Real Maturity

Posted: August 22, 2010 in 3 John

3 John “Real Maturity”

Author: the apostle John. There was an “Elder John” known to the church, but there’s little doubt that the author of 2 John is also the author of this letter (same openings/closings), and there’s little doubt that the author of 2 John is none other than the apostle.

Date: 80-90AD…roughly the same time frame as 1 John & 2 John. Some believe that 2-3 John may have been sent by the same courier.

Occasion: 3 John takes a bit of a different tack than 1-2 John, which were very complementary in information. 1 John was written to (1) assure the church of their own salvation in Christ, and (2) warn the church away from false teachers who were proving themselves to be unsaved. 2 John was more personal, but covered basically the same ground. As travelling prophets & teachers made their way to different local churches, John was warning one particular church congregation (who perhaps met in a Lady’s house) to stay clear of false teachers & not even to greet them, lest the church supports them in their evil deeds.

3 John is written from the opposite point of view. There seem to be two local church leaders in view: one that is mature in the faith, and welcomes travelling missionaries & teachers – and a second that is arrogant & domineering, who forbids any interaction with other Christians, and excommunicates anyone who disagrees with him. Whereas the church in 2 John was hospitable without discernment; one of the church leaders in 3 John wasn’t hospitable at all – and people were in danger of getting sucked into a cult.

The basic issue between the two leaders in 3 John seem to come down to maturity. One is wonderfully mature in Christ, which is demonstrated through his actions. The other is someone who claims to be mature, but is anything but that…on the contrary, he just wants the spotlight. His arrogance & evil deeds go so far as to imply he’s not even saved. People can claim all day long to be mature in Christ – they can put on airs & attempt to show off their ‘spirituality’ in hopes that others will look at them & give them honor & praise for being such ‘good Christians.’ But true maturity in Christ is demonstrated; not claimed.

3 John 1-14 (NKJV)
– John’s love & blessing…
1 The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:

A. The Elder = the apostle John…exact same terminology used in 2 John.
B. Who was Gaius? We don’t know. He seems to have been a leader in his local church congregation (perhaps one of the elders), due to the way John addressed him regarding how he received visiting missionaries & teachers. “Gaius” was an extremely common Roman name, and there’s no reason to believe he’s either the same “Gaius” mentioned in Acts, Romans, or 1 Corinthians.
C. What we DO know about Gaius: He was “beloved” generally by the Church. And he was loved specifically by John… This was a man who had a wonderful reputation in Christ!
D. John had a reason to love Gaius: he loved him “in truth.” We love one another because of the gospel of Jesus Christ…

2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

A. Wonderful prayer/blessing from John! Prayed for Gaius’ health & prosperity. From the letter, it seems that Gaius may have been a wealthy man (he had the financial means to support missionaries), so “all things” could easily include finances – but obviously it’s bigger than that. John prayed simply that Gaius’ life would prosper & be blessed by God. For all the myriads of ways in which “prosperity” is misrepresented on Christian TV today, there’s nothing wrong with praying for someone to prosper. (Why wouldn’t we want someone to do well & experience the blessings of God?)

a. At the same time, this is NOT a foundational principle for the word/faith teaching or so-called ‘prosperity gospel.’ This is a simple prayer or greeting from John on behalf of another. It’s not much different than us telling someone else: “Have a good day!” or “God bless you!”

B. There IS an interesting qualifier on this. It’s natural for us to pray for good health & good finances – but it’s not so common for us to pray for prosperity of the soul. In fact, John goes so far as to tie it together. He basically says to Gaius: “May your body be as healthy as your soul.”

a. Could you agree with that prayer? For some, if their wallet & health was as prosperous as their soul was, they’d end up simultaneously on Skid Row & in the ER in a matter of minutes.

