God, help us desire that You would be honored—and not merely through us, but through all people. Protect us from the evil desire that is only excited about gospel fruit when it comes through our lives or our ministry. Help us to richly support others who labor for the truth, for Your name’s sake, not for ours. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read 3 John
As in his prior letter, 3 John continues to instruct Christians about how they should relate to and support missionaries. And, again, the apostle John tells us the test for whom we should encourage and support revolves around one thing: the truth. But where 2 John helped us know whom not to support, 3 John tells us whom we ought to support—including the why and how. In so doing, John introduces us to three key persons: Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius. As you read, consider how each person relates to the truth and how that shapes everything else about their lives—for better or for worse.
- Gaius loves others because of the truth. (v. 1–8)
- Diotrephes loves himself more than the truth. (v. 9–10)
- Demetrius rejects what is evil and chooses the truth. (v. 11–12)
- Concluding greetings (v. 13–14)
Consider Gaius, whom John loves in truth. John is confident that Gaius is doing well spiritually. Why? Because for the sake of the truth, Gaius is willing to support missionaries he doesn’t even personally know, merely because Gaius knows they were sent by someone he trusts (John’s church). Such support of gospel workers isn’t merely a good thing to do, but something we “ought” to do.
And notice the two tests of support-worthy workers that John mentions: 1) those who have gone out for gospel reasons, “for the sake of the Name”; and 2) those who aren’t motivated for the sake of gain from the pagans. As Gaius inconveniences himself for such men, notice how John describes him: “faithful” and a “coworker with the truth.”
None of this, unfortunately, is the case for Diotrephes. He, we’re told, “loves to have first place.” In stark contrast, notice what hellish fruit comes from his misplaced love and pride. In the end, it seems he’s willing to openly oppose legitimate gospel work merely because he won’t get the credit for it.
Most disturbingly, John doesn’t mention any theological error in Diotrephes. He may well have stated all orthodox positions. But because of Diotrephes’ pride and competitive spirit, John pronounces that his work is “evil.”
And then there’s Demetrius, an example of one who rejects evil and chooses what is good. Perhaps Demetrius was the bearer of John’s letter or an example from a nearby church. In any case, he’s clearly a model to be imitated as one who has seen God and lives a life in keeping with the truth. Demetrius, not Diotrephes, is the kind of man John hopes Gaius will model his life after.
Yet again, John ends his letter with warm affection and a desire to see his friends face-to-face. While some of the words in the letter are stern, they’re also a reminder that through it all, love is the apostle’s guiding motivation. Both in warning and in encouragement, John’s motive is love, and his goal is spiritual good for all who would read and heed his words.
3 John 7-8
7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
- John lays out a two-part test in 3 John 7 for the missionaries we ought to support. An old British pastor commented regarding this verse: “There are many good causes which we may support; but we must support our brothers and sisters whom the world does not support.” How do those two factors influence the priorities in your own giving and the giving of your local church?
- John also lays out the high biblical standard for our missionary support—“in a manner worthy of God,” he writes. Similarly, in Titus 3:13, the Apostle Paul instructs Titus that his goal in supporting two particular gospel workers should be “so that they will lack nothing.” Is this kind of abundant provision characteristic of your own support for missionaries or that of your local church? If not, why not?
- Consider your own heart. How would it change if you prayed and labored for years for the gospel to take root and flourish among a particular people or place? Then how would you respond if, after years of prayer and labor, God decided to cause the seed of his Word to spring up, resulting in an amazing harvest of souls and churches planted? Conversely, how would your response change if God did all that through the ministry of another church on the other side of town? What if you or your church weren’t really a part of the harvest at all? Would you be like Diotrephes or Gaius?
- Notice the importance of good examples. Demetrius is commended as one whose conduct is worthy of imitation. Consider whom you are imitating and why.
- Resolve this week to pray daily and by name for another Bible-believing, gospel-preaching church in your community. Pray that God would bless their ministry and bring in a wonderful harvest through them. And pray for God to help you really mean what you pray.
- Evaluate your own support for missionaries, either individually or church-wide. Is your goal for abundant provision consistent with what we’ve read in 3 John? If not, consider what might need to change to make that more of a reality.
- Look for godly examples of this kind of big-hearted love and obedience in your own local church. Consider the practices or traits that you should imitate in order to become more like the Christ they’re seeking to imitate, too.