3 John 1:9 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:59 mins 16 secs

Grace Orientation vs. Arrogance


In the first four verses of this epistle the emphasis was on walking in the truth. There was praise for Gaius personally because of his relationship to the truth. It is crucial to understand what truth is in order to understand what is going to happen by way of contrast in verses 9-12. In the first eight verses there is the example of Gaius who is walking in the light and then the switch from light to darkness in the example of Diotrephes in the second half of the epistle. The difference is the response to truth. This is what makes the difference between a believer who is advancing in the spiritual life, a believer who is going t0 be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ, a believer who is a success in the spiritual life compared to a believer who is just an absolute failure. The difference is their relationship to the truth.

Jesus prated in His high-priestly prayer in John 17: "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." That gives us our basic definition of what truth is; it is the Word of God. It is absolute truth, it is not relative truth. Gaius has a positive response to the truth of God's Word and is learning it, responding to it, and he is advancing in his spiritual life. So John begins by emphasising the importance to it in the first eight verses, concluding that section with a reference to being fellow workers of the truth. He praises Gaius for his personal priorities and putting doctrine above everything else. In verse 5 he praises Gaius because he lives faithfully; what he does he does in as faithful manner.

In verse 7 there is an explanation. 3 John 1:7 NASB "For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles." This is an independent sentence, it is not connected to the previous verse, and it begins in the Greek with the explanatory particle gar [gar] which indicates that he is giving a reason, an explanation for Gaius's behaviour—why Gaius is so grace oriented and so generous, so open and warm with these travelling evangelists and missionaries. The explanatory gar could be translated "because." Then "they went out [or, forth]" is the verb exerchomai [e)cerxomai] which means to go out, to travel, to go on a journey, a mission. They were sent out from a local congregation, "for the sake of the Name," the Greek preposition huper [u(per] plus the genitive which usually has the idea of "on behalf of, for the sake of," and in many passage it has the idea of substitution or instead of. It recognises the fact that they had gone forth for the sake of "His name." Name here refers to character. When we read passages about the name of God or the name of Christ it is emphasising who He is and what He did. He went to the cross and died for our sins as our substitute. Gaius recognises that these missionaries have a mission, a cause, a purpose. He recognises that their cause is his cause. "Accepting nothing" or "receiving nothing" is the present active participle of lambano [lambanw], meaning simply to receive. They weren't even going to let the unbelievers give them anything, they did not want their ministry tainted by anyone saying they were there just to make money, to get what they can take from us. So they ran on a strictly grace oriented basis and didn't even take what was offered because they did not want finances to somehow confuse the issue.

3 John 1:8 NASB "Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth." All believers ought to receive such mean as these, evangelists and teachers. The word translated "support" is huperlambano [u(perlambanw] and it has the idea of receiving warmly, receiving with hospitality. "Ought to" is the present active indicative of opheilo [o)feilw] which means here that it is an obligation. As believers we have a certain obligation to support missionaries and evangelists. When we do this, when we participate with them, we become a fellow worker, a joint worker, a participant, part of a team "with reference to the truth" – the definite article with aletheia [a)lhqeia].

So the conclusion is, first of all, is that the motivation for the evangelist, the pastor-teacher, the missionary, is to explain the gospel and to teach the truth. That is what motivates. It is for His name's sake, it is not for financial gain, prestige, power, approbation or recognition. Missionaries doing evangelism and evangelists should never ever seek financial support or even receive money from unbelievers. Believers back home are to financially support the missionary. This makes the believer part of the team. 

There is a tremendous contrast in this epistle between Gaius on the one hand and Diotrephes on the other. Gaius is humble, positive and praiseworthy. On the other hand, Diotrephes is self-absorbed and arrogant; he is trying to build his own little empire and he rejects the truth.

Gaius is a man who loves the truth, he loves the Word of God. He wants to learn the Word of God and apply the Word of God. He is consistently applying doctrine and walking by means of the truth. There is application of doctrine in his life; he is a man who has character transformation because of the Word of God. Therefore as a result of that we know that there is doctrinal orientation there, he is thinking biblically. As a result of thinking biblically he has grace orientation and is demonstrating hospitality and generosity.

3 John 1:9 NASB "I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say." Gaius is just a member of the local church. He is not a pastor and not in the leadership. Now we find out why John has had to write Gaius this letter. [10] "For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire {to do so} and puts {them} out of the church."

Gaius received the brethren and strangers; Diotrephes doesn't receive the brethren, he has no vision for missions, no involvement with missions, is not generous, not hospitable. He is a tightwad, is self-absorbed, and just the opposite of Gaius. So we see this contrast wet up between the two.

Diotrephes rejects authority and rejects truth. He rejects John's authority. Gaius submitted to the authority of John, he had true humility and teachability, and he was grace oriented. He welcomed the truth; Diotrephes rejected the truth.

Diotrephes is arrogant, he loves to have the pre-eminence and wants to be out there getting all of the attention. Gaius is operating in the background. He is hospitable and supportive of the missionaries but he is not doing it to draw attention to himself.

3 John 1:11 NASB "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God." John is classifying Diotrephes' behaviour as evil. Diotrephes is a believer but one who is operating on the sin nature in carnality, full of himself, and operating on the arrogance skills.

Diotrephes is ejecting people from the congregation. He doesn't receive the brethren and he forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. He is imperious, cold, and authoritarian. He doesn't care about people, he just cares about power and his own agenda. He is involved in sins of the tongue, maligning, slandering and gossiping about the apostle John. So rather than welcoming the truth and those who support the truth, walking in the truth and supporting those who promote the truth, he is self-serving. That makes him antagonistic to missionaries who are supporting the truth.