Christianity 201

February 8, 2015

Churches Contain People Who are Good Examples, and Bad Examples

NIV 3 John:9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

11 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. 12 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.

Christians and hospitalityFor Sundays in February, we’re highlighting the website Christian Fellowship Devotions. Today we looked at the writing of Pastor Geoff, who has number of articles which together form commentaries on Daniel, Nahum, Ruth, the Ten Commandments and the Bible itself. We were drawn to the section on John’s Epistles, and particularly to the little book of 3 John which is easily overlooked.

We gave today’s item a headline that reflects the central teaching in these verses, but 3 John is also overlaid with the theme of hospitality, hence the graphic at right. To read at source click the titles of the two articles combined below.

Diotrephes

A Negative Example in the Church

I suspect that John was most concerned about the behavior of Diotrephes, as it related to the potential danger to the Christian community. And it is to this he spoke when he wrote the second part of his third letter. He knew the church must remain true to that which advances the kingdom. It could not follow a pattern or a man that was bringing dissension and disruption.

As we have seen in the previous session, there was much going on in this local church that was a positive testimony for the Lord. John had commended Gaius because he, and by inference, the church, where providing the gift of hospitality to servants of the Lord who came through the community.

A Negative Example: But as is frequently the case, there was a fly in the ointment. This fly went by the name of Diotrephes. It appears he had a formal position within the local church. He certainly exercised considerable power. And he certainly was creating major problems through the misuse of that power.

Diotrephes wanted to hold the place of honor, or authority, within the church. He was obviously impressed with himself. He may have recognized though, that authority – and for that matter respect – actually rested in John, and possibility as a result, resented him. Diotrephes had no interest in anything that John might have to say. What are some disruptive examples that you have observed within the church community?

Letters of warning about Diotrephes’ behavior were being ignored. So John spelled out what he would do if he came to visit the church. He believed that it would be necessary to confront Diotrephes face-to-face. He spells out the specific behaviors that were unacceptable. Diotrephes was guilty of gossiping with the intent of creating problems, and undermining John’s authority. Gossip is contrary to Christian behavior. Paul warned about this when he said:

“We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies” (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12).

In Diotrephes’ case, he was using gossip to intentionally create trouble.

Second, unlike Gaius, Diotrephes was preventing the exercise of hospitality to Christians coming through the community. He refused to accept or provide for them. Additionally, if that wasn’t enough, he wouldn’t allow others to offer hospitality. He took action to expel those who endeavored to go counter to his directions.

Good Example, Bad Example

Verse 11-12

Once again, John doesn’t mince words. Immediately following his comments on Diotrephes, he notes that believers are to model themselves after that which is good, not that which is evil. Clearly the behavior of Diotrephes is presented as evil.

John reiterates that good behavior (what Scripture defines as good) can only occur when obedience to God is the motivator. In contrast, those who do evil are functioning outside God’s will. Most likely, he is suggesting that Diotrephes’ behavior demonstrates his lack of godliness. And this being the case, Diotrephes is not to be a model of Christian behavior, nor to be allowed to exercise a leadership position.

A third person in the local body is mentioned. This is Demetrius. He is presented in contrast to Diotrephes. This individual had a good reputation. Everyone spoke well of him. John emphasized that truth itself validated those things said about Demetrius. This means that Demetrius was functioning in the truth of the apostles’ teachings and God’s Word. John knew Demetrius personally, and was able to give endorsement of the godliness of this person. What is the source of a good reputation within the church?

Demetrius is presented as an example of someone who abides in Christ, while Diotrephes is offered as an illustration of someone who is outside the veil of the church. When a person is within the church, but not part of the body, he often chooses the role of disrupter, and can be used by Satan to undermine the efforts to serve the Lord.

John warns this church about the importance of doing all in truth. In the second epistle, truth was the basis for withholding support for people claiming to represent Christ. Here, truth is the criteria by which service is performed.

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