– Gaius’ testimony of maturity…
3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

A. We saw John hint at this in his 2nd letter – but he comes full force with it here. It’s a wonderful thing to see Christians develop in maturity! John was overjoyed to see those whom he had poured into with teaching, love, and counsel – those whom he may have even helped bring to faith in Christ – develop into mature believers who were steadfast in their faith & consistently “walk in truth.”

a. Walking in truth is doctrinal. It’s “truth.” Doctrine matters – what we believe about the Lord Jesus Christ effects our ongoing maturity in Christ, and is simply foundational to our own personal fellowship with God. That’s not to say that our faith is purely intellectual (it’s not!); but we want to ensure we’re growing in the knowledge of the truth about Jesus Christ.
b. Walking in truth is practical. It’s to “walk.” For John, the concepts of “love” & “truth” always went hand-in-hand. If someone truly believes the truth, it’s going to be demonstrated in their walk with God.
c. Walking in truth is consistent. This is something that is ongoing…John didn’t hesitate to write of it in the present tense.
d. This is something we ought to pray for… We ought not want to remain in immaturity…

B. Note this wasn’t something that Gaius was bragging about for himself. (As with the one who likes to proclaim how humble he is! 🙂 ) Fellow Christians could testify to John of what Jesus was doing in Gaius’ character. It was visibly evident to those around him.

5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. …

A. Likely writing of the practice of receiving travelling prophets, evangelists, and teachers… Though John seems to include more here. It’s not just the teachers that are previously unknown to Gaius that he loves, it’s the “brethren” as well.
B. His love was consistent. “You do faithfully…” Loving one another wasn’t something that Gaius did once & then looked fondly back on “the good old days.” He was faithfully serving God by loving others day in & day out. John loved that about him!
C. His love was internal. “You do for the brethren…” The 1st place (other than God) for which Gaius (or any of us) to show love is to those we know. The ones God has placed us in immediate contact with are the 1st ones who ought to experience the love of God. (Benevolence always 1st goes to those within the congregation…) After all, it’s tough to claim love for other people, if we don’t 1st love the people right in front of us!

a. How are you showing love to those around you?

D. His love was external. “And for strangers…” Surely Gaius was a man who loved his unbelieving neighbors as well as those within the church (there’s certainly no reason to think otherwise), but John’s language seems to refer more to Gaius’ love for Christians whom he had not yet met. A Christian was worthy of love from Gaius simply because he/she was a fellow believer in Christ – it didn’t matter whether or not Gaius had heard of them before, or if he could fellowship with them on a weekly basis.

a. Gaius avoided the trap that’s so easy for Christians today to enter: to be so inwardly focused on their own church/congregation that they forget the larger Body of Christ. [“What church to you go to?” ____ “Oh.”] To love one another within the church is not merely to love one another in your particular church – it’s to love one another in the Church Universal.

E. His love was evident. “Before the church.” As with his maturity, Gaius’ love was truly undisputed. The whole church knew of his character, and could witness of the love of Christ that was flowing out through him.

…If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, 7 because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles.

A. Primarily a reference to financial support of missionaries. … The teachers who passed through Gaius’ home would be fully able to go perform their calling in the next town due to the practical love shown them. They wouldn’t need to take anything from the non-believers (“Gentiles”) around them, because the believing Church had supplied them everything they needed to the glory of God.

a. How might you support someone “in a manner worthy of God”? Obviously not everyone has the financial means to completely provide for a missionary’s (or anyone’s) needs. Give as your Lord gives: generously. Beyond giving, love as your Lord loves: exceedingly. Pray for them as your Lord prays for them: unceasingly. Those are all ways that are worthy of God!

B. “His name’s sake” = “for the sake of the Name.” Majority of manuscripts do not contain “His” – not even all the versions of the Textus Receptus contain “His.” Obviously “the Name” = “His name,” i.e. the name of God…but there’s something to be said about the name of God not requiring a qualifier. THE Name is simply the most important Name in all existence – THE Name is the name that is above every name, at which every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. THE Name is the Name worth sacrificing everything for, and the only possible motivation for missionaries to go to the farthest corners of the world, placing their lives at risk. THE Name is the most beautiful name of all. As the Gaithers’ put it, “there’s just something about that Name.”

