We are continuing our study of 3 John this morning. This letter revolves around three men—Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius. This letter is written to Gaius and the first 8 verses are a commendation and encouragement of Gaius' hospitality to travelling preachers. Then in verses 9 through 11 we see a sharp contrast in Diotrephes who was an elder in the church who had a problem with pride. Then verse 12 deals with Demetrius, a faithful man who was most likely delivering this letter.
We ended with verse 9 in our last study.
I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 3 John 1:9 ESV
"I have written something to the church"—this indicates a prior written communication to the church (not Gaius) which Diotrephes apparently ignored or destroyed. "Diotrephes"—this is a very rare name. It means "reared by Zeus or nursed by Zeus," and it was a name found only among nobility in ancient families.
"Does not acknowledge our authority"—the "our" here would refer to the apostolic circle, the church at Jerusalem. The reason that he doesn't acknowledge their authority is because he "likes to put himself first"—this is from the compound Greek word philoprōteuō which is from phileō ("love") which is "love" and prōteuō ("foremost to hold first rank").
Please notice that John did not say or imply that Diotrephes held false doctrine. Diotrephes' theology was orthodox. His problem was not his theology; it was his behavior; he was not being loving. The only person he loved was himself! The root problem with Diotrephes' behavior was pride! In our last study, we looked at what the Bible has to say about pride and its destruction. Everything you need to know about pride is found in what James and Peter say about it. "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Anytime we act in pride, God opposes us. Think about that. Grace is for the humble.
C. S. Lewis said, "Pride is the sin that made the devil the devil." I think that may be better put as "Pride is the sin that made the "the anointed cherub" the devil. So, pride made the Cherub that guarded the throne of Yahweh into the devil. Talk about the destruction of pride—this is the height of it. This cherub was unwilling to be what God had created him to be, and because of that he fell. As Isaiah 14:14 says he desired to be like the Most High God.
I think we learn something about the fall of Satan in the passages of Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:11-19. The passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel are about evil tyrant kings whose pride is described in terms of an ancient story about a divine being who fell from paradise due to rebellion against Yahweh. These accounts reference Eden directly in Ezekiel's case and indirectly in Isaiah's case.
Notice what Ezekiel says:
You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. Ezekiel 28:13 ESV
These stones elsewhere describe the brightness of Yahweh's throne. So, whoever this is talking about is in Yahweh's Temple, His throne room.
You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. Ezekiel 28:14 ESV
"Anointed guardian cherub"—anointed is the word mashach which may mean "anointed." But it may come from a Semitic homonym, "to shine" (The shining cherub). Cherub and Seraphim are the same. In Assyrian it is a throne guardian. Brown- Driver- Briggs definition is: an angelic being, a guardian of Eden. The "cherub" figure is in "midst of the stones of fire," which is the divine counsel. In this text Eden is called a garden and a mountain:
"Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Ezekiel 28:12 ESV
Hebrew scholar, Michael Heiser, says, "Seal of perfection"—could mean: "serpent." In Semitic at times the "M" at the end of a noun is silent. It's called the enclitic mem. If that is the case here, we have het, vave, tav, which would be "serpent of perfection." In Isaiah 14:12 we have:
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! Isaiah 14:12 ESV
"O Day star, son of Dawn"—is "Helel ben Shachar," which means "the Shining one." Lucifer is the Latin vulgate translation of Helel (shining, a luminous being).
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; Isaiah 14:13 ESV
The "mount of the assembly" is the home of Yahweh, the place of the divine council. This divine being in his pride seeks to usurp Yahweh. God opposes the proud.
Back to our text.
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. 3 John 1:10 ESV
"So if I come"—this is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action, maybe he will, maybe he won't. This indicates real uncertainty on John's part as to whether he will visit Diotrephes' church or not.
"I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers"—Diotrephes was talking "wicked nonsense." This is from the Greek verb phlyareo, which means, "to gossip, to speak foolishly or senselessly." The verb (phlyareō) is found only here in the New Testament, but the cognate adjective "gossipy" (phlyaros) is found in 1 Timothy 5:13, where people are warned against being idlers, gossips, and busybodies.
