Faithfulness to the Truth

by Dr. Samuel Lee   02/27/2000     0 reads


3 John 1:1-14

Key Verse: 1:1

“The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”


1.  To whom does John, the elder, address this letter? (1) What do

  verses 1-3 tell us about John's relationship to Gaius?

2.  From a Biblical point of view, what does it mean that he addresses

  Gaius as a dear friend?  (1,2,5,11) (Think about some Biblical

  examples of friendship--Isa 41:8b [Ge 18:10,20-21,24; 22:2-8,23];

  1Sa 18:1-3; 20:42; 23:17; 2Sa 1:26,27; Jn 15:13-14) Why is

  friendship among men (or among women) so important?

3.  What was John's prayer topic for Gaius and the brethren in his

  church? (2-3) Why is it important to pray for spiritual well-being

  as well as physical well-being?

4.  Why does it give John joy to hear about Gaius' faithfulness to the

  truth and that his children were walking in the truth? (3-4) How do

  you define faithfulness? (Rev 2:10; Heb 13:8; Phil 1:8-11)

5.  Read verses 5-8. How was Gaius apparently serving the brothers? Why

 did John commend him?  Why is it important to be hospitable? (Ge

  18:1-10; 19:1-2) By contrast, why was Diotrephes rebuked? In what

  ways was he a bad influence?

6.  Why was Demetrius spoken well of? (11-12) Why did John cut his

  letter short? What did he say in the final greetings?  (13-14) What

  can we learn from this letter about the relationship between truth

  and hospitality? Truth and friendship?



3 John 1:1-14

Key Verse: 1:1

“The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”

3 John is a letter from St. John to a young man, Gaius. In this

letter, St. John is very happy about brother Gaius' church members who

are faithful to the truth. So he blesses them both physically and

spiritually. St. John also gives them an instruction to be hospitable

to strangers. "Strangers" meant those who were traveling around

preaching the gospel of salvation, depending on God's help only. When

we study this book, the epistle of 3 John, we learn that the entire

flow of the contents seems to be how to make friendship in Jesus.

First, to my dear friend Gaius (1).

Look at verse 1. "The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in

the truth." Here, old and saintly John writes an epistle to Gaius, who

seemed to have been a young man who was faithful to the truth, and whom

St. John loved most. In verse 1, we learn an important spiritual

lesson. St. John was known as the top-class apostle. But he called

Gaius, the young man, "my dear friend." At that time, to be called

"friend" by a renowned apostle was not an ordinary event. When we study

the Bible carefully, the word "friend" has a deep meaning in it. When

we think about the word "friend" in the Bible, naturally we remember

the friendship between God and Abraham. Abraham is known as the friend

of God. Isaiah 41:8b says, " descendants of Abraham my friend."

Also, James 2:23b says, "...and he [Abraham] was called God's friend."

In the Bible, to be a friend of God or of the saints is a great honor.

Also, it involves great sacrifice and recognition of divine character.

God and Abraham were good friends. Once, God saw that Sodom and

Gomorrah's violence and injustice were too great. So God decided to

destroy Sodom and Gomorrah after long-suffering patience (Ge 18-19).

Before going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, God appeared as the three

visitors to Abraham. Abraham was so happy to have the strangers to his

house. He begged them to stay at his house overnight. He said to Sarah,

"Quick, get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread"

(Gen 18:6). The old man, Abraham, ran to the herd and selected a

choice, tender calf and made Hebron beef steaks. Then the angel

revealed that he is God Almighty and said in Genesis 18:10, "I will

surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife

will have a son." At last, God was going to give Abraham a son after 25

years of waiting. It was good news personally to Abraham and Sarah, who

had a no-son problem. More than this, God told Abraham all the secrets

he had had in his mind. God told a top secret to Abraham. We cannot but

say he is a friend of God's. The secret was that God would destroy

Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 18:20,21, God revealed his top secret to

Abraham, saying, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and

their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have

done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."

There was no secret in the friendship between God and Abraham, because

God trusted Abraham not to reveal his secret to others. At the moment,

Abraham remembered Lot who was living in Sodom and Gomorrah. So he

begged God to rescue Lot. He prayed to God, saying, "If there are fifty

righteous people in the city, would you really destroy it and not spare

the city for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?" (Gen 18:24)

Abraham was very slow in accounting. But when he thought about the

situation of Sodom and Gomorrah, he was afraid that there would not be

fifty righteous people for whom God would subside his anger. So he

began to cut down the number of righteous men, five by five, from fifty

to ten. Here we see a real picture of friendship. There is kindness and

understanding and great sacrifice in the friendship among God's

people.  God said to Abraham, "Ten righteous men? Okay." Actually,

there were not ten righteous men.  Finally, Abraham revealed why he

prayed to God so persistently. It was for the sake of rescuing his

nephew, Lot. God agreed to save Lot and his family members.

