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The Commendation of Demetrius (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 8, 2023 3:00 am

The Commendation of Demetrius (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 8, 2023 3:00 am

“Influencers” are big on social media. These individuals have large followings and can affect the opinions and actions of others—but not always for good. Join us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg contrasts two influential men from the book of 3 John.


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Music playing Three John and beginning at verse one. The elder, to my dear friend God, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they're strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.

It was for the sake of the name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought, therefore, to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us.

Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God.

Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone, and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings.

Greet the friends there by name. Father, we pray now for your help as we study the Bible that you will come and meet with us so that beyond the voice of a mere man we might hear the very voice of God as the Scripture is illumined to us and as our hearts are made ready to receive its truth. Accomplish the purposes that you have for us in this hour, O God, we pray. In Jesus' name.

Amen. Well, in studying these, the two shortest letters of the New Testament and arguably the most neglected of all the New Testament letters, we have, I hope, been making a number of important discoveries. Not the least of all is which, that is, John addresses this fledgling congregation in the early church.

It becomes apparent that his concern for them two thousand or more years ago from now is really nothing other than the concern that is in the heart of every pastor for their congregation at all points in history. People ask me from time to time, and quite routinely they ask me, And what are you preaching on now at Parkside? And just in the last few weeks when I said, Well, I'm doing a series in two and three John.

It's just met by a blank stare in almost every instance, and the sort of unspoken reply from their eyes being, Why would you ever do that? I mean, what has two and three John got to say to anybody at all? People scrambling looking in their Bibles to see if there even is a two and three John.

And it can be very unsettling for me, because I look around, and I see that so many of the series have to do with five ways to deal with your teenage children and seven ways to live with your husband, nine ways to financial freedom, fifteen ways to, you know, whatever it might be—all of these things being important. And here I am, three John. What was John's concern?

My concern for you. That this congregation, those who profess to follow Jesus, would be those who are walking in the truth and living in love. Walking in the truth and living in love. For these things clearly are foundational, despite the contemporary circumstances that press in upon the congregation in any day and generation. Things are vastly different, obviously, from the environment to which John wrote this letter. And yet the hearts of men and women remain the same—opposed to God by nature, indifferent to the claims of Jesus, championing their own agendas, and resisting often that which is pressed upon them concerning the truth of the Bible. And even those who profess to follow Jesus, in danger of wandering away, finding our hearts to be stony, in danger of becoming like those whose personal concerns matter more than what the Bible has to say.

Before you know where you are, you're convinced all over again that three John will do nicely, thank you very much. Because if the church is not to lose its voice in this generation, as David Wells has reminded us, it must be clear concerning the fact, first, that Christianity is about truth—the truth revealed in the Bible, the truth ultimately revealed in the person and work of Jesus—that it is convinced concerning the fact that Christianity is about truth, and secondly, that those who proclaim themselves to be Christians will be modeling this truth by a life of integrity, that it will not do simply to be those who are the affirmers of certain propositions, those who are simply giving affirmation to credo statements, but rather, that those creeds, that the credentials, if you like, of Christianity will then be worked out in the realm of dealing with our adolescent children, in the realm of learning what it is to love our spouse, in the realm of dealing with the practicalities of the privileges and responsibility of finance, and the opportunities that the finance brings to us to minister to the needs who are less fortunate than ourselves. In other words, if we stay with what the Bible has to say concerning the essentials, we will discover sooner rather than later that it intersects with every practical arena of our lives, even the things that we may feel to be totally unrelated to that which we're studying. So it has been, in studying these two letters together, our humble expectation that our minds will become increasingly devoted to the truth and that our hearts might glow with Christian love.

That's really the test. Is my mind being stirred by the truth? Am I laying hold of it, understanding it?

And is my heart increasingly seasoned by the love of which the truth speaks? Now, in addressing this letter to Gaius—and you will see that it is a personal letter to an individual called Gaius in verse 1—John has found it necessary not only to affirm what Gaius is doing but also to call attention to the activities of two individuals who were represented in this local church. The first of these we considered last time, this individual by the name of Diotrephes.

You find him there in verse 9. Sadly, the reason that Diotrephes gets a mention is because of his bad attitude and his poor actions. It isn't simply that his activities have an effect on other people, but it is that his activities provide some kind of evidence of where this man is in relationship to what it means to follow Jesus and to obey his commands. He is obviously an aggressive member of this congregation. He clearly has a forceful personality.

And by dint of that combination, he is able to hold other people in the sway of his own opinion. And on account of that, he has given, as it were, three red marks by John in this letter. Depending on where you grew up and how old you are, you may understand getting three red marks.

I grew up in the era where you presented your material in what we called a jotter or a booklet, and the teacher took it out, and you agonized to see what it would look like when it came back. And what you didn't want to see were red marks, because they were usually crosses, and they indicated the fact that something had gone wrong. Well, here you have these three marks. We've noted them. I've mentioned them in passing not to go back through them.

You will see them there in verse 10. Number 1, bad mark, he slandered John. Notice, I will call attention to what he's doing, gossiping maliciously about us. That is, slander. Instead of that which was commendable, that which was encouraging, that which was profitable, that which was of good report coming out of this man's mouth, no, he was a slanderer. Secondly, he gave a cold shoulder to the missionaries. Instead of welcoming them in a warm embrace, as Gaius had done, this character gave him the cold shoulder. Thirdly, he excommunicated the loyal believers.

Three red marks against him. Not a good example to follow. And that surely is the significance of verse 11, where John says, Dear friend—that is, Gaius—come on now, Gaius, don't imitate what is evil. And I think the inference is, don't do what Diotrephes has been doing, but instead imitate what is good. And then—I'm going to give you an example of someone who's doing good namely this gentleman by the name of Demetrius. So last time we considered what we referenced as the condemnation of Diotrephes in quite a hard and striking study.

