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Thursday, April 17, 2014

God's Love in a Nutshell

A Study of 3 John
To Know Him is to Love Him
“God's Love in a Nutshell"

Review:

In this third letter from John (the shortest if you go by the original Greek translation), John gives us one last look at the heart of the body of Christ as he saw it in its early stages. And just as we started back in 1 John, and then in 2nd John, we will see here, too, that it all boils down to the one important thing for the Christian. To KNOW HIM…To LOVE HIM and To LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

In this letter, John, the Beloved, is writing to his beloved friend, the elder, Gaius.

Romans 16:23a
Gaius, my host, who is also the host of the whole Church, greets you…Weymouth New Testament

We begin this letter with the evidence of why hospitality is intended to be an integral part of a Christian's service to God.

I.                  In All Things Pray
3 John 1-2 NKJ
The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

The salutation (greeting) to John's treasured friend, who he calls Elder. We learned the details about the qualifications of church elders in one of Paul's letters to Timothy (men of God who show themselves mature in their faith, serious, forthright in their relationship with God as they take on the role of any leadership position in the church, and also why it is so important that hands should not be laid on anyone too soon). Though we won't discuss this here, we can also read of the qualifications of a mature woman of God (which is not the same in every way as the man) but these are listed in Paul's letter to Titus.

Every one of us will be judged by what we know, and what we do with what we know.

John, when he pens this letter to Gaius, brings out first his love for the brother, then he notes to him what he is praying for him
·         For Gaius to have prosperity
·         For Gaius to be of good health
·         For Gaius to stay strong in faith 

When you and I pray for one another and for other sisters we would call our beloved friends, and our loved ones in the body and in our families, we are praying similar prayers.
  • That in God they would prosper: that HE would meet their financial needs and materialistically according to His will.
  • That God would give them good health, and help them through their difficult times
  • That God would bless them spiritually -- that they would grow in steadfastness, stability, and assurance of their faith

II.               The Truth Testified
3 John 3 - 4 NKJ
For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

Another blessing John received and then returned to Gaius here is how John received word from the brethren of Gaius's testimony, of how he walked justly.

Gaius had a proven walk. He was a man of good report. His life had become a testimony. He was showing his love for God's truth more than his own thoughts of what the truth was. His faith was evident. Others saw it. Others reported this to John (the spiritual father of this particular church)  Knowing God's truth gave Gaius the strength he needed to walk in obedience. How did he know he walked in truth? By knowing God's Word; He was a man well-studied.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 NKJ
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe  

  • Received the Word
  • Welcomed it from GOD not man
  • Showing how effective God's Word becomes your witness  not by your works and deeds but by your evident faith in Him

This was what John saw in his friend the Elder Gaius

For any Christian there should be no greater joy than to see another child of God -- any beloved member of the church walking in truth. And just as John brings out in verse 4.

As we will see in the next two verses, another character trait of Gaius was in how he opened his home to ministers and to other leaders in the body. He was known as an encourager or someone who gave confidence, who emboldens another to stay strong in faith, who reassures while at the same time showing and teaching people to look to God and His Word and not to people. 

Another thing that impresses me so much about Gaius's witness was how he not only walked in obedience -- his entire life was wrapped around his love for the LORD. How he opened his hands to be a good minister. He wrapped himself in God's love.  

III.           Your Witness to Others
3 John 5-6
Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well.

The Lost Art: True Hospitality. We learned the true meaning of hospitality as we studied 2nd John. Michelle brought it out so well…what it REALLY means. So much more than a simple opening of your home to those you care about.

The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenos, and this means loving strangers. As was discussed in the last lesson it is so much more than setting a beautiful table and creating ambiance and atmosphere. (music, candlelight, white glove perfection). It's about expressing a sense of acceptance towards those who are not like us. It is entertaining strangers one of which could be an angel unaware.
How willing are we to show that true hospitality? How will are we to show any kind of hospitality, which, in truth, can often mean we have to put ourselves out a little. 

Gaius had no problem showing hospitality. He not only opened his home to others, he met their needs while they were with him, and he sent them on their way, not only filled, but with extra.  (The love of church, a sense of community)

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, what if God was like us (at times) too busy to sit down in our home to have a time of fellowship? Too busy doing all that He does to invite us into HIS home?
Revelations 3 tells us Jesus is at the door knocking all the time (to the church) He wants to come into have fellowship with us, to dine with us, to draw close to us.

True and sincere fellowship and that sense of hospitality is so important in this self-centered society in which we live.

John called Gaius FAITHFUL (in what he did for the brethren and for strangers)
John commended Gaius for his witness of love and how the church took note of it
John saw how Gaius sent his guests on their way "in a manner worthy of God"

I know when my home is open, whether it be Tom and I on a Thursday night or when I have Koinonia fellowship there, what he and I have to send with our guests, might not be food for the belly, but instead it at least would be food for the soul. Our purpose is to do this in a manner worthy of God.


IV.           Fellow Workers for the Truth
3 John 7-8
Because they went forth for His name's sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.

Those who Gaius took in, he prepared for their needs (as we just mentioned), so they would not go out empty handed. What was so special about this, especially from the leadership and even from those in the body Gaius took in, they did not once ask for anything. They weren’t greedy or preaching for money. They were expressing to God their devotion and faithfulness. He simply gave it because he saw the need.