Divine friendship transcends human love. One day God said, "Take

your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of

Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains

I will tell you about" (Gen 22:2). Early the next morning Abraham got

up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his

son Isaac. He had cut enough wood for the burnt offering and he set out

for the place God had told him about (Ge 22:3). When they arrived at

the mountain, Isaac said, "The fire and wood are here, but where is the

lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "God himself will

provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son" (Ge 22:7-8a). Then

Abraham reached out his hand and took his knife to slay his son. The

Lord called out from heaven, "Abraham, Abraham!" "Here I am," he

replied. Then God said, "Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do

anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not

withheld from me your son, your only son" (Gen 22:12). The friendship

between God and Abraham was indeed remarkable. Without this friendship,

world salvation work could not have started. Because there was a

beautiful friendship between God and Abraham, it was possible for God

to carry out world salvation work, starting with Abraham. Mad dogs and

poisonous snakes cannot have friendship. They tear and bite one

another. We cannot say that this brutal animal activity is friendship.

Friendship cannot be done without divine discipline. Abraham received

divine discipline for 25 years. Finally, he grew up as a man of God

from among terribly ungodly people of the world. Thus he could be a

friend of God. Without friendship, nothing happens in this world.

We cannot forget the story of the friendship between Jonathan and

David (1Sa 17-2Sa 1). Once, Philistines surrounded the Israelite

armies at Socoh in Judah. The Philistine champion Goliath shouted

like a roaring lion to have a duel, saying, "Choose a man and have

him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will

become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will

become our subjects and serve us" (1Sa 17:8b,9). For forty days

Goliath came forward every morning and evening and took his stand

and taunted the armies of Israel. The armies of Israel were so

terrified that they lost their hearts. As soon as David arrived to

see about his brothers, at his father's request, he heard about the

champion Goliath's challenge to a duel and the boy David accepted

it.  The Philistine champion was nine feet tall; his spear shaft was

like a weaver's rod and its iron point weighed 600 shekels. But the

boy David said to the Philistine champion, "You come against me with

sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of

the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have

defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike

you down and cut off your head" (1Sa 17:45,46). In the duel, David

won with a sling shot. Thus, David became a very famous warrior of

faith in Israel.

After this event, he became King Saul's army commander. But the

humanistic King Saul became jealous of the boy David. When they were

returning home after the victory, the women sang, "Saul has slain his

thousands, and David his tens of thousands" (1Sa 18:7). Even though

King Saul made him the commander over his army, he determined to

destroy David at the opportune time. On the other hand, King Saul's son

Jonathan was different from King Saul. Jonathan became one in spirit

with David and he loved him as himself (18:1), instead of being jealous

of him. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as

himself (1Sa 18:1-3). Friendship is indeed sweet. When Jonathan saw

David's greatness, he recognized him as a great man. And he gave his

bow and belt to David to confirm his covenant friendship with David. In

the course of time, Saul was chasing David to destroy him, as he had

been doing for the last 13 years. But Jonathan promised David that he

would be a friend to him forever. 1 Samuel 20:42 says, "Jonathan said

to David, 'Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in

the name of the Lord, saying, "The Lord is witness between you and me,

and between your descendants and my descendants forever."'" Later,

David was wandering around in the desert with his 400 followers (1Sa

22:1,2). His wandering was indeed sorrowful and helpless. In addition,

his parents and relatives and all the helpless people came to him for

help. So he became even more helpless. Probably, he thought he was too

young to die.  Still, his suffering was too hard to bear. In this

situation, Jonathan visited David in the desert and said, "Don't be

afraid. My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king

over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows

this" (1Sa 23:17).  The two of them made a covenant again. There is a

saying, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." Maybe this saying, "a

friend in need is a friend indeed," came from the friendship between

Jonathan and David. They loved each other so much. When they had to

depart, they kissed each other and wept together--but David wept the

most (20:41). Time passed by rapidly, so rapidly. During the time of

King Saul's chasing after David, the armies of the Philistines grew and

grew. Finally, they invaded the armies of Israel. Even King Saul and

Jonathan had to fight on the battleground. King Saul and his son

Jonathan fell by the sword of the Philistines. King Saul had pursued

David to destroy him. But David never forgot that Saul was the Lord's

anointed king and Jonathan's father. David lamented by saying, "O

daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and

finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold. How the

mighty have fallen in battle!" (2Sa 1:24,25) Next, he grieved over the

death of Jonathan, saying, "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you

were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful

than that of women. How the mighty have fallen!" (2Sa 1:26,27) In the

lamentation of David for Jonathan, the words, "Your love for me was

wonderful,  more wonderful than that of women," might be the most

poetic expression, more than that of Shakespeare, who said, "To be, or

not to be; that is the question."

