Good work, Gaius. Diotrephes, not so much.
Keep helping one another1From: Church leader.
To: Gaius, my good friend.
You’re a true friend who follows truth. I love you for that. 2I hope you’re doing well and you’re in good health. I certainly know you’re spiritually healthy.
3Some fellow Christians told me how devoted you are to the truth. I was delighted to hear that, though I already knew it. 4Nothing makes me happier than to hear that my children are living by the truth we’ve taught you.
5Dear friend, I know you’re always there to help fellow Christians, even when they’re strangers. 6Some of them have told the church here about your kindness. It’s good for you to help traveling Christian ministers along their way. You’re doing God’s work. 7These people hit the road on a mission for the Name. They’re taking zero donations from people outside the faith. 8So we’ve got to help these people. Let’s think of ourselves as their partners in spreading the truth.
Now about that church boss9I wrote a letter to the church earlier. But I sent it to Diotrephes. It turns out he doesn’t recognize my authority. He seems to think he’s in charge. 10If I’m able to visit your church, I’ll make sure we all address the problem. People need to know what this man is doing. He demeans me. And not only me. He refuses to welcome traveling Christian ministers. He even orders everyone else in the church to do the same. If they don’t do as he says, he excommunicates them.
11Dear friend, don’t do what evil does. Do good instead. God’s children act like it; they do what’s good. Folks who do what’s wrong have never met God. 12Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius. So it’s obvious they’re telling the truth. I vouch for him too. And you know how I tell the truth.
Goodbye13I have a lot more I want to say to you. But not with ink on paper. 14Instead, I hope to see you soon, so we can talk with you face-to-face. 15Peace to you. Friends here send you their greetings. Give my friends there a warm greeting from me. Greet each one by name.
Literally, “elder.” The Greek word is presbyteros, source of the Presbyterian Church’s name, since representative elders govern the church. It’s not clear what the writer means by the word. Some scholars say he sounds more like the equivalent of a modern bishop or district superintendent who oversees many churches, rather than a local-church pastor. Jesus’ most talkative disciple, Peter, described himself as an elder.
Some ancient Greek copies add John’s name as author of the letter. Some speculate that he may have been someone in a group of the apostle John’s followers, known as the Johannine community. Some scholars say this group wrote all the letters of John and possibly the Gospel of John.
Probably the name of Jesus, many scholars agree. It could possibly be the name of God; but given the context of Christian ministers traveling throughout the land to tell people the story of Jesus, it seems more likely that the writer was referring to Jesus.
John compliments a Christian named Gaius for disobeying the leader of Gaius’s hometown church. That sounds like good news for everyone with a pastor or priest who needs a swift kick in the get along, metaphorically speaking. Gaius welcomed what appears to have been traveling ministers who taught people about Jesus, perhaps much like Paul did. The pastor, Diotrephes, ordered the church folks not to welcome those kinds of visiting Christians. Why would a pastor do something like that?
John tells Gaius to keep doing good things and to not imitate evil. John adds, “Folks who do what’s wrong have never met God” (1:11). Do you think we should take that statement literally, or was John exaggerating a bit?
LIFE APPLICATION. What church leader Diotrephes did, by ordering his church members not to welcome visiting Christians, isn’t unheard of. Church leaders sometimes order their people to do something the people know is wrong. Without revealing names, describe a similar situation you know about.
LIFE APPLICATION. When a church leader or a supervisor at work or anyone else insists we do something we believe is inappropriate, what process should we go through to figure out what to do?