John compares the works of three men with regard to how they treat the “brothers.” Two are found in good standing while the last is seriously wanting.
One of the things that John stresses in all his teachings is Jesus’ commandment to love one another. John requires not only lip service but practical service. The intended recipient of this message is one who is being faithful in this commandment. John makes sure to commend him for his acts of love.
But John also mentions two other men by name whom his intended recipient interacts with. The first is a condemnation and the second a commendation.
One of John’s earlier letters to the church was being disputed by Diotrephes. We are not told if he is an elder or a pastor but he appears to be in a position of leadership. He is openly calling into question the authority of the apostles and the letters delivered to the church. His motives are NOT pure! He is motivated by a desire for power and status. He also rules his church with an iron hand. “My way or the highway!” Those who oppose him, specifically by rendering support to fellow workers, are thrown out. “He refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (verse 10b).
I wonder how he came to be in this influential position. How did he behave before becoming one of the church leaders? Was he a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, or did something happen to change his outlook on those spreading the gospel? What caused him to question the apostles’ authority? What kind of teaching was he advancing?
John doesn’t go into detail but says that what he is doing is severe enough to warrant personal intervention. I wonder if the “If I come” was a warning to him that he was using his last chance. Was Gaius to speak to him and show him John’s letter? Diotrephes was essentially removing everyone from the church who practices the love Jesus commanded. Sounds like a “church split” in the making. And this issue was important enough to divide on; it was Jesus’ commandment.
Another individual, Demetrius, was being commended by John for his service. We are not told the specifics of what Demetrius was doing but it garnered him a lot of “good testimony” from those around him and from the elders. The apostles/elders didn’t blindly put their stamp of approval on anyone who came their way proclaiming to be preaching the truth. They tested the words and the character of the person before signing off on him. If the apostles approved of a person you could be sure their teachings lined up with Jesus’ own.
Gaius is called to be an imitator of good and not evil. “Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (verse 11b). It is pretty easy to understand which side of this equation Diotrephes and Demetrius were on.
God makes those same kind of division lines every day. He also calls us to make them too. When we sit down under a “leader”, judge rightly what he is doing. Is he showing brotherly love? Is he putting himself above the rest of the congregation? What kind of heart is he demonstrating? We can’t know for certain his heart but we can get a pretty clear indication by observing his actions. If his actions don’t line up with God’s words, don’t sit under him. Stand up for God’s truth, even if it means being put out of the imposter’s “church.” I have a feeling that those who were “put out of the church” by Diotrephes were done a good service by the Spirit. They left, voluntarily or not, and were no longer subject to his lies and self-aggrandizing.
Thank You Holy Spirit for protecting me even when it sometimes looks like an unjust punishment being rendered. Sometimes the thorns have to get pretty big in the nest for me to finally move on. Thank You for those pushes. Thank You also for Your discernment You give me. I would be lost and floundering without it. You do such an AMAZING job bringing the scriptures alive for me today. Continue to open my eyes and heart to the word and the will of the Father. Help me follow the “good” examples only.