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  • Archive for October 10th, 2011

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 3 John 10-11a

    Monday, October 10th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week Four: Oct 2, 2011

    This week we continue the study in 3 John picking up in verse 10.

    I. Body

    a. Criticism of Diotrephes (9,10)

    10* – For this reason, when I come I will remind him of what he is doing1 in spreading false charges against us. And not content with that, he refuses to receive the brothers. He even tries to stop those who want to accept them and throws them out of the church.

    – Most translation have, “if I come” but the Greek grammar here assumes a probably future. So John is planning to come and deal with this issue. In modern parlance, this would be the equivalent to saying “Lord willing…”

    – John plans to come and to deal with this.

    I will remind him of what he is doing

    – The ISV and many translations have “call attention to.” The Greek word here (ὑπομνήσω / upomnēsō) mean to remember. The translation of “Call attention to” seems strikes me as implying a more public venue, whereas to remind could be private or public. I have no doubt that John planned to follow the biblical model of first confronting Diotrephes privately.

    – John’s determination to come and deal with Diotrephes is not only proper it is good. There is no question that the improper exercise or rejection of authority is wrong and this would sum up Diotrephes. But a failure to exercise of proper authority is also wrong.

    in spreading false charges against us.

    – The Greek word here (φλυαρῶν/phluarōn) means “to speak in such a way as to make no sense, presumably because of ignorance of what is involved.” (Louw-Nida) This is in the present tense, as with the rest of the verse, indicating that this was an ongoing problem, not just something that had happened.

    – It would seem that to justify his rejection of John’s authority, Diotrephes was making statements that were untrue. It is not clear if he was lying, but he certainly was not telling the truth. Some may be confused by this distinction, stemming from a general confusion about the meaning of lie. Saying something that is untrue is not necessarily a lie, as it could just be an honest mistake. On the other hand a carefully phrased statement may be technically true, but it can still be used to deceive, and it is that deception that is at the core of a lie. In short, a lie is anything said with the intent to deceive.

    Thus it is possible that Diotrephes was not attempting to deceive, but rather in his attempt to justify himself, he was not as careful as he should have been. This is something that we should all be wary of. In fact he was so uncritical in his charges against John that he drifted into claims that were evidently internally inconsistent to the point of nonsense. So whether he was actively lying, or just spreading untrue statements, it is clear that Diotrephes did not love the truth.

    – This is the question that we should ask ourselves: Do we love the truth? When we speak, particularly when we speak about others, are we sure about everything we say? This really becomes important when we are in a dispute. When we are in a dispute which is more important to us? Being completely truthful, even when it does not help us? Or is it winning? Probably most would say being truthful. But what if we rephrase that slightly? Unless one is a lawyer, winning is normally not the main concern, but rather winning for a reason. What if we, for the sake of argument, assume that we are completely correct, and in fact have been wronged, such that our side is the side of justice? Now which is more important, truthfulness or justice?

    Here I think the Gospel of John and the Epistles give a pretty clear answer: truth is a more important value than justice. Jesus did not say in that he was “the way, the justice and the life.” Consider this, as sinners, do we really want to demand complete justice?

    This really comes home when we consider how often we tend to cast things in terms of motives and compared with how well can we know motives? We can speak about motives, after all John said that Diotrephes wanted to be first, but we had better be very sure about what we said.

    And not content with that, he refuses to receive the brothers

    – Not content with saying things, Diotrephes moves on to actions as well. What we say can be bad, what we do is worse. While Gaius was praised for receiving the brothers, Diotrephes refused. Again there is no indication that the problem with Diotrephes was doctrinal. Perhaps he was them as a challenge to his authority? Or perhaps it was because they were associated with John and to accept them would be to accept John’s authority, but either way he did not receive them.

    tries to stop those who want to accept them throws them out of the church

    – Not only did he not receive them, he tried to stop others from receiving them as well. Throwing them out of the church should not be thought of in terms of formal excommunication. That would imply a more formal church structure than probably existed at the time. Rather this would be a breaking of fellowship. This indicates that the break with John was to some extent public and that Diotrephes had supporters within the church. These members may not have had the full story, as we have seen false statements about John played a role in all this. But Diotrephes did have supporters, and so John was coming to set the records straight.

    b. Commendation of Demetrius (11,12)

    11a – Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.

    do not imitate what is evil, but what is good

    – With another a personal appeal, John marks a change in subject

    – The commentators I read saw this as John telling Gaius to resist any pressure put on him to follow after Diotrephes. But, with all the praise of Gaius to this point, this simply does not strike me as correct, and it was not how I read this. Instead I saw this as John telling Gaius not to respond in like fashion. As we saw in the previous verse, Diotrephes was speaking ill of John, and putting pressure on member to follow him. Gaius should not respond in like fashion. He should not speak ill of Diotrephes, and put pressure on member to support John.

    So how should Gaius (or we) respond? The two hallmarks of John’s teaching here have been truth and love. Modern culture responses to the love part of this pair easily. But truth, does not fare as well. Yet for John, truth, which is mentioned 6 times in letter, is very important. Love is mentioned once, beloved four times.

    One other question is why does John say imitate (μιμοῦ / mimou)? For many, it is the heart that matters, and if your heart is not in what you do, it is meaningless. Yet the concept of imitating implies actions based, not on our heart, but on something outside of us. It is doing things even when our heart is not in it, or even against it. Yet, we learn and become better at what we do by imitation. If you want to learn a musical instrument or a language you must practice, and the practice is more important than where their heart is. Likewise, if we want to be a better Christians we must practice. This also touches on the modern distrust of ritual, as stale and dead. Yet many Christians have found that ritual can get them through periods where they “don’t feel it” and help rekindle faith. Now with a musical instrument it is easier if you have a teacher to imitate. Again the same is truth for Christians, and our teacher is Jesus.

    Next week we will start in 3 John 11b

    If you have question about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the version ISV. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.

    Footnotes

    1) ISV: I will call attention to what he is doing