John’s third letter is written to Gaius, which was apparently a common Roman name, who was a faithful Christian in one of the churches in Asia Minor. The letter emphasizes love, truth, and obedience, and indicates some of the tensions and difficulties which we still find in the church today.
The letter encourages Gaius in a church that is led by a man named Diotrephes. The NKJV Study bible preface comments, ‘Some leaders filled with personal ambition instead of the love of Christ, sought to control their local congregations with an iron hand. Diotrephes was trying to assert his leadership even against the apostles, and having asserted his influence, was driving out legitimate representatives of the apostles of the church, as well as any who disagreed with his leadership’ (v. 9-10).
It can be very difficult to remain faithful in a church led this way. John begins by addressing Gaius as a beloved friend (v.2) and sets the tone for what is a warm, affectionate letter. John delights and rejoices in the solid faithfulness that Gaius has and commends him for his hospitality in welcoming the itinerant teachers who travelled to churches in the first century (v. 5-8).
Having written to Diotrephes, John tells Gaius that he’ll come to the church to take Diotrephes to task for his attitudes and actions “If I come” reflects the idea of “when I come” (v.10). John continues to encourage Gaius to avoid evil but to imitate good, and points him towards Demetrius for support. Gaius can trust John’s endorsement of Demetrius, who has a good testimony (v.11-12).
John concludes his letter in the same manner as he did in 2 John. He doesn’t want a lengthy debate but prefers to discuss it in more depth face-to-face when he next sees Gaius (v.13-14).
The well-known saying ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ was made by Lord Acton, the historian and moralist, who expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." If we look back in the OT, we see on many occasions how this observation bares truth – there are very few ‘good’ leaders mentioned! We need to pray for our church leaders on a daily basis, lifting them before the throne of grace - here are some references to help: Proverbs 3: 5-7, Eph 1: 15-17; Col 1: 9.
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Prayer: Father, I thank you for the leaders in my church. Help me to faithfully pray for them daily, that they may continue to lead as Christ would lead, for your glory, and for the growth of the church. Amen.