Dr. Richard L. Strauss
December 8, 1991
We've all heard somebody say, "I think God threw the mould away after He made him."
That's true of all of us. None of us comes from the same mould; we're all a little different. It's fun to meet new people. I met a few last week--who were different, extremely different. And while it's a lot of fun to meet new people, there are some who stand out so much that we're really happy we met them. And then there are always a few we wish we could forget. But whatever the case, when we meet new people in can be an enriching experience and can make us stronger in a spiritual sense. Whether it is positive or negative, we can grow through that experience.
I want you to meet three men. What a tremendous contrast these men are. Maybe you know them already if you've read the book of 3 John, but I imagine for some of you, you'll be meeting them for the first time today. You'll be glad you met two of the men but the third one you're going to wish you could forget. I hope that the experience of meeting these three men, and seeing the great contrast between them, will be a spiritually rewarding and enriching experience for you, and will help you grow in the things of Christ.
(3 John 1-8)
Let's first meet Mr. Gaius (pronounced GAY-us).
"The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth" (3 John 1).
The name Gaius occurs four other times in the New Testament: twice in the book of Acts, once in Romans, and once in 1 Corinthians. Nobody really knows whether this Gaius mentioned in 3 John is the same as any of the others. We really don't know anything about him except for one thing: He was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what the term "beloved" means. It's used that way many times in the New Testament. The beloved Gaius. It's used four times of him in this letter (verses 1, 2, 5, 11). John addresses him as the beloved one.
This teaches us that Gaius was the object of his Heavenly Father's love. He was one of God's beloved ones. The beautiful thing is that we are, too, if we know the Lord Jesus as our Savior. We are loved and accepted by God because He loves and accepts His Son, and we are in His Son. That's what Ephesians 1:6 is all about: "to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved."
If there is one thing people are looking for these days it's love and acceptance. We meet people everyday longing for somebody who accepts them and loves them. Sometimes they glean this acceptance in ways that are not acceptable. Some women think that love for their bodies is love for them so they flaunt their bodies and seek that kind of attention, but eventually they learn that it results in emptiness. That's a poor substitute for real love and acceptance.
The good news I have for you according to God's Word is that God wants to accept you. All you have to do is believe that and accept His provision for your sin so that He can accept you. That provision is the blood of His Son shed on Calvary's cross. He'll wash away all of your sins and He will accept you, then you will be one of God's beloved ones. That's the most exciting thing in life and it's available to us by God's grace for free because Christ paid for it. All we need to do is accept it.
Gaius wasn't one of those kinds of Christians who was only loved by his Heavenly Father. You've heard the phrase "only a mother could love." Well, there are some Christians it seems that only the Father could love. But Gaius wasn't one of those; others loved him, too, and John was one of them. It was the fact that they were bound together in the truth of God's word that drew John together with this gracious man.
"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper"--or actually, that things may go well--John's not praying that Gaius would make a lot of money. "Beloved, I pray that things may go well with you and that you may be in health, even as things are well with your soul" (3 John 2). We just sang the song It Is Well with My Soul.
Things were well with Gaius' soul but evidently he was in poor health. John says, "I pray that you may be in well in health even as you are well with your soul." John is hopeful that Gaius' body would be in as good of condition as his soul. That's quite a compliment. There are not a lot of people who are like that. A lot of people take far better care of their bodies than they do of their souls. Their bodies are doing well but their souls are not. Gaius had it the other way around.
Some people spend hours primping in front of the mirror but they don't spend much time beautifying their souls with godliness and righteous living. Some people will feed their bodies with the choicest gourmet delicacies but they don't spend very much time feeding their souls with the Word of God. Some people will exercise their bodies rigorously and regularly to keep them in good shape--there's nothing wrong with that. We ride bikes and play tennis and golf, and lift weights, and jog and waterski. But some folks who do that overlook exercising their souls by sharing Jesus Christ, by serving Him. If only our souls were doing as well as our bodies were doing, we'd be in great shape today.
Gaius was an unusual Christian to say the least. He had things in the right order. I don't think he was neglecting his body. He just had some things going on that were beyond his control. John is praying that his body would do as well as his soul.
