In our study, we will look at the three parts of man and see an example of each part in action. Although we call John the "Apostle of Love", Jesus called him one of the "Sons of Thunder". In this brief letter we will see how both names fit his character.
The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
John begins this letter with a greeting that could either describe his position as a leader of the church or an older man as both descriptions are accurate.
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
He prays for all three parts (mind, body, and spirit) of his friend. Gaius evidently had health problems as well as a mental struggle to deal with a situation in the local church. His spirit was well as he was a believer in Jesus Christ and he was listening and following the Holy Spirit.
It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
This passage brings us to the example of the man who is putting his body into action. Even though he had health problems, Gaius was showing hospitality to those that were going around and sharing the gospel. He knew what was right and put it into action which gave the apostle joy. This joy is much the same as a parent that sees their child growing up and living as they were taught. John thinks of him as his child because he evidently led Gaius to faith in Jesus Christ. This is the same relationship that Paul spoke of near the end of his first letter to the Corinthians.
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.
Gaius was faithful to show hospitality to the travelling evangelists even with his health problems. The reports of his love had gotten back to the church and, as we shall see, that caused some problems. John reassures Gaius that he is doing what Jesus would do and that, in fact, all believers should be working together for the sharing of the gospel. The same is true for us, today, in that we should all be working together to share the light of Jesus with this dark world.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.
The source of the problems in this local body was the ego of this church leader named Diotrephes. He would not let others share the Word and put out of the "church" those that helped the travelling evangelists. In short, this man wanted to be a "rock star" preacher. It became about him instead of saving the lost and, sadly, many leaders fall into that trap even today.
So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
John assures Gaius that, when he comes, he is going to deal with Diotrephes. In the previous verse we saw the root of the problems which was the pride of Diotrephes. Now, we see the effects of that sin in the way he treated brothers in Christ who were trying to share the gospel. Gossiping is talking about someone when they are not present and it does not matter whether what is said is the truth or not. I have seen it disguised as prayer and even saw leaders who said it was ok as long as you were saying something that you believed was true. His pride would not allow him to work with others for the common purpose of sharing the gospel and he would not tolerate anyone in his flock doing so. There is much of that going on today as well in that many "pastors" set up their own little "church" where they can be a star and will gossip and do whatever is necessary to ensure the spotlight is on them and what their little "church" is doing.
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.
The key to understanding this verse is to understand what is meant by "imitate". The word means to follow which is the same thing as the meaning of disciple. It speaks of a pattern in your life and if the pattern of your life is to do evil things, then, you have not seen God. If you stumble every now and then but get back up and the pattern of your life is to follow after Christ, then, you are from God.
Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone - and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.
Now, we are introduced to the third man in the drama that was happening in this local group of believers. Evidently, Demetrius was a brother in Christ who had been sharing the gospel but was thrown out of the fellowship by Diotrephes. John tells his good friend Gaius that Demetrius was a wonderful man of God and that it was right to stand with him. Even today, there are "church leaders" who act the same as Diotrephes and we are called to stand with those that they persecute just as Gaius did for Demetrius.
I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.
Although it may be hard for us to understand, John preferred to talk to people face to face in the same manner that Jesus did. In our world today, everyone wants to send a text message or anything else to avoid direct contact but you have a much more honest and meaningful conversation when it is face to face.