8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.

A. What a wonderful truth! Those missionaries you help support are your “fellow workers.” You may not be physically by their side, but you are helping take part in the harvest of souls in which they work. You share in those efforts.

– An example of immaturity…
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.

A. Who was Diotrephes? Outside of this mention, we have no record of him in the Bible. (How would you like for your only mention in the Bible to be one of rebuke?) Apparently he was another leader in the church – perhaps the lead elder/pastor or even an emerging bishop in the region. Some see Gaius & Diotrephes as leading two different congregations – others see them at the same local church (due to John’s language of “the church”). Either way, these are two leaders in the same region diametrically opposed in both substance & style.
B. Diotrephes’ primary characteristic? Arrogance. If Gaius was known for walking in the truth, Diotrephes was known for walking in his own ego. “preeminence” = compound word, fond/love (φίλος) + first (πρῶτος). Wuest, “to be fond of being first.” Diotrephes wanted the spotlight to himself & to be viewed as the “first” out of the local church. Ironic: he had a carnal desire to be viewed as the most spiritual out of all the congregation…

a. This is precisely the opposite attitude than what Jesus told us that we should have. The one who would be the greatest ought to be 1st a servant (Mt 23:11) – Jesus had to personally address this with the disciples. Mark 9:33-35 (33) Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” (34) But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. (35) And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” [] (Perhaps John had this in mind?) Mature Christians are humble Christians because our Master was humble (Jesus came to serve; not to be served – Mt 20:28) – our attitude ought to be like that of John the Baptist who would rather decrease in order that Jesus would increase. (Jn 3:30)

C. How arrogant was he? He didn’t even recognize the authority of the Apostle John. Apparently, John had written an earlier letter to the church (perhaps directly to Diotrephes), but Diotrephes either ignored it or destroyed it. He would neither receive the counsel of John nor any person who spoke on John’s behalf. It didn’t matter that John was a living apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Diotrephes wanted to push his own agenda & didn’t want anyone getting in the way.

a. Could this happen today? After all, we no longer have any Capital “A” Apostles (the original 12) & with the myriad of denominations we have, how would we determine whether or not someone should be received simply because they claim to have authority? [One of the “New Apostolic Reformation” guys could come knocking on our door, and there’s no way we’d give him the pulpit…] Obviously in John’s day, there were many local congregations, but no real “denominational” differences – every true church recognized the apostles that were among them. Today, it’s much different… [] That said, when a Christian (pastor, elder, deacon, congregation member alike) refuses to recognize ANY authority other than his/her own, there’s a big problem! Even independent, non-denominational churches recognize the hand of God on other mature, Christian leaders & other believers (if they don’t, it’s a cult!) – and they need to recognize mature, Godly Biblical counsel when it is offered.

10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

A. How did Diotrephes’ arrogance show itself? Aside from ignoring Godly authority:

a. Gossiped about John & his colleagues. “prating” = to bubble up or babble – commonly used to describe idle talk & gossip. Diotrephes was blatantly lying about John & spreading false/misleading information about him. The easiest way for him to defend himself was to make John look like “the bad guy.”
b. Was inhospitable towards travelling missionaries. Unlike Gaius who showed his hospitality, Diotrephes didn’t want anyone getting the attention other than himself. In doing so, he going against a primary qualification to be an elder or bishop: hospitality (1 Tim 3:2).
c. Was domineering over others in the congregation. Of course John had counseled the “Lady” in 2 John to not greet the antichrist false teachers – but Diotrephes went beyond that. He forbade people from greeting or receiving ANY teachers other than himself. …
d. Excommunicated people without valid reasons. Those who disagreed with Diotrephes got cast out of the church under the guise of “church discipline.” To be clear, that’s not discipline; that’s cultic control. True church discipline always deals with sin, with a goal of restoration.

