Diotrephes was a church leader that rejected the authority of John, Paul, and most likely the other apostles. He caused a split in the Church that met at Gaius’ house. The problem could very well have been a theological one regarding the nature of Christ. John’s main conflicts involved the gnostic view that Jesus was just a man upon whom came the spirit of Christ, the Messiah. John and the others taught that Jesus came in the flesh and was born of a woman impregnated by the Holy Spirit. The two leaders of the division seem to be the divisive Diotrephes and the faithful follower of John, Gaius. We don’t know who this Gaius is, but according to one blogger, “According to tradition, this Gaius may be the one whom John appointed as bishop of Pergamum.”[1] Regardless, John commends Gaius for his faithfulness to the truth of the Gospel, and John mentions that he has a great reputation among Christians all over the area. In 3 John 1:5-6, he says, Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.”

They showed their hospitality and acceptance of those who were sent to the church by John rather than rejecting them and their message as Diotrephes did. John recommends that they continue such gracious hospitality even when the visitors move on. He tells them it will be good for them to send them off well. Most commentators like to relate the visitors John is writing about to modern missionaries traveling from church to church to raise support. Richison has an interesting comparison. He writes, “Motivation for ministry should be outgoing love that is self-giving and spontaneous. People who truly love God do not begrudge giving to the cause of Christ. They willingly invite speakers and missionaries into their homes, serve them a good meal, and get to know their specific needs. They also willingly help in practical ways, such as driving a visiting speaker to the airport and making sure he has something to eat.”[2] I don’t think John was recommending that Gaius “drive” his visitors to the “airport,” but I understand the principle that Richison thinks is being promoted here.

Whatever the specifics are in this case, John wants it done in a “manner worthy of God.” There are many comments about what it might mean for Gaius to send out the visitors “In a manner worthy of God.” I think Wright has the right idea. He says, “That means, in such a way, that one can look up to God and expect his approval. Or, in such a way, we would do it if it were Jesus himself whom we were sending on his way. What would we not do for him? Would such a perspective and such an ideal not transform the way we make provision for the sending out of mission partners, whether as churches or as mission agencies?” Wright then concludes, “Third John 6 should be written as a motto on the walls, desk calendars, or computer screens of all those with responsibility for the sending of people in mission, in churches or mission agencies, or in training institutions.”[3] Yet, it’s important to remember that one cannot merit God’s favor. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve God’s love. He gives that freely, and it comes to us through the channel of our faith in Jesus. After commenting on living a life “worthy of God,” John Piper says, “So think this way. Not: I must have faith and love so as to be worth God’s favor; But rather: God’s favor is free and it is infinitely worth trusting. Walking worthy of that favor means walking by faith because faith is the one thing that agrees with (and fits) our bankruptcy and God’s infinite ‘worth.’ Looking to God’s infinite worth for our help and satisfaction is ‘walking worthy of God.’[4] God is worthy. I am not. To walk worthy is to walk with a clear understanding and appreciation of God’s worth. I have faith, or believe, in the worthiness of Christ.

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/Gaius-in-the-Bible.html

[2] Richison, Grant. 2006. Verse by Verse through the Books of 1, 2 & 3 John. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems.

[3] Wright, Christopher J. H. 2010. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission. Biblical Theology for Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Piper, John. 2005. Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers.