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Sermon #8 — 3rd John Series
Title: Four Men in the Church
Text: 3 John 1-14
Subject: John, Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius
Date: Tuesday Evening — September 16, 2014
Readings: Bobbie Estes and Rex Bartley
As she has time to do so, Shelby types my handwritten sermon notes and saves them on the computer for me. One morning last week, after typing the notes of a message I preached 35 years ago, back in 1979, she said to me while we were having lunch, “You preached that sermon 35 years ago; but your doctrine hasn’t one bit. It was exactly the same as if you had preached it yesterday.” I hope I have grown some in my understanding of the gospel, but my doctrine has not changed so much as a hair’s breadth over the years. It is exactly the same. Tonight, I am going to preach a message I preached to you 33 years ago. The title of my message is — Four Men in the Church. Our text will be the shortest book in the Bible — 3rd John 1-8.
3 John 1:1-14 (1) The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
(2) Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
(3) For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
(4) I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
(5) Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; (6) Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: (7) Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.
(8) We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.
(9) I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
(10) Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
(11) Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
(12) Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.
(13) I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: (14) But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
If things are as they ought to be, there is nothing on the earth sweeter and more delightful than a church family. The bonds of flesh and blood are neither as strong nor as precious as the bonds of love and grace in Christ.
You and I ought to be genuinely thankful for the fellowship our God has given us in this place, and do everything we can to protect and promote it. There are few places where you can find such delightful fellowship as we enjoy. It is fellowship built upon the gospel of Christ; and it reflects itself in a mutual love and trust of one another. You are to be commended. Yet, you are to be admonished. Let nothing disturb this blessed fellowship. If we cease to love and trust one another, we may have our name on the same church register; but we will no longer be a fellowship of believers.
Pastor and Church
When things are as they should be, the relationship between a pastor and his congregation is not to be likened to an executive and the business for which he is responsible. Rather, the relationship of a pastor to his people might be compared, as it often is in the New Testament, to a father and his children. To be sure, this father-child relationship is especially true when a particular pastor has been the instrument of a person’s conversion. But it is not be limited to that. Every pastor, if he is truly the servant of Christ, watches over the people committed to his care as a loving father. He labors for their good. He nourishes them and cherishes them in the gospel. A faithful pastor must rule in the house of God, taking the oversight of it. But he does not rule by force like a tyrant, or by cunning, craftiness, and deceit like a politician. He rules in love and faithfulness, by the Word of God, like a husband and a father.
It is my prayer that this very hour you who are yet dead in trespasses and sins will be born into the family of God, born again by the power of his grace. O Holy Spirit, give life to the dead!
It is in this relationship and with this attitude of fatherly love that the Apostle John wrote to his dearly beloved Gaius. The relationship between John and Gaius was one of love and trust. It was built upon the gospel of Christ. Therefore, John did not have to defend himself to Gaius. It was enough for Gaius to know that John loved Christ, loved the gospel, and loved him. John’s instructions to his beloved Gaius (and by divine inspiration to us) are brief and clear. They are the instructions of a loving father to his dear son in the faith.
Why was this Epistle written? In the early church most of the pastors and all of the apostles were itinerate preachers, men who went from place to place preaching the gospel, seeking Christ’s sheep, establishing churches and strengthening established churches by the preaching of the gospel. Every pastor is commanded of God, as he has opportunity, to “make full proof of his ministry (his service to God),” by doing “the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). Faithful pastors are to be both pastors and missionaries (evangelists).
As they travelled from place to place preaching the gospel, the churches received these men as honored guests and supplied them with the necessary food, lodging, and money needed to carry on the work trusted to their hands. John wrote this postcard epistle to Gaius, both to commend him for his generosity in this matter and to give him instruction about it.
But there was a problem. There were false prophets who went about masquerading as the servants of Christ, who denied the gospel.
These men were not to be received by the churches. 2nd John was written specifically about them (2 John 10).
Another problem had also arisen. In the church of which Gaius was a member there was a proud ambitious man by the name of Diotrephes, who despised John’s apostolic authority and refused to receive any preachers sent by him to the church. This man was causing great disturbance in the church. — It only takes one contrary person, one slanderer, one whisperer to make a painful disturbance in the family and divide friends.
Note: As you read the New Testament, it becomes obvious that there is no such thing as a perfect, ideal church. All the early churches had their problems. Painful as it is to see folks get upset and leave the church, because someone’s eye didn’t sparkle enough at seeing them, the fact is those people would not have remained in any of the churches mentioned in the Word of God. —— No church is quite good enough for such “humble, meek, loving” whisperers and slanderers. So, like pouting little boys, they very quickly pick up their ball and glove and switch teams.
Four Men in the Church — That is my subject. This little epistle focuses on four men, all of them were related, in one way or another, to the same church. They are set forth as examples either for us to avoid, or for us to imitate.
Proposition: The thing that John stresses here is very much in agreement with what he has written in his other epistles. — The gospel of Christ, when it is received in the heart, causes people to work together in love for the truth’s sake and for the glory of God.
