This short epistle is not just about showing hospitality and material support to itinerant gospel preachers. Its main value is to expose the type of domineering, egotistical, selfishly-ambitious, lord-it-over-the-flock mentality that too easily creeps into church leadership and stifles the ministry of the Holy Spirit. My conjecture is that Diotrephes is one of the earliest examples of the perversion of the NT model of plurality of elder church government. Here you have one leader seeking to be in charge over the other church leaders rather than exhibiting a servant-heart in oversight. The Apostle John recognized the danger and takes steps to address the problem.
DOMINEERING LEADERS IN THE CHURCH MUST BE EXPOSED TO ENCOURAGE FELLOWSHIP IN THE TRUTH
3 John 9 “Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.”
A. (:1) Greeting
B. (:2) Prayer
C. (:3-4) Commendation
I. (:5-8) FELLOWSHIP IN THE TRUTH INVOLVES SUPPORTING ITINERANT GOSPEL WORKERS
A. (:5-6) Commendation for Supporting Itinerant Gospel Workers
1. (:5) Demonstration of Faithfulness
2. (:6) Demonstration of Love
B. (:7) Vulnerable Status of Itinerant Gospel Workers
C. (:8) Material Support of Itinerant Gospel Workers = Fellowship in the Gospel
II. (:9-12) FELLOWSHIP IN THE TRUTH INVOLVES EXPOSING EVIL AND IMITATING WHAT IS GOOD
A. (:9-10) Negative Example of Diotrephes – Exposing Domineering Leadership
1. (:9a) Rebellious
2. (:9b) Egotistical
3. (:10a) Slanderous
4. (:10b) Domineering
B. (:11) Principle = Imitate What is Good
C. (:12) Positive Example of Demetrius – Commending Faithful Leadership
A. (:13) Further Communication Desired
B. (:14) Face to Face Communication Preferred
C. (:15) Final Greeting
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
• To expose church leaders who try to lord it over the flock and exercise a domineering spirit
• To highlight the joy of seeing believers with whom we have a close connection walking faithfully in the truth
• To encourage appropriate material support for those engaged in gospel ministry
• To emphasize both the need and the process of confronting divisive and dangerous practices in the church
• To exhort believers to imitate what is good and avoid what is evil
Ray Stedman: 3 John – A Tale of Three Men
Third John shows us something of the problem of personalities within the church, and three people are mentioned here. There is a man named Gaius, to whom this letter is written; another man named Diotrephes, and a third individual named Demetrius. These three men are like three kinds of Christians found in the church in any age. Like all the letters of the New Testament, this is a very up-to-date and relevant letter.
First, he was strong of soul . . .
Further, he was consistent in his actions: He showed the truth in his life. . .
Finally, he was generous in his giving . . .
someone who tries to run the church . . .
refused the authority of the Apostle John. . .
refusing to welcome the brethren [itinerant ministers] . . .
puts people out of the church [on a wrong basis] . . .
put himself first . . .
a man of the truth . . .
bearer of this letter to Gaius . . .
probably one of those missionaries who traveled from place to place . . .
William Orr: The root trouble with Diotrephes was self-seeking, and rejection of apostolic authority. In this manner he becomes the dictator of the church, thus destroying the fellowship and communion with God’s people everywhere.
Evidently in the church were good men too, among them Gaius who walked in the truth (3) and Demetrius who loved the truth and had a good report of all who knew him (12). These were exhorted to right the situation that existed.
That John purposed to come himself to the church is hinted in verse 14. Yet he hoped that the trouble would be past when he arrived.
Charles Swindoll: How do you show hospitality to other Christians, particularly those who serve you and others in your local church and at churches around the world? Showing hospitality to others—particularly strangers—requires a level of trust and acceptance that is not necessarily required of us in our everyday lives. It forces us to rely on a common bond in Jesus Christ, rather than a particular blood relationship or shared experience. It forces us out of our comfort zones and into a territory where we must place our trust in God.
John used words such as love and truth to describe this kind of living, and he used the negative example of Diotrephes to illustrate the dangers of going down a different path. We have a responsibility as Christians to live according to the truth we find in the life and ministry of Jesus, to care for and support those who serve God’s people. Our Lord was surrounded by people who took care of Him. Third John teaches us that we should do the same for those who carry on the teaching of Jesus in our own day.
D. Edmond Hiebert:
I The Salutation, 3 John 1:1-4
A The writer, 3 John 1:la
B The reader, 3 John 1:1b
C The wish, 3 John 1:2-4
1. The statement of the wish, 3 John 1:2
2. The reason for the wish, 3 John 1:3-4
II The Message, 3 John 1:5-12
A The obligation to support the missionaries, 3 John 1:5-8
1. The commendation of Gaius for his service to the missionaries, 3 John 1:5-6a
2. The suggestion of his further service to the missionaries, 3 John 1:6b
3. The explanation concerning the missionary obligation, 3 John 1:7-8
B The temporary triumph of ambitious evil, 3 John 1:9-10
1. The letter of John to the church, 3 John 1:9a
2. The refusal by Diotrephes to receive them, 3 John 1:9b
3. The action of John at his coming, 3 John 1:10a
4. The account of the activity of Diotrephes, 3 John 1:10b
C The personal lesson from the circumstances, 3 John 1:11
D The commendation of Demetrius, 3 John 1:12
III The Conclusion, 3 John 1:13-14
A The explanation about the brevity of the letter, v3 John 1:13-14a
B The benediction, 3 John 1:14b
C The greetings, 3 John 1:14c
J. Ligon Duncan: Tension in the Church
I. A Bad Example (9-10) [Tension in the church: rejection of apostolic authority and abuse of authority]
Remember, John is writing this letter in the context of Christian missionaries faithfully traveling from church to church, receiving hospitality, some support, some food and then going out to preach the gospel. Because, after all, Christians ought to pay for the preaching of the gospel and not expect pagans to pay to the preachers of the gospel for bringing the gospel to them. And so John’s calling for basic support for this kind of evangelistic and missionary endeavor.
But in this local congregation, this man Diotrephes has made a rule contrary to John’s direct exhortation which John mentions in this letter. He has declared that this congregation is not going to receive evangelists and missionaries. We might imagine him saying something like this, ‘Look, there’s no way that we can make a clear distinction between the false prophets that are out there and the faithful missionaries, so here’s what we’re going to do: We’re not going to receive any of them.’ And he forbids the rest of the congregation to receive missionaries, and he even goes so far as kicking people out of the church who have received these faithful evangelists and missionaries. That’s the setting in which John is writing to Gaius.
Six things about Diotrephes:
1) He’s doing this because he loves preeminence
2) Diotrephes does not accept apostolic authority
3) Diotrephes is gossiping unjust accusations against me, against spiritual authority.
4) Diotrephes refuses to receive faithful missionaries
5) He forbids others in the church to receive them
6) He has apparently excommunicated some people from this congregation because they received faithful missionaries
II. A Good Example (11-12) [An example to the church: an apostolic exhortation and a Christly example]
Three things about Demetrius:
1) He has a good testimony with everyone.
2) Demetrius has received a good testimony from the truth itself.’ What in the world does that mean? It probably means that Demetrius’ words and Demetrius’ life go together in such a way that his life corroborates the truth of his words. His good testimony is self-evident from the coordination between the faith that he professes to believe and the life that he actually lives.
3) He has a good testimony from John
III. A Needed Blessing (13-15) [A blessing on the church: an apostolic benediction and a view of Christian fellowship]