As we might expect, Gaius is one of those Christians who lived what he believed.
"For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth" (3 John 3).
Praise the Lord! The truth was in Gaius' mind and heart and soul. He was walking in the truth. He was living the truth. Gaius' life was consistent with the truth he professed to believe. He brought no reproach upon the name of Jesus Christ. And by the way, this wasn't just Gaius tooting his own horn; this is what other people said of him. The "brethren came and testified" that he was walking in the truth. What a joy that was to the Apostle John.
"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 4).
There was no greater joy in John's life than for him to hear that the people with whom he shared Christ were growing and living their lives for the Savior, studying the Word and appropriating it to their lives--letting it change their lives--and becoming righteous and godly men and women. What a great thrill.
Now that's true of a human father and physical children, isn't it? Human parents delight in the progress their children make. They love to see them make good, from the very first words they speak. If they make good, and marry well, and find a career in the center of God's will, it just thrills a parent's heart. The same thing is true in the spiritual realm. If you're instrumental in bringing about the spiritual birth of someone, it thrills your heart to see that one go on to grow in the Lord Jesus. I can tell you from personal experience that this is one of the greatest things you'll ever know.
But I have to admit to you that I've also had the other kind, too. I can remember a phone call several years ago. The man on the other end of the line said, "I work with one of your board members and he has some interesting views on pornography I thought you might like to know. He's telling people at work that it's not really hurting anybody and we have no right to tell people what to do behind their closed doors." In another phone call a man said, "I'd like to tell you how one of your good members cheated me in a business deal." And he went on to describe a very pathetic story which broke my heart.
These were heartaches for me, but I have to tell you, they were nothing to me compared to what they must have been to God. I think His heart must have been crying over these His children--and in some cases, leaders in His church--whose lives were bringing reproach upon His name. They were not walking in the truth.
Thank God for men and women and young people like Gaius. Everybody can plainly see as they look at them wherever they are--in school, in business, in their neighborhood, in their social circles--they are living in the light of God's inspired Word. Their lives are different. No wonder John rejoiced at the report he got.
That's great. But there's something even greater here and it's the thing for which Gaius was best known: his hospitality.
"Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well" (3 John 5-6).
Now as we learned from 2 John a couple weeks ago, the early church depended on itinerant apostles, prophets, and teachers before the Scripture was completed. Those unselfish men gave up everything for the cause of Christ and cast themselves totally upon the mercy of God and upon the kindness of God's people--their hospitality. They left all for His name's sake. It says that in the next verse.
"Because they went forth for His name's sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles" (3 John 7).
They refused to take any support from unbelievers. "Heathen, pagan" is what the word Gentiles means here. They cast themselves fully upon God's people to sustain them. Now without big-hearted Christians with open homes, these men could not have continued to minister. The spiritual strength and vitality of the early church would have been diminished lacking their ministry. So you see the early church depended largely upon the grace of hospitality. Without people with open homes, without these prophets and teachers and apostles, the church would not have had the spiritual food God wanted them to have. They didn't have the completed Word and this was God's means of revealing Himself to those people. Hospitality was indispensable in the early church; it could not have existed without it.
That's why one of the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3 is that he be given to hospitality. He had to set an example in this regard. It was so vitally important. There is no evidence that Gaius was an elder, but he was an example in this matter. Not only to his own special friends but to strangers.
"You do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and to strangers" (3 John 5). John exhorts him to keep up the good work--that's what verse 6 is all about.
"If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well" (3 John 6b).
"Send them forward on their journey." What does that mean? Well it was customary to escort the important guest for a short way outside the city after he stayed in your home. And then you'd send him on his way, oftentimes with food and money for his journey so he could get to the next city where he would minister.
You sent them forward on their journey, in a manner worthy of God or literally "worthily of God." Since these men were the Lord's ministers and His representatives, they should be treated as the Lord Himself. How would you treat the Lord if He was visiting your home? Well then, do that for these men, John is saying. To do that is to become a co-worker in the truth.
"We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth" (3 John 8).
