Gaius and Diotrophes
John introduces himself in his third epistle as “the elder.” It is the work of elders to shepherd the flock of God (1 Pet. 5- 1-2), and to protect the sheep from “grievous wolves.” They watch over souls as those who must give account; in so doing, John the exemplary elder, directs Gaius and denounces Diotrophes.
Gaius was greatly beloved. Why? Because the wells whence the streams of love came to him were dug in the hearts of others with the spade of his own Christian love (v. 6).
The elder’s love for Gaius was not mere natural affection, but intelligent love, bestowed upon one who was worthy of esteem and affection. John’s love was fruit of the Spirit, and it was connected with “the truth” (v. 4).
Since this love is fruit of the Spirit, and since the Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), persons who “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) also “walk in truth” (3 John 4), and persons who “walk in truth” also “walk in love” (Eph. 5:2). What manner of persons ought we to be?
Desire of the Elder (v. 2)
The words, “I wish above all things,” do not mean that John’s desire for Gaius was John’s supreme wish; rather, he wishes that “in all things” Gaius might prosper and be in health. Gaius was faithfully engaged in a noble work (vv. 5-8). To continue, he required material means and good health; hence the prayer for a prosperity in proportion to his soul’s prosperity.
(The lofty purpose of Gaius’ hospitality was the furtherance of the truth. What a sad contrast to the proud purpose of Diotrophes!)
Delight of the Elder (v. 3)
Gaius possessed truth, and the truth possessed him; hence his spiritual prosperity. His condition was displayed in his conduct. He had truth, and he helped truth (vv. 3-8), and he “walked in love” (v. 6).
Other brethren bore witness to his truth; in this, the elder rejoiced greatly (v. 3). Love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). The elder could not rejoice in the wickedness of Diotrophes, but he rejoiced greatly in the worthiness of Gaius.
The elder encouraged Gaius by telling him of the brethren’s witness, and of his own reaction to their report. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11).
Declaration of the Elder (v. 4)
What John means by “my children” may be understood through 1 Cor. 4:15, “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”
John’s children gave him great joy when he heard that they did walk in truth. The walk of Gaius produced an effect upon the elder, vastly different from that produced by the conduct of Diotrophes! “A wise son maketh a glad father” (Prov. 10:1).
Directions for Gaius (vv. 5-8)
Gaius’ love was shown to the brethren, not as old friends, but as “strangers.” Gaius did nothing by partiality (Cf. 1 Tim. 5:21). His work was in harmony with his character (v. 3). The truth controlled his heart, governed his life, and regulated his service.
Gaius was no servile puppet to Diotrophes; he was a willing bondslave of our Lord Jesus Christ, serving faithfully and lovingly. He was faithful to God, the truth, and the brethren.
Those brethren whom he had helped, told the church of his love (v. 6). His hospitable home refreshed and encouraged the heralds of truth in their ministry. Gaius functioned according to the way of more surpassing excellence, the way of love (I Cor. 12:31).
The elder commended the Christ-like Gaius for his work; but a greater than John will say some day, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
The elder also counsels Gaius, “Whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort thou shalt do well” (v. 6). “Let us not lose heart in doing good: for in due time, if we do not faint, we shall reap” (Gal. 6:9).
Has any been stumbled by a Diotrophes? Look at Gaius, and follow his example. Also, “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:3). Remember Paul’s testimony, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
The elder gives a reason for his directions, explaining that “for the Name have they gone forth, taking nothing of those of the nations” (v. 7).
Those true-hearted, self-sacrificing brethren did not go forth for “a name”, saying, “let us make us a name” (Gen. 11:4). They went forth for THE NAME, “which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9), to spread the truth enshrined in it, and connected with it (Cf. Acts 8:5, 35). Some rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name” (Acts 5:40).
Directions are given again, “We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth” (v. 8). What a privilege and responsibility!
We should all be exercised by these weighty, searching words. God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Ps. 51:6); and “the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Sam. 2:3). He says, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10).
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-22).
In ministering to those who spread the truth, we identify ourselves with the truth, and become fellow-workers in it. Gaius was a helper of the truth, but Diotrophes was a hinderer.
Denunciation of Diotrophes (vv. 9-10)
Diotrophes loved to have the pre-eminence in the church (v. 9). Twice only is “preeminence” used in the New Testament: in connection with our adorable Lord, and in connection with Diotrophes. The latter’s love of the first place shows how far removed he was from communion with our Lord, and from the teaching of the Scriptures (Cf. Col. 1:18. Lk. 22:24-27).
He was a tyrannical leader, lording it over God’s heritage. His name means “nourished by Jupiter,” and the name fits the man. In Roman mythology, Jupiter was the chief of the gods. Among the planets, Jupiter is the largest!
A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package; such was Diotrophes. Paul, whose Roman name means “small,” is an outstanding contrast; he was wrapped up in Christ and hence was a large bundle of fragrant Christian graces (Eph. 3:8. 2 Cor. 12:11. Phil. 1:21).
The lover of first place did not receive John and his associates. He even forbad those who would receive them, and cast them out of the church. Was his heart a den of jealousy, “the green-eyed monster” that is “cruel as the grave” (S.S. 8:6)?
The elder intends to call Diotrophes to account for his doings, “Wherefore if I come, I will remember (I will bring to remembrance) his deeds which he doeth” (v. 10).
His evil deeds included prating against John and others. He was making false accusations with malicious words and intense ill-will. The word for “malicious” is also used to describe Satan as the “wicked one” (1 John 2:13-14; 5:18).
From whence came his wicked speeches? “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Lk. 6:45). “Evil” is “malicious” in 3 John 10. Had the heart of Diotrophes been welling forth with a song of THE BELOVED (Eph. 1:6), he would have gladly received the “disciple whom Jesus loved” and his associates.
In writing against Diotrophes, John does not prate, nor does he write from an evil heart, but of necessity, from a good and honest heart, for a worthy purpose, and in a right spirit. (Cf. Prov. 4:24. 1 Pet. 3:8-13).
“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” (3 John 11).