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Last winter Selah got to be in the Reitz Theater’s production of Frozen, Jr. (I know, I know, Disney is the devil, but in our defense this was before they went full goblin-mode with their sodomite agenda, so we looked on it as a matter of conscience.
So you eat your lizard-fritter and we’ll eat ours…)
One of the things that was remarkable about the production was how tightly Disney controlled every aspect of the show—the costumes for the leads were shipped directly from Disney, the backgrounds were all supplied by Disney—the kids were even warned not to ad-lib their lines too much because Disney representatives had been known to anonymously attend performances and issue fines for shows that deviated too far from the script!
But their intent was to protect their intellectual property by making sure that every performance in every town was as close to identical as possible.
I remember reading an article a while back written by a pastor who realized that, in a way, you can see the same kind of thing with churches.
He noticed that as he went to different conferences and got into conversations with pastors from all over the country that it began to feel like they were each putting on a production of the same play with the same “characters”—each church had the cranky budget-minded naysayer, each church had the warm, encouraging discipler or the glass-chewing theology fanatic, or the once-a-month casual attender… you get the idea.
He said it was very encouraging as a pastor to realize that the struggles and conflicts and challenges that he was presented with at his church were not unusual at all, that the life of a local church wherever it is seems to have “the usual suspects” (to use Claude Reins’ memorable line in Casablanca).
This third letter from the Apostle John we are considering this morning was written to a church that seems to have been in the middle of a breach in fellowship caused by the sin of one member in particular.
(If 2 John described a threat to a church’s fellowship over a failure of truth, 3 John describes a threat to a church’s fellowship over a failure of love!)
In the course of addressing this breakdown in the church, John names three individuals by name: Gaius, Diotrephes and Demetrius.
Each one of those men (along with John himself) give us a picture of four different men with four different personalities and reputations.
And I think that we see these same personalities, these same “characters”, if you will, present in churches even down to this day.
And you can see by the situation the letter describes that it is vital to the life and health of a church that we understand from God’s perspective what role we are playing in the life of our fellowship.
And so my goal this morning is to help you understand this small book so that God’s Spirit will then use these verses so that you can ask yourself: “Am I a Gaius or a Diotrephes?
Am I ministering to the Body or tearing it apart?”
My prayer for you today is that God will use these verses to open your eyes to
Evaluate the ROLE you are PLAYING in the LIFE of the Church
We read these verses this morning in the presence of the elements of the Lord’s Supper laid out before us—I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered why we set this table before our worship begins versus bringing them out at the end?
At least part of the reason we do this is so that we spend our time in worship being continually reminded that we will be celebrating this meal together at the end.
In other words, we are going to observe this Supper in a few moments, and that means that you must spend this time today preparing to receive this Supper in unity, the way you are called to.
And so I want us to look carefully at what the Scripture says about the different hearts on display in this short book—I pray that God will give you insight into your own heart so that you might rightly understand and judge the role you are playing in the life of the church.
The first character we meet in 3 John is the man John addressed the letter to:
3 John 1 (ESV)
1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
When we look at Gaius in this letter, we see
I. Gaius: A man with the RIGHT BALANCE (3 John 1-8)
John spends most of his time writing to encourage Gaius, who he calls his “dear friend” (“beloved”) no less than four times in this short note.
The first thing that we see about him is that he was a man who knew how to
Look at verse 2:
3 John 2 (ESV)
2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
It sounds like Gaius was not physically well when John writes this letter, but he says he is praying for Gaius’ health in an interesting way: He says that he prays “that you may be in good health as it goes well with your soul”.
In other words, John could think of no better way to pray for Gaius than to pray, “Lord, make him as healthy physically as he is spiritually healthy!”
Think about that for a moment!
What if someone prayed that way for you?
“Lord, let his physical health match his spiritual health!”
We take care of our physical health with diet, exercise and expert care as necessary, but do we feed ourselves spiritually by God’s Word, exercise our spiritual lives by serving God and gathering with His people, seek out opportunities to be discipled and mentored by God’s people?
What would happen to you if someone prayed that your spiritual state would be reflected in your physical state?
Gaius knew how to live spiritually, and he knew how to
3 John 3–4 (ESV)
3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.
4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
As we’ve seen over the past few months, John writes a lot in his letters about what it means to “walk in the truth”—certainly part of what it means is that in Gaius there is no contradiction between his profession of faith and his practice of faith.
