3 John -14

Thursday, 16 July 2020

…but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name. 3 John -14

The beginning thought of this verse closely parallels what was said in 2 John -12 where John wrote, “but I hope to come to you and speak face to face.” Here, he begins the general thought with, “but I hope to see you shortly.” It is an adverb signifying “immediately.” John chose to not put in writing what he purposed to speak out in person. In this, he continues with, “and we shall speak face to face.”

As in 2 John, the Greek literally reads, “mouth to mouth.” As Paul uses the term, “face to face,” in 1 Corinthians 13:12, John’s words here should be translated as he says them, thus avoiding the confusion of having two separate thoughts translated in the same way. The conversation would be completely private and personal, hence the term “mouth to mouth.” Certainly, John would go into more depth about the issues raised in this letter as he indicated in verse 10 – “I will call to mind his deeds which he does.” Diotrephes would get his comeuppance at the arrival of John.

From there, John next says, “Peace to you.” This is the normal Jewish greeting which John now conveys in the Greek. It signifies more than just quiet, but a state of full calm, blessing, lacking nothing, and so on. It is a petition for completeness in a person. The greeting is especially well-chosen because biblical “peace” is exactly what was needed for Gaius and the church he met at.

John next adds on, “Our friends greet you.” Actually, the Greek reads, “The friends greet you.” The word “our” had been fully expressed in the Greek in John 11:11. Here it is not. There is a group who were friends in the faith, even if not friends in the flesh, and they sent their greeting on to Gaius as well. From there, John closes out the epistle with, “Greet the friends by name.”

Here, John uses a phrase found only one other time in the Bible, kat’ onoma, or “by name.” Its other use is found in John 10:3 –

“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

John was expressing that each person was to be greeted individually, recognizing them apart from all others. In this, it was understood by Gaius who was being referred to, but John withholds the names from the letter itself. It is another good indication that John is being careful to protect the identity of those in the church so that they would not later be harmed by those who had evil intent for the body of believers.

Life application: Here, we have arrived at the end of this tender and beautiful composition by the beloved apostle.

This final verse begins with a “hope” to see Gaius shortly. The particular intent of the word “hope” isn’t one of uncertainty, but rather it leads room for God’s sovereignty in the matter. Such is what James spoke of in the fourth chapter of his letter – “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:15).

One final note should be considered. When 2 John and 3 John are set side by side, we see a fuller intent being conveyed. 2 John warns of entertaining false teachers whereas 3 John reminds us to entertain those who faithfully carry out the gospel. Take time today to read these two short letters from this perspective and you will understand more fully these important issues.

Lord God, how wonderful it is to read and study the epistles of the New Testament. In them, we can come to understand the wonderful things Christ Jesus has done, and how to conduct our own affairs within the church. Thank You for including these marvelous treasures in Your word. Certainly, they help us to properly direct our conduct in the face of heresy as well as dealing with interpersonal matters that arise. Help us to be wise and to study them often, to Your glory! Amen.






















3 John -13

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; 3 John -13

John now writes a thought that closely mirrors one found in the closing of his previous epistle –

“Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink.” 2 John -12

In this letter, however, it is written in the imperfect tense. It essentially means, “I was having many things to write you when I started…” John’s mind was full of thoughts about the situation, about the direction he hoped for the church, about how to handle Diotrephes, and etc. There was a lot to discuss. However, like his previous letter, he determined that he wouldn’t merely right it out. Instead, he says, “but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink.”

Like the translation from 2 John, the way it is translated here makes the thought appear confused – “I was having a bunch of stuff to write to you, but I don’t want to do so with paper and ink.” How else would he write it out then?

A more precise way of translating it would be, “I had many things to write, but I purposed not with paper and ink.” It shows that despite having the desire to write, he decided that putting his words to paper and ink was not the best means of conveying what he desired to say. John’s words are not confused. Instead, they show he carefully thought through the matter and made a determined purpose to hold off on writing.

There could be several reasons for this. Maybe his words would be taken wrong. People read notes and get easily offended by what is said. If John is too brief, he may be perceived as uncaring or dismissive. If he is too wordy, the content may be ignored because such a long response is too tedious to assimilate. And so on. For whatever reason, the many things that John had to convey would be better off not conveyed “with pen and ink.”

One can see the difference between 2 John and 3 John here –

with paper and ink – 2 John
with pen and ink – 3 John

Here, John replaces chartés, or “paper,” with kalamos, or “pen.” The word signifies a reed. It can be a small reed, such as is used for holding ink. In this, it is obvious that the reed is a pen. At other times, it can be inferred that it is a thin reed which is easily destroyed by even slight forces, such as a papyrus reed. This would be what is probably described by Jesus concerning John the Baptist –

“When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?’” Luke 7:24

It can also describe a hardier reed used to make a rod used for whipping (Matthew 27:30), or for lifting something up (Mark 15:36), or even as a measuring rod (Revelation 11:1). John’s change from “paper” to “pen” demonstrates that 3 John is not simply a forged copy from the writing and style of 2 John. Any forger would have stuck with the original idea. However, John would naturally write about whatever was most directly in front of him to take up his notice.

