Sunday, May 19, 2013
3rd John Part 5
1:11-12 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.
In short order we come to the third man spotlighted in this brief epistle: Demetrius. Unlike Diotrephes who was overbearing and vying for sole rulership of the church, Demetrius was a man well spoken of. He had a good report from all men. I would assume that by this John means, saved or unsaved, men of every walk, if they knew Demetrius, only had good things to say about him.
Why? Clearly he walked in the truth and practiced the truth, since the truth itself bore witness of him. His confession of Christ and Jesus’ lordship over him were evident to all. He was a bond-slave of the One who freed him from the bonds of sin, and Demetrius lived in such a manner that all bore witness. Again, we reflect on the passage of James 2:14-26 and see the reality of what the apostle was attempting to teach when he wrote that a man was justified by his works. Demetrius was justified before “all men” by his good conduct in Christ, 1st Peter 3:16.
Here again we have the habitual actions of men. If our pattern is a habit of righteousness John says that such a man is of God. If our habit is one of wanton sin without repentance, we have not seen God. John does not mince words by implying that our conduct reflects the reality of our salvation. If nothing is visible, if we sin just as we always have without repentance, if we do not mortify the flesh but indulge it rather, then according to John our salvation is nothing more than words. Someone truly saved is truly changed. This change sometimes does not reflect in our outward man; sometimes it seldom reflects in our daily life. There are some who shall make it into Heaven through fire, having their works burned and having nothing to show for their life on this earth. Such poor saints never bothered to consider the depths of what it truly means to be born again by the Holy Spirit. When I choose to sin I slight my God and what He has done for me. I offend the very Savior who died to save me from the sins I dirty myself to enjoy all over again. But this should not be our lifestyle. If you offend, repent. Confess our sins to God and He is just to forgive us our sins, 1st John 1:9. If we make a life out of sinning the apostle declares that such professors “have not seen God.”
Demetrius was an example that John gave to Gaius as a pattern to follow. He wanted to divert men’s attention from the one screaming for the spotlight to the one quietly walking in the Spirit and serving God with a clean conscience. As Jesus said, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” Luke 14:11. Also, the writer of Hebrews adds: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct,” Hebrews 13:7. We are to follow in the footsteps of the faith of men whose conduct reflects the doctrine they teach; that is, doctrine derived from the Bible. Demetrius was a man who had a good testimony from the truth itself, and so John directed Gaius’ attention to him as an example of one whose faith could be safely emulated. By the verse previously quoted Diotrephes would automatically be disqualified as a leader in the church. His conduct is entirely carnal which makes his doctrine, if accurate, a practice in hypocrisy.
1:13-14 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
John apparently had little taste for personal letters, since both epistles to individuals were quite brief. Rather, he would speak face to face with the person in question. Twice he mentions his coming: once in the negative when he comes to call Diotrephes to account for his behavior in the church, and a second time in bidding Gaius farewell. For one discipline awaits. For the other, fellowship and teaching. Paul contended with much the same when he wrote to the Corinthian church “What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” 1st Corinthians 4:21. This pattern of commendation and correction is repeated in the book of Revelation when Jesus addresses the seven churches of Asia Minor. There are things to laud, and things to correct; if correction is not forthcoming through repentance and adherence to sound doctrine the Lord’s discipline would come as He sought to purge the dross from His bride.
God’s discipline is done out of love for the sake of correction, Hebrews 12:10-11. We have been freed from sin, not freed to sin; sin separates us from God in fellowship and imperils us every time we take it up. Sometimes God disciplines or chastens even unto death. Perhaps this is for the saint who would continue to visit grievous harm on others and heap shame on his Lord’s name by flagrant sin. If left unchecked his desire could inflame the whole church and lead many astray.
The apostle finishes with a salutary bidding of peace, just as he began his letter, 3rd John 1:2. There are a number of “friends” who want Gaius to know they are thinking of him, and likely praying for him, and John makes sure to mention this number to encourage the letter’s recipient. Likewise, a number of “friends” of John’s dwelt with Gaius in the same city; perhaps excommunicated like him. To such friends John bids a fond greeting. They demonstrated that they were friends with God and enemies of the world, James 4:4. The wisdom Diotrephes exercised was entirely earthly or worldly, James 3:14-15. Therefore they chose removal from a house church that had, by the error of its leadership, gone astray. To such men and women John bids a fond greeting.