Those Who Love to be First
Comments for Study 1
3 John 1:1-14
Memory Verse: 4
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I. Greetings (1:1)
>1. How does John introduce himself?
* 3 John 1:1 "The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth."
* "The elder" -John refers to himself as an elder. He does not identify himself, but most agree that John, the apostle wrote this letter. (See introduction for more.) It is true that John was advanced in age when he wrote this. However, John was not commenting on his age, but rather his position in the church. An elder is a position of leadership in the church, not the type of leadership the world knows and practices. Rather, this is a position as Jesus taught, a position of servitude.
* John's ministry after Jesus' ascension started in Jerusalem and spread throughout Judea as it is recorded in the book of Acts. The religious leaders in Jerusalem persecuted the Christians as is also recorded in the book of Acts. Eventually most Christians left Jerusalem as is hinted at in Hebrews. (Hebrews 13:11-14) John also left Jerusalem according to church history. John followed Paul and Barnabas earlier ministries in Asia Minor. In 70 A.D. (before this letter was written) Jerusalem fell to Rome. The seven churches in the book of Revelation were in Asia Minor where John was serving as an elder. According to church history John was an elder in Ephesus, the regions largest and most influential church.
* Although John's epistles do not identify where they were written, it is generally believed that the apostle wrote them from Ephesus sometime after 85 A.D. and before 96 A.D. (See introduction for more.)
* John wrote this letter and his first and second letter before he was arrested and sent to the island of Patmos by the Roman authorities. (See introduction for more.)
>To whom did he write?
* "To my dear friend Gaius" -Gaius is the Greek form of the Latin name Caius. Gaius was one of the most common name in the Roman Empire. The name appears several times in the New Testament. One Gaius was from the Roman province of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), another from the city of Derbe, near Paul's hometown (Acts 20:4), and a third from Corinth (Romans 16:23). Paul also said he baptized a Gaius and was probably the one mentioned in Romans. (1 Corinthians 1:14) Perhaps they are all the same person who moved from one town and then another. Certainly at least one Gaius is stated as being a traveling companion of Paul. He and Aristarachus were attached by a mob in Ephesus for the sake of the gospel during Paul's second and/or third missionary journey. (Acts 19:29) They must have traveled from Macedonia either asking Paul to visit their congregations (springing the need for the letters to the Corinthians) or they returned from Macedonia with Timothy and Erastus. In the process of being with Paul in Ephasus Gaius was attacked. John addresses this letter to Gaius, his friend. Whether or not he's one of the others is not clear.
* "whom I love in the truth" -John personally knew this person and love him. They shared a close relationship.
* Gaius was a member of the congregation in the unnamed city. He may have been a elder, deacon, or an active lay person. We have no way of knowing his place in the church.
* Gaius is shown in a positive light. We would do good to learn of his life of faith as described by John.
II. Walking in the Truth (1:2-8)
>2. What was John's prayer topics for his friend? (2)
* 3 John 1:2 "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."
* "I pray that you may enjoy good health" -Prayer topics in the congregation that I now attend often revolve around other's health, after someone has had an accident or been diagnosed with an illness. John prays preventively.
* "that all may go well with you" -What a wonderful prayer topic to have for someone! Many of my prayer topics are praising God, personal and family needs and wants, the salvation of a few people I know, and the needs and wants of others. I have to admit that in truth I am selfish in my prayer topics. John prayed that all may go well with his friend, Gaius. He is a good example to follow.
* Prayer is verbal and spiritual communion with God. It's an important, even an essential part of a Christian's life. Heaven is all about communion with God. If we don't commune with him now, why do you think you will suddenly start when you die?
>What does "even as your soul is getting along well" mean?
* "soul" -The Greek word here is "psyche" and is very similar to the Hebrew words "nephesh", "ruwach", and "chay". Somewhat similar to the trinity of God, man has (or is capable of having) three parts; physical body, soul (feelings, will, and thought), and spirit (that which is of the spiritual world). When Adam and Eve sinned the first part that died was his spirit. Some would say a person does not have a soul; rather a person is a living soul. The Bible speak of the life of a soul (Proverbs 3:22). Every human soul (Acts 2:43; Romans 2:9) means each individual person. Biblically, the saying, "to save our souls" is seen in 1 Peter 3:20 meaning the entire person was saved when referring to Noah's family members.