These days there are not real friendships among men. They have

girlfriends and boyfriends, but we can scarcely find the true

friendship among men. May God bless us that many young men may have

friendships among men, friendships which are wonderful, more wonderful

than that of women. Since young men began to have only girlfriends and

young women began to have only boyfriends, this friendship was gone and

disaster has risen sky high. Where there is friendship among men, the

influence of friendships makes families stable, as well as societies

and nations.

Jesus is the Son of God. So he doesn't have to be friends with

mundane men with fallen mentality. But he did his best to make friends

with his twelve disciples. It was not easy for him to make friends with

them, because they were typical mundane men and mostly men from the

bottom of society. They were good at political competition and eating.

They were, as a matter of fact, nobodies. Even though Jesus is the Son

of God and came to this world to become the atoning sacrifice by

shedding his blood for the sin of the world, he made friends with the

twelve apostles until a vine and branch relationship was established.

He said in John 15:13-14, "Greater love has no one than this, that he

lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I

command." Jesus recognized his twelve disciples, who were very

immature, as his friends, even though they were his disciples. Jesus

strongly stressed the friendship among men. Jesus believed that when

the Twelve became true friends in God, they would change the world and

world mission would be possible. In light of this lesson, we must learn

that, among our men fellowship directors and vice-directors, we must

make friends with one another as Jesus made friends with his

disciples.  Then we can change the world by God's grace. We can reach

out to 187 countries with our missionaries. We must pray to change the

worldly consensus that young people only want to have girlfriends and

boyfriends, even from among married people. We must really pray for

them to have many men friends among men, and many women friends among

women. As history proves, when we have friendships between men and men

and between women and women, families will be stable, society will be

stable, and this country will be stable as well. Maybe you would say,

"Why is it so important to make friends among young men and among young

women?" But in history, friends among men are so important. For

example, as we know well, Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a low-class

Catholic monk. But he did not like the corruption of the Church. So he

wrote 99 theses and displayed them in public. His life was at risk from

religious temple police and the pressure of the church. After his

discussion with men of the church hierarchy at Worms, on the way home,

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) kidnapped him and kept him in a

castle.  In the castle, Luther translated the Septuagint into the

German Bible.  For this, Melanchthon gave his heart for his friend

Luther. There is no Luther without Melanchthon.  Another example is

John Calvin (1509-1564). In Calvin's time, the Catholic hierarchy

massacred Christians, condemning them as heretics. But Calvin wrote

"The Institutes of the Christian Religion" to the king of France at the

age of 22. Without the help of his friend Huldreich Zwingli

(1484-1531), Calvin's writing for the defense of the Protestant church

and new Christendom in Geneva would have been impossible. In short,

without Zwingli, there is no Calvin. Likewise, we must have at least

one friend. Then God will bless our friendship among us and make us

great men in this generation.

Let's read verse 1 again. "The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom

I love in the truth." St John was an eminent Christian leader at that

time. Gaius was a young man, unknown to the Christian world. But St.

John called him "friend," instead of calling him, "Hey, you boy." It

was possible for St. John to call him "friend," because he honored God

as God and honored God's servants both young and old, as God's

servants. We can make friends when we have self-esteem, the fear of

God, divine respect and divine love. As UBF leaders, among men, there

are many friends. Still, let's ask God's mercy to have faith to have

many more friends among men.

Second, faithfulness to the truth (2-4).

St. John was very happy to hear that Gaius' church members were

faithful to the truth. So he blessed them. Look at verses 2-3. "Dear

friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well

with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy

to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the

truth and how you continue to walk in the truth." According to these

verses, St. John blessed that all may go well with Gaius and that he

would have good health, and also that he may have spiritual health. In

the past, we greeted by saying, "How are you?" It meant a greeting

about the other person's well-being. But these days, many say as their

greeting, "How are you doing?" They don't greet the other person, but

talk about his business. They imply, "How are you doing in getting

instant benefits?" We have to go back to saying the greeting, "How are

you?" instead of "How are you doing?" We must not only say, "How are

you?" but we must also bless with the blessings of God as St. John

mentioned in 2 John 1:3, "Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father

and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and


St. John was very happy to hear about their faithfulness to the

truth and also that they walked in the truth. We must understand the

meaning of faithfulness. Faithfulness is the expression of our own

personal faith to Jesus. Unfaithful people never committed themselves

to God. Unfaithful people neglect to be loyal to Jesus. Unfaithful

people are very proud and critical like one lady in our fellowship.