Genesis 14:21-24 (NKJV)
Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth,  23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—  24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

We also minister of what we have as a gesture of our obedience to God, don't we.

Galatians 6:9
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Philippians 4:15-19 says it perfectly:
Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 

Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus 

What happened here? The person who gave is commended privately because it was done out of obedience. When it is done out of obedience it is God who gets the glory. It is not the giver. The person who has received was not looking to receive even though the need was there. Now that it has been supplied GOD will return the blessing. God will meet the needs of the giver above and beyond.

It should be the desire of all of us, not to expect or wish to have praise from man (or woman) but rather that that praise would come from God alone (who will say to us…welcome my good and faithful servant for you have been there for the need of someone else)

V.               The Sad Truth of Some
3 John 9-10 
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeimence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church

This is a difficult section of John's letter that was necessary for him to write, but for us to read, it is not so pleasant. Unfortunately it is telling of things that went on in the early church, and things that are a part of our churches today.

In this letter, John refers to THREE people.  We have read about Gaius: Beloved, Faithful, Hospitable and so much more. Now we read about Diotrephes. This man was a different story.

A whole lot different.

First what does John say here.
  • Diotrophes LOVE his own preeminence above others
  • Diotrophes chooses not to RECEIVE certain people like JOHN the Beloved, like Gaius, and others who minister
  • Diotrophes PRATES against people maliciously
  • Diotrophes FORBIDS certain people who aren’t like him to the point they leave the church

So what does John want to show here?  He denounces the man.  He wants Gaius to be aware of this Diotrophes and what the man is doing -- How he was a control freak, how he was lifted up in pride. How he was MOTIVATED by his pride. He was dictatorial (which means BOSSY). How he was the opposite of a servant.

John wants to make sure Gaius can see how Diotrophes slanders other leaders in the church (many who Gaius has been showing hospitality to), How Diotrophes was a bad example to the believers. How Diotrophes didn’t welcome some of the teachers in the church who were gifted to minister. In fact the man tried to excommunicate any who opposed him in any way. Diotrophes was clearly a jealous man.  

John also wants Gaius to bring this to the attention of others which is why John brings it up in this letter.
The Application Bible shares this. "If no one speaks up, great harm can come to the church." And ithis is exactly what happens when nothing is said about this type of person. The church could eventually fall or become sour and people will continue to leave it.

Titus 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

It is so discouraging to say we have Deotrophes-type people in the churches today. Not servants of the Lord at all.
  • Encouragers
  • Tender
  • Compassionate
  • Like-minded with the body
  • Of the same mind
  • Not selfish
  • Not self-ambitious
  • Interested in the interests of others more than the interest of themselves
  • Filled with love for all not just for some

Philippians 2:1 1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus

Once again, I found it interesting that John would choose to call to Gaius's mind the deeds of this person. By doing this he is also calling this to your attention and to mine. 

"I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church"

Back in verse 10 we saw how Diotrophes considered John a threat to his self imposed importance or authority. He disciplined anyone who did not agree with him. He had his own group of followers who were for the most part, immature believers who mistakenly became followers of him over followers first of God. In addition to that, Diotrophes would not receive any who associated with JOHN. All of us as Christians need to be careful of who we listen to. Why does John share all this? Why do we share this today? Because a person like Diotrophes in the end can destroy the church

But it doesn’t have to be that way.
For in the next verse John brings out the third person he wishes to mention in this letter.
And that is Demetrious.

IV.            Being a Good Testimony
3 John 11-12 
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. Demetrious has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you that our testimony is true.

I like this part more: Here we see the opposite of Diotrophes.

  • Demeetrious imitated that which was good
  • Demetrious was of God
  • Demetrious did not tolerate evil
  • Demetrious  was a good testimony with his life
  • Demetrious lived the truth

What a difference

V. God's Love Face to Face with Each Other
3 John 13-14 
I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Pece to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

Though John had much more he wanted to say (to write) In verse 14, he offers his final Peace and his Greetings from and to the others in the Christian family. Most of all his wish to see Gaius and the others face to face soon.

FINAL WORDS

We could summarize our studies through the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd letters to John in this way

The first letter warns of False Teachers or Prophets
could ruin the church if not contained

The second letter warns of False Teachers
who come in to the church from the outside who could ruin the church if fooled by them

The third letter
warns of so-called leaders in the church,
who raise themselves up and become controlling dictators  who can destroy the church


In the FIRST letter, though the letter is not titled (no salutation)
it was not written to one particular church (remember there were seven listed) but it was basically a letter to all the Gentile churches then and now and to believers everywhere.

The SECOND letter did have a salutation which gives us the name
"TO THE LADY" (A Godly woman and her family / the Bride the Church and the body which is a part of her.

The THIRD letter also has a salutation which gives us the name of
GAIUS (a godly man and his church family / an elder in the church and other leaders he ministers with)


The first letter
was about FAITH, FELLOWSHIP, LOVE, KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING

The second letter
was about TRUE HOSPITALITY

The third letter
about ENCOURAGEMENT

With all these letters, our beloved John leaves nothing and no one out.

What better way to end a series.

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