A Tale of Two Men
Alright let’s look today at the last of John’s 3 letters. The first two were written to the church and dealt with heresy from the Gnostics.
Here in this, the shortest letter, he gets very personal.
The other two letters, we know from history, that he was speaking of Cerinthius and other false teachers, but no one is singled out by name. But John is naming names in THIS letter.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .
So begins Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” in 1859. Best, worst, wisdom, foolishness, belief incredulity, light darkness, hope despair, everything nothing, Heaven, Hell … Obviously Dickens had spent some time at church … J
Jesus said that within the Kingdom of God on earth, there was always this tension. In Matthew 13 Jesus says that the Kingdom of God on earth has “wheat”, that is the true plantings of God, mixed with “tares” or weeds which were the planting of the evil one in an attempt to disturb the work of God.
So, here, John, by name gives us such an account. Here is a tale of two men, the beautiful work of God in a life and a life opposed to God and exalting self.
Read with me this letter
READ 3 John
So, men and women, we face a constant pull within us.
That pull is called pride. That pull comes from what WE want. That pull is the pull of sin that seeks to distract the work of God and cause us to surrender to our base self and not our new nature.
So, what kind of people will we be, two examples …
1. Gaius (Gah-ee-os)
There are four men in the New Testament whose names are Gaius. Gaius of Corinth in Romans 16, Gaius of Macedonia in Acts 19, Gaius of Derbe in Acts 20, and then we have THIS Gaius a good friend of John’s. Some would connect THIS Gaius to one of the other 3 and that is possible but we just don’t know. Some early church writings say that this Gaius was the Pastor of Pergamum and appointed by John himself. That also may be true but really isn’t critical here. Whether Pastor or lay person, ministry leader or encourager, what kind of man was Gaius?
A. A Dear Friend
Sadly often in the church we never get there in relationship to one another. We know one another’s faces, maybe their name. We smile; we might hug, shake hands … but are we friends?
John said that Gaius was a “Dear Friend”
Agapetos = beloved, prized
But we often keep one another at arm’s length. If we open up, and let someone in, they might find out
1) “I’m not perfect”
2) they may want something from me
3) they might hold me accountable to be what God wants me to be.
Being a friend and developing friendships takes desire, time, and effort. It means preferring someone else more than self.
David and Jonathan had a famous friendship in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 18:1 said they were “one in spirit”. Their friendship was characterized according to 1 Samuel 19 as loving one another equal to self.
Isn’t that the 2nd greatest command and expectation that we love our neighbor AS ourselves? So then if we don’t develop friendships and love in action, we aren’t doing the #2 thing that God expects of us
Friendship should not be an option for the Christ follower, but an expectation
Gaius was a friend, prized, beloved, and he was
B. Spiritually Healthy
Please notice something that is interesting. Notice what is TRUE and thus important and then what is less important.
As I’ve said before, if we come to a text with an agenda, we see what we want but not what is there.
Some would say that if you are spiritually right with the Lord, and have enough faith you will be healthy and wealthy and they look at this and say “see verse 2 says the Christian should be healthy and prosperous” … REALLY? Is that what it says? I don’t think so …
As a matter of fact, you can make a case that perhaps this prayer for Gaius was BECAUSE he had health problems or life challenges.
John looks at the Obvious and unquestioned spiritual health of Gaius and says “I pray” or “I desire” or “I wish” that your physical health and material prosperity would match your Spiritual HEALTH … the word is euodoo (yoo-od-o-o) “to have a good journey” what a beautiful image about health … NOT all things that happen in our life are good but the journey is beautiful … remember “all things work together FOR good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose”
John knows that it would be nice if Gaius were physically healthy … but it isn’t AUTOMATIC … nor is it the most important … But he prays that his health would live up to his Spiritual health.
John knows that Gaius won’t always have success in everything or material gain but he prays that if God wills it … success would be his …
John prays that Gaius might have a good journey through this physical life that would match the Spiritual journey.
Gaius had his priorities in order …
the most important thing was that Gaius without a doubt was a Man of God, if never pain free, if never seeing material prosperity, he had a beautiful journey with God … I will probably never know a pain free day or fail to be concerned about finances … but I can walk with God …
Gaius also was
C. Faithful To the Truth
John said that this knowledge brought him Great Joy
He was like a proud parent about to pop.
We get worried about things that don’t matter. John said I got word of “Your truth” or “your faithfulness” … and that you “continue in the truth”
The Word Truth is Aletheia = reality
We need some men and women who know reality as Christ is reality and haven’t just agreed to it but continue IN it
Peripateo = walk about, behave, continue
Jesus said “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”
Psalm 119:45 says “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts”
Freedom comes as we KNOW and DO the Truth of God.
