|Volume 23 Number 8 August 2021
Third John is a wonderful, one-chapter book filled with lessons for us today. It was written by the apostle John to a man named Gaius. Two other men are mentioned in this book, Diotrephes and Demetrius. Gaius and Demetrius were commended, but Diotrephes was rebuked.
Gaius must have been special to John. John says of him, “Whom I love in truth” (3 John 1 NKJV). This seems to identify Gaius as one who walked daily in the truth of the Gospel. John referred to Gaius as “beloved,” and he used this expression several times. This man was a fellow Christian, which created a special bond between them.
John wished for him physical health to match his spiritual health. Gaius’ spiritual health must have been strong, and John wanted his physical health to match it. What if God blessed our physical health to equal our spiritual health? How physically healthy would we be? Gaius’ spiritual health was measured by several things: (1) He walked in the Truth; (2) He was faithful to show hospitality to brothers and to strangers; (3) He sent them on their way “in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 6).
Diotrephes, on the other hand, was not commended for good works. He was rebuked both for the things he did and did not do. It seems that Diotrephes put himself first above everyone else, and he did not acknowledge the authority of the apostles. This man had spoken evil things against the apostles, refused to welcome fellow Christians, stopped others from welcoming Christians and had put some out of the church without authority to do so (3 John 10).
The third Christian named in this book is Demetrius. This man had a good report from everyone, and that information had been passed along to John. The facts about this man were well known. John also knew Demetrius, and he could substantiate the information that had been passed along concerning his benevolence and his excellent character.
I don’t know how many members were in the church where Gaius, Diotrephes and Demetrius worshipped. There could have been a lot or a few, but John called these three men by name. He pointed them out as examples – one for hospitality, one for loving preeminence and one for having a good report from everyone. Which one would we be? For what are we known in our congregation? Would our congregations be stronger if everyone were just like you or me?
Paul once told the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians11:1). His concern was in the example a Christian would be to a weak brother or an unbeliever. He said, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33). He wanted Christians to imitate him as he imitated Christ. He didn’t want preeminence or acknowledgement. He just wanted to be like Christ. Christ was his example and should be ours.
When Peter spoke to the first Gentile convert, Cornelius, he spoke about Jesus. One of the things he said about the Lord was that He “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). While we can’t miraculously heal today, and we can’t confront the devil in the same way Jesus did, we can go about doing good. We have opportunities every day to do something good.
So, which of these men would John use to describe you? Are you hospitable, full of good works and benevolent, or are you full of pride, argumentative and an authoritarian who gives orders and makes judgments without authority? Are you humble, meek and kind, or are you one who runs people away from the church? “For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
Sing with Understanding:
Wonderful Story of Love
As part of New Testament worship, Christians are commanded to sing (Ephesians 5:18). Colossians 3:16 further explains that the songs should teach and admonish. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul addressed the misuse of miraculous gifts in the worship service. He stressed that God provided those gifts for the spiritual benefit of Christians; however, no one would benefit if there was no understanding. Included in the discussion is the statement, “I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Though Christians do not have miraculous gifts today, the principle remains applicable.
To ‘sing with understanding’ and to ‘teach and admonish one another’ in our worship services, Christians should recognize the meanings behind the words and the phrases in the songs they sing. Consider for a few moments some pertinent words and phrases from the song, “Wonderful Story of Love.”
“Wonderful story of love: Tell it to me again;
Wonderful story of love: Wake the immortal strain!
Angels with rapture announce it Shepherds with wonder receive it;
Sinner, O won’t you believe it? Wonderful story of love.”
The first verse of the song introduces the idea of a wonderful story of love that people should want to hear over and over again. It depicts the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-10). The phrase “wake the immortal strain” gives the idea of a never-ending flow of language. The word rapture means gladness or joy. The verse ends with a call for sinners to believe the wonderful news of Christ’s birth, part of the “wonderful story of love.”
“Wonderful story of love: Tho you are far away;
Wonderful story of love: Still He doth call today;
Calling from Calvary’s mountain Down from the crystal bright fountain,
E’en from the dawn of creation, Wonderful story of love.”
The second verse of the song describes God’s call for sinners to return to Him. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned, and Isaiah 59:2 says sins separate individuals from God. The sinner, then, is ‘far away’ from God. Today, through the spreading of the Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 10:14-15; 2 Timothy 2:2), God still calls men to repent. Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary or Golgotha (Luke 23:33; John 19:17-18) is another call from God for sinners to return to Him. The ‘crystal fountains’ are imagery of God’s throne room in Heaven (Revelation 4:6). According to 1 Peter 1:18-21, God had a plan from before the world was created to call sinful men back to Him. God’s call began even ‘from the dawn of creation’ and reaches from Heaven to Calvary.
“Wonderful story of love: Jesus provides a rest;
Wonderful story of love: For all the pure and blest;
Rest in those mansions above us, With those who’ve gone on before us,
Singing the rapturous chorus, Wonderful story of love.”
The third verse of the song portrays the result of God’s love for mankind. In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus offered rest to all “who labor and are heavy laden.” Rest is for the “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8), those who dwell on the true, the noble, the just, the pure, the lovely and the things of good report (Philippians 4:8) and those who “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving them so He could prepare a mansion for them (John 14:1-3). Paul explained to Christians at Thessalonica that those who are living when Christ comes will be reunited with the faithful Christians who already died or have ‘gone before’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). When this world is gone, all the faithful will sing a joyful song (‘rapturous chorus’) before God’s throne in Heaven (Revelation 15:3).
The Bible is indeed a “Wonderful Story of Love.” From the beginning of creation in Genesis 1 to the final words of Revelation 22, the Bible reveals God’s great love for man. God loves us so much that He does not want anyone to be separated from Him for all eternity (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9). May we ‘sing with understanding’ and spread this “Wonderful Story of Love.”