This Week's Focus Passage

3 John ‘Gaius the beloved, Diotrephes, who loveth preeminence, Demetrius hath the witness.’

3 John ‘Gaius the beloved, Diotrephes, who loveth preeminence, Demetrius hath the witness.’

John the apostle who leaned upon the breast of Jesus at the Table, is one who lived to many years. He has borne witness in his third epistle of three individuals that may be found in the church of Jesus Christ. We must infer that the references and warnings certainly are presented for our guidance and for our good. These three men, we may justly presume are types of persons that we may, are even likely, to meet in the churches.

But who, exactly, were these men mentioned by the apostle John is his third epistle? Who, indeed, was Gaius? Who was Diotrophes? Who was Demetrius? And what were their relationships to the apostle? This epistle was evidently written to Gaius, he was the intended recipient of the letter, while the message of John contained therein mentioned one by the name of Diotrephes and another bearing the name Demetrius. But who were they? John begins his letter with much in the way of commendation for Gaius, saying, Unto Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth. He goes on to acknowledge his rejoicing in the activities of Gaius, saying of these things, For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth. It would certainly not be considered an exaggeration to say that John was ‘over the moon’ with respect to the witness of Gaius, whoever he was. Who was he? The name, Gaius, is to be found in the Word of God on five occasions (Acts 19:29; 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14; including here in 3 John) and seems to differentiate between two, or perhaps three individuals. One trusted writer has informed us in the following statement:

“GAIUS; A common name. 1. A Macedonian Christian; as Paul’s companion in travel. 2. A Christian of Derbe, one of the group waiting for Paul at Troas (Acts 20:4). 3. A Christian in Corinth; one of two men whom Paul names as having been baptized by him, contrary to his usual practice (1 Corinthians 1:14, 17). 4. The addressee of 3 John. John had a deep affection for him, commended him for his hospitality. There is no evidence to identify him with any of the above.”

This Gaius was indeed commended for a number of things, for he did a great number of things to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ and those that would proclaim it. He was faithful in the doing of these things ‘toward them that are brethren and strangers.’ He was a faithful witness through the example of his love before the church. He was a faithful helper and fellow-worker for the sake of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a witness of truth; he witnessed unto his truth. In other-words, his works underwrote his profession of the truth; he was a model of the truth itself; he walked in truth. No wonder then that John would love him in truth. By the grace of our God and our Savior, we have such men in our church, and in our churches in this land, and faith would inform us that there are such in every true body of Christ, our Head.

Sadly, there are other types of people in most of these churches, if not in all. Such a one is Diotrephes. This suggests the truth as it is in Christ, and as He has told us, that there will be wheat and tares together until the harvest. It is preeminently interesting to learn that Matthew and chapter 13 is the only place where we discover the use of the word, ‘tares.’ Of course, it is in the context of the parable of the wheat and the tares. Jesus told His disciples—and He tells us—But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the blade sprang up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. Every assembly of professing Christians is going to have both wheat and tares almost certainly. There are no perfect believers; therefore there are no perfect churches, or bodies of believers. Even as Paul felt the need to warn his young disciple, Timothy, and through him, those in the church; Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil….of whom do thou also beware; for he greatly withstood our words, so much John utter warnings against this Diotrephes. His name is to be found only once in our Bibles, and that is here in 3 John. How wonderful it would be were this an indication that there are not many Diotrephes among us, but as we look at John’s words of description we are wary that it is not a singular instance. Chief among the matters of his description, in words that most certainly put the entire matter ‘in a nutshell,’ is the fact that he was one who loveth to have the preeminence among them. Each additional concern seems to be grounded upon that love of preeminence. Dictionaries teach us what this thing is which we call ‘preeminence.’ It is simply, “superiority to all others in merit, rank, etc.” This is what Diotrephes loved. He loved to have the superiority over others in merit, rank, etc. In order to obtain, or maintain, this superiority there were those that he would not receive—perhaps he felt that they endangered his attaining such lofty position, or perhaps, the continuing of such. Let’s face it; he was a lover of self rather than a lover of God and a lover of the people of God. Any that would be bold enough to receive these others that he had forbidden, he cast them out of the church.

John has set before our consideration two examples: Gaius, an example worthy of imitation, and Diotrephes; not worthy of emulation in any way whatever. He put it before his readers in unmistakable terms. Beloved, imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good. Happily, for the churches instruction, John has a further example of that which is good. He sets lastly before the readers of this epistle, one Demetrius. Of this man he is freely able to strongly utter positive manifestations of goodness and greatness of love that comes only from the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of man Himself. John embraces this freedom and joyfully informs us that:

Demetrius hath the witness of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, we also bear witness; and thou knowest that our witness is true.

Beside the disciple here praised by the apostle, there is in Acts 19:23-27, Demetrius, the silversmith of Ephesus who raised a mob against Paul because his preaching had resulted in damage to the lucrative business of making silver images of the goddess Diana. The name of one Demetrius, a warden of the Ephesian temple, found by modern explorers, is probably that same silversmith. Praise God, we have such as Demetrius and Gaius in our churches, and hopefully few or none such as Diotrephes. Let us rejoice in the goodness of our God in building His church and granting plumb-lines to check ourselves against.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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