3 John – Being In The Truth

John was one of the greatest men who ever lived. He was a member of the Chosen People. He was privileged to be alive when the Son of God came into this world. He met Messiah, responded to Messiah, followed Messiah and became one of His most important disciples. He became an apostle, one of a very special group of men who became the leaders of Messiah’s Community. He wielded the greatest spiritual authority. And in the future, he will sit on one of twelve thrones, ruling the twelve tribes of a renewed Israel.

In addition, John wrote two of the greatest books that have ever been written, books which have been a blessing to billions of people – the Book of John, and the Book of Revelation. In addition, he wrote three divinely inspired letters that have been preserved for us.

This third letter was written by the elder, whom tradition says was John. It was written toward the end of the first century, around 95 AD. At that time, John would have been an old man. Messiah’s Community would have been around 60 years old. This letter was one of the last things written that became part of the New Testament.

John wrote this letter to encourage his friend Gaius to continue supporting the traveling evangelists and teachers – including the ones sent by John, and not follow the wicked example of Diotrophese, the leader of the community of which Gaius was a part, who was forbidding the members of the community from supporting them.

The key ideas of this letter: love and truth. Being in the truth; being faithful to the truth; walking in the truth; having the truth speak well about someone.

The elder: John began by identifying himself as the elder. An elder refers to a man who is a leader of a community of Messiah’s followers. Being an elder means having the age, wisdom and dignity to lead a congregation.

While John was an elder, identifying himself as an elder, and no more, was a humble way to identify himself. For example, he could have written: one of the Son of God’s closest disciples; the only one who didn’t abandon Him in His time of need; the one He entrusted His mother to; an apostle who has great spiritual authority; someone who will sit on one of 12 throne with my fellow apostles, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.

By referring to himself simply as the elder, John asserted his authority while not exalting himself or calling unnecessary attention to himself.

Contrast the humble way John referred to himself to some men and women today who call themselves apostles and prophets.

We learn humility from the way John identified himself – that we shouldn’t exalt ourselves or unnecessarily call attention to ourselves.

After identifying himself, he identified the one he wrote to: To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. John knew Gaius. Gaius was a dear friend. He knew that Gaius was in the truth. Gaius believed the truth, the truth being the gospel, the message that Yeshua is the Son of God and risen Messiah and Lord and Savior. And Gaius lived according to the truth.

Truth is wonderful. Delightful. Liberating. Helpful. Beneficial. Wholesome. Truth is loveable. And because the truth is lovable, those who are in the truth love others who are in the truth. Someone may be a complete stranger to you. Then you find out he knows the truth. He believes the gospel. He follows the One who is the truth. You know there is a connection between you and him; and you love him because you love those who are in the truth. To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Next John prayed for Gaius. He prayed one of my favorite kinds of prayers – short and sweet. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. We need to pray short and sweet prayers like John did for our fellow believers. When the Lord brings a fellow believer to your mind, pray for him. If he is doing well, thank God for him and pray that the Lord blesses him. When it comes to your attention that a fellow believer is going through a difficult situation, pray a short prayer for him. When someone tells you about a difficult situation he is going through and asks you to pray for him, pray for him right then and there.

John was so confident that Gaius’s soul was getting along well, that he prayed that he would enjoy good health and everything else would go well with him, even as his soul was getting along well. Think about that: Gaius’s soul was getting along so well that John was able to pray that all the other aspects of his life would do as well as his soul. That means that Gaius had a healthy soul. May our souls be so healthy – yes?

The prosperity teachers misuse this verse. They teach that if we have enough faith, God promises us good health and prosperity. And if we aren’t in good health and experiencing prosperity, it’s our fault. We don’t have enough faith.

Look, it’s right to pray for those we love and whose souls are doing well, that they would enjoy good health and all would go well with them. But when we pray that way, we must understand that God may not answer our prayer the way we want Him to. He may allow those we pray for to experience poor health and hardship. Those things are part of God’s will for us because various kinds of trials help our souls to get along well.

After he identified himself and the one to whom he wrote, and after praying for Gaius, John began the body of his letter. It gave me great joy when some believers (literally brothers) came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Some of the brothers who knew Gaius, went from where Gaius was to where John was. They reported to the elder that Gaius was faithful to the truth. He was living in a way that was consistent with the truth. He was believing the right things. He was doing the right things.

What a great, great thing – being faithful to the truth. I want to be faithful to the truth. How about you? May all of us be faithful to the truth – yes?

Gaius was one of John’s spiritual children. That means that Gaius came to the Lord through John’s ministry or received spiritually formative instruction through the ministry of John. Just as a father rejoices when his child is doing well, John had great joy knowing that Gaius, his spiritual son, was walking in the truth.

Like with John, it gives me joy when I know that you are living according to the truth. It grieves me if I find out that you are not living according to the truth.

Now we come to the main issue of this letter – a serious problem in the community of which Gaius was a part. But first, praise for Gaius and a request that he continue helping evangelists and teachers sent by John.

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. At this time, the message about the Messiah was expanding rapidly among the peoples of the Roman empire. Evangelists and teachers traveled from place to place, proclaiming the good news and teaching the believers. It was expected that Christians and Messianic Jews would provide hospitality to these travelers who were serving the Lord; that believers would invite them into their home and provide them with shelter and food while they were ministering in their area.

Gaius was doing that – even for those he didn’t know. His hospitality was a practical demonstration of his love – his love for God; his love for God’s people; his love for the truth; his love for the gospel; his love for the lost. Some of these traveling evangelists and teachers were sent by John, since they reported back to John about Gaius’s love for them – that Gaius had been housing and feeding them and caring for them.

And when the traveling evangelists and teachers finished their ministry in the area, it was hoped that the believers would give them money and provisions so they could continue their ministry elsewhere. The elder asked Gaius to do that. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name (HaShem) 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.

