Summary: We are to love and live the truth.
There is something about brevity that makes a message all that more emphatic. I was pacing up and down a hallway outside a delivery room on April 16, 1976. I was trying to be calm and collected, but I acted more like a caged lion. Suddenly a big door swung open and a gowned nurse was holding this tiny human being. All she said was, “It’s a girl!” Brief, to the point, and life-changing--things have not been the same for me since that day.
3 John is the shortest book in the New Testament. In the original Greek language it is less than two hundred words. Though its message is brief, it is life changing. 3 John is the only New Testament book that does not use the name of Christ, though He is referenced in verse 7. The main concern of the letter is John’s push for a Christian named Gaius to remain faithful to the truth. The letter introduced Gaius to a believer named Demetrius. John recommended Demetrius and requested that Gaius provide for his needs. John also mentioned another man named Diotrephes, who was not remaining faithful to the truth and was hindering the advancement of the Gospel. If Gaius were wavering in his faithfulness, 3 John called him back to the truth. John did this by giving Gaius a bad example in Diotrephes and a good example in Demetrius.
Like Gaius we are to love and live the truth. 3 John gives us instruction on how to respond in order to love and live the truth. First, we are to love and live the truth by supporting the truth.
I. LOVE AND LIVE THE TRUTH BY SUPPORTING THE TRUTH (3 JOHN 2-8)
A. Support the truth in your lifestyle (v. 1-4)
(1) The Elder:
To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in truth. (2) Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3) For I was very glad when some brothers came and testified to your faithfulness to the truth—how you are walking in the truth. (4) I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
John’s love for Gaius was genuine. Three of the first eleven words in the Greek language refer to love. When John said he loved Gaius “in the truth,” he did not mean sincerely. John was not saying, “Truly, I love you.” When we use the word “truth” we often are referring to facts. Truth is something that can be known and proven or disproved. But for John truth is something that goes beyond just the facts. It is something God reveals about Himself and mankind through the coming of Jesus Christ. Since it is something God has shown us because we would never have known on our own, it demands that we live according to that truth. John loves Gaius with God’s kind of loved as revealed through the life and death of Jesus Christ. That is real love!
It was typical in that day for letters to express good wishes for a friend. Christians turned this part of letters into a prayer for the recipient as we see in verse 2; his would be a good practice to adopt in our correspondence. John prayed for Gaius’ health. Maybe Gaius was in bad health or maybe it was something they prayed often for one another in a day when they did not have an aspirins or antibiotics. John may have prayed for Gaius to continue to experience robust health. Whatever Gaius’ actual health condition, John knew Gaius was spiritually healthy. Listen to this: John prayed that Gaius’ physical health would mirror his spiritual health! What would your physical health be if it reflected your spiritual health? The good news is you can be strong in your relationship with God despite your physical health.
The reason John knew Gaius’ lifestyle was devoted to living out the truth of God was because of several testimonies of others who had been with Gaius, as we see in verse 3. In that time it was not easy or convenient to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The churches were being attacked on all sides by false teachers and persecutors. But Gaius ha withstood all of that and remained faithful to live for Christ. This is what John had heard, and as a pastor, nothing gave John more joy than to see Christians being faithful to live the Christian life.
When I was a student at Oklahoma Baptist University one of the assignments for a religion class was to interview four pastors. I still remember details of those four interviews. I asked all four men, “What is the greatest joy of being a pastor?” My pastor, Bailey Smith, said it was seeing someone come to faith in Christ, grow as a Christian, and see them reproducing themselves in others coming to Christ. Two other pastors said basically the same thing and I can tell you they understated that joy. Sometimes that is the only reason a guy sticks with the calling to the pastorate. You look back at someone you helped bring to Christ and grow in Christ. You see how the Holy Spirit has written an entirely new history for them. Maybe, you think, you have not wasted your time and life. That is a great joy for a pastor, and it is a great joy for a parent or a Sunday School teacher to see their children or class members reflecting a devotion to Christ.