In the previous letter, he may have had either a big piece of paper and decided it was too much to write all his thoughts down, or he may have only had a small piece and thought, “I don’t want to start on another piece of paper lest I inevitably fill that up with things that should be spoken in person.”

In this letter, John was probably looking at the pen in the ink well and thinking something like, “This arthritis is killing me. I have a lot to say, but the pen will be the end of me. And what I have to say is more properly conveyed in person.”

Obviously, we can’t know the thoughts in John’s head, but whatever they were, the change provides us with a note of authenticity which would otherwise be lacking.

Life application: This verse is very similar to that of 2 John -12 and is therefore probably something that he often did; start a letter and decide to end it early and wait to talk about what was on his mind in person. Maybe he wearied of the task mentally or from bad eyesight, or maybe he just needed to vent about Diotrephes a little. Whatever the reason, he started out with a lot on his mind and ended before it was all on the paper.

Fortunately for us, regardless of what else he had on his mind, the Lord found this letter exactly right to be included in His wonderful gift to us. The Bible contains the hopes and aspirations of psalm writers, the frustrations of the prophets, the joy of Solomon and a bride, the exacting details of the priests and chroniclers of Israel’s history, and so very much more for us to think on and study. It ultimately points to Jesus Christ and our relationship with Him. In turn, this leads to our relationships with others who are also called by His name as well as those opposed to His message.

This short little letter has given us a great deal of information to think about in this respect, and if it were lacking from the Bible, we would be less able to handle the important issues he brings up. God’s word is perfect in all it contains and teaches, and we should feel blessed that John took the time to pick up “pen and ink” and write his brief thoughts.

One other thing to note is that many times the apostles had scribes to write their words as they dictated, but in the case of 2 John and 3 John, it is more than likely that they were written by his own hand. If he had a scribe, the letter would probably have included all of his thoughts. But then, it wouldn’t have been exactly what the Lord planned for His word. As you can see, even the actions of John were somehow inspired by the wisdom of God.

Lord God, it is so very wonderful to peer into the thoughts of the writers of the Bible and see the issues which filled their lives and how they are not unlike ours today. It shows us the human condition remains unchanged. The personal touches we see in their letters remind us that they were people just like all the others who have come and gone over the ages – each fulfilling his time and then being called home to You. May we also be used by You to Your honor and glory. Amen.

















3 John -11

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. 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. 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.









3 John -10

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. 3 John -10

We just read about Diotrephes and his highhanded takeover of the church. Because of his attitude, John now says, “Therefore.” Because of what was happening, corrective action was needed. A letter would not suffice, and so he says, “If I come.” Though it is in the subjunctive mood, it appears that it is certain in his mind that he will come. In verse 14, he says, “but I hope to see you shortly.” The intent, unless he is unable to make it, is that he will come to rescue the church from Diotrephes.

John next says, “I will call to mind his deeds which he does.” As the previous verse makes it seem likely that he has already sent a letter which was ignored by Diotrephes, the only remedy left is to openly call him out for his misdeeds. John then defines them by first stating, “prating against us with malicious words.”

The word translated as “malicious” literally means “evil,” but “malicious” is sufficient to convey the appropriate meaning because it deals with his intended influence over others concerning those he is targeting. His intent is to malign others, thus gaining influence over the congregation.

In order to do this, John uses a word, translated as “prating,” which is only found here in Scripture, phluareó. It is derived from phlyō, meaning “to boil” or “bubble over.” Thus, the words of Diotephes are well placed, probably quite eloquent, and yet – like a bubble – the are empty. Diotrephes is a man of self-promotion, false accusation, and used his tongue to acquire the position of authority he desired. But there is more. John continues by saying, “And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren.”

This is probably referring to the visiting missionaries already noted by John. But it may mean any brother who showed up at the church to share in the fellowship. In order to maintain his heavy hand on those he had sway over, he would not welcome anyone else who could perceive his wicked ways and say, “This isn’t right.” He is the David Koresh or Jim Jones of the early church, ruling over those who had no understanding of his true intents. This is perfectly certain because John next says, “and forbids those who wish to.”

Those in the congregation who understood Christian compassion and the need to welcome strangers were forbidden to do so. They knew that what was happening was amiss, and so they probably came forward to say, “This just isn’t right. We need to welcome these fellow Christians.” Instead of taking the admonition to heart and welcoming them, he would turn his evil ways on those who would so dare to challenge him, “putting them out of the church.”

This is exactly what an authoritarian ruler will do. He will simply cut off the source of perceived trouble. In this, he will then have an even tighter control over those who remained. Eventually, those in the church who remain will be completely under his control. It is the classic design of cult leaders to act in this manner.

Life application: Unfortunately, even though these words seem almost impossible to believe, they occurred as early as John’s day, and they still occur in churches all around the world. This person, Diotrephes, was an arrogant and abusive person with no heart for anyone who would dare disagree with him. John says, “if I come.” However, as noted, the “if” certainly means “when.” When he does, he will make sure to get control of the situation. It was his determined purpose to set things straight and highlight the perverse nature of Diotrephes for everyone to see.

Diotrephes’ “prating” is comparable to vinegar bubbling over when mixed with baking soda. He was the epitome of the “perverse man” so often mentioned in Proverbs – “the perverse man sows strife” (Proverbs 16:28). His perverse nature went beyond mere words though. He wasn’t only content to be a backbiter, but he was an active control freak as well – not receiving true believers and even putting people out of the church who wanted to receive them. In Romans, Paul warns believers to not think too highly of themselves –

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3

We are admonished to not think of ourselves “more highly than” we ought. Diotrephes never learned this lesson and so his life and actions testify against him, even to this day. If our deeds, our words, and our hearts were open for all to see, what would others find out about us that we would be ashamed of? Think it through as you deal with those you fellowship with.

Lord, there are certainly times when we act in ways that must be displeasing to You. We can look back on our day and think of how we could have handled things differently. Give us wisdom so that our hearts will be right in all of our dealings with others. May our lives be faithful and wholesome in our service to others and to Your glory. Amen.








3 John -9

Saturday, 11 July 2020

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 3 John -9

John begins this verse with, “I wrote to the church.” Some manuscripts add in the word “something” into the verse, “I wrote something to the church.” However, other manuscripts simply say, “I wrote to the church.”

Either way, John had written a letter to the church which no longer survives. That missing letter, however, prompted John to write this new one. One more possibility is that of the rendering by the Latin Vulgate, which says, “I would have written to the church.”

In other words, John has written this letter to Gaius instead of the church because of the miscreant he next will mention. John knew that he would have either destroyed John’s letter, or spoken against it, thus ending any possible help for the missionaries.

In analyzing these various possibilities, Albert Barnes sums up his thoughts, saying, “It seems to me, therefore, that the fair interpretation of this passage is, that these brethren had gone forth on some former occasion, commended by John to the church, and had been rejected by the influence of Diotrephes, and that now he commends them to Gaius, by whom they had been formerly entertained, and asks him to renew his hospitality to them.”

Assuming another letter was, in fact, written, we can see that in having this new letter, different information, needed for the believers to see and understand God’s intent for the church, has been recorded. Therefore, nothing is lost, and the Bible is as God had determined it to be.

Regardless which scenario is correct concerning the letter, John next says, “but Diotrephes.” The name Diotrephes comes from the alternate name of Zeus and the word trepho, meaning “to nourish.” Therefore, the name means “Nourished by Zeus,” or “Cherished by Zeus.” Of this person, nothing good is said by John. Rather, his first thought about him is that it is he “who loves to have the preeminence among them.”

The term “who loves to have the preeminence” is from the word philoproteuon. This is the only time it is used in Scripture. The word is not commenting on Diotrephes’ doctrine, but it is rather speaking of his ego leading to self-promotion.

The idea here is that Diotrephes acted like an overlord. Anything he didn’t like, he would work against it. If there was any threat to his totalitarian attitude, he would quash it. He wanted to be first in all things, and so accepting the recommendation in a letter from John (who was an apostle) would be contrary to his supposed authority. As John says in finishing the verse, Diotrephes “does not receive us.”

Imagine a denomination with a hierarchy – bishops, diocese, individual churches, etc. One could think of a church within a diocese where the pastor of the church died. One of the deacons (who was locally appointed by that pastor) decided to take control of the church. When a letter is sent by the presiding bishop, he simply says to the congregation, “This guy wants us to care for HIS missionaries, paying their way and housing them. We won’t comply!”

The fact is that he simply wants to be in control and so he convinces the congregation that what is happening is not the way it should be, even though it has always been the set standard for the denomination. When the letter is rejected, the bishop must now take further action. This is the scenario being played out as described to us by John.

Life application: An easy way to grasp the attitude of Diotrephes is to think of him starting his own church and calling it Diotrephes’ Ministries. To make a real-life comparison, turn on the TV, go to a Christian channel, and see how many ministries are named for the main person.

This, in and of itself isn’t an indication of self-promotion, but the aura around the ministry is. When the highlight of the ministry is on the person, then regardless of sound doctrine, it is a ministry of self-promotion, not the glorification of Christ Jesus. These people ignore the words of Colossians 1:18 –

“And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

As you listen to pastors, radio or TV personalities, or read websites, be careful to look for self-promotion and then flee in the opposite direction. Why spend your time and effort learning from a bag of wind who seeks self-glorification? Instead, make sure that it is Jesus (and the word which tells us of Him) who is being exalted in the ministries you listen to and support.

Heavenly Father, help us to be wise and discerning in how we evaluate Christian ministries. Is their focus on Jesus? Or, is their focus on how we can benefit from them (prosperity gospel), or how they can benefit from us (the greedy gospel). Please guide us to know which are good ministries and which are bad. Give us discernment in this, and keep us away from supporting the wrong ones instead of those which bring glory to You. Amen.