There are three things which ought to motivate us in every aspect of life and in our every endeavor as a local church…
Divisions: Here are the four men we are going to talk about this evening:
The Beloved Elder
Our first character is the author of this epistle. He is that disciple whom Jesus loved. He is — John, the beloved Elder.
Three words are used in the New Testament to describe a pastor: “elder,” “pastor,” and “bishop.”
Paul’s words to the elders of the church at Ephesus bring out these three thoughts. — “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
Not only was John the Elder beloved of Christ, he was beloved of Christ’s church. As a pastor, his behavior was such that it won for him the love and respect of God’s people. And John was a pastor whose heart was full of love toward the people of God. His epistles were full of love. We are told by tradition that John was often so weak in his old age that he had to be helped into his pulpit. And once he was there, all he could do was to lift his hand and say, “Brethren, love one another.”
Here John Simply calls himself “the Elder”. Unlike the other apostles, John was a pastor in one place for many years. And he learned to prefer the title elder to that of apostle. In the church family, John was a loved and loving elder.
As the servant of Christ, Elder John had four great desires. We do not know exactly what John’s relationship was to this particular church. The apostles of Christ had a special authority over the churches, beyond that given to any man today. But John was an elder, whose responsibility it was to watch over the souls of men. He was a pastor, whose task it was to preach the gospel. Having such responsibilities, he had four great burdens on his heart all the time.
· Preaching the Gospel — Seeking the Salvation of God’s Elect
· Maintaining the Gospel
· Defending the Gospel
He wanted both spiritual and temporal good things for the people of God. — “Beloved, I wash above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as they soul prospereth” (v. 2). “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (v. 4). — To walk in the truth implies…
Nothing pleased him more than seeing the saints of God united and walking together in truth and love.
How sweet, how heavenly is the sight,
When those who love the Lord,
In one another’s peace delight,
And so fulfil His Word.
John was a model pastor. He was an elder worthy of imitation. It is a bright day for Christ’s church when God gives her such pastors (Jeremiah 3:15). — It has been my prayer every day for nearly 45 years that God might be pleased to make me such a pastor.
The Faithful Disciple
The second man we meet with in the text is the one to whom it was written — Gaius, the faith disciple (vv. 1-8). Who was this man Gaius? He was not the same Gaius with whom Paul was familiar. In those days Gaius was as common a name as John is today. Was he an elder? Was he a deacon? We simply don’t know. About all that is clear is that he was one of John’s disciples. He was a familiar friend of John’s. He was apparently a man of some influence in the church. Here John commends this man for his faithfulness to the gospel and his Christian love.
Look at Gaius’ testimony. This is not one of those silly, sentimental, self-flattering testimonies that men give of themselves. This was John’s testimony of what was commonly reported about this man Gaius.
3 John 1:3-8 (3) For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. (4) I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (5) Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; (6) Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: (7) Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. (8) We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.
There is nothing wrong with us commending our brethren for spiritual qualities. We do not want to brag on men. But it is altogether proper for us to recognize and show appreciation for acts of Christian love and devotion. Look at what John says about Gaius.
He was a man who was faithful to the truth. — The Lord had given this man a mind to understand divine truth, and a heart to receive it. And Gaius faithfully held to it.
The truth Gaius held in his heart was reflected in his life. — He held the truth in love and lived it. There was no dichotomy between his profession and his practice. There was an exact correspondence between his creed and his conduct. What he believed in his heart he practiced in his life.
Gaius demonstrated his love for Christ and the gospel by his faithful kindness and generosity toward those who preached the gospel (vv. 5-6). Whenever a man came through town preaching the gospel, Gaius made it his work to take care of him.
Now, let’s look at John’s instruction to Gaius about caring for Christ’s servants (vv. 6-8). John commended Gaius for what he had done, and he tells him what he should do. He encourages him to continue in this good work. As individuals and as a church of Christ, you and I ought to take care of those who preach the gospel. This is “a godly sort” of work, or a work worthy of God.
3 John 1:6-8 (6) Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: (7) Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. (8) We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.
Those who preach the gospel are to live by the gospel. It is the privilege and responsibility of every local church to take care of their pastor’s material and financial needs (1 Corinthians 9:1-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). If a pastor has to be concerned about the present, or future needs of his family, he cannot give himself to the work of the ministry. And the church is made to suffer by it.
But John is not talking about the churches supporting their pastors in this place. He is talking about churches supplying the needs of other pastors, preachers, missionaries, and evangelists. Why should the people of God support those who preach the gospel in other places? There are many reasons given in the New Testament. But here John give us three. Here are three very practical reasons for us to be generous in our giving to Christ’s servants.
That which we do for those who represent the name and glory of Christ, we do for Christ himself (Matthew 10:40-42).
Matthew 10:40-42 (40) He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. (41) He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. (42) And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
During the days of the Roman Empire men who were promoters of the various heathen religions used to go about collecting money from the masses for their gods. In the middle ages, the papists of Rome sent friars around the world to collect money for the church. The practice of begging for god is common in every age. Men are forever inventing ways to raise money in the name of religion.
