Summary: Through this very personal letter we are called to a life of encouragement, to honestly look at our ministry motives, and to live a life of sacrificial involvement.

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3 John 1-14

“Genuine Ministry Life”

Human beings are so good at making pendulum swings in their life.

We might wake up one day thinking, “I need to get more exercise”. You haven’t been for a run for the last 7 years but you still get up at 5:00am and try and go for a 5km jog.

You are so unfit you need to ring your wife to come and pick you up because you can’t make it home.

That is a pendulum swing … from one extreme to the next.

Last week we focussed on 2 John where we saw that sometimes, on occasions, it is ok for us to not show hospitality – especially when people are seeking to spiritually impose themselves into our lives … or they are trying to lead us astray. John wrote that letter to a group of people who were faced with itinerant religious preachers, philosophers and teachers to help the congregations discern who should be welcomed and who shouldn’t be. In that letter John says

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

2 John 12

What happens next results in John needing to write another letter which we call 3 John.

1 The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honours God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

In 2 John John wrote to the church warning about offering hospitality to the wrong itinerant preachers. John now wants to send Demetrius to the church as an itinerant preacher. However some people in the church are not wanting to welcome Demeritus – or for that matter anyone sent from John.

It is a pendulum swing – and it needs to be resolved.

The situation revolves around first century hospitality practises.

Briefly from last week … we saw that when you offered hospitality you were aligning yourself with the teaching and the character and the philosophy of the stranger-now-guest. You were saying, my guest is a reflection of me and I am vouching for them.

Which brings our attention to Demetrius. Demetrius is the itinerant preacher who is coming from outside the community … he needs hospitality. To help in the acceptance of this hospitality John writes 3 John.

John gives that letter to Demetrius.

Demetrius gives that letter to Gaius.

This letter served to authenticate that Demetrius was coming on behalf of John the disciple of Jesus.

Demetrius hasn’t just walked into town and said, “Hey look how good I am, listen to me.” He walks into town and has a letter from John which is basically saying, “This man is a faithful servant of Jesus and I am vouching for him.”

About 5½ years ago I was ordained by the Queensland Baptist Churches. It came about as a result of me going through a process – a similar process that all Queensland Baptist Pastors go through. So now, if I was to visit another QB church who didn’t know me, I could show them that I am an ordained QB pastor. Without even knowing me, the leaders in that church would be able to start with a level of trust in me, because of the level of trust QB has given me.

Here is Demetrius walking into town with a letter of recommendation … a letter of credibility … from John the apostle.

You don’t get a higher recommendation than that.

Demetrius is to be trusted and accepted and shown hospitality.

His reputation is affirmed by all who know him.

His ministry is affirmed by the truth itself.

He is personally vouched for by John.

Demetrius doesn’t have to say anything – everyone says it for him.

Let’s stop and think about what that means for us for a moment. Because this is a very personal letter it is a little harder to see some of the application. But there is an important application here.

You see all of us are involved in ministry in some way. As we think about our ministry what do people say about you?

It is an important question because it is one thing to think that you are a good example of Christ – it is quite another to have others see it. What commendation would others say about us?

You are not looking here for congratulations; but rather to have some honest self-reflection.

That is the first application … the second is for us to think about our community and ask ourselves are we in the habit of encouraging each other? Not just about general life, but the way other people live as they seek to serve Jesus. How Demetrius must have been encouraged by the words of John he is well spoken by everyone.

“Thanks for your service to me. Thanks for your encouragement.”

“You are a blessing. You have walked beside me when I needed you.”

“You helped me see Jesus.”

Encouraging each other in the joy of serving in the ministry of Jesus together.

Demetrius calls us to a life of encouragement.

Now let’s move on to Diotrephes. From the way 3 John is worded we can see that John has previously sent a different itinerant preacher to the church.

Diotrephes didn’t accept the preacher.

Gaius, with his own resources, offered hospitality.

News of this situation was sent back to John.

That is the historical situation reflected in verses 5-6.

As we saw last week knowing who to offer hospitality to was not always easy to discern. But one method that could help in that discernment was to carry a letter of recommendation.

Which is what John would have given to all his itinerant preachers.

Now, when that itinerant comes with a letter of recommendation … and then that itinerant is rejected … it is not the one carrying the letter who is being rejected … it is the one who wrote the letter who is being rejected.

Which means that, by rejecting the previous preachers, Diotrephes is rejecting the Apostle John.

John who by this time is well advanced in years … hence the title “The Elder”.

John who is one of the last people still alive at this stage who saw Jesus.

