In the course of complementing his readers in Gaius’ church, John speaks well of all their efforts. 3 John 1:5 says, “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are.” Their efforts involved welcoming and caring for some unknown believers who were sent from John. This is understood in the context of one Diotrephes, who will be described in verse 9 as being one “who likes to put himself first.” Notice that John refers to the members of Gaius’ Church family as being “beloved.” He then tells them that their efforts on behalf of the strangers he sent to them are “faithful things.” It appears that Diotrephes was not supportive of John’s messengers to the church. John will even say that Diotrephes rejected the authority of the Apostles and his own role specifically.

First of all, John is telling his readers that they are “beloved.” It could mean that John loves them or that they are beloved in general, or it could be a reference to the fact that they are loved by God. Paul uses this language a lot and specifically tells the Thessalonians, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thessalonians 1:4). John is reminding his readers that they have received God’s love freely through Jesus Christ. Jesus once told his disciples that they had not chosen him, but he had chosen them. God is always the first to act in love. Christ is the demonstration of God’s love to the whole world, but not all will receive it. Those who receive God’s love can love God and others in return. John says we “love because God first loved us.”  In fact, unless one receives God’s love, there is no love in Him. One can be religious and never come to understand God’s love and, therefore, never be able to return that love or show it to others. It appears that Diotrephes was religious. He had some high standards, but he did not have love. He seems to oppose Gaius’ care for the companions that John sent to them.

John calls what Gaius did for the messengers that he sent a “faithful thing.” Most commentators purport that Diotrephes’s problem was a theological one. This is normally drawn from the fact that John did war with the Gnostics, who rejected Jesus’ coming in the flesh. The messengers from John presented, with the authority of an Apostle, the truth regarding the incarnation, death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. Jones observes, “While 3 John makes no overt statement about theological difference, the stress on faithfulness to the truth by Gaius and the subsequent connection between his faithfulness and hospitality and the lack thereof by Diotrephes tips the scales in favor of theological difference. Those expelled by Diotrephes likely recognized the authority of the Elder, made the confession of Jesus come in the flesh, and hence were amenable to receiving exponents of their common view. Diotrephes, for his part, did not merely want his own shop but was determined to barricade his community from the viewpoint of the Elder and those for whom he spoke.”[1]

Although this is probably correct, it seems to be more of an issue of rebellion against authority on Diotrephes’ part. Faithfulness, as mentioned here, very likely represents acceptance of John’s authority as well as that of the other apostles. The Apostle knew that they would face this because Jesus told them that they would face rejection even from people from their own towns and families. As Heer says, “There will always be those who will reject the messenger and the message of God. Knowing that rejection would happen, Jesus encouraged His disciples to move beyond their feelings of rejection to the next place where their message and ministry would be received. Many ministers need to ‘shake the dust off’ in dependence on the authority of Christ, upon whom rests the ultimate matter of acceptance and rejection.”[2] John’s encouragement to Gaius and the other “faithful” members should be ours as well. Remember, submission to authority was Satan’s number one sin! He was not satisfied with the role God had given him and sought to usurp God’s own authority. Satan worked in Adam & Eve to reject God’s authority as well. Satan continues to work out in “rebellion” as well. The authority of the Bible, the Apostles’ teachings, is under attack in our society. It goes against our natural inclinations. We want abortion. It speaks against it. We want sexual freedom. It speaks against it. The list could go on. John wrote in his gospel, John 3:19, “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

[1] Jones, Peter Rhea. 2009. 1, 2 & 3 John. Edited by Leslie Andres and R. Alan Culpepper. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Incorporated.

[2] Heer, Ken. 2007. Luke: A Commentary for Bible Students. Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.