Without faithfulness we cannot please God. So whatever we do for the

glory of God, we must do with a life-giving spirit.  St. John said in

Revelation 2:10b, "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will

give you the crown of life." Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the

same yesterday and today and forever." Jesus was faithful to the will

of God, even to death on the cross. St. Paul was faithful when he was

old and tired. One of the prison epistles is Philemon. That letter

reveals God's compassion on human beings so well. Among Paul's prison

mates, there was Onesimus, who stole his owner's money and secretly got

into Rome. He was arrested and put in prison and he became a prison

mate of St. Paul. He was a devious and dangerous young man. In the

past, those who stole money as slaves were supposed to be hanged. But

he ventured to go to Rome by running away from his master. He was a

dangerous person to approach. But St. Paul taught him the Bible one to

one. He was changed. Paul wrote an epistle to Philemon and sent

Onesimus back to him, asking him to treat Onesimus as one of the

brothers. Paul could do that because he was faithful to his Lord

Jesus.  In his epistle to Philemon, he didn't mention anything about

his hardship in the prison. He pleaded with Philemon and his church

members to accept Onesimus as one of their brothers, even though he was

a runaway slave. Truth is that faithfulness comes from the love of

God.  When we realize the love of God, that God sent his one and only

Son as the atoning sacrifice, and shed his blood for the sin of the

world, we can be faithful to God. Unfaithfulness seems to be

beneficial. But unfaithful people are living in the darkness, not in

the truth. Here the "truth" refers to Jesus.

Third, be hospitable to stranger-brothers (5-13).

In the past, the proclamation of the gospel of salvation was

possible by those who travelled from town to town, village to village

and country to country. But usually Christian Bible teachers did not

have money. They used to find fellow Christian brethren and stay with

them. They never received help from the pagans. We call them

stranger-brothers, because they are brothers in Christ, but they are

strangers. They were like the horse-riding preachers during

Whitefield's time. During John's time, all Christians were gospel

preachers. But the number of churches could be counted on one's

fingers. These stranger-brothers came so frequently. There was a danger

of being arrested by pagan authorities for those welcoming a

stranger-brother. Yet they had an even more difficult problem. It was

to feed them while they were staying as long as they stayed. As we

know, in ancient times, very rich people could afford to eat two meals

a day. But ordinary people barely ate one meal a day. So we can guess

how difficult it was to treat these constantly crowding

stranger-brothers. But St. John urges them to treat them well. Look at

verse 8.  "We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that

we may work together for the truth." In America, to give hospitality to

a stranger-brother is very difficult. But thank God that UBF brethren

are eager to give good hospitality to stranger-brethren. We must be

ready to give good hospitality to stranger-brethren at our 1997 UBF

International Summer Bible Conference. There is one American shepherd

who is so hospitable to Christian brethren. So he invited many guests

to his apartment. He even invited his senior shepherd to his dinner

table more than five times during the last ten years. In the Old

Testament teaching, to give hospitality to strangers is emphasized

frequently. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were very selfish. But

Abraham's nephew Lot was very hospitable. When the angels visited him,

he invited them to his house. Abraham was the most exemplary person in

giving hospitality. When he was ready to give hospitality to the three

strangers, he met God. He also heard the good news that he would have a

son after one year.

In the church there was a man named Diotrephes, who loved to be

first. But his act of faith was less than nothing. What he was doing

was gossiping maliciously, speaking about Christian brethren. In

addition, he refused to welcome the brothers and did not give

hospitality to them. He also stopped those who wanted to give

hospitality. If they invited strangers to their houses, he put them out

of the church. St. John was very sorry about Diotrephes because he

spoke very subtle things to deceive Christian brethren, and he was not

hospitable to the brethren (9-10). St. John encourages them to be good

Christians who can give good hospitality to strangers. Look at verse

11. "Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone

who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not

seen God." There was a young man called Demetrius. He was very

hospitable to the stranger-brethren. So his testimony was regarded as

true. St. John wanted Christian brethren to be like Demetrius. Giving

good hospitality is what is pleasing to God. Those who are not

hospitable are not doing what is good to God, and vice versa.

Today we learned how to make a good friendship in Jesus. We also

learned that we must be faithful to our Lord Jesus and that we must

also be very hospitable to our Christian brethren. All these are

possible when we realize the love of God through his Son who became an

atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world.