He confesses that Jesus Christ has purchased him with His blood, and he lives like it.
He lives a “contradiction free” life, and the consistency of his life is confirmed by those who know him—his life and his walk was watched by other believers—the “brothers” who told John that Gaius was “the real deal”.
Would the people who know your identity as a believer say the same about you to other Christians?
Not only did Gaius live spiritually and walk truthfully, he was a man who knew how to
3 John 5–6 (ESV)
5 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church.
You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.
Because Gaius lived consistently with what he confessed, he loved to serve the ones who served His Savior!
These “brothers” that John refers to here were most likely itinerant evangelists and ministers who went from town to town throughout Asia Minor proclaiming the Gospel and planting churches.
Gaius was faithful in his ministry to them—they knew that they could depend on him to do what he needed to do to serve them however they needed.
And not only that, Gaius sent them on their journey “in a manner worthy of God”—he honored them.
Think of how we honor veterans that we meet with statements like “Thank you for your service”—Gaius was quick to honor these men with “Thank you for your ministry”.
Far too many pastors and evangelists and ministry leaders burn out and give up because there are so few men like Gaius who will support them in a manner worthy of God—to love and encourage them the way that God would (and to honor them for who they are—ambassadors of God Himself!)
Gaius knew how to live spiritually, walk truthfully, serve faithfully—and he knew how to
Minister GENEROUSLY (vv.
3 John 7 (ESV)
7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.
John says that after these brothers moved on from their time with Gaius, they went out “accepting nothing from the Gentiles”—in other words, Gaius was so generous with his wealth that they didn’t need to have their ministries funded by unbelievers!
It might be treading on some toes to say this, but we have to ask the question: Is it possible that so many churches have to supplement their ministry budgets with reliance on selling things to the public—bazaars, craft fairs, fundraisers, dinners and whatnot—because there are not enough Gaiuses in their churches?
Is it worth considering that perhaps if there were more members like John’s generous friend Gaius that churches wouldn’t have to go begging to the world to keep their ministries going?
Gaius wanted to give generously—so that the ministers would not have to depend on the Gentiles, and because he understood that to do so was to become a partner in their ministry!
3 John 8 (ESV)
8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
Gaius was a man with the right balance—let his example recorded in Scripture guide you as you evaluate the role that you play in the life of the church.
The second man that John writes about in his letter is Diotrephes—and it doesn’t take much investigation of verses 9-10 to see that he is the polar opposite of the example of Gaius.
Diotrephes is
Diotrephes: A man with a HARMFUL AGENDA (3 John 9-10)
3 John 9–10 (ESV)
9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.
10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us.
And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
Where Gaius wanted to serve God’s people, Diotrephes wanted to dominate them.
Where Gaius wanted to put others first, Diotrephes liked to “put himself first”.
We have this example from Scripture to warn us--
Do not be driven by PRIDEFUL AMBITION (v. 9)
Evidently John had written a letter to the church that Diotrephes was actively rejecting—people like Diotrephes don’t want anyone else to be heard, anyone else to have the spotlight.
Colossians 1:18 says that Jesus holds first place in everything, but people like this (whether leaders in the church or not) want people to look to them and need them more than they need Jesus!
Diotrephes’ prideful ambition leads to the next warning for us--
Do not be driven by POMPOUS ARROGANCE (v. 9)
Think of what this man was doing—he was so arrogant that he would not even accept the authority of the Apostle John! Imagine the arrogance of a man who could look into the face of the last living Apostle—the face of the man who leaned his head on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper—and say, in effect, “Shut up, old man--we don’t need anything from you!”
And before you say to yourself, “Well, I’ve never been arrogant like that--” consider: The letter that Diotrephes was disputing here in this passage may be lost to us, but John wrote five books of the Bible, and his Apostolic authority conferred by the Holy Spirit is routinely challenged by pompous and arrogant men still today.
In verse 10 we see another warning from Diotrephes’ example:
Look at the first part of verse 10:
3 John 10 (ESV)
10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us...
This is a man who was full of “malicious gossip” (as the NIV puts it)—a man who was willing to slander other members of the church in order to get his way, slander the Apostle John himself in order to get out from under his teaching.
And in the rest of verse 10, John goes on to say that Diotrephes was not content to slander others, but
3 John 10 (ESV)
10 ...he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
So here is another warning from Diotrephes’ example:
Do not dominate with PROFANE ACTIVITY (v.
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