Many come to faith but then as Jesus described in the parable of the sower, get wrapped up in the cares of the world and fail to live in the truth
Solomon wrote that “the end of the matter is better than the beginning, and patience is better than pride” Ecclesiastes 7:8
Coming to faith in Christ isn’t the end of it… that is the beginning and it is the JOY for our Father when we WALK in the truth
Warren Wiersbe says the Spirit of God, uses the Word of God, to reveal the Son of God, and then enables us to obey the Will of God, and Walk in Truth”
We start in excitement but we need to continue … Paul wrote the Galatians in 5:7 “you were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth”
We need to be aware and careful that we don’t let anything get in our way that we might finish strong, continue, walk, live the truth that we profess
John says “I hear that you are habitually ordering your behavior around the truth and that makes me joyful …”
And finally Gaius was
D. An Active Minister
Gaius was not just a knower of the truth, a believer in the truth, nor just a doer of the truth …
He was a PARTNER to the propagation of the truth.
He wasn’t just faithful IN the truth, but he was also faithful or trustworthy in helping those who presented the Gospel.
“the brothers” here referred to traveling evangelists who went from town to town … he writes that they went “For the sake of the Name” … These faithful preachers weren’t building a name for themselves but for the NAME of Christ … For God’s Glory and His Honor … that His Fame might be known and embraced
So Gaius served them and ministered for the sake of the name.
And it was NOT about Gaius’ name or notoriety
Gaius was not worried about being in charge, or preeminent … he was worried about the Name of Christ being worshipped … so he became a partner with all those faithful to that end … if they never know my name they may know Him who is worthy of all praise …
Well that’s Gaius …
but what about the OTHER guy, Diotrephes? (dee-ot-ref-ace)
If Gaius is the BEST of Times
Diotrephes is the WORST of Times
If Gaius is Light, then Diotrephes is Darkness. Unfortunately, there is always a Diotrephes or two in the church, as long as Satan is allowed to operate on this earth
Where Gaius was a dear friend Diotrephes
A. Wouldn’t Receive John
Because Diotrephes it says “Loved to be FIRST” …
Some believe that Diotrephes was the pastor of one church in town and Gaius the pastor of another church.
But our focus is on the big differences between them. Gaius was godly, faithful, a true servant of the gospel and Diotrophes just wanted to run the show.
This phrase “Loves to Be First” is a word only once here in scripture. It is the word Philoproteuo. This is two words, Philo = which is from Phileo or one of the words for LOVE … and proteuon.
Now that Word is important. It is in Colossians 1:18.There it says of Christ:
… he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy …
Christ alone has “Supremacy” or “Preeminence” … or the right “to be first” … Jesus ALONE is Preeminent … Jesus alone is the head of the church…
Yet this Diotrephes philopoteuo … HE LOVES to be FIRST … Diotrephes wanted for himself a position that belonged to Christ … Isn’t that what God Satan kicked out of Heaven in the first place?
This guy wanted to be the final authority … he wanted to be God in his church … so much that he wouldn’t receive or even be kind to the aged apostle, the pastor, the elder, John.
Unfortunately there are some of this sort in many churches. Sometimes it is the pastor, sometimes a deacon, or leader, someone who is a large giver, they want the place of God in the body … oh they won’t SAY that … but that’s true, they want the final say, they want control, they want to determine who’s in and out, and more yet, they feel like they DESERVE it.
Then he took it a step further …Diotrephes
B. He Slandered John
If you can’t grab the power … have it taken FROM someone else by passing on slander.
Phrase “gossiping maliciously”
is from 3 words that mean “to bubble up and boil over” “fast empty nonsense” and “wicked, worthless, nonsense.”
Sometimes slander is a lie … other times it is the truth pitched in just the right way to discredit or inflame … It is a terrible tool
Ps 50:19 you use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue for deceit
James 3:6 the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell
Some say, “I just can’t help it … I had to say it” That’s TRUE if you are surrendered to satan and self … but Christ IN YOU … that is the hope of glory … Submit yourself to God resist the devil and he will flee James 4:7
The Gossiping Tongue was the weapon of choice for Diotrephes, he was a bubbling, boiling, pot of empty nonsense spilling over in wicked, worthless words meant to destroy John’s work and testimony in order to ensure that Diotrephes could maintain power and control.
But that wasn’t enough … he even
C. Hindered The Gospel Proclamation
He personally refused to welcome these evangelists and wouldn’t let anyone else do so, even going so far as to run those who want to help them out of the church.
He got in the way of the Gospel …
But when he got in the way of the Gospel he was getting in God’s way not those men.
When someone hinders the Gospel I preach, they haven’t rejected me, they have rejected Christ …
John 15:20-21; 23 - Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me…. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well.
So … Light Darkness … Best Worst … Hope Despair … Heaven Hell
Which will you choose?
Who will you be?
The struggle is always before us
John Encourages Gaius … lest he give up … he wants to be sure that his prized friend doesn’t let this terrible example bring him down.
Don’t copy the ways of Diotrephes … instead
3. Imitate Good
Mimeomai = is where we get our word MIMIC …
You don’t have to act like Diotrephes to get ahead … we don’t need to have control ..> God is in control … Christ is Preeminent
The fact that John is giving this instruction to Gaius who is godly and faithful lets us know that even Gaius could be tempted to give in and give out … to wonder what to do … to lose his passion and purpose
More than just declared and accepted … Christianity was meant to be LIVED OUT
Do not IMITATE Evil … Mimic Good
Paul taught in Philippians 3:17 and 1 Thes 1:6 that sometimes we can’t see Christ to know what to do and so Paul says “Imitate us as we imitate Christ” … and imitate those who have set a good example
Don’t get sucked into following empty ways but as Hebrews 12:1 says “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith”
Imitate, Copy, … do what you see … till it becomes part of you.
