3 John 1
by Pastor David Groendyk
Although this short letter is written regarding a very specific incident in the church, it provides a much broader application for all of us now. The apostle John (the same John who wrote the Gospel of John as well as 1–2 John) is writing to a man in the church named Gaius. Gaius is commended for his faithfulness (vv. 1–8) while another church leader named Diotrephes is condemned (vv. 9–10). The contrast between these two men is where our lesson comes from.
What makes Gaius such a faithful brother in the Lord? He lovingly received certain strangers into his home. The strangers were people on a journey who went out “for the sake of the name” (v. 7). This indicates that they’re likely some sort of missionaries. And as they are on this journey, they make a stop at the home of Gaius. What makes this such a commendable act? Supporting missionaries by welcoming them into your home and providing for them of your own means makes us “fellow workers for the truth” (v. 8). The application for us is to learn hospitality. Do you know what the word ‘hospitality’ means? In the Greek, ‘hospitality’ is a compound word that combines ‘love’ and ‘stranger’. It means ‘loving strangers’. The missionaries were strangers to Gaius (v. 5). They were foreigners, not known to Gaius. What is your attitude to people who are not like you, both inside the church and outside the church? The church is not the church if it is not welcoming to strangers and foreigners. Whether it’s with fellow believers who are already in the family of God, or with unbelievers who have the potential to be in family of God, how can you start practicing hospitality today? How can you use your home for the sake of the kingdom?
If Gaius is the positive example, Diotrephes is the negative. He only ever puts himself first, he doesn’t listen to the authority of the apostles, he slanders the apostles, he doesn’t welcome the missionaries, and he throws out of the church those who do want to welcome them. He is the epitome of the unloving, selfish, arrogant, evil “Christian”. Those who put themselves first in life are evil and do not know God. Why? Because the gospel is the ultimate message of humility. We do nothing to earn favor with God or our salvation, and even after we’ve been saved we still can’t do anything apart from God’s Spirit working in us. If we are truly humble, we ought to be willing to sacrifice anything “for the sake of the name”. This is why Gaius and Diotrephes are polar opposites. Gaius will sacrifice anything for the gospel; Diotrephes will never sacrifice. Now, it would be easy for us to point fingers at all the arrogant church leaders and members like Diotrephes. But if the church as a whole is ever going to fight the sin of pride, we must each look at our own selves before we ever look at someone else. Pride is one of those sins that I am certain every single Christian struggles with. I have no reservations in saying that. In what ways do you see yourself struggling with Diotrephes’ pride? In what ways are you tempted to put yourself first in life? How can you combat that?
All of this discussion about pride, love, humility, and hospitality is much bigger than personal holiness though. This letter is steeped in the context of spreading the testimony of the gospel. Gaius’ reputation was a boon to the spread of the gospel (and so was Demetrius’ in verse 12). Diotrephes’ reputation was a black eye on the gospel. What would non-Christians say about your reputation? Why is it important for Christians to have a good reputation with non-Christians?