God created Adam and Eve with a physical body, a soul, and a spirit. Physical bodies are chemical as plants and animals are, but angels usually are not. Souls (heart) are the nexus of thought, will, and emotion like animals and angels have, but plants do not. The spirit is the breath of God which angels are, but animals and plants are not. Mankind is unique in all creation in that we have a physical body, a soul, and a spirit. (Duet. 6:5, 10:12, 11:13, 30:6, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27)
* "even as your soul is getting along well" -Commentators agree that John is talking about Gaius' spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit creates a new spirit in us, as Jesus taught Nicodemus (John 3). The new spirit is like an infant that grows when feed the word of God. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2) Many of Jesus' parables teach that as we walk with God in truth and love the new spirit in us matures as we grows in Christ.
* Do you desire to see the well being of others' souls? Do you contribute to the congregation you are in so that others may mature in Christ?
>3. What does "faithfulness to the truth" mean?
* 3 John 1:3 "It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth."
* "faithfulness to the truth" -Jesus, the apostles, the prophets and Moses recorded the truth which is what we call the Bible now. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33) As John recorded at the end of his gospel, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31) The basic truths must be accepted throughout our life. What are these? A good place to start would be The Westminster Shorter Catechism.
* John had in mind here the truth about Jesus' identity. Who Jesus is must be answered by each individual from the heart, mind, soul and body.
>What does "continue to walk in the truth" mean?
* "continue to" -Walking is not just one step, its a continual process of putting one foot in front of another. So, walk in truth is a continual process. Also, if one would not will to walk we would not walk. And so, if we do not will to walk in truth, we will not. Do you will to continually walk in truth?
* "walk in the truth" -Walking in the truth is obeying to gospel of Jesus Christ with faith, hope and love.
* See 2 John comments for more on this subject.
* When tempted, do you walk in the truth? When persecuted, do you walk in the truth? When in plenty, do you walk in the truth? When in want, do you walk in the truth? When you are loved, do you walk in the truth? When you are hated, do you walk in the truth? When in your bed at night, do you walk in the truth? When you walk the streets in the day, do you walk in the truth? When you are alone, do you walk in the truth? When you are in a crowd, do you walk in the truth? Check the areas of your life to see if you walk in the truth.
>Why does John call his friend his child and what does it mean that they live in different cities? (4)
* 3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
* "my children" -John calls Gaius his spiritual child from a spiritual perspective. In my life many people besides my physical parents have considered me their spiritual child. What constitutes such a declaration? If you lovingly help a person mature in faith in Jesus by feeding them the word of God, praying for them, helping them materially, and counselling them you may have earned the right to consider someone your spiritual child.
* Carefully consider your heart before you consider yourself someone your spiritual child. More than once Jesus warned his disciples, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45)
* Matthew 23:8-12 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
>4. What kind of worker was Gaius?
* 3 John 1:5 "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you."
* "you are faithful" -Gaius was not just hospitable once. He continually was hospitable. Paul extended his greeting by writing, "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings." (Romans 16:23a)
* "in what you are doing for the brothers" -Gaius was a faithful servant to his Christian brothers.
>Did Gaius know the brothers he was serving?
* "even though they are strangers to you" -Gaius did not know the people who came to him for help. He only knew that they were Christians who needed help.
* Gaius did not accept every stranger. He was hospitable to other believers in Jesus. He welcomed them into his house as they traveled in the service of Jesus. It did not matter if he knew them personally or not. Today many congregations have people who house visiting missionaries, evangelists, musicians, and speakers.
>What can we learn?
* Romans 12:13 "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
* 1 Peter 4:9 "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."
* If you are considering to be like Gaius' pray about it and speak with your pastor and/or an elder in your congregation before you make this decision.
>5. What can we learn about what Gaius was doing for the brothers who were also a stranger to him from verses 6-8?
* 3 John 1:6-8 "They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth."
* "They have told the church about your love" -If someone is kind to us we should tell others about it as long as it is appropriate to do so.
* "church" -In Greek this is "ekklesia" meaning assembly and congregation. The word is also used for synagogue, a Jewish congregation.
* "You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God." -I have traveled to other states and countries for the sake of the gospel. I have stayed in other believer's homes. I have been treated in different ways by my hosts. Most were very kind. Some were not so much; I left there house feeling like an unwanted intrusion on their privacy.
* "It was for the sake of the Name that they went out" -The name is Jesus, the Messiah.
>What reason does John give for such hospitality? (8; Heb. 13:1-2)
* "We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth." -We should show hospitality to every person who walks up to your threshold, especially to believers in Jesus.
