3 John: The Case Study of Gaius and Diotrephes

by Sep 29, 20140 comments

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In the case study from 2 John, the apostle explored how tightly truth and love fit together. While we might have thought John had been contrasting two polar opposites throughout 1 John when he spoke about truth and love—one an immovable object and the other an unstoppable force—we learned in 2 John that each virtue guides and shapes the character of the other. You cannot have genuine truth without love, and you cannot have pure love without truth. The book of 2 John is about demonstrating unity between two critical values in our discipleship.

John’s third letter, on the other hand, is a case study that was written not to teach us how seek unity but to show us how to deal with controversy. In 3 John, we see the stark contrast between two men who love different people. Gaius, the man to whom John writes this letter, loves Jesus more than anything else. He gives generous support to missionaries to help them along as they proclaim the name of Jesus to the Gentiles who haven’t yet heard about him (3 John 1:5–8), and he gives generously to them despite the fact that he is not a materially prosperous man (3 John 1:2). Diotrephes, on the other hand, loves himself more than anything else, so that the Apostle John describes him as a “lover of putting himself first” (3 John 1:9).

In 3 John, the apostle gives us glimpses into the end result of two kinds of discipleship: in Gaius, we see the fruit of following Jesus, and in Diotrephes, we see the fruit of following after our own sinful, selfish desires. Everyone is someone’s disciple, so we all face only one question: what kind of a master will we serve?

Discussion Questions

1. What brings you the greatest joy in life? Is it the name of Jesus, or something else? What preoccupies your thoughts? What kind of disappointment brings you the most pain?

2. What role have you taken up for the sake of the name?

3. How well do you submit to authority within the church? Who do you most want to put first: Jesus or yourself?

4. What ministry needs in your life right now require face-to-face conversations?