All the verbs here are present tense – doing, talking, refuses, stops, puts out – all present tense verbs. This is the habitual work of this man who has worked his way into a position of power in the church by deceiving people.
Since Diotrephes made unjustified charges against John, John will bring charges of his own against Diotrephes. "I will bring up what he is doing"—he will make the following charges against Diotrephes before the church: (1) malicious gossip about the elder and his community, (2) refusal to welcome the orthodox missionaries, (3) preventing others from doing so, and (4) putting out of the church those who defied him in this matter.
"I will bring up what he is doing"— I believe that John is talking here about a form of public rebuke. He is going to publicly point out Diotrephes' sinful behavior. Now you may be wondering why he would do it publicly. Doesn't Matthew 18:15-18 teach us to go to our brother privately when he has sinned against us? The answer is "yes," but that applies most particularly to a personal offense. If my brother sins against me, I am to go to him privately and admonish him privately. Then I take another person with me. And then, and only then, do I "tell it to the church." Why wouldn't John follow that pattern? The answer is that Diotrephes' sin was a public sin that hurt the whole body of Christ. Therefore, it must be dealt with publicly. There are times when the sin is of such a nature that a public rebuke is necessary. This was one of those times. Notice what Paul taught about sinning church leaders:
Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 1Timothy 5:19-20 ESV
Can you think of an instance in Scripture where we see a public rebuke taking place?
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. Galatians 2:11-13 ESV
So, Peter is in Antioch having a good time eating Lobster and ham until some Jewish believers from James show up. Then, because of fear of these men, Peter quits eating with the Gentiles and begins to eat only what the Jewish law allowed him to. Peter feared these men, so he compromised his convictions, even though he knew it was wrong. God had personally shown Peter that it was OK to eat with Gentiles. But his fear of men weakened his faith in God. And worst of all, his bad example caused the other Jewish Christians to follow his example. So, Paul publicly rebuked him.
But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?" Galatians 2:14 ESV
In our text we see John threatening to publicly rebuke Diotrephes if he visits that church.
Not only does Diotrephes reject John and his authority, but he refuses to welcome the orthodox missionaries; and he prevents others from welcoming them also and even puts them out of the church. "Puts them out of the church"—is ekballō, which literally means to toss them out, throw them out. The same verb (ekballō) is used in John 9:34-35 for the excommunication from the Synagogue of the blind man whom Yeshua healed. And it is also used when Satan was cast out in John 12:31. Anybody whom he views as a threat to his kingdom, he figures out a way to throw them out of the church.
Let me just say here that Diotrephes may be able to throw people out of the local church, but all believers are part of the universal church, the body of Christ and from that position they will never be removed. Our membership in the body of Christ is eternally secure the moment we trust in Christ.
Diotrephes was condemned not because he violated sound teaching regarding the person and nature of Yeshua but because his "life" was a contradiction to the truth of the gospel. Behavior is as important as doctrine for those who serve in the church. Elders are to be examples to the flock.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:1-3 ESV
Within the church those that serve in leadership are to lead by example. It is to be a servant leadership. In the context of James and John's coming to Christ and asking for positions of prominence in the kingdom Yeshua says this:
And Yeshua called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Mark 10:42 ESV
Yeshua is illustrating His point from Gentile rulers; the Jews had experienced a number of them. And one thing was common to all. They lorded it over their people. They were proud of their authority and very conscious of it, and they exerted it to the full. They were the masters, and they wanted everyone to know it.
This is biting irony. This is exposing the hypocrisy of the disciples. Because in the disciples' desire for position, rank, and precedence so that they might exercise authority over other people, they are no different than the Roman rulers they so despise.
And I suspect their hypocrisy and their struggle is ours also. In our workplace, in our neighborhood, and even in our church, we desire a place of rank or precedence that we might exercise our authority or influence for our own benefit—that we might exercise those things in our own interest.