Now this is the other side of the book of 2 John. Remember in our study two weeks ago that in 2 John 11, we read "for he who greets him [the one who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ] shares in his evil deeds." If you help a false teacher spreading false doctrine, then you're responsible for the damage he does. You answer for it to God. But by way of contrast, if you help a true teacher of God's Word who loves the truth of God's Word, then you contribute to the strength and the blessing that he brings. God is going to reward you as well as him for the blessing that he brings to the church. That's the grace of hospitality.
That's a disappearing grace in our day and age, I'm afraid. Churches now have unified budgets and we can pay for things. We have lovely motels in which speakers can stay. In fact, they often prefer to stay there, really, if it's their choice. We want to do that for them. Oftentimes it's a burden to have to put on their company face all the time and they like to be alone. It gives them time to meditate and pray and prepare for their ministry. But you know, all in all, the church of Jesus Christ may be the loser because of the dying grace of hospitality.
I think it would be to our spiritual benefit to resurrect it. I'm not talking about entertaining and being entertained by our special friends. I'm talking about providing food and lodging for Christians who need it, whoever they may be. Maybe they are pastors or evangelists or Bible teachers. Or missionaries or college students or foreign travelers. Maybe just needy believers--not indolent careless believers but those who beyond their own circumstances are in need to open your home to them. Oh what a blessed thing this grace is in the New Testament, and what a wonderful thing it would be in our own assembly.
The writer to the Hebrews says something interesting about hospitality.
"Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels" (Hebrews 13:1-2).
You say, "Ah, but that could never happen today." Why not? We're in the same age that the writer to the Hebrews wrote to and he held that out as a real possibility. Now I don't think I've ever entertained an angel but I know believers who claim they have. These are very intelligent and spiritually-minded people in whom I have a great deal of confidence, including Dr. V. Raymond Edmun who for so many years was President of Wheaton College (1941-1965) and is now with the Lord. He told the story of one Christmas season while he was serving as a missionary in South America when he got a visit from a very strange and unusual guest. After the guest left, he pondered the happenings and the words and the whole experience of what that man did for him, and he came to the conclusion that that was an emissary from God. Now I don't whether he was right in his conclusion but it's entirely possible. I do know that it won't ever happen unless, like Gaius, we're given to hospitality.
(3 John 9-10)
I'd like you to now meet a second man. His name is Diotrephes (pronounced die-OT-tre-fees) and he is a marked contrast to the gracious Gaius. He is a tyrannical Christian leader.
"I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church" (3 John 9-10).
Wow. It looks like we've stepped smack dab in the middle of a church squabble here in 3 John 9-10. The whole squabble is over whether or not to receive certain traveling teachers, to provide for them, and allow them to speak in the assembly and then speed them on their way.
John knew these teachers personally and he had great confidence in them. He wrote a letter to Gaius' church recommending these men but he met stiff resistance from a fellow named Diotrephes, who is obviously one of the leaders in the church. He had to be a leader to exert the kind of power he did.
Now Diotrephes not only refused to receive those teachers but he also refused to receive John. He "does not receive us" [emphasis added], John says. I don't know what he means by that. Maybe he means that rejecting those teachers was the same as rejecting him since he recommended them. Or maybe he means that he himself wanted to come and visit that church and Diotrephes put up a stink about that. I'm not sure. But in either case, he rejected John's authority. He repudiated the authority of the Apostle John. Think of it--the Apostle John who lived and walked with Jesus. He reclined at dinner with Him as the one Jesus especially loved. The beloved Apostle John.
This Diotrephes rejected the authority of the Apostle John and he got away with it. Diotrephes was pretty shrewd. His modus operandi is detailed for us in these verses. But when John comes, he's not going to let him get away with it. You can count on that.
"Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does" (3 John 10a).
"I'm going to expose his M.O. for everyone to see." This isn't sour grapes or selfish revenge. That's the godly John's endeavor to defend righteousness and truth, and to salvage a church that's going down the tubes because of this tyrannical leader. Now look at what he was doing.
"...prating against us with malicious words" (3 John 10b).
That means he was talking nonsense and bringing unjustified charges against them. Diotrephes had an overactive tongue, and when he got it into high gear he wasn't too careful about the facts.
Second, he wasn't satisfied with just broadcasting lies.
