Friday, May 1, 2015

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 3, 2015

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(Are you a helper, or a hinderer, in the work of CHRIST?)
(3 John)

John’s third letter is actually a personal note to his friend and fellow Church worker, Gaius, who, according to Jewish tradition, served as the Bishop of Pergamum at the apostle’s request, in the latter half of the first century. In this letter John is encouraging and thanking Gaius for his faithful support of traveling Christian evangelists who preached and taught and spread the Good News about CHRIST JESUS, our LORD and savior.
William Barclay once wrote, “When history judges us, will its verdict be that we were helpers, or hinderers in the work of GOD”. In the first century, even the pagan world faithfully accepted “the responsibility of hospitality”, and it was only right that the Christian Church should honor one of GOD’s greatest directives also, by doing the same. In fact, to not do so, would actually dishonor GOD and hinder HIS work in the world. The Christian, above all others, needs to honor the concept of hospitality among believers, as it is expected of us by our creator, GOD the FATHER.
This third letter of the Apostle John, just like the previous two, places a strong emphasis on love, truth, and obedience to GOD. It also cites some of the challenges of the Christian Church in its infancy that really, still exists, in this day and age. In the first century, just like today, Church leaders tried to create their own denominations, and build their own personal kingdoms so that they themselves might rule over other men, under the guise of serving CHRIST, and promoting Christianity. They soon forget about being a part of the larger picture that requires us to obey GOD completely, and allow CHRIST to serve in HIS role as head of the Church we say we pledge allegiance to.
Also in the first century, innkeepers were not a beloved bunch, because they had long achieved the reputation of being rip-off artist, who thrived on those who sought shelter from the elements and criminal danger, while they traveled to and fro, throughout the Roman Empire. In those days, many people traveled by foot, to many locations, for the purpose of business, religion, and leisure. It became much less of a burden, if one had a friend that they could count on to show them hospitality along their travels.
In the “House church era” of Christianity, those who were traveling for the LORD were trained to accept nothing from unbelievers, and all Christians were taught to provide hospitality to those who were partners with them in the truth (the work of CHRIST). They were not however, to entertain, or show hospitality to those who sought to infiltrate the Church with worldly ideas, antichrist teachings, and worldly behavior. People who decided to join the Church had to come with the attitude that they desired to change their way of living, and were willing to adhere to the teachings of CHRIST JESUS going forward. In fact, anyone who denied the “deity” and “humanity” of JESUS CHRIST were not to be welcomed into the home, or the Church of Christian believers.
In this passage the Greek expression “agapetos” is used by the Apostle John no less than ten times, and it means “one that is a beloved dear friend”. Gaius had developed a reputation for being a beloved brother and reliable helper in the work of GOD. He often provided a safe haven for those Christian travelers who were in need of food, clothing, and shelter while serving on their various Christian missions.
In verse 9 of this short letter the Apostle John dishes out some strong criticism against a church leader by the name of Diotrephes who did not acknowledge his authority. He promised to elaborate further on the evil works of Diotrephes, who strived diligently to hinder the advancement of the Gospel of CHRIST through both word and deed, when he came to visit them later.
Diotrephes was not only one who refused to welcome the traveling Christian evangelists into the local church, but he also encouraged other members in the church body to do the same. And whenever he found out that someone in the church did help those workers of CHRIST, he would immediately oust them from the church. He steadfastly denied CHRIST, and continued to omit HIS teachings from Church doctrine.
In verses 11-12 John urges believers to not let the bad examples of Diotrephes influence them in their thinking, but rather, they should courageously follow the examples of Demetrius, a reliable worker in CHRIST, who was spoken highly of by everyone in the church. He went on to encourage them to do only what is good in the eyes of GOD, by adhering to the Word, the Gospel of CHRIST. Those who do this, he says, prove that they are “children of GOD”, and those who seek to do otherwise, prove that they do not know GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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