This week, in our Linguistics seminar, we were given the assignment of outlining 3 John and determining the theme or peak of the letter. In other words, what was John attempting to communicate to Gaius.
This is how I outlined the letter in this week’s seminar (this is not my translation):
Salutation (vs. 1)
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
Opening Testimony of Truth in Action (vs. 2-4)
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Gaius’ Testimony of Truth in Action (vs. 5-8)
Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
Diotrephes’ Lack of Testimony of Truth in Action (vs. 9-10)
I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
Having a Testimony of Truth in Action (vs. 11)
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
Demetrius’ Testimony of Truth in Action (vs. 12)
Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
Travel Plans (vs. 13-14)
I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
Final Greetings (vs. 15)
Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them. (3 John ESV)
Notice the repetition of the words for testify, truth, and action words (walk, practice, imitate, efforts, fellow workers). In fact, in the body of this letter (vs. 2-12), we find the ideas of testifying to the truth through our actions in every paragraph except one: the paragraph about Diotrephes. While Gaius and Demetrius have a testimony, Diotrephes is not said to have one. While Gaius are walking in the truth, this is not said of Diotrephes.
Furthermore, it is interesting that Diotrephes is known for his words (speaking wicked nonsense) and his desire to control things (puts himself first), and his lack of concern for others (refuses… stops… and puts them out).
It seems that this short letter was written to encourage Gaius (and any others who read it) to bear witness to the truth of their faith by the way they live their lives, especially in the way that they deal with and relate to other people. The specific “good” action mentioned in this letter is supporting brothers and sisters in Christ as they travel through the local area. The corresponding “bad” action is refusing to help those same brothers and sisters in Christ (see “Sending with hospitality“).
I have been encouraged and challenged by the way many of my brothers and sisters have opened their homes to others who are travelling through or visiting this area. Our family is learning and maturing in this area. We are learning what it means to “send with hospitality”.
But, what about other areas of our lives. Are we living a testimony by demonstrating truth in action? Or, do our words and our actions contradict the love that we are supposed to show to our brothers and sisters? Do we ridicule people for showing mercy and justice to others? Do we rebuke brothers and sisters for their kindness? Do we talk about love, but never have time to show it?
Do we find ourselves resembling Diotrephes? Or are we growing in grace and finding that we resemble Gaius and Demetrius more and more by living a testimony of truth in action?