But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. Mark 10:43-44 ESV
"It shall not be so among you"— As followers of Christ, as those redeemed through Christ's blood, as those who now live for the glory of Christ, it is not this way. The phrase "among you" implies all disciples, every congregation of believers. Yeshua insists on a distinct contrast between kingdom citizens and the world.
"Must Be your servant"—the idea is of personal service rendered to others. The word for servant is diakonos. This verse incidentally describes the duties and responsibilities of a deacon; humble service to others.
"Slave of all—the Greek word used here is doulos. Some translate this as "servant," which is not a very good translation. A servant is one who can quit. "Slave" better fits the picture here. Doulos conveys the idea of "ownership, possession, dependency, subjection, loyalty." It also conveys the idea of: "willing service," not a forced service. They are slaves, but they are slaves by choice. They have willingly made themselves slaves of Yeshua to do His will.
The disciple's prime concern should be to serve, yes even to be a bondservant. That is the test of greatness among Christians; they do not look for praise, they do not seek honor, they do not desire position. They gladly take the lowest task if it will help someone. They just want to be useful in God's service, and as long as God is satisfied, they are satisfied. That is true greatness.
John Eleazor, aka Lazarus understood servanthood. He wrote:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16 ESV
The call in Yeshua's kingdom is to be a slave or servant. And in the context of what we've been talking about, it is important to recognize that a slave or a servant does not direct his activities towards his own interests. He directs his activities towards the interests of another.
Humility was no virtue in the ancient world. To be a slave meant that you were not a citizen and you did not have the rights of citizenship. You were not free. You belonged to another. You could not pursue your own ambitions but were left to the desires of someone else. Someone has said, "You will know whether a person is a servant or not by the way he acts when he is treated like one."
The church has always opposed the papacy and the idea of a human head over the entire church. Unfortunately, among Protestant and Evangelical churches, what we have done is to reject the idea of one Pope over all the churches, but have placed one Pope in every church. Surely that is just as bad, or worse. Those who want to be great in Christ's kingdom must become the servant of all.
Now, after talking about servanthood, Mark gives us the supreme example of servanthood—the Lord Yeshua the Christ:
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 ESV
I think you would agree with me that as the Creator of the world, Yeshua is in the supreme position of authority. But when He came to His creation, He did not come expecting to be served; He came to serve. How? By dying on the cross for you and for me—paying our ransom that we would not be separated from God but that we could have a relationship with our Creator.
He, who should have been served by all, had made Himself the servant of all. Paul echoes these words of Mark as he calls his readers and all Christians to follow the example of the Lord Yeshua who deliberately humbled Himself:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Yeshua, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 ESV
Mark says Yeshua came "To give His life a ransom for many." Ransom is the Greek word lutron. The word is used only here and the parallel passage (Matthew 20.28), in the New Testament.
Lutron was not a religious word in the Greek society of the New Testament but a normal, everyday word used to denote the buying back of a war captive, as well as many other concepts. When an army was victorious over their enemy, they would take as many prisoners as possible for slaves, some of which would fetch a good price back in their own land.
In the LXX, lutron was used of the price a man paid to redeem his life which was forfeited because his ox had gored someone to death (Exodus 21:30), or the price paid for the redemption of the firstborn (Numbers 18:15), or the price paid by which the next of kin obtained the release of an enslaved relative (Leviticus 25:51-53), or the price paid for the redemption of a mortgaged property (Leviticus 25:26). It was a payment made to obtain release and freedom; it was the price paid in substitution for what was obtained.
The ransom price is his life. This is why the Bible says again and again that Christ died to save us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). We were "justified by His blood" (Romans 5:9). "We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10). "He bore our sins in His body on the cross" (1 Peter 2:24). "Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18).
We must understand that this act of giving His life as a ransom was intentional. The Bible declares that He came to do it. Christ did not come to earth for other reasons and then got caught up in a plot that resulted in His death. He came to die, to be "A ransom for many." "Many" takes us back to Isaiah 53.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:11-12 ESV
It reminds us of the purpose of the Servant to be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5) and to make Himself an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10) so that "many" may be declared righteous and so that He may bear the sin of "many."
