John writes this passage 3 John 1 which is his last letter to other Christians like previous passages. This letter has been addressed to one specific person named Gaius. There have been other names mentioned in this letter apart from Gaius, one person named Diotrephes was mentioned on verse 9 and another person named Demetrius was also mentioned on verse 12.
First person mentioned in the passage is Gaius, who is a common Roman name that means happy, and he is a spiritually healthy Christian. In verse 2, John greets Gaius with an opening prayer that goes: “I pray that you are alive, and your physical health would be just as good as your spiritual health”. John knew Gaius was spiritually healthy by the testimonials of other brothers and sisters who visited the church where Gaius belong to. Gaius was most probably the leader of his church. We know this because John was quite open about the problems of the church with Gaius. In verse 9 there was a certain person named Diotrephes and he has caused a lot of troubles in the church that Gaius belongs to. John was telling Gaius about Diotrephes so that he’s aware of his sinful works in the church.
Now that we mentioned Diotrephes, just like Gaius, he’s most likely another leader of the church. He has some influence on other Christians which is quite evident in verse 10, where it says Diotrephes has authority to put people out of the church. However, this authority is not strictly speaking legitimate. Apostle John does not approve of Diotrephes although some local people approved him. This local church leader named Diotrephes was confident enough to reject even the authority of John and other church leaders who served with John.
There’s another person named Demetrius, who is mentioned on verse 12 as a good Christian brother testified by other Christians. John does not give any further details about Demetrius on what he has done.
It was not easy being a Christian back then, and what’s tougher than being a Christian under prosecution is to be a Christian leader who has to shepherd Christians under prosecutions. That was a position of the Apostle John. Prosecution is the background story behind John writing this letter. It is important for us to know this letter was born out of difficulty, because this letter was written as part of the solution to this difficulty. John knew that there’s a good Christian man named Gaius who is leading the church faithfully. And John knew that it was not an easy task for Gaius. And for that reason, John wrote this letter to Gaius to strengthen him. How does John strengthen him? To strengthen Gaius, John wrote this letter to show his love to Gaius. There have been four times that John called Gaius “beloved” in this very short letter. Twice that John prays for Gaius’ wellbeing. Once John said that he really wants to see Gaius. The love among the Christians is unlike any love that we can find elsewhere, because the Christians love came first from the selfless sacrificial love of Christ for us. We’re loved because we’ve seen how He first loved us. Not only do we love one another because Christ loved us, but we loved one another also because we loved Christ. Because we loved the same Christ together, we are one people. We share many life experiences, we identify one another. This similarity helps us understand one another and approve one another, which in turn produces love among us.
And looking back at this letter, we can see that what John gave to Gaius was more than just love. He also gave Gaius his approval and his heartfelt cheer. In this letter, John knows the hard work of Gaius as a Christian leader. Not only that, John encourages Gaius to continue in his good work. What can we learn from John in this? One of the greatest gifts that we can give to one another is our brotherly love in Christ. This love may come in the form of words of affirmation, of encouragement, of empathy, and approval. Because this love reminds us of, we are not striving alone. We want to remind each other of sin.
The lesson we can learn from brother Gaius, that in this letter of John commends Gaius for one thing that Gaius has been faithful in, which is found on verse 5 – 8. Here John praises Gaius for welcoming traveling preachers (as strangers) and taking good care of them even though Gaius did not know them personally. Gaius may not be a preacher himself, but he can surely support the gospel work by simply providing shelter and food for the preachers who travel from town to town. The presence of false teachings will definitely be discouraging for even Gaius himself. But he does not allow the disappointments to come in a way of his ministry of supporting his missionaries. He does what he should and what he could and all the brothers and sisters testified is faithfulness. The impressive and faithful ministry of Gaius is something that we can learn.
Lastly, let us look into Diotrephes, the villain of this passage. Apostle John has many things against Diotrephes as he does not welcome traveling preachers who have been approved by Christian communities. He even speaks evil against these traveling preachers even though they have been tested and proven to be good teachers. Not only that, he also forbids other Christians to welcome these traveling preachers. If these Christians get caught for welcoming these traveling preachers, he will exercise his authority to kick them out of church. In verse 9, it has been told the reason that Diotrephes likes to put himself first in which it likely means that Diotrephes likes to stay in power. He thinks that the church will only flourish under his care. For this reason, John always criticizes Diotrephes.
This is a strong reminder that we’re building God’s kingdom, not our own kingdom. For what reason does a local church exist? We’re to bring people into the redemptive joy of Christ, not into the glory of our own denomination. Diotrephes got his priorities all wrong, it is not about his extraordinary ministries, it is not about the size of his church, it is not about the church politics. As a servant of God and of a man, our primary concern is first and foremost the glory of God. And secondly, the wellbeing of His people.