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Last week we looked at John’s simple instruction to imitate what is good. It seems simple enough, but in our world today, there are many things that compete for our attention. Avoid what is evil; imitate what is good. If that’s a person, so be it as long as they are imitators of Christ. Authentic Christians do good because we are of God. This morning, John mentions another name and closes out his letter.
Take a close look at 3 John 12-15.
We start off with an example of a do gooder. We looked at what Gaius did, then we looked at what Diotrephes did and how John responded to that, now we have another example. Look at v. 12 which is really connected back to v. 11. Diotrephes is connected to, “what is evil” while a man named Demetrius is connected to, “what is good.” We don’t have an abundance of information about Demetrius. His name was pretty common in the first century. There is one other man named Demetrius in the N.T. back in Acts 19:24. He was a silversmith that made shrines to a worthless goddess named Artemis (Diana). He publicly opposed Paul and the Gospel so it is unlikely that this is the same man. All we know about this Demetrius is what is found here in 3 John. Unlike the four negative things about Diotrephes, John tells us three positive things about Demetrius. “Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone.” Wow – everyone, all inclusive. This doesn’t mean everyone in the whole world. This is everyone who has come in contact with Demetrius: everyone in his community, neighborhood, church, workplace. He’s not one type of person at work and someone else at church. This isn’t a used to be a good testimony; it isn’t about what Demetrius used to do. Received is in the perfect tense which gives the idea that Demetrius has been like this for some time and still is. This good testimony is who he is, what he is about. It means a good reputation. This same phrasing was used during selection of the first deacons in Acts 6:3, of Cornelius in Acts 10:22, of Timothy in Acts 16:2, of Ananias in Acts 22:12 and is the same phrased used in the hall of faith of Hebrews 11. Demetrius walked the walk that he talked.
Demetrius has received a good testimony, “from the truth itself.” Remember truth is a major theme for John. His devotion to the truth was evident in his life and evident to all those he came in contact with. Notice the pronoun “itself.” Some suggest this refers to Jesus remembering that He described Himself as the way and the truth in John 14:6. 1 Jo. 5:6b, “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” Perhaps when you line up his life up with Scripture, it matches up. Remember Jo. 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” While we cannot for certain say exactly who or what itself refers to, we know that anyone who would observe Demetrius would come to the same conclusion about him.
John and his colleagues, “add our testimony.” If everyone’s testimony is not enough, if the testimony from the truth itself is not enough, John puts his stamp of approval on Demetrius too. It is a personal recommendation about the authenticity of Demetrius. He was the opposite of Diotrephes. Why does John feel the need to talk about Demetrius? Perhaps it was Demetrius who carried this letter to Gaius. Diotrephes practiced evil because that’s who he is. Demetrius practiced good because that’s who he is. He was consistent. He was steadfast. He was authentic.
John tells us three good things about Demetrius and concludes that by saying, “You know that our testimony is true.”If you want to doubt everyone else, fine, but you know that we speak the truth. Our word is golden. Some people have the attitude, “I don’t care what people think.” While that may be true to a certain extent, we need to ask ourselves why we don’t care. Demetrius had a good reputation in the church and in the community. He was well respected because he consistently acted in a godly manner. Don’t think I’m taking liberty with the Scriptures here. He received a threefold verification of his character. It came from outside the church, from the truth, and was verified by the elder and his colleagues. Demetrius is an example to follow and is a total contrast to the behavior of Diotrephes.
We now come to John’s final words. As he said in 2 John, he had more to write, but wanted to wait until he could be there face to face. As John is writing these final thoughts, you get the feeling that he really loves Gaius. He’s looking forward to spending some time with him. Remember though, this isn’t totally a feel good letter. John is really concerned with Diotrephes’ behavior and he is going to address it in person according to v. 10. Tit. 3:10 says, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning.” Factious means inclined to dissentions. That’s Diotrephes. Rom. 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” John’s not letting this situation go hoping it will fix itself. For us, the application is the same. If there are issues around us as there will certainly be, we can’t just complain hoping it will go away. Something that I am often engaged in is conflict resolution. Situations rarely resolve themselves and we’ve got plenty of guidance in Scripture how to deal with these matters, but ignoring them is not one of them. John was, “Not willing to write them down with pen and ink.” If you think about this, it isn’t strange. He wanted to let Gaius know that he knew what was going on and to keep doing what was right, just as he had been. We should have the desire and courage to handle issues at the lowest level possible. John will deal with the issue just as soon as he can get there.
John tells Gaius, “I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face.” This is nearly identical to what he wrote in his second letter. He wants to spend time with Gaius, to encourage him, to commend him, to tell him good job. Getting a note of encouragement is great, but it doesn’t beat sitting down over a cup of coffee or sharing a meal. Real relationships take effort and take time. The ever growing arena of social networking is leading to shallower and shallower relationships; impersonal relationships. Absolutely use social media to its fullest, but don’t think that writing on someone’s wall or mentioning them on Twitter is the same thing as talking face to face. John wanted to see Gaius face to face and we should have that same longing to spend time with the people that we love; with the people that love us. John finishes by saying, “Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.” Even amidst the trials at the hand of Diotrephes, John says peace to Gaius. Rom 5:1 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” No matter the situation you’re in, the suffering you’re enduring, the heartache you feel, you have a peace that passes all understanding because that peace comes from Jesus Christ.
We looked at John’s final words, but I have some final thoughts. As we bring John’s letter to a close, I’d like to highlight a couple of important aspects. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Nu. 32:23 says, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” Cain couldn’t hide from God. David couldn’t hide from Nathan. Judas couldn’t hide his betrayal of Jesus. At one time I’m sure the people around Diotrephes thought he was the real deal. We don’t know the time line of his behavior in the church, but one thing is for sure, it became apparent who he really was and what he was all about. You can probably fool me, but the Lord knows who you really are. You cannot keep your real identity secret forever. Is. 53:6 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” The good news is that Christ is not finished with us.
We’ve looked at three people that were involved in a local church. Gaius’ church was not without problems and neither is ours because it is filled with people. Until Christ comes back, we’ll continue to battle our human will, but we don’t have to give in to it. If you profess to be a child of God, there must be evidence to support it. Not evidence of what you used to do or used to be, but a continual transformation into what God wants you to be. We are being transformed minute by minute and day by day into Christ. Change is inevitable so the question becomes, “How much am I going to let Jesus change me?” Am I going to be like Diotrephes who wants to be first, or am I going to let Jesus be in control of my life? It’s a great question and only you can answer it.