In Qumran documents and in some Rabbinic writings, the phrase "the many" is taken to refer to the community of believers rather than as a general term meaning many people.
Jesus was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 personified. That chapter is the best commentary possible on this verse. It speaks of the One who was totally self-giving for the sake of others.
True greatness is not found in how many people recognize our face or name, in how much praise we receive from men, or in how important we appear to others. In the grand scheme, those things hold no value. True greatness is found in humble service, and humble service is rooted in a Christ-centered life.
The letters of Paul amply demonstrate this principle when he writes:
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Yeshua the Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Yeshua's sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV
Paul was able to say personally of himself:
I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 2 Corinthians 12:15 ESV
God calls His children to discipleship and discipleship is a call to servanthood:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 ESV
In the original Greek, Paul is even more specific. He says, "Through the love, serve one another." What love? Specifically, the love of Yeshua the Christ.
Paul uses another interesting little word. It is even more interesting when we consider that the entire message of Galatians is about freedom. The word that I am referring to is the word "serve." It is from the Greek word douleuo. The word means "to be a slave, to serve, or to do service." The word is often used of nations that are in subjection to other nations.
I believe with all of my heart that we can gauge how we are growing in our walk with the Lord by our willingness to serve those around us who can give nothing in return, to those who have hurt us in the past, and to those whom we think are undeserving of our time and energy. This is beyond our ability. This type of love and sacrifice does not come naturally. When someone hurts us, says bad things about us, or breaks our hearts, our automatic reaction is to strike back. When somebody is a taker, a user, and a manipulator, our automatic response is to run from them and never give them the time of day.
I want to ask you this morning: "Whom are you serving in love?" Before you answer, let's take a look at our lives. Open your checkbook. Does it reflect the commitment you speak about to Christ? Do you lavish more and more upon yourselves, or are you allowing the Lord to use the resources He has given to you to bless others and to undergird what He is doing in this world?
Let's take a walk into our homes. Husbands, are you serving your wife? Do you spend time thinking of ways that you can bless your wife and lighten her load? Do you go out of your way to serve your kids, or do you see them as another burden on your schedule? Wives, how about taking a look at your relationship with your family. Do you begrudgingly do the things you do around the house for your family or are you aware that by serving your husband and kids that you are serving the King of glory?
If you want to be great in God's kingdom, you must follow the example of the Lord Yeshua and be a slave to all. We should all be working on our serve? The path to greatness within the church is servitude.
The point is that we all need godly examples to follow, but we must be careful in choosing those examples. Even those who are recognized Christian leaders may not be good examples to follow.
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 3 John 1:11 ESV
John again addresses Gaius, exhorting him not to imitate what is evil (the bad example of Diotrephes), but rather what is good (the positive example of Demetrius).
"Do not imitate evil"—this is the Greek word mimeomai which is a present middle (deponent) imperative which often implies to stop an act in process. Our English term "mimic" comes from this Greek word mimeomai. We must carefully choose our role models. They ought to be mature Christian persons who are walking in the truth.
"But imitate good"—we are to imitate those who are imitating God because ultimately we are all to be imitating God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 ESV
"Whoever does evil has not seen God"—this is a very misunderstood phrase. Hall Harris writes, "In Johannine terminology it is clear that the phrase ‘has not seen God' is equivalent to ‘is not a genuine Christian.'" I think that he is wrong here. Do you know Christians that do evil things? Do you at times do evil things? Yes, you do. We talked in our last study about pride which is a sin, to be proud is evil, but it is something that we all have to deal with.
So, what does John mean by "whoever does evil has not seen God?" Let's consider the terms that John uses when he states, "Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God." "Of/from God" and "seen God" are terms John used in his first epistle (cf. 1 John 3:6, 10; 4:1-4, 6-7) to refer to a believer who is walking in intimate fellowship with God (1:7; 2:3, 10). The lifestyle that we exhibit is a direct reflection of the extent to which we have seen God. Our lifestyle is a direct reflection of our abiding in Christ.
