly warns Gaius against doing evil (v11)
    7. John cites Demetrius as an example to follow (v12)
    8. John says that he wants to meet and talk soon (v13-14)

     

    QQQ             

    Why doesn’t The Elder just accept that Diotrephes is now running the satellite church, tell Gaius to get used to the new leadership, and pray for peace to prevail throughout that church?

    Comment:

    Bullying should not be tolerated in a church. There can never be peace without justice.

     

    QQQ             

    If this letter to Gaius was not in the New Testament, what would we be missing?

    Comment:

    1) An outstanding example of pastoral correction.

    2) An example of public correction (v9-10) in obedience to Jesus’ instruction to ‘tell the church’ (Matthew 18:17).

     

    Dessert Course Questions:

    QQQ         

    At what point does a church (a community of believers in Christ) loose its status as either an identifiable Christian community, or as an orthodox Christian community? In other words, when is a church no longer a church? 

    Comment:

    Consider issues of Orthodox doctrine, morality and genuine love. 

     

    QQQ

    Why do many commentators fail so badly in understanding this letter to be nothing more than an exhortation to practice hospitality?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    It seems that few have really done the careful spade work that is needed in order to understand properly the context and significance of this letter.

     

    QQQ

    Does it change the situation if ‘the letter to Gaius’ is understood to be intentionally fabricated in order to address the issue of loyalty to the truth in a highly charged context where many church congregations were struggling with the issues of succession and power grabbing by schismatic leaders? ‘3 John’ and ‘2 John’ would therefore be case studies within the overall context of ‘1 John’. Does this present a hermeneutical problem? Should it?

    Comment:

    This should not present a difficulty. There may even be hints in the text that the reader should understand that this is the case, for example the author’s name is deliberately withheld, and ‘Gaius’ was a very common name in that culture. In other words, it may be that the letter has been deliberately written to be applied universally in all churches across the region.

      Coaching Questions -
    Discipleship Coaching Session                           Gaius (3 John)

     

    Podder:

    Start:    ‘Hello’ and Beginning

    Key current things in your life

    Last pod you said you wanted to make progress in …  How have you got on?

     

    10 min: Prayer:        Ask for the Spirit’s help now.  

     

    11 – 45 mins: ‘Understanding the content’

     

         How did you engage with ‘Gaius’?

    Who are the different people and groups? Explain the problem Gaius is facing.

     

          What do you want to talk about from your study of ‘Gaius’?

                       Do you have any questions – points to clarify?

     

          What are the main themes and points?

    •   Hospitality
    •   QQQ – What does the exhortation in v6 mean in practice?

     

    •   Loyalty to the truth
    •   QQQ – What is John exhorting Gaius to do? Why does it matter?

     

    •   Correcting others
    •   QQQ – Describe the steps through which John brilliantly builds his argument in order to correct and encourage Gaius.  

     

    •   Loving others:
    •   QQQ – How is John’s love for Gaius worked out in practice?

     

    •  *** Use some of the Menu Questions

     

     

    45 – 60 mins:    Personalised Coaching Qs for “the Podder

     

    1)    How has the Lord gifted you, and in what area of ministry are you called to serve? Are there any who are standing in the way of you fulfilling the Lord’s call on your life?

     

    60 min: Prayer: Lord, when you were bullied you didn’t give in, help me not to buckle when people put pressure on me to stop doing what you have called me to do. Amen.