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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible


  • The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 3 John 11a -15

    Week Five:  Oct 9, 2011

    This week we finished the study in 3 John picking up in verse 11b.   We also started 2 John, but I will start that in another post.

    II.  Body

    b.      Commendation of Demetrius (11,12)

    11b – The person who does what is good is from God. The person who does what is evil has never seen God.

    –          Some see this as a tough verse.   While this sounds good at first, as Paul writes in Romans 3:23 “…all have sinned and continue to fall short of God’s glory and so no one would be from God and everyone would be the category of those who have never seen God.     Just how do we understand an atheist who helps the poor?  What about Christians who do evil?  Just what is this verse saying? As in all issues of interpretation the context is key. John has just encouraged Gaius to imitate the good, and so this is part of the exhortation to do good and not evil.

    It is also important to keep in mind that there was tendency in  first century Jewish culture to put things in stark black and white terms.   For example, in John 15:23 Jesus does not talk about belief and disbelief, but says that, The person who hates me hates the father.” Luke 14:26 is probably the best example of this when Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother… he can’t be my disciple.”  Few would take this literally, and most see this as emphasizing that we must put Jesus first to be a disciple.

    –          So when we come to this passage, we must understand that it is in the context of encouraging Gaius to imitate the good and is presented in black and white terms.   John cannot be saying that Christians never do evil.  For he say in 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we do not have any sin, we are deceiving ourselves and we’re not being truthful to ourselves.” So what he is saying is that when looking for examples to imitate, we should look to those Christians (the context here is within the Church) whose lives are marked by doing good, and avoid those who are doing evil.

    –          So then what does this say about Diotrephes?  One option is that this is a general statement and should be seen as an exhortation to Gaius.  The other option is that this has a broader context and directly contrasts Diotrephes with Demetrius in the next verse. In short that Diotrephes has never seen God.    I believe this should be understood in terms of the former.  The discussion has moved away from Diotrephes and onto Gaius. If this were a judgment of Diotrephes, it would be a severe one.  We will see in 1 and 2 John that John is not reluctant pass judgment when needed.  Thus if he was going to make such a judgment about Diotrephes it is more likely he would do so in a  statement directly about Diotrephes, rather than in one where the connection to Diotrephes must be inferred from a statement about how Gaius should act.

    12 – Demetrius has received a good report from everyone, including the truth itself. We, too, can testify to this report, and you know that our testimony is true.

    –          Demetrius means belonging to Demeter, the Greek Goddess of fruits and crops.  This would indicate that he was of pagan origin. If his parents were Christian, they most likely converted after he was named. He apparently was unknown to Gaius, and thus the introduction included here.
    He is almost certainly the one who delivered the letter. If Demetrius lived near Gaius, he would have been known and no introduction would have been needed. If he was traveling and not yet there, the letter would have mentioned his coming.  Some suggest that he may have been one of those rejected by Diotrephes. I see this as possible but beyond what the evidence supports. This could conflict with his being unknown to Gaius depending on the assumptions about Gaius in verse 9.  He was probably there for more than just the delivery of the letter and had been sent to help Gaius with the problem of Diotrephes until John could arrive.

    received a good report from everyone

    –          In context, this is all Christians.   That this is mention abruptly following the exhortation to not imitate evil but good indicates that Demetrius is being held up as an example of the good that Gaius is to follow.

    including the truth itself

    –          Exactly what John is revering to here is unclear.   It could refer to Truth personified, i.e., that if truth could speak, it would give a good report for Demetrius.   Another option is that this is a reference to God as in John 14:7 I am the Way the Truth and the Life.   Finally it could be truth as the reality of his walk with the Lord.  In other words, that the way Gaius lives in the truth,  as John says about Gaius, (v3) testifies about him.    It is hard to say which of these John intends.

    We, too, can testify to this report

    –          Demetrius is personally known by John and he adds his testimony to the rest.   This three fold testimony is an indication of the trust that could be placed in him and the importance of his mission.

    and you know that our testimony is true

    –          Finally this is a subtle indication of authorship  – see John 21:14  “We know his testimony is true.”  This seems to be phase that John would use.

    III. Conclusion

    a.      Final words (13-14)

    13 – Although I have a great deal to write to you,1 I would rather not write with pen and ink.

    –          This is a serious matter and there is a lot to do, but John does not want to write. He has already mentioned that he will be visiting soon (v10) and has probably given more detailed instructions to Demetrius.

    14 – Instead, I hope to see you2 soon and speak face to face.

    –          Again John mentions that he is coming soon.  I always find it interesting the way idioms change from language to language.  This is literally: Mouth to mouth

    b.      Greetings (15)

    15 May peace be with you!3 Your friends greet you.4 Greet5 each of our friends by name.

    –          John closes with a standard greeting.

    May peace be with you

    –          Traditional Jewish greeting, which was frequently used by Christians.   This is the greeting used by Jesus in locked room following Resurrection  (John 20:19)

    Your friends greet you.

    –          Gaius evidently had friends who were with John and they send their greetings

    Greet each of our friends by name

    –          John sends a personal greeting to his friends who are with Gaius.  John want each specifically greeted, as opposed to a general greeting to all. These friends could be in Gaius’ household or in his church.

    Questions:  The questions this week centered on the intersection of Love and Truth.  Love asks us to be accepting.  Truth demands that we maintain standards.  How does one do both?  One question concerned how this applied to the Presbyterian Church-USA ordination of a homosexual minister in Madison, Wi?   Clearly that church was focusing on the acceptance that stems from love.  But what about truth?  The Bible’s position on homosexuality may not be politically correct, but it is clear.   But this goes to a deeper problem concerning the authority of God’s word.  Will we follow what the Bible says, or will we follow the current trends of political correctness?

    Those opposed to the message of the word of God, frequently present such issues as conflict between reason and/or science and faith, where faith seems to be defined as that which is false.  But this is far from the case.  In fact the evidence, while frequently ignored, is pretty clear.  The closer that one follows the teaching of the Bible the happier and more fulfilled will be their lives and longer they tend to live.  For the Christian, this is not too surprising.  The Bible is not an arbitrary document.  It rules were not given so that we could be punished.   Like the Sabbath, the Bible was given for help us.  The primary message concerns the reconciliation with God and our eternal life, but much of the Bible also deals with how we can life better lives here and now.

    Some of the Bible consists of thou shall, and thou shall not.  But not all the instructions of the Bible are as clear cut as you should not murder or you should not steal.  Much of the teachings of the Bible consist of balancing competing interests.  That is the one of the focuses of John’s letters, just how do we balance competing interests of Truth and Love.

    Again I will have a follow up Post to start 2 John.

    Next week we will start in 2 John 3

    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) Lit. you (singular)
    2) Lit. you (singular)
    3) Lit. you (singular)
    4) Lit. you (singular)
    5) The Gk. verb is singular

    One Response to “The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 3 John 11a -15”

    1. The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 2 John 1-2 : Politics and Religion Says:

      […] week we finished the study in 3 John in an earlier post.  Here we will start 2 […]

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