Love Letters: Lessons from 1, 2 and 3 John Lesson 8 of 8: 3 John
Your Greatest Joy 3 John 1-4, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
What is your greatest joy? Think about it long and hard. For that which gives you the greatest joy is what you will live for. In some cases it may also be what you die for. John’s greatest joy is found in 3 John 4. He said: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth.” 3 John 4
John lived his life to that end. He found the truth in Christ, lived to show others that truth, was boiled alive in oil for not betraying that truth, was exiled to an island prison for continuing to preach that truth, and he died delivering that truth to the churches he began. Jesus said:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
How important is the truth to you? Is it important enough to follow? Is it important enough to put it first above all things? Above yourself?
Many proponents of a “health and wealth gospel” misinterpret verse 2 of John’s letter. They say that this passage proves that those who walk with God (“even as your soul is getting along well”) will always “enjoy good health and that all will go well.” These people obviously forget that the writer of this passage was boiled in oil and that all of his fellow Apostles were murdered for their unyielding faith. They also ignore the fact that the Apostle Paul had a constant infection in his eyes which the Lord chose not to remove (although he prayed that it might be on three occasions: 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). God’s reply to Paul’s unanswered prayer was simply: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Is the truth still worth following to you even if it should mean your own weakness? Are you willing to get along with less worldly wealth and relaxation for the sake of expanding God’s kingdom? How important is truth to you really?
The First Shall Be Last 3 John 5-10, Mark 10:42-45, James 4:1-12
The purpose of John’s third letter is to comfort and encourage his “dear friend Gaius”(Gai’us) who has been treated badly by a self-important man in the church named Diotrephes (Diot’rephes) for showing hospitality to a group of “brothers” (traveling missionaries) led by a Christian named Demetrius. Nothing is known of Diotrephes except for what is said here by John. “He loves to be first“, is a gossip, and has nothing to do with those who travel and preach the gospel of Christ. Diotrephes was not hospitable to missionaries and ridiculed other believers who welcomed them. His gossip and rudeness literally drove others away from the church (“put them out of the Church). Gaius, on the other hand, is recorded as a faithful servant, joining the apostle Paul on his last missionary trip from Corinth to Jerusalem.
There is no doubt that Diotrephes considered himself a believer and yet did not resemble one at all. Perhaps he was a wealthy contributor to the church, or one of the first to attend it. Perhaps he felt that “mission work” was not a “real job”. (see Romans 10:14-15, 1 Timothy 5:17-18) At any rate, he must have felt important enough to throw his weight around and somehow was never rebuked by his peers. The Apostle, John, refers to himself as “The Elder” (verse 1) in order to establish his position of spiritual authority in the Church to both encourage Gaius and to rebuke Diotrephes. There is no doubt, according to his letter (verses 10, 14), that John publicly put this man in his place when he visited the church later.
Jesus said: That those who want to be great in God’s eyes must become a slave of all. (Mark 10:42-45) We must remember, Jesus set this standard of truth by His own example of love and mercy of which every true believer is known by (1 John 2:7-11). How important was truth to Diotrephes? His fighting and quarreling came from his own self-centeredness which he evidently justified in some “spiritual” way. The fact is he proved to be an enemy of God by driving people away from the church. (James 4:1-12) Do we drive people away from the Church by our selfish actions, gossip, lack of hospitality or slander? How important is the propagation and expression of truth to you?
First Things First 3 John 11-14, Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16
John concludes his short letter with an encouragement to his friend to continue to do what is good (according to God’s Word and the teachings of Christ). Doing good to Demetrius, who was known as a man who loved and practiced the truth, was a good deed no mater how it was viewed by Diotrephes. In the same way we need to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. That calling is to love and live for the truth as John did. There is only one who is “over all, through all and in all”. If we remember to put first things first then we will never forget who that is and what we are to be about while we live expectantly for His imminent return! Matthew 28:19, Revelation 22:20
Truth Serum 1 Corinthians 11:23-32, John 8:32
The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). The proof of this fact is man’s universal tendency to minimize the treachery of lying to others and to one’s self (living in denial). Throughout the ages man has devised many bizarre ways of deciphering the truth. From Chinese rice chewing to native American tongue splitting to modern day lie detection tests and truth serums; none have proved sure. Yet God is true though every man a liar (Romans 3:3-4). He who is truth will one day judge all (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Communion is to act as a sort of truth serum for God’s people. As we regularly partake of the elements we are to examine ourselves, be true to God, ourselves and to others. Is it your great joy to walk in the truth? Jesus is truth and only He can set us free.