"And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren" (3 John 10c).
In other words, he refused to allow any of these godly itinerant teachers in his home or in the church. I guess Diotrephes knew that the exposition of God's word. If the Word of God was taught, then his reign of terror would come crumbling down all around him and he wasn't going to stand for that. So he would not allow them in; he just wouldn't tolerate it. But that's not all he did.
"[Diotrephes] forbids those who wish to" (3 John 10d).
Now I don't know how he did that. I don't know how he kept anyone else in the church from allowing these people in their homes. Maybe he intimidated them. Maybe Diotrephes was 6'6" and 290 pounds and had a voice like a bullhorn; he just scared everybody to death. I don't know how he did it but he did. And still that isn't all he did.
"[He put] them out of the church" (3 John 10e).
That is, if he found anybody else who showed hospitality to these godly traveling teachers, he used his influence to have them kicked out of the church. Unbelievable.
What makes a man act like this? What causes this? I would say it's a characteristic of his old sin nature that he really never gave over to the Lord. Here's the problem: "...but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them" (3 John 9b). He loves to be first. He loves to be the leader. He has to have his own way.
You see, it's God's intention that His Son have all the preeminence. We're told that in Colossians 1:18--"And He [Christ] is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence."
Diotrephes didn't want Christ to have all the preeminence; he wanted it for himself. And anyone who threatened his position of power and preeminence became victims of his viscous attacks. This man is in the church, claiming to be a believer. He had to run the whole show. It had to be his way or he was going to pick up all his marbles and go home. Maybe he had some money and he gave so much that he basically owned the church so everybody had to do what he said. I don't know. That's happened in churches even in modern times, you know. He had to have things his own way.
You see, the church for Diotrephes was not a body of believers in which the members mutually minister to one another and build each other up in the things of Christ and make each other strong in the faith. No, the church for Diotrephes was a power base where he could assert his own self-will. That has happened in churches many times over; it happens today in some churches.
Dr. A.T. Robertson, a great Baptist Greek scholar of a past generation who wrote many works--in fact, he wrote the Harmony of the Gospels we're using on Wednesday nights. He wrote a set of volumes called Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament (6 Volumes), which is a valuable tool for every student of the Scriptures whether you know Greek or not. It's helpful because it's all in English letters. I was using Word Pictures in preparation for this message and Dr. Robertson told a very interesting story. He said several years before he wrote those volumes, he wrote an article for a denominational paper. I would assume that since Dr. Robertson was a Baptist, it was a Baptist paper. The paper was on Diotrephes. He said the editor of the paper wrote him a letter and told him that 25 deacons in various churches canceled their subscriptions to the paper because they were "personally attacked" in the paper. All it was was a message on 3 John and the man Diotrephes. You see, it happens today.
May God help us to know the difference between lovingly expressing our opinions and selfishly asserting our wills. God forbid that the spirit of Diotrephes should invade any of the people in this local assembly, whether it be with the pastoral staff or on the board of elders, or deacons, or in any other capacity. We need to be very, very careful about lovingly expressing our opinions rather than selfishly asserting our wills as Diotrephes did.
Like I said, he's the type of fellow you'd like to forget, isn't he? Let's go on.
(3 John 12)
The third man's name is Demetrius. Meet him in verse 12.
"Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true" (3 John 12).
It's not absolutely definite, but the progression of thought in the letter implies that Demetrius was one of the primary teachers that Diotrephes barred from the church. In other words, as soon as John condemned that he goes right on to emulate Demetrius. The implication is: Here's the man that Diotrephes wouldn't let in.
Look at Demetrius' credentials. He had a good report from everybody who knew him. I wish I could say that. I'm sure that people know things about me that are not good. That's a shame; it really is. And I wonder whether people could say that about you. Do you have a good testimony from all, from everybody who knows you? I wonder whether the people at your work or in your social circles know some things about you that aren't consistent with the Word of God and the revealed will of God. Not true of Demetrius. What a man. A godly Christian teacher.
He had a good report from everyone and of the truth itself. You put Demetrius beside the truth of God's Word and boy, he comes out smelling like a rose. No fault in him. Fantastic! And that's not all.