The expression "he is of God" in this context does not mean "he is a Christian." Rather, it means, "he is a godly person," or "he is a man of God." In this context it is a fellowship expression.
The person who "does evil" may be a Christian, but he "has not seen God." This means that he is not in close fellowship with God. John was not accusing Diotrephes of being unsaved but of behaving like an unsaved person.
In John's use the terms "know God" and "seen God" are terms of intimacy and fellowship; they are terms of abiding. All believers know God to some extent as seen in: "And this is eternal life, that they know you" (John 17:3). However, some know Him more fully and intimately than others do. Yeshua said to Thomas:
If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." John 14:7 ESV
Thomas knew Christ as Messiah but he didn't know Him to the extent that he should have. Sometimes a person who has been married for a long time, and then gets a divorce, will say of his or her spouse, "I never really knew her (or him)." Obviously, they knew each other in one sense, but their knowledge of one another was not very complete or intimate. John's point was that our personal experiential knowledge of God will affect the way we live, and the way we live (obediently or disobediently), and will reveal how well we really know/have seen God.
Let's move on to the third man we meet in this letter.
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. 3 John 1:12 ESV
The name Demetrius comes from Demeter, the goddess of fields and crops. It is a Gentile name.
Demetrius most likely carried this letter from John to Gaius. His name, like that of Gaius, was a common one at this time. The only other reference to a Demetrius in the New Testament is to Demetrius the silversmith of Ephesus (Acts 19:24, 38),
Demetrius is one of those mentioned in verse 7 who has gone out for the sake of the Name. He is one of those accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Verse 8 reveals that he is one of those we ought to support, one of those with whom we can be fellow workers with the truth.
Like Gaius, Demetrius is "walking in the truth." His life matches his confession. In Pauline terms, he manifests the fruit of the Spirit. In Johannine terms, he is abiding in Christ. John is letting Gaius know that he attests to Demetrius' good character. It appears that Demetrius is coming to Gaius' church and needs hospitality and assistance, so John is writing to commend him to Gaius and to vouch for him.
John seems to be using a threefold witness here.
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. 3 John 1:12 ESV
"Everyone"—here is hupo panton which is a perfect passive. It gives the meaning that the testimony of everyone to Demetrius in the past remains valid in the present. He has received an ongoing and continually good testimony from everyone.
"The truth itself"— bore witness to Demetrius' good character. This means that his life was consistent with the character qualities and moral standards of God's Word.
"And we also add our testimony"—this sounds a lot like what John writes in John 19.
He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. John 19:35 ESV
This really seems to be a letter of recommendation from John to Gaius about the missionary Demetrius.
John closes by saying,
I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. 3 John 1:13-14 ESV
John anticipates a personal visit to Gaius' church in the very near future. So he would rather talk to them in person. The expression "talk face to face" in the Greek is stoma pros stoma which is literally "to talk mouth to mouth.'" John wanted to be with them to talk to them in person. By speaking to them face to face, he would be able to say much more than he could put on paper at the time.
Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name. 3 John 1:15 ESV
"Peace be to you"—this is obviously a reference to the Hebraic idiom shalom. It can mean "hello" or "good-bye." It expresses not only the absence of problems but the presence of God's blessings. These were the resurrected Christ's first words to the disciples in the upper room (John 20:19, 21, 26). Both Paul and Peter used this as a closing prayer for God's people.
"Greet the friends, each by name"—this is an idiom for individually, personally, and warmly. It was used often in the Egyptian papyri.
John Eleazar tells believers to pattern their lives after godly examples. Imitation is a part of natural life, isn't it? We look up to others whom we esteem and respect. We all do it. But John's admonition is that believers make sure that they choose the right models to look up to. They should choose a Gaius or a Demetrius—men who are walking in the truth. On the contrary, they were not to follow men like Diotrephes—men who are proud and self-centered. John implores them to follow that which is good and not that which is evil. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20 ESV