B. Diotrephes was arrogant – but he was more than that: he was on the verge of starting a cult. The way to deal with it? Directly. Apparently John wasn’t sure whether or not he would come, but if he did, he would approach Diotrephes directly with these accusations & deal with him Biblically, with the authority that came as an apostle.
C. The Bible is very specific on how to deal with these sorts of situations. Because the church is comprised of people, we’re going to have conflicts & disagreements from time-to-time. The key is not to ignore it, or try to gin some sort of fix for it; it’s to handle things in a Biblical fashion.

a. How to handle a brother or sister who’s veered off into sin: Gal 6:1-2
b. How to handle a brother or sister who’s sinned against you: Matt 18:15-17
c. How to handle church leadership in sin: 1 Tim 5:19-20

11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.

A. Diotrephes was a bad example; he did what was evil. Don’t imitate that… Also seems to be a warning of not engaging the game of “tit for tat.” Diotrephes may have been domineering, but that wasn’t an excuse for Gaius to try to out-domineer him & attempt a carnal take-over. Things needed to be handled the right way.
B. Yet Gaius himself was a good example, Demetrius (vs. 12) was a good example, John was obviously a good example – THAT’s what we are to imitate. (Paul: imitate me as I imitate Christ… 1 Cor 11:1)
C. The result? The ones who imitate what is good demonstrate their faith in God. The ones who imitate what is evil show that they may have never had faith in God at all. John wrote much along these lines in his 1st letter… [] Keep in mind that the idea here is not absolute perfection; it’s one of general quality/character. The person who can generally be described as seeking the things of God & growing in the character of Christ is obviously the one who has been born-again. The person who continually does what is evil & unbiblical undermines any claim they have to faith in Christ.

– One that can be trusted…
12 Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.

A. Quite possibly the man who carried the letter from John… Just like Gaius had a good testimony, Demetrius had a good testimony. Gaius had already received several trustworthy travelling teachers – John is recommending another to him in Demetrius.

– Greeting & goodbye…
13 I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

A. Up until the portion about “peace,” this is verbatim what John wrote to the “Lady” of 2 John. Some things were better left said face-to-face (Grk: “mouth-to-mouth”) & even with as much as John wrote in this particular letter, he reserved the rest for a personal meeting.
B. Final greetings from the “friends” – obviously a reference to the respective church members with both John & Gaius. Just sending their respects on to one another.

True Christian maturity isn’t claimed; it’s demonstrated. Diotrephes claimed to be a mature, spiritual believer who deserved the leadership of the church; his actions proved the opposite. Gaius & Demetrius, on the other hand, had their faithfulness to the truth of the gospel testified for them. They didn’t need to claim maturity for themselves; it was evident to those around them.

There are many who can quote Scriptures, play the Christian game, put on the church-face, and try to look “super-spiritual.” Don’t be fooled by words. Actions speak far louder. Beyond looking at those around us, let’s be challenged to look at ourselves. Do we as a local church demonstrate our maturity in Christ? Will people see Christian maturity in us as individuals? Do we live our lives in a manner worthy of God – do we continually walk in truth?

Are you yet even walking in the truth? You may not have realized it, but outside of Jesus Christ, the world walks in a lie. (That’s not a preacher being overly-dramatic; that’s simply a fact.) The world tells us: “You’re all basically good people…” Scripture tells us that we’ve all sinned & fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). No one does what is right – no, not one (Rom 3:12). The world tells us: “You don’t need religion, or any God-stuff. You’ll be just fine on your own.” The Bible tells us that we are desperately in need of a Savior… The world tells us: “Christians are a drag – don’t give up your fun life.” The truth is that outside of Christ, you don’t even really know what REAL life is like! That which the world calls “fun” is actually death. Jesus IS life (Jn 11:25, 14:6)… Without Him, we’re spiritually dead & doomed for eternal death & Hell. In Christ, we’re born of the Spirit into new life, and we experience the abundance of life today as we live in fellowship with the God who created us & loves us.
Turn to Christ today!

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