Summary: Generally, those appointed to the Master’s service should be respected by all Christians, though that seldom works out in practise. The Apostles, the prophets and even those who have served as preachers of the Word, are often maligned and despised by the
“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.”
Modern Christians are poorly taught about missionary labours. This situation is not wholly the fault of individual Christians; the subject of missions is often neglected from the pulpit. This may be in part because contemporary Christians have been indoctrinated both by the world and by religious leaders to believe that missionary work is cultural imperialism. Whatever our reason for ignoring the mandate of the Master to carry the message of life into all the world, the churches appear woefully ignorant of missions.
I want to suggest that one primary reason we do not witness the vigorous missionary advance that characterised previous generations, is that we do not know what our mission is. Missions depend upon mission. If our mission is to huddle in holy enclaves, than we are fulfilling in admirable fashion the mandate we received from the Master. If, however, our mission is to make disciples, we are failing miserably.
On one occasion, Charles Spurgeon, the noted Baptist divine of nineteenth century London, preaching from the final verses of Mark’s Gospel, related the account of an exchange between an army chaplain and the Duke of Wellington. This is a transcription of his illustration. “An army chaplain once said to the Duke of Wellington, ‘Do you think that it is of any use our taking the gospel to the hill tribes in India? Will they ever receive it?’ The duke replied, ‘What are your marching orders?’ That was the only answer he gave. Stern disciplinarian as that great soldier was, he only wanted marching orders, and he obeyed; and he meant that every soldier of the cross must obey the marching orders of Christ, his great Commander. Go ye, therefore, as far as ever your position and capabilities allow you, and tell to every creature the word of the gospel as it is recorded in my text, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’”
Nothing has changed in the intervening years. Christ is still on the throne. The charge given to His disciples yet stands. The world is still lost. Mankind still teeters on the brink of eternity. We who have heard the Gospel still have the message of life. Christians are yet accountable to Him to fulfil His command. Not only are we responsible to be on mission with God, but we are responsible to be missionary-minded. We are accountable to God to pray for the Lord of the Harvest to thrust forth labourers into His fields, and we are responsible both to go and to assist those who go from our churches.
In this brief missive from the Apostle of Love, we saw that John registered not just disapproval, but something akin to horror at the thought that a church leader would not eagerly receive missionaries when opportunity was presented. Moreover, word had reached the aged Apostle that the particular church leader in question had not only refused to accept itinerating missionaries in his church, but he had debarred members of the congregation who wished to receive them, even going so far as to dismiss them from the congregation in some instances.
Diotrephes epitomised evil, and John identifies him as evil; his actions were unconscionable and unworthy of the Master. Contrasted to him was someone named Demetrius. It seems appropriate to conclude that Demetrius was one of the missionaries turned away by Diotrephes—perhaps he was even the leader of the missionary band. John speaks highly of him, holding him up as one worthy of receiving support from the churches because he had a good reputation with all who knew him, and especially enjoyed a good reputation with the Apostle.
Generally, those appointed to the Master’s service should be respected by all Christians, though that seldom works out in practise. As an aside, if a young man considers the ministry of Christ, believing that he will enjoy the respect of others, he should find another calling. The Apostles, the prophets and even those who have served as preachers of the Word, are often maligned and despised by the world. Let’s look at the issues as presented in the Word.
DEMETRIUS HAS RECEIVED A GOOD TESTIMONY FROM EVERYONE — “Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone.” The statement is obviously exaggerated to provide emphasis. It seems fair to say that it is doubtful that Diotrephes would have given him a good testimony. However, for the most part Demetrius appears to have conducted himself with integrity and honour, and was therefore, held in esteem by most believers that knew him.
Even outsiders are compelled to speak well of believers who conduct themselves honourably. We would each do well to remember the admonition that Peter gave to believers. “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” [1 PETER 2:12]. When we unpack this instruction we see that even unbelieving people know in reality the good that those who love God have done. Though pagans delight to find fault with every servant of God, they are compelled by the evidence to grudgingly give glory to God for the good that is done. They are incapable of explaining the benevolence done by servants of God.