1From the church leader.
To a very special woman and her children. I truly love all of you, and so does everyone else who knows the truth. 2We love you because the truth is now in our hearts, and it will be there forever.
3I pray that God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son will be kind and merciful to us! May they give us peace and truth and love.
Truth and Love
4I was very glad to learn that some of your children are obeying the truth, as the Father told us to do. 5 Dear friend, I am not writing to tell you and your children to do something you have not done before. I am writing to tell you to love each other, which is the first thing you were told to do. 6Love means we do what God tells us. And from the beginning, he told you to love him.
7Many liars have gone out into the world. These deceitful liars are saying Jesus Christ did not have a truly human body. But they are liars and the enemies of Christ. 8So be sure not to lose what we have worked for. If you do, you won't be given your full reward. 9Don't keep changing what you were taught about Christ, or else God will no longer be with you. But if you hold firmly to what you were taught, both the Father and the Son will be with you. 10 If people won't agree to this teaching, don't welcome them into your home or even greet them. 11Greeting them is the same as taking part in their evil deeds.
12I have much more to tell you, but I don't want to write it with pen and ink. I want to come and talk to you in person, because this will make us really happy.
13Greetings from the children of your very special sister.
Here we have a truly personal letter, written by John to one Gaius. Gaius was a common Roman name, and there is no reason to identify the recipient of this letter with any of the other three people by that name in the New Testament. Here we get a glimpse of what was going on behind the scenes in the first century. We know nothing of Gaius, Diotrephes or Demetrius other than what we can deduce from this letter.
It would appear that Gaius was offering hospitality to Christians who were spreading the gospel in the area around Ephesus, working together with John in teaching about Jesus. It is easy to forget that the book of Acts only gives us a small slice of what was going on among Christians in the first century. Within forty years of Pentecost Christians had planted churches in more than twelve Roman provinces, beginning with the main urban centres. In addition there were churches in at least fifty other towns. Archaeological evidence has shown that Ephesus was the centre for many surrounding villages, and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, with its lack of personal greetings, would appear to have been intended for circulation. The anonymous Christians who travelled with the good news would have needed food and lodging, and Gaius seems to be one person who devoted himself to this ministry.
In one of these churches a man called Diotrephes had a lot of influence, and refused to accept either the travelling missionaries or John himself. We can only guess at what lies behind this. All we know is that he “liked to be the number one leader.” What a legacy! “Honour Christ and put others first,” Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:21). The church has no place for superstars, whether lay or ordained.
Father, I pray for the leadership in my church that they may be Christlike, and for good teamwork as we seek to spread the good news.