3 John

Today’s reading is 3 John.

Can you imagine excluding one of the twelve apostles who walked with our Lord from coming to our church to speak? OK, Judas, yes. Without repentance we wouldn’t welcome him but that wouldn’t have been an issue since he killed himself.

I’m talking about John--the disciple that Jesus loved, one of Jesus’s three closest associates, and one of the three people who saw his transfiguration. That guy, John, wanted to come to some church, somewhere but he was refused entrance according to verse 9. Why? Because of some guy named Diotrephes. We don’t know anything about him other than what John wrote of him here in 3 John. He must have been an elder or have some kind of outsized influence in this church; otherwise, he would not have been able to prevent John from coming there.

But what an influence he must have had! To successfully prevent one of the Lord’s Twelve from getting an audience in his church suggests an outrageous amount of power. And, apparently that’s what he wanted because John described him as a man who “loves to be first” (v. 9b).

John wasn’t alone; verse 10 tells us that Diotrephes “refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” So any believer that tried to come to his church was prevented from entering and, if you were in the church and tried to bring someone in, you’d be subject to discipline by Diotrephes. Outrageous!

How did he amass this kind of power? We don’t know exactly, but there is a clue in verse 10a when John says that Diotrephes was “spreading malicious nonsense about us.” He used the power of words to gain control and influence, then used that influence to call attention to himself instead of to glorify God. This is one of the destructive aspects of gossip. Gossip is often true but embarrassing information about others. Sometimes, though, it is completely false and has been planted by someone with evil intentions. This appears to be one of the ways that Diotrephes was able to keep his church under his evil influence.

Although Diotrephes was affective, he should not be imitated for verse 11 says, “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.”

Do you think about the words that you use and the destructive power that they potentially can have? Are you careful about the words used by others, not believing “malicious nonsense” (v. 10b) but going to the source to verify, clarify, or refute these nonsensical things? Do you “love to be first,” basking in the recognition of others? Let God’s word today help you examine your motives and your practices and teach you to “imitate... what is good” (v. 11a).

Deuteronomy 1, Psalms 81–82, Isaiah 29, 3 John

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 1, Psalms 81–82, Isaiah 29, 3 John. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 3 John.

One aspect of early Christianity that is often overlooked today is how early Christians welcomed and provided for those who were spreading the gospel around the world. This letter we know as 3 John gives us some insight into this practice. 

Christ commanded the apostles to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19) but as they obeyed this command, the apostles needed a way to provide for their daily needs. Paul, the apostle, went to new areas with the gospel and either worked to provide for himself (Acts 18:1-3) or received funds from other churches he had started and established in the past (Acts 18:5, Phil 4:14-19). As the churches matured, they became more reliable in providing funds for those traveling to spread the gospel. Here in 3 John 5, John is commending the recipients of this letter for doing that. As verse 5 put it, “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you.” Verse 7 clarifies this when it says, “It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans.” God’s servants “went out” to spread word about “the name” of Jesus; they did not charge the people they were seeking to win to Christ (v. 7b: “receiving no help from the pagans”). Instead, they relied on the faithful giving of other believers and churches (v. 5: “you are faithful in what you are doing…even though they are strangers to you”). 

John urges Gaius and the other believers with him (v. 14c) in 3 John to keep supporting anyone who comes through his area while traveling to spread the gospel. Verse 6b says this when John wrote, “Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.” Sending them “on their way” meant giving them the funds they needed to travel and survive. “In a manner that honors God” suggests that Gaius and his brothers fund the missionaries well. Verse 8 concludes this section by telling us that this is a principle that believers should follow: “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.” Those who provide financially for others who travel to spread the gospel are “work[ing] together for the truth;” in other words, their financial support is an act of partnership in the gospel. Even in the next section that sanctions Diotrephes for his selfish behavior, John includes his stinginess toward those traveling for the spread of the gospel as part of his criticism: “…he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” 

This section challenges us to consider our commitment to the spread of the gospel through missionaries. John’s statement that “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth” invites us to be part of what God is doing in the world by supporting his servants who give the gospel full time. The expression, “Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God” encourages us to be generous in how we give; God’s servants deserve more than token amounts; they deserve generosity because of whom they serve. Finally, the phrase “you are faithful” reminds us that those who work for the spread of the gospel need an ongoing, steady supply of cash so that they can serve without distraction. If you’re giving faithfully, generously to the Lord’s work through missions (either through our church or in addition to your giving to our church), keep it up! Your giving means that you are working “together for the truth” with those involved in church planting and missions. If you’re not giving to God’s work, consider the impact that your faithful support could have for the spread of the gospel to the glory of God. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.