Summary: John writes a letter that commends his friend Gaius, encourages him, and assures him that the troublemaker Diotrephes would be dealt with.
VERSES 1-2 FROM JOHN WITH LOVE
Once again we have John addressing himself as the elder, which is more a title of authority than speaking of age. He addresses his letter to his dear friend Gaius and once again, as we saw in his gospel and his first two letter, emphasizes LOVE. He declares that he not only love Gaius, but loves him in the truth.
He speaks generally as we would in a modern letter, declaring his strongest wishes that the Gaius is experiencing good health, but adds a desire that all is going well. The reference to “ALL” is inclusive of his physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. John wanted to express his desire that his friend not only be strong and healthy, but that he would be spiritually strong as well.
VERSES 3-4 THE BASIS OF A MINISTER’s JOY
John speaks of the great joy as he has received news that Gaius (and others as well) were continuing to walk in the truth (by implication John says that others, like Diotrephes, were not walking in the truth). Just as parents desire to hear good news about their children doing well in school, or on the job, or in life in general, spiritual leaders have a built-in desire to hear that those that they have reached are continuing to grow in the Lord and continuing to walk in righteousness. It thrills a Pastor’s heart to see or hear about those who have responded positively to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
Of course, the other side of that coin is the sorrow that is felt when those we have ministered to have wandered from the truth.
VERSES 5-8 COMMENDATION FOR GENEROSITY
John commends Gaius for ministering to some traveling ministers who had come to the church Gaius was involved with. John is impressed with the generosity and encourages Gaius to continue showing this love and cooperating with these brethren (who may have been the couriers who carried all three of these letters to the church). He also commends these brothers who had gone out for the sole purpose of sharing the Name, which of course is a reference to Jesus Christ.
John also emphasizes an important practice that many churches have gone away from. The church is not to seek financial aid from unbelievers. (NIV= pagans, KJV=Gentiles) The Greek word which is translated so differently here is stronger in the NIV. The concept of Gentiles was those who were unbelievers, outside of the faith. Churches should not solicit donations from non-believers. Churches must be careful in their fundraising activities. The church is to be supported by tithes and offerings. We are not to stand in front of Shopping centers and solicit funds for mission work. These brothers had limited their support to believers—always a mark of those who are seeking to maximize the influence of God and minimize the influence of unbelievers.
There is certainly an implication here that the false teachers described in I John had not held this principle very high. In fact, one of the marks of a false teacher is how he\she raises funds and what emphasis is placed upon it. Peter and Jude both write strong warnings of following after those who were only in ministry positions for monetary gain.
John adds that Gaius’ demonstration of hospitality was a demonstration of a cooperative spirit that allowed im to participate in their ministry. In Southern Baptist work, the Cooperative Program allows a small church like ours to participate in world wide missions and projects that would be much too big for our little church alone to attempt to accomplish. By cooperating with other Southern Baptists and sending our monthly gifts we have a part in reaching lost souls for Jesus Christ all around the world. We cooperate for the sake of the mission- reaching the Lost with the truth.
VERSES 9-10 DIOTREPHES LOVES TO BE FIRST
John says that he wrote to the church but apparently the message was interfered with by a church leader named Diotrephes. This implies that Diotrephes may even have destroyed the letter. At the very least, this disgruntled fellow publicly denounced John and those who ministered with him.
We have to look at the problems with Diotrepehes’ character. First, he rejected the Apostle John’s authority. Second, he sought to break fellowship between the church and John. The motivation for this conduct was his desire to be first. In other words, Diotrephes felt that his position in the church justified his actions. He also was acting for the purpose of protecting that position. He wasn’t a Christ-promoter, he had become a self-promoter.
In order to protect his position he was gossiping maliciously about the apostles. This means he was intentionally telling things that were not true and doing it from a position of malice. Anytime we see a person who is acting in malice we can know he is not motivated by God. It is one thing to stand up for that which is right, but malice has no place in the life of a believer and therefore malicious conduct is also out of place.