Summary: The message encourages the people of God to capture again the attitude of friendship within the assembly.
GREET THE FRIENDS BY NAME
“I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
“Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.”
John’s third letter is to addressed to a man named Gaius, whom we rightly suppose to have been a congregational leader. The letter addresses a departure from orthopraxy precipitated and perpetuated by a man named Diotrephes. Diotrephes was apparently a church leader, either in the congregation to which Gaius belonged or to a church known to him. In his position of congregational influence, Diotrephes exhibited abhorrent arrogance manifested through acting as a dictator within the congregation. He refused to acknowledge written communication received from the Apostle John [VERSE 9], spoke ill of the work in which the Apostle was engaged [VERSE 10], and he refused to welcome itinerating missionaries, even going so far as to excommunicate church members who spoke in favour of receiving such servants of the churches. John addressed Diotrephes’ aberrant behaviour and promised to confront him shortly.
Conversely, the Apostle commended Gaius as one who was faithful to the universal practise of the churches [VERSE 5], showing hospitality to those engaged in full-time service before the Lord. Itinerating missionaries had testified to his love demonstrated through hospitality and generosity toward them and the work to which they were appointed [VERSE 6].
The purpose of the message is not to provide a thorough exposition of the brief missive, but to explore the truth revealed in John’s final statement. A literal translation of the closing statement reads, “Greet the friends by name.” Thus, the title of the message. However, John uses a Greek idiom which really cannot be translated literally to capture the sense of what he is saying. Therefore, in the English Standard Version we have the idiomatic translation which enjoins Gaius, the recipient of the letter, “Greet the friends, every one of them.”
We will be better equipped to serve together if we thoroughly understand the will of the Master for His people. His will is expressed through the manner in which we treat one another within the Family. Join me, then, in exploring the implications of the composition of the church and the manner in which we are to receive one another within the Body of Christ.
A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH IS COMPOSED OF FRIENDS — John informs Gaius that fellow Christians associated with the Apostle send their greetings along with the letter John is writing; and then the Apostle instructs Gaius to greet other Christians with whom He worships. What is important for us in this message is to note that John refers to the fellow Christians with him as “friends,” and he speaks of those fellow Christians with Gaius as “friends.” It is a powerful testimony of the ideal for a congregation—Christians are to be friends.
The Bible uses both the imagery of family and the imagery of friendship to instruct us concerning expected relationships among Christians, and especially the relationship of those who are part of the same congregation. As is true of all analogies, these particular comparisons are not perfect, though they do reveal what a member of the community of faith should be able to anticipate in terms of relationship with other members within that particular community.
You may have heard at some time the old saw that avows, “You cannot choose your family; but you can choose your friends.” In the normal course of life, one is born into a family. However, our acceptance of others and the way we treat others will determine our friendships regardless of relationship. Christians are children of a common Father, and as such we share much in common because we have each experienced the second birth. However, John’s reference stresses a relationship that lies solely within parameters of our own choosing—we are to love one another, freely extending our friendship to those with whom we share this common Faith, and in turn accepting their friendship which will be offered to us.
We Christians are responsible to recognise that we are members of one Family, treating one another as brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, we can and do treat family members unfairly on occasion, primarily because we can. Husbands can be abrupt and harsh toward their wives, just because they can. Wives can be thoughtless toward their husbands, because they know they can get away with it. Similarly, children many times are careless in their treatment of parents, and vice versa. Siblings often act unfairly toward one another, not considering the consequences of their actions. In a similar manner, we often take fellow Christians for granted, treating one another in a most despicable manner and ignoring our spiritual relationship.