Guest Post by Cecil May, III
Third John is the shortest book in the Bible, consisting of only 219 Greek words. There is not much to it. At the end of the letter, John wrote that he had much to say, but did not want to put his words in pen and ink. He would communicate later with this church in person. In this letter, John does not introduce or even address any major doctrines. It does contain some admonitions, such as to be hospitable, and some warnings, but nothing that is not covered elsewhere in scripture. Why did God include 3rd John in the Bible? Why does the church need 3rd John? There may not be major doctrinal issues in 3rd John, but there are people.
The church needs models like Gaius. Gaius walked in the truth (vs. 4). He was a person traveling preachers could count on for hospitality and support (vs. 5, 8). His reputation in the church as one who loved God, the gospel, and Christians was well known (vs. 6). Gaius was sound, inclusive, generous, and hospitable. The church needs many members like Gaius.
The church needs warnings about disciples of Diotrephes. Diotrephes always put his own interests first (vs. 9). He refused to submit to apostolic authority, even slandering John. (vs. 9). He was as inhospitable as Gaius was hospitable. He not only refused to help the traveling preachers; he stopped others from offering help (vs. 10). Diotrephes was prideful, exclusive, a gossiper, and an intimidator. The church needs to be warned not to tolerate the “wicked nonsense” (vs. 10) of people like Diotrephes.
The church needs well thought of representatives like Demetrius. Demetrius lived a life in line with the true word of God. (vs. 12). He had earned a stellar reputation among fellow Christians as a lover and doer of good. (vs. 11). He was worthy to be held up as an example that fellow Christians should imitate. (vs. 11-12). The church needs role models and strong examples in all things good like Demetrius.
The church needs 3rd John to remind us that the church is made up of people. There are people to mark and avoid. There are people to note and imitate. Each Christian needs to remember that we are all an example to someone for good or ill.
Cecil May III was the longtime minister for the Parkway Church of Christ in Fulton, KY when this was composed in 2013. Today he is the Connections Minister for the Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, AR.