John who was known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.

John the disciple took the mother of Jesus into his home after Jesus was crucified.

Diotrephes is actually rejecting the authority of the apostle who walked with Jesus.

This is not just a different of opinion. This is a spiritual battle that is creating real problems.

Diotrephes doesn’t listen to the exhortations of John … Diotrephes wants nothing to do with us.

Diotrephes publicly puts down John and the preachers sent by John … by gossiping maliciously.

Diotrephes deliberately does not offer hospitality … by refusing to welcome the brothers.

Diotrephes is bullying the church by … putting out of the church those who show welcome.

It is possible Diotrephes is a leader in the church. We don’t really know.

But … it we were to give him a modern label … a word which comes to mind in “power-broker”.

“Power-brokers” are people in churches … sometimes they are leaders and sometimes they are not … who use their influence, or stature, or finances, or position, or family connections, or some other non-godly characteristic to get the way of ministry because they want ministry to happen “their way”.

Power-brokers of the calibre of Diotrephes … someone who is willing even to question John the Apostle … these people are dangerous.

They are dangerous because they stop the faithful ministry of the Word from happening.

They are dangerous because they are a distraction from building God’s kingdom.

They are dangerous because they cause others to be lead astray, or to be silent even though they know something is wrong.

Diotrephes – is a danger from within.

What is the main motive that drives Diotrephes?

He loves to be first.

Let’s stop here again.

Before I move on let me be very clear, Diotrepehes is the extreme. I can say that we do not have people in our church today who are like this. I will also say that anytime someone tries to be a Diotrephes, they will fail. We do not have a Diotrepehes.

But, we can be tempted with the same motive.

Hear again John’s summary assessment – He loves to be first.

“It is my way or the highway”. Perhaps it started just in his family – where he was an authoritarian and distant father. Then maybe he tried to flex this attitude at work. Then in his small group. Then in the wider community.

People who love to be first are a huge distraction to the work of God’s kingdom. Their main distraction is that can’t see beyond themselves and they are 100% convinced that they are in the right.

Even when faithful ministry is being prevented.

Even when faithful humble kingdom members are being hurt.

Even when the wisdom of the authoritative Scripture is being ignored.

We don’t want to be a Diotrepehes … so we need to look at our heart. Lord do I love to be first … or do I put myself first?

It is not an easy question to ask, but it is a necessary question to ask. We don’t want to be a Diotrephes.

Diotrephes calls us to honestly look at our ministry motives.

Now let’s move on to Gaius. It is clear that John knows Gaius personally – John calls him my dear friend.

As a dear friend of John he was a man whose soul is healthy. He is brimming over with spiritual life and vitality. In this specific case he showed practical faith by offering hospitality. The preachers from John came into town and were rejected by Diotrephes. So Gaius took them into his home. He looked after them. Then, knowing there was ministry elsewhere, he equipped them with what they need to go to the next town and to minister in that situation. It should have been the whole congregation bearing the burden – but here it is just one man. This is no small action. He was generous in his hospitality, even though it was inconvenient and it cost him dearly. But he did this because he was a man infused with the heart of Jesus.

Gaius is doing all he can to expand and support the Gospel influence. It was a sacrifice – and adding to all this was the fact that Gaius was now at odds with Diotrephes who was putting out of the church those who offer hospitality to the visiting preachers.

Gaius did this because he was walking in the truth. Gaius allows the truth to direct his life and he gets involved in the ministry so that those in need do not feel isolated.

That is where we can apply this verse. That we are people who make sure that, in the busyness and hardship of this world, no-one feels isolated.

Modern life has conspired to make us all strangers.

You can come home, drive into a garage door that opens automatically, and then shut the world out.

We used to have conversations with those who served us. Now everything is becoming self-service; or you buy it online.

Facebook, email, twitter and all these other “social” platforms give us the ability to say we have a social life, while keeping everyone at arm’s length.

What if the church stood against this by saying we will act in a way that makes sure people are not strangers.

Opening our home.

Being willing to put ourselves out.

Getting to know our neighbours and welcoming the new people.

Moving people from the margin and treating them as equals.

That is where we see the Gospel in action. We do this no matter what others think about us … just getting on with the ministry.

Gaius calls us to a life of sacrificial involvement.

So here we have three people.

Demetrius calls us to a life of encouragement.

Diotrephes calls us to honestly look at our ministry motives.

Gaius calls us to a life of sacrificial involvement.

May God give us the grace to hear these calls and put them into practise in as we daily live out the Gospel in our lives.