But our Lord Jesus expressly forbids his servants to do so (Matthew 10:5-10; Luke 10:1-7). You can mark this down: — If God is in a work, God will support it. The work of God must be done by God’s man, in God’s way, and maintained by God’s people. The Apostle Paul expressly condemned those who pretend to be Christ’s servants, but in reality are only peddlers of the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:5-9). Men who preach for gain are not God’s servants.
Still, no servant of God should ever have to provide a piece of bread for himself. The people of God ought to take care of him. What man goes to war at his own expense? Surely, the laborer is worthy of his support.
Not all men can or should go about preaching the gospel. But those who cannot go become partners in the work by their generosity. You and I are “allies of the truth.” I preach it, you support it. And this is true of all missionary endeavors.
There you have John’s instruction to Gaius. — Go on in your hospitality and generosity to those who preach the gospel. In doing so, you honor the name of Christ. You provide for God’s servants. And you become a co-laborer in the work of the gospel. This is motive enough!
The Proud Deceiver
But we meet with a third man of a different character in the next verses 9-11. — Diotrephes, the proud deceiver.
3 John 1:9-11 (9) I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. (10) Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. (11) Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
Gaius and Diotrephes were members of the same church. Gaius was a believer, a follower of Christ. He loved the gospel, walked in the truth, loved the brethren, and was a generous, hospitable man. But Diotrephes was a proud hypocrite. He was jealous and envious of God’s servants. He loved neither Christ, the gospel of Christ, nor the people of Christ. Diotrephes loved only Diotrephes.
He was a proud, wicked, and deceitful man. Apparently, by deceit and force, he had attained some place of influence in the church. He angrily excommunicated men (or forced their excommunication) from the church.
· No doubt, his outward conduct was very moral in the eyes of men.
· Diotrephes was no heretic. There appears to have been no theological error on his part.
· But Diotrephes had a proud, wicked, and malicious heart.
There seems to have been just one thing that ruled everything Diotrephes did. — He loved to have the preeminence! His love of preeminence displayed itself in many of ways. The name “Diotrephes” means “Son of Zeus”. As Gaius was a common name, Diotrephes was a very rare and honorable name. It is likely that he belonged to some notable, aristocratic Greek family. And he was very proud.
Diotrephes loved to have the pre-eminence. — He was greedy of place of and power. He wanted a position of influence. He wanted recognition. He was not an apostle, but he wanted to be. He was not a preacher, but he wanted to be. He was not a pastor; but he wanted to be. He reflected the spirit of the Greeks of his day, and of ours: — Intellectual arrogance and personal aggrandizement. Here are two marks of pride and self-righteousness.
· Love of position
· Contempt of authority
Out of jealousy, Diotrephes maliciously slandered John and the servants of God. He was one of those whispers Solomon warns us about, who make it their business to divide friends ((Proverbs 16:28; 17:9).
Proverbs 16:28 A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
Proverbs 17:9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
There was not a chance that Diotrephes would cover another person’s pimple, let alone a transgression. And this reprobate religionist shamefully abused the power he had. Anyone who did not take sides with him and give him the honor he very humbly deserved was put out of the church. Sooner or later, he made sure to get all his enemies.
John solemnly warns Gaius and us not to follow the bad example set by Diotrephes. — “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good” (11).
Somehow or other, wicked and divisive men can always get a following. Most church splits arise from just the Diotrephes spirit. Someone wants a position, or power of some kind, a name, a reputation, or some honor. So he leads a division in the church.
The Good Example
We have an example of the evil in Diotrephes. Now our fourth man is — Demetrius, the good example of faith (vv. 12-14).
3 John 1:12-14 (12) Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true. (13) I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: (14) But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
We know nothing about this man Demetrius except what John here tells us. He was apparently another of the leaders of this church, perhaps an elder or a deacon. But he is set before Gaius as an example for him to follow.
Demetrius’ character is highly commended. He had a good report of all men. Men in the church and out of the church held Demetrius as a man worthy of respect. He was a man of transparent honesty. The truth he professed was embodied in his life. His life so closely conformed to the gospel that he was an epistle of Christ, known and read of all men. The Apostle John, Gaius’ dear friend, highly commended Demetrius to him as an example to follow. — “Son, do you see that man? That’s the kind of man you want to be.”
The beloved apostle closes this epistle by expressing his tender desires to Gaius. He wanted to see his friend again soon, for he had many things to speak to him about. He wanted his friend, Gaius, to have continued, ever-abiding peace.
Let us be careful to avoid the spirit displayed by Diotrephes. Let us rather follow that which is good.
Pray for me, that I may be an elder like John.
· One Who Seeks the Glory of Christ
· One Who Holds Fast the Truth of the Gospel
· One Who is Devoted to the Good of Your Souls
Children of God, follow the examples of Gaius and Demetrius.
· In love, truth, generosity, and hospitality be as Gaius.
· In honesty and conduct be as Demetrius.
Now, this is my desire for you all. May you prosper and be in health. And may the peace of God keep your hearts in Christ Jesus.
 “God used you to teach us the gospel, to bring us to Christ. We will never forget that.” (E.S.)