Summary: In 14 verses John tells us things that no one else really expounds in the entire Bible. He talks about Christian hospitality. He talks about a man who opens his home lovingly, readily and willingly to see the work of the kingdom of God go forward.
This book is very short. It is the shortest book in the Bible. In 14 verses John tells us things that no one else really expounds in the entire Bible. He talks about Christian hospitality. He talks about a man who opens his home lovingly, readily and willingly to see the work of the kingdom of God go forward.
To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
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. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
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. 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.
I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 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. (NIV)
Try to imagine John’s problem. He lives in Ephesus and still travels a little to keep up his circuit of churches, probably the same churches identified in Revelation 2 and 3. In this way John is acting very much in the capacity of our bishop.
However. John is the last living Apostle. He is elderly. Perhaps in his late 80s or even in his 90s. His health is probably in a quite precarious position. Tradition tells us that John was carried to gatherings in his older years. Thus when we come to this short book he introduces himself simply as ’the Elder.’ Not only is he leading a small collection of churches, he is also a priceless and irreplaceable resource for the church at large.
In the tradition of Paul, Timothy and Titus many younger men have begun traveling from Church to Church to deliver messages and gifts, to act as emissaries for the Apostle and to help in evangelism and discipleship. With the hostility that has grown toward the church over the last number of decades, hospitality to these traveling ministers has become vitally important. They made their livelihood only through the generosity of those they visited.
One of the jobs of these visiting ministers was to teach. They brought the doctrine of the Apostles, in this case John, to remote churches and brought doctrinal questions back to the Elder. As the first century came to a close and the church became larger and wider spread, and the direct influence of the Apostles thinned out, heresy began rearing its head in the church. It would have been all John and his traveling messengers could do to keep up.
Now into this mix throw a bad church leader, possibly a pastor; he doesn’t like the visiting ministers nor will he support them. He exercises church discipline on any who does. He even seems to have something against John himself. He is an unfriendly, malicious gossip.
It looks as if an interplay between two congregations is happening here. Gaius is the pastor of one congregation and Diotrephes is the pastor of another. The traveling ministers have come to the city and Gaius received them while Diotrephes did not. John is commending Gaius for his hospitality, and encouraging him to receive this newest traveling minister, Demetrius. It appears that he was sent to Diotrephes’ church first and was turned away with rumors following in his wake. John wants to make sure that Gaius does not believe the rumors and accepts the ministry of Demetrius on the Apostle’s recommendation. Demetrius is probably delivering this letter himself.