John referred to God as HaShem. I love that! Referring to God as HaShem is a very Jewish way to refer to God. HaShem means “The Name.” There are many names among angels and people. However, the Lord has the name that is above all names. When we call God HaShem, we are acknowledging Him as the Most Important Person who has the greatest authority.

Why should Gaius give the traveling evangelists and teachers money and provisions for the next part of their journey? John gave three reasons.

First, because it was for the sake of HaShem that they went out. By traveling and proclaiming the gospel and teaching they were serving God’s interests. They were advancing His goal of world evangelism and establishing Messiah’s Community. To support people who are serving HaShem’s interests serves HaShem, and we want to serve HaShem – yes?

Second, the traveling evangelists and teachers couldn’t expect to be supported by the pagans. The pagans didn’t believe their message and wouldn’t support them. And it looks bad to ask non-believers for money. They think: if your message is true, why isn’t your God providing for you? Why aren’t your fellow believers providing for you? It’s the responsibility of believers to provide for evangelists and teachers.

Third, Gaius should support the traveling evangelists and teachers because when we do that, we work together for the truth. We become co-workers with those advancing the truth. And we want to become work to advance the truth – yes? And if we are co-workers with those who are advancing the truth, like them, we will receive a reward.

Consider this: Most of us aren’t called to leave our homes and families to proclaim the gospel or teach people in unreached or under-reached areas. But we can support those who are doing that and work together with them for the truth – and receive a reward. How cool is that?

In stark contrast to Gaius who provided hospitality for the Lord’s servants, was Diotrephes. I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers (literally the brothers). He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Diotrephes was an elder in the community that Gaius was part of – maybe the head elder. One would think that Diotrephes would be the most in favor of supporting the traveling evangelists and teachers. He wasn’t.

John had already written to the community, requesting their hospitality so he and his team could come and minister there. What a great honor and privilege and blessing it would be to have one of the greatest men who ever lived – an apostle who knew the Son of God, who lived and traveled with Yeshua and witnessed everything Yeshua did and said – there with you.

Diotrephes not only refused the elder’s request for hospitality for him and his team, he attacked John by spreading malicious nonsense about him and his associates. And those who disagreed and welcomed the traveling teachers and evangelists, he put out of the community. Very bad.

Why did Diotrephes do this? John knew. He wanted to be first. He wanted everyone to look to him – and to no one else. He didn’t want to share honor or authority. Diotrephes was proud. He was selfish. He was foolish. And he sinned. We don’t to be like Diotrephes.

In this letter to Gaius, which has become part of the New Testament, which has been read by millions, John mentioned Diotrephes by name. This teaches us that when a leader does something wrong that affects the community, or when a leader sins in a public way, it’s appropriate to call him out by name. The general principle: public sins are dealt with in public. Private sins are dealt with in private.

Diotrephes’ proud attitude and malicious actions didn’t deter John. He was determined to visit the community anyway; and when there, let everyone know that Diotrephes was sinning.

Some people expect the church to be perfect. Messiah’s Community isn’t now and wasn’t in the first century, when the church was at its best. Only the Lord of the church is perfect.

Diotrephes was sinning. John didn’t want Gaius to imitate him. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. God is good. If we really have seen God; if we really know Him, we will do what is good. If we are doing evil, it means we don’t really know God. John wanted Gaius to continuing supporting the traveling evangelists and teachers. He didn’t want Gaius to do what was evil by imitating Diotrophes. What about you? Are you doing what is good? Or, engaging in evil?

In contrast to Diotrephes was Demetrius. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone – and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. Perhaps Demetrius was one of those traveling evangelists or teachers. Perhaps he carried this letter from John to Gaius.

John wanted him to be given hospitality and support. He gave Gaius three reasons why:

First, all the believers who knew Demetrius spoke well of him. Everyone who knew him had good things to say about him.

Second, the truth spoke well of him. He lived in accordance with the truth. He was recommended by the truth. That’s a great recommendation.

Third, John and his team spoke well about him. When a great man of God like John spoke well about someone, he was worthy of support.

I want all of us to be like Demetrius – that our lives are lived according to the truth and everyone speaks well of us. Lord, make it so. Yes?

And, I want us to be discerning, so that we only support good people and ministries, and not those who are unworthy of our support. Lord, please also make that so. Yes?

John wanted to communicate much more to Gauis, but he knew that talking in person would be easier, and since John hoped to see him soon, he ended this letter this way: I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Just as John began this letter with a short prayer, he ended it with a very short, very Jewish prayer: Peace to you. The elder asked God to bless Gaius with wholeness and completeness and well-being, with peace. What a great prayer using just a few words!

He also let Gaius know that those with John sent their greetings to Gaius. The friends here send their greetings. I’m sure their greetings encouraged Gaius.

Messiah’s followers are called a number of things in the New Testament: Christians; followers of the way; children of God; believers; brothers and sisters; saints or holy ones; the elect or chosen ones; disciples. Each title tells us something about who we are.

John referred to his fellow believers as friends. It’s nice to have friends. Friends share common interests. Friends are close to each other. Friends help each other. Never think you have no friends. You do have friends. Lord, help the gospel to be so real to us; help Messiah’s Community to be so real to us that we consider each other to be friends. Yes?

The friends here send their greetings. And John asked Gaius to greet the friends there by name. He wanted Gaius to let each member of the community know that John and his associates were thinking about each one of them and cared about each one of them. They were not alone. There were other godly who cared about them. That would have encouraged them – especially when they were in a community led by someone like Diotrephes.

John was thoughtful and caring and considerate and personal; and wise and loving and very spiritual. Lord, help us to imitate his example. Yes?