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Lives that Contrast Light and Darkness

3 John 1:1-14

The Benefits of Walking in Truth

There is an important contrast between individuals who walk in the light and a person who walk in darkness. John mentions three specific individuals in 3 John: Gaius, Diotrophes and Demetrius. There is a sharp contrast seen as you compare the lives of Gaius and Demetrius with the life of Diotrophes.

There is much that we do not know about these individuals. However, there is enough said about them for us to learn some things to practice and some things to avoid. Let us study these three men.

There is a dire need for Christians to exemplify the life of Christ. John describes how we should live as he addresses three individuals in this letter. Let us examine what is said about Gaius and Demetrius first and then we will contrast them with Diotrophes. Hopefully from this study, we will be able to understand when we possess the spirit of light and the darkness. We should also be able to understand which of these three we should emulate and follow.

Gaius Served Others

3 John 1:1-8
The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 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. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 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 men so that we may work together for the truth. (NIV)

Gaius is well spoken of by others because he walks in truth. His soul was well as a result of living faithful to the truth. Gaius is reaping the fruits of a faithful life.

Gaius’ spiritual health is evident to all. He has a great reputation because he was recognized as a man who obeyed the Word of God and walked in the truth. John writes, "It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth." His entire life was wrapped around living the truth.

Gaius was causing others to rejoice as he encourages them through exemplifying faithfulness. Gaius encouraged John for John had "great joy" to hear he was walking in truth. Nothing is as encouraging as fellow Christians striving to live up to what they profess. John indicates that he has "no greater joy" than when he hears that God's children are living in the truth.

The church needs individuals like Gaius who meditate on God’s Word for the purpose of digesting so that it can become a part of their lives. When it the Word becomes a part of our lives we will be able to serve others with a spirit of devotion. Gaius wasn’t a teacher or preacher, but he opened his home to those who were. This was a great encouragement to those laboring as preachers and teachers.

Gaius demonstrates his faith through extending hospitality to others who are in the ministry.

3 John 1:5-8
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 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 men so that we may work together for the truth. (NIV)

Extending hospitality was an encouragement to the lost. Many wandered about in those days sharing their ideas and begging for money. When someone in the local community allowed ministers of the Word to stay with them, it gave the ministers credibility. It prevented them from needing money from those taught. Money hungry churches have left the impression that is all they are interested in.

Gaius demonstrates his faith by the way he lives. John writes, "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love." It is one thing to fight apostasy and refuse false teachers, but it is quite another to open our homes and wallets to promote the truth.

Gaius demonstrates what is good by following God in love. He demonstrates meekness as he is in submission to others through the will of God. He never sought to exalt himself, but rather sought the good of others.

Diotrephes Sought to Exalt Self

(The following on Diotrephes came from: Franklin Camp, Old Truths In New Robes, Vol.
2. Roberts & Sons, Birmingham, AL, Pg. 19-21.)
3 John 9-10
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. (NIV)

This problem is not unique in 3 John; we find this same attitude among the disciples of Jesus.

Matthew 18:1-5
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. (NIV)

Matthew 20:20-23
Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. "What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father." (NIV)

Luke 22:24-27
Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. (NIV)

This same attitude runs rampant throughout 1 Corinthians. Paul addresses the issue in the following verses.

1 Corinthians 12:12-25
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (NIV)

It is highly improbable that Diotrophes was opposing and casting some out of the church claiming that they were teaching error. He may have made himself believe that this was true, but this evidently was not the case, as John would have joined with him in opposing error.

There are certain attitudes that manifest a desire to serve and exalt self.

Just what it was that Diotrophes was offended about, we are not told, but it is not difficult to offend a man who has an undue sense of his own importance. The person that is in love with himself is always easily offended. The desire for recognition that is not deserved is always a dangerous thing. This same spirit at one time affected some of the apostles. They were wanting to be first, have the preeminence, but Christ showed them that service when given wholeheartedly and without desire for recognition, will bring exaltation.

The desire for preeminence creates competition rather than cooperation. Members of the body of Christ are not in competition with one another, but are to function together as the members of the human body. The church does not grow and prosper by competition, but by working together.

This principle is true not only of members of the local church, but also of congregations. In all too many instances where there are several congregations in a community, they act as if they are in competition with one another. It is possible for a congregation to have the spirit of Diotrophes. The church grows in the community where congregations work together and not against one another.

The spirit of Diotrophes will cause one to use some "trumped up" charge against another. It is evident that Diotrophes was doing this, for how could he have succeeded in "casting some out of the church" unless he was able to convince others to go along with him. Too often personal differences—matters of opinion—are used as a smoke screen to create factions. The spirit of Diotrophes makes a person color-blind so he cannot distinguish between his opinion and matters of faith. A person that is in love with himself thinks his word, his opinion is law. This is the ultimate end to which one comes that seeks preeminence. Christ is to have preeminence and His word is our law. But if some man seeks preeminence, he usurps the authority that belongs to Christ and the result is that he feels that his word is bound on everyone.

The motto of Diotrophes is "it is better to reign in a small church than to serve in a large one." When matters of faith are involved, it is better to reduce the size of the congregation and have it scriptural than to have the "biggest church in town" that is unscriptural. This was not the case with Diotrophes. It was the matter of controlling the church that reduced its size as far as Diotrophes was concerned. This is what always happens where a Diotrophes is found. The church shrinks instead of growing.

The spirit of Diotrophes causes one to seek power, not usefulness. The supreme desire of Diotrophes was to stand first, not do the most. This is a false aim and can only lead to ruin. The church at Corinth was cursed by this attitude and Paul said, "Seek that you may EXCEL TO THE EDIFYING OF THE CHURCH." The spirit of a Christian is to build up the church, not self. We need more of this seeking rather than the seeking for preeminence.

The spirit of Diotrophes, with its lust for power, is sure to abuse any power one may have. This very desire for power is evidence of a lack of any power given to him. Diotrophes’ casting people out of the church was an abuse of power. The desire to serve is the only safeguard against the abuse of power.

Diotrophes wanted his own way, not the best way, not the way that would be beneficial to others. If he could not have his way by fair means, he would attempt to get his way by foul means. The most prevalent way of "foul means" is "prating against us with malicious words."

Let us follow Demetrius and Gaius rather than Diotrophes.

Demetrius Receives Praises

3 John 1:11-14
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. 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. 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. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. (NIV)

John praised Demetrius, because others praised Demetrius. With the authority of an apostle, John underlined what others said about Demetrius. Here is a man you can trust. He is a man of truth. He has born testimony from all that he is to be trusted.

Evidently Demetrius was a missionary supported by other churches. When he went to make the gospel known, he did not seek money from those he was teaching. He had given up his income and his work as he went out to a higher calling.

It you seek the good of others you will be praised by them. That is the only kind of praise a Christians deserves.

Conclusion:

Matthew 23:11-12
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. KJV)

Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (NIV)

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (NIV)
 
 
 
 

 

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