Monday, 13 July 2020
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. 3 John -11
John now begins a new thought, as indicated by the word, “Beloved.” This is the fourth and final time he uses this word in the letter. As with each instance, it is referring to the main addressee of the letter, Gaius. John has just referred to Diotrephes, noting his disgraceful conduct towards those he interacts with. Understanding this context, John now says, “do not imitate what is evil.”
The word mimeomai, translated as “imitate,” is seen only four times. This is its last occurrence. It is the root of our modern-day word “mimic.” Thus, the translation as “imitate” is well-founded. Gaius (and also we who apply John’s wisdom to our lives) is encouraged to not imitate what is evil. This implies that what Diotrephes was doing is, in fact, evil. The word translated as “evil,” however, is not the same as the previous verse. This word is a more universal word signifying morally bad. One can think of rot in wood which eats away at the tree.
Therefore, rather than imitating such conduct, John next says, “but what is good.” In this, Gaius needs to look no further than the example of Christ. Diotrephes had rejected that. Instead of being vibrant and healthy, his actions were rotten and in a state of decay.
John next says, “He who does good is of God.” The idea here is that the good a person does shows that he is out of, or from, God. His actions demonstrate the character, and the source of, who he is. Jesus referred to this in Luke 20 –
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Understanding this, John then finishes with, “but he who does evil has not seen God.” John’s words are to be taken in a general sense. There are people who do things which are “good,” which may be even more admirable than that of Christians. And there are Christians who do things which are not so good. They may be worse than those who are not Christians. What John is conveying is a state of being similar to that found in 1 John 3 –
“Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:7-9
A person who is in Christ has moved from the authority of the devil to the authority of Christ. His actions are reckoned in an overall state. Without being dogmatic on the matter, it appears that John believes Diotrephes had never truly believed in Christ. His actions are contrary to what a true believer would do. However, he does not question his salvation. He simply makes the observation that what Diotrephes is doing reflects the character of someone who has not seen God (meaning believed in what God has done in Christ).
Thus, when he comes, John indicates that he will deal with the matter. It will probably be an action similar to what Paul exhorted the Corinthians to take in 1 Corinthians 5:13. By putting him out of the congregation.
Life application: One may question, “Why would John say the words of this verse to Gaius if he had been acting in a Christian and responsible manner so far?” The answer is that just as a stone wears down to a pebble in a river by the continued slow grinding of the water and turbulence, we are equally susceptible to wearing down in our Christian conduct.
Bad company and bad examples will always bring down those around them unless they are diligent in maintaining their good behavior. This is abundantly evident in the political landscape of America. As people practicing perversion, and others with less than moral behavior, move into positions of power, those around them tend to degenerate into like-mindedness. The exceptions are belittled for their morality and defense of godliness. Eventually, only the most resolute and determined souls maintain their strong morals – usually at the expense of any true influence. This then is what John is warning against.
When he says “does good,” he is using a term which describes moral and spiritual goodness, just as mentioned in the example of those in politics above. The Greek word translated as “does evil” refers to something which lacks the necessary qualities that it should otherwise possess – like a lemon in a car lot. This was Diotrephes – the lemon on the lot, inferior and unworthy of any true value in the kingdom of God. We know this because John says that he who acts this way has not seen God in any heartfelt way which would qualify him for glorification.
Glorious and Almighty Heavenly Father – the world is a difficult place filled with perversion, wickedness, and unrighteousness. It is so very easy to become overwhelmed by the ungodly living around us. Please be our Shield and our Defender against the fiery darts which are constantly thrown at us. Keep us wholesome and healthy in our walk with Jesus. Amen.