The Early Christian World
Spirit of God, illumine me with understanding as I read about three ordinary people in today’s passage. Show me how to translate this into my own behavior.
Read 3 JOHN
1 The elder,
To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
2 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. 3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
11 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. 12 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.
13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 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.
New International Version (NIV)
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“Christian humility is not thinking less of yourself: it is thinking of yourself less” (C. S. Lewis, 1898–1963).
Here we have a truly personal letter, written by John to one Gaius. Gaius was a common Roman name and there is no reason to identify the recipient of this letter with any of the other three people by that name in the New Testament. Here we get a glimpse of what was going on behind the scenes in the first century. We know nothing of Gaius, Diotrephes or Demetrius other than what can be deduced from this letter.
It would appear that Gaius was offering hospitality to Christians who were spreading the Gospel in the area around Ephesus, working together with John in teaching about Jesus. It is easy to forget that the book of Acts only gives us a small slice of what was going on among Christians in the first century. Within forty years of Pentecost, Christians had planted churches in more than twelve Roman provinces, beginning with the main urban centers. In addition, there were churches in at least fifty other towns. Archaeological evidence has shown that Ephesus was the center for many surrounding villages and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, with its lack of personal greetings, would appear to have been intended for circulation. The anonymous Christians who traveled with the Good News would have needed food and lodging, and Gaius seems to be one person who devoted himself to this ministry.
In one of these churches a man called Diotrephes had a lot of influence and refused to accept either the traveling missionaries or John himself. We can only guess at what lies behind this. All we know is that he “loves to be first” (9). What a legacy! “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Eph. 5:21). The church has no place for superstars, whether lay or ordained.
Pray for Christ-like leadership in your church and for teamwork in evangelism.
Gracious Lord, I pray that my “soul is getting along well” (2). I don’t want to have an ego-swollen soul like Diotrephes. Only Your grace can enable me to desire serving rather than being served.