* Hebrews 13:1-2 "Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."
* Some will take advantage of our desires to serve the work of Jesus Christ. We should pray when someone asks for help. When I started a contract job in a different state I had little time to find a place to stay. I booked a week in a hotel hoping to find an apartment by then. I also found a local church in the denomination I attend. When I arrived in the church the first day I was there I asked the congregation if they knew of any rooms available. This turned into a harder task then I expected. When the hotel stay was about to end an older couple in the congregation said I could stay in a guest room that they have for traveling missionaries and speakers until I found an apartment. Within one week of staying there someone else in the congregation said a man they worked for would have a small apartment available in a week. I am grateful for the couple who accepted a fellow brother in the Lord into their home for a couple of weeks. They have become good friends in the Lord, even like my spiritual parents. I told them they are like Gaius.
III. Those Who Love to be First (1:9-14)
>6. What kind of brother was Diotrephes?
* 3 John 1:9 "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us."
* "I wrote to the church" -John wrote them a letter, perhaps 1 John though most believe the letter is now lost. Some identify this church with the chosen lady of 2 John.
* "Diotrephes" -Diotrephes means "nurtured by Jove". His name only appears here in the Bible.
* "who loves to be first" -A common spiritual problem even the apostles had during Jesus' earthly ministry.
* Temptation to gain power and influence is ramped in many modern congregations. Often those who serve by cleaning, setting up, cooking, teaching, and many other menial jobs are overlooked and trampled on by self serving leaders, shepherds, and elders. I've seen it to many times. Jesus promises, "The last will be first, and the first will be last," in the age to come. WATCH OUT!
>What does it appear he did with the letter John sent to the church in Gaius' city? (9)
* "will have nothing to do with us" -He did not allow John's letter to be read in the church. Perhaps he even destroyed it.
* Diotrephes somehow convinced enough people that he was greater than one of the apostles who learned directly from Jesus. Perhaps Diotrephes was a young rich man who said John was old, poor, and to weak to be of any good.
>What does this say about his position there? (10)
* 3 John 1:10 "So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church."
* "So if I come" -Traveling was very hard in those days, even more hard than traveling is today. John was advanced in years. Yet he was willing to travel to help this congregation.
* "I will call attention to what he is doing" -John was not afraid of what Diotrephes could do to him.
* "he refuses to welcome the brothers" -He had to be a leader of importance in the congregation to be able to do this, perhaps even the leading elder or pastor.
* "He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church." -He evicted them.
>7. What is gossip?
* Gossip is the tool of the devil. Gossip is wrong. Gossip is a rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature about another. A gossip is a person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts about another. My mother often said to my siblings and me, "If you don't have anything nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all." Something she failed to remember when she was talking to her sister.
* Proverbs 20:19 states, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much."
* Proverbs 11:13 states, "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret."
* Proverbs 26:20-23 "Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts. Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart."
* Not only Paul, but Jesus must be saying to us, "For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder." (2 Corinthians 12:20)
>Why do people gossip?
* Gossip is part of the sinful nature. Gossip is feed by two joining desires; one to strengthen the self belief, "I'm not that bad compared to others," and the other to have others join in and confirm that belief. Gossip lacks compassion and love. The more important we are told a person is the more we delight in gossiping about them. Gossip is all about building oneself up by tearing down someone else. Gossip is ego; ego feeds gossip.
* James 3:7-12 "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."
>Why is it so harmful and wrong?
* Gossip tears apart people and congregations.
* Romans 3:13-14 "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
* James 1:26 "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."
* 1 Peter 3:10-13 "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?"
* Gossip is one the most destructive sins in a congregation, and one of the least preached about.
>8. Who did Diotrephes keep out of the congregation he oversaw that Gaius let into his house?
* "he refuses to welcome the brothers" -Unstable and insecure men in leadership restrict others to the point of being malicious and lack love. This man was stopping and putting down whole groups of believers.
* Gaius accepted those who Diotrephes kicked out of the church.
>9. What advice does John give? (11-12)
* 3 John 1:11-12 "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. 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."
* "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."
* "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."
>10. How did John end his letter? (13-14)
* 3 John 1:13-14 "I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 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."
* "I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink" -As with the second letter of John, he knew that face to face meeting is more important than other less personal meetings.
* "I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face." -See 2 John for the importance on meeting fact to face.
* "Peace to you." -The peace of Christ. This is not a wish or a prayer, but a benedictory pronouncement.
* "the friends here send their greetings" -John was in another congregation.