One of the lies of Satan is “don’t do it if you don’t feel it” … But most of the time, Feelings Follow Actions …
Imitate Good …
A. Choose to be a Friend
Open yourself up to someone else. A friend must show themselves friendly.
Invite someone to dinner, grab a movie.
You might look at some here and think … what do we do we have in common? We aren’t the same age, we come from different backgrounds … What do we have in common? LIFE, Breath, Family, Hopes, Dreams, MORE THAN THAT We have Jesus, We have the Gospel, John said he loved Gaius IN THE TRUTH … we can Love each other In Christ, In the gospel, in the Truth …
You have made friends over nothing more than a sports team …
You have friends over a music group, or a video game or movie genre
We have JESUS!!! We have a FUTURE together … let’s get started now!
B. Seek Spiritual Health
More than physical health, more than prosperity …
People the church has swallowed the world if we think the measure of a person is how healthy they are or how much money they have. It doesn’t measure you in the earthly world and it doesn’t measure you in GOD’S eyes.
Your faith cannot be measured by your health or wealth.
Jesus told us to not lay up treasures on earth which will rust, be stolen or destroyed … but SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM … and these things will be added … as needed by a God who loves us … where are they going to be added … MOST CERTAINLY in God’s Economy … if I never get them here, I will have them in his presence.
Being spiritually health takes commitment, discipline.
We must be taught, study, pray, share, give, witness … it isn’t automatic and it isn’t easy … it starts with desire and surrender
Hebrews 12:11-12 no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
It happens on our knees it happens as we serve … then
C. Continue in the Truth
That means to literally ORDER your Life around the truth. Truth is not a concept to be understood it is a person to be loved, it is a life to be lived, a life ordered, it is a behavior pattern.
And so then we become
D. Partners In The Gospel
Folks it is all JESUS … first to last we are just partners … Pulpit to pew, deacon, trustee, nursery worker, awana, welcome team, committee member, new lifer, we are partners all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes the pastor gets the credit, seeing people come to faith, having the joy of placing people under the waters of baptism … but I am just a partner …
You might not be a preacher or teacher or missionary, but you can still minister and be a partner to the gospel of Jesus Christ
When you give your tithes and offerings you support and provide for this pastor and support staff. You partner with the gospel. Those tithes turn on the lights and keep us warm and cold, buy literature, and so much more, so that the Gospel can be presented and God’s ways explained. Your tithes and offerings also support mission work all over the world with more than 10,000 missionaries and you partner with the Gospel.
When you serve as a greeter, an usher, you create an environment of welcome so that one who enters may be able to receive the truth.
While the Pastor may be seen as the primary presenter of the Gospel … but so much happens before that Gospel is received.
I think of some of our children who have come to faith. For many it started in the home with instruction in the truth.
From there … faithful loving servants have rocked infants and sang to them of Jesus’ love
Pictures were colored that explained God in simple ways. Then perhaps they became a cubbie in our AWANA club … then a spark and perhaps a TnT …
Along the way they have the Word hidden in their hearts … And the PARTNERSHIP continues … And then as for many, one day, they begin to talk to Mom and Dad, or something in a message stirs them … and the moment comes when they open their heart to Jesus Christ and he transforms them from death to life, they are reborn …
…was the AWANA leader, the parent, the preacher the KEY? The ONE? Preeminent?
No … we are but Partners
Every one of us whatever part you play, some of you pray for these ministries, or lead a youth group, or stay up at a lock-in …
The greatest thing you can do is share a personal testimony of Christ and invite someone to faith. Invite them to join you here for a Sunday service to hear the gospel.
Then when a child, a student, an adult trusts Christ, we are all partners but it’s all God … For the Glory of Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is simply what we are supposed to do … Just living faithful lives
I’ve told you this story before but a
A lady once asked John Wesley that suppose he were to know that he would die at 12:00 midnight tomorrow, how would he spend the intervening time. His reply: “Why madam, just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning; after that I would ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I would then go to Rev. Martin’s house, who expects to entertain me, talk and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at 10 o’clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in Glory.”
You know the problem with Diotrephes is that he was too worried about what he was going to have to show for his efforts or who might take his spot away …
But folks if I REWARD you … or we print your name on the sign … or if no one ever knows … what does it really matter?
Would you rather get your recognition from me? Or …
But as a dear friend, spiritually healthy, faithful to the truth, partner in the Gospel …
Jesus Said …
Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them – Luke 12:37
I may never have the recognition … but can you imagine … as a faithful servant … Jesus, Jesus, nailprints in his hands and feet, scar in his side, with thorn pierced brow … he will honor a faithful servant beyond measure he says “Jim, you’ve been faithful, sit down, let me serve you …”
And that my friend will be enough