The Apostle John knows him personally and he bears witness to his doctrinal soundness, and his profitable ministry, and his Christlike life. "And you know," John says, "that our testimony is true."
Christians need to learn to distinguish between teachers whose lives are Christ-honoring and those who are self-seeking. I think that's what verse 11 is all about.
"Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God" (3 John 11).
Learn to distinguish between good and evil, and then mimic those who are good. Paul says, "Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:11). In other words, "Those things that are Christlike in me, you mimic them." If you see any good Christlike behavior in the pastoral staff here, imitate it. We pastors, board members, and teachers in the church need to be aware that people are watching our lives, and ask God to make us the example that Demetrius was. He brought glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ.
Well, in this third epistle as in his second one, John has many other things to say.
"I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name" (3 John 13-14).
"I have many more things to say," John says, "but they can wait. This cannot."
God revealed to John this big message taught in this little book about a big contrast between three men. You see, it's so easy to get off on a tangent and follow extremes. Unfortunately, there are churches today that follow extremes. We're to avoid those extremes.
There are certain churches who, without discernment, accept anybody who calls himself a Christian. They don't evaluate his doctrine and they don't know what he believes, but sometimes he'll stand up and teach things that mislead God's people. That's wrong and we cannot tolerate that at Emmanuel Faith Church. And then there are churches who are so exclusive that they'll accept only those who carry their particular label lest they say something in some little detail that differs from what they believe and they lose control of their people. That doesn't honor the Lord either.
The balance is somewhere in the middle; it always is. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of balance, not of extremes. What God wants us to do is measure everybody according to the basic doctrines of the Word of God, and then to warmly and gladly received those who love the truth. That's God's standard for our church. If we want to be a true New Testament church, then that's the principle by which our board of elders must operate as we seek to invite others into our church to share our pulpit and minister the Word. The Word of God helps us in every detail of our personal life and our church life. This one helps us with our church life specifically.
We love the truth at Emmanuel Faith Church. We love it. God says His Word is true. And as we study the truth of God's Word from beginning to end--Old Testament by typology, by prophecy and by illustration; and New Testament by declaration--one theme seems to summarize the truth of God's Word. It seems to be the basic thread that goes through it. It's probably best summed up by one verse in the New Testament:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
There are many other truths in God's Word, but here is the most vital: God loves you, my friend. So much so that He sent His Son to die in your place to bear the guilt and penalty of your sin. Peter tells us that as He hung on that tree He bore our sins in His body (1 Peter 2:24). Christ died for our sins. That's the Gospel--the good news. He's alive today to prove that He did it.
Maybe you're not sure you're saved. Maybe this is a decision you've known you should make but you've been putting it off. Or maybe you've always thought you were a Christian but there never was a time when you really admitted your sin and put your faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. Why not do it now? Why not enjoy God's free gift of eternal salvation and become acceptable to Him and accepted by Him?
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the truth of Your Word. We pray that we may stand unwavering for that truth, but with hearts of grace and kindness toward others. Father, we pause right now to pray for those who may not know the Lord Jesus, who came to hear some truth but have yet to make the decision to trust Christ and His shed blood--the provision for their forgiveness. We pray that today they may join with us and become Your children, forgiven through the blood of the Lamb, forgiven of all their trespasses.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
While our heads are bowed, our custom is to give you the opportunity to make a decision to trust the Lord Jesus. If you haven't done it before, why not do it now? Why play with eternity? Why not settle it now and secure eternal life forever? Do it in your own way in the quietness of your own heart and pray. Tell Him you've sinned but you believe Jesus came to die for your sins. Tell Him that you believe Him. Talk to Him.
"Lord Jesus, come into my life. I'm trusting You and the provision You made. I'm not trusting myself or my good works. I'm trusting Your shed blood. Come into my heart and save me."
He wants to do that. He waits at your heart's door. Ask Him in.
Father, we pray that some this very hour would pass from death to life and be forgiven of all their iniquity, by calling on the Lord Jesus personally in saving faith. For it's in His name we pray. Amen.
Continue to LB-4A: Jude: The Big Battle (Part 1)