And we come now to our final study, which concerns the commendation of Demetrius. And instead of three black marks or red marks, he gets three gold stars. We used to get stars that were actually sticky, and they would stick them there, and if you got the stars, it was terrific. Especially gold. We had gold and silver. Silver were good.

Gold was terrific. And here you will find that Demetrius has these three gold stars. And you'll find them there in verse 12. But before 12, we need to tackle just for a moment the balance of verse 11. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. And then notice he goes on to say, Anyone who does what is good is from God.

Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. This is a characteristic way of writing on John's part. And if you have followed him, not only in 2 John but also in 1 John, you will recognize this to be the case. In order to make this point and to clear things up in our minds, I encourage you to turn back two pages to 1 John 3 and to verse 16. It's interesting that it is 1 John 3.16. John 3.16, from his Gospel, is perhaps the best-known verse in the whole Bible, For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. In the Gospel, John was writing concerning the truth, so that people might come to believe that Jesus is the person he has claimed to be, and that by believing, they might have life in his name. So his Gospel is a continual presentation of evidence—the signs and words of Jesus—so that on the basis of the evidence, the people might come to believe, and in believing, they might discover life in his name. So John is very, very clear that the way to know God, the way to see God, is through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ in coming to know him as a friend and as a Savior. When he writes his letters, he's not writing now to commend belief to people, but he is writing now to those who have professed belief in Jesus to say to them, Here, then, are the evidences of believing faith as worked out in an individual's life. And in 1 John he says, The person who truly believes is obedient to the commands of Jesus.

The person who truly believes loves as Jesus loves, and so on. And so it is that in verse 16 he says, this is how we know what love is. This is actually a recurring phrase by John, and he comes to it again and again. In fact, in verse 9 of chapter 4—sorry to digress—but in verse 9 of chapter 4, he says, This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son.

Here in 16 of 3, he's doing the same thing. This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. He was not simply an example to us, but he was actually making a sacrifice for sin. He was bearing the punishment that we as sinners deserve, so that he was covered in shame in order that we might be covered in glory. He bears the darkness of the Father's condemnation in order that we might in Christ enjoy all the light of fellowship within. And so he says, 16b, We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Here's the pattern. Jesus lays down his life for us. We profess to be the followers of Jesus.

Then we do as he has done. And then he says, let me give you an illustration of it. For example, if anyone has material possessions—which pretty well covers the entire congregation right now—if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? In other words, he says, there's an inherent logic in this. Here we have somebody who has discovered, they say, that God is love, and that that love has been expressed in the giving and the self-sacrificing of Jesus. And now, having entered into the benefits of that and enjoying the privileges of material possessions, I now look on those who are in need, and I don't even care. It's like, well, hey, what did you do?

What's your deal? How can the love of God be in it? Dear children, he says, advancing the ball up the field, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth. This, then, is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.

For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. In other words, says John, come on now, become what you are. Become what you are. Look at what you have become in Jesus. Now, become what you are. You are this. Now be what you are. Ethics is, become what you're not.

Self-discovery is, you know, look inside yourself and find the answers. Christianity is. Resting in all that Jesus has accomplished and all that he provides, live out the life of Jesus in practical ways. And so it is that Diotrephes calls in question the very profession from his lips. And Demetrius, as we see, commends the gospel of Christ.

Well, look at the three gold stars, just briefly. First of all, no one has anything bad to say about him. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone. Well, says somebody, but I read in the Bible that you ought to be alarmed if all speak well of you. It does say that in the Bible.

Aha! A contradiction, says somebody. Over there it says, Be alarmed if all speak well of you. And now Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone. Therefore, although you say it's a commendation, he should really be alarmed. Well, context means everything, doesn't it? What is Jesus talking about when he says you should be concerned that all would speak well of you? When, on the basis of a compromised testimony, you simply align yourself with whatever the prevailing notion is at the time, so that you want the affirmation of men more than the affirmation of God. And when you get the affirmation of men, no matter who they are or what they believe, then that ought to be a cause for concern. What he's talking about here is within the framework of Christian living. He's talking about, here's a really nice guy in the church.

When you say diotrophes, people go, Oh, wait a minute. When you say Demetrius, they go, Oh, we love Demetrius. He's a great guy. It's a bit like Barnabas, what Luke says concerning Barnabas, that when we meet him in the Acts of the Apostles, succinctly he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

Three gold stars, good, filled up with God, and full of faith. It's wonderful, isn't it? And does it matter what people say about us?

Well, in some measure, yes. Therefore, we ought to labor, so to lower the top sail of our arrogance and our own agendas, that brooks no rivals and refuses to be on the receiving end of guidance from others, to recognize that we've been given two ears and one mouth so that we may hear more and say less. Because, you see, at the end of the day—and that may be sooner than any of us realize, our own individual day—people will not remember for long human eloquence. They won't remember for long mental brilliance. They'll remember other things. And I guarantee you they will remember goodness. Goodness. In my barbers yesterday, I noticed that there was a sign that said, here in Tony's, you get a great welcome, a good haircut, and good lollipops.

And I thought, you know, how nice, nice is that? There'll be children growing to manhood and beyond, and on the day that we, Tony, is long gone, they'll say, I remember that man. He was always so nice to me.

He always gave me a lollipop. So what's your legacy, sir? What do you think you'll be remembered for? Well, I think I'll be remembered for my lollipops. Do you think it counts?

Yeah, of course it counts. Isn't it very strange when you read the history of evangelicalism, that evangelicalism at some points along the journey referred to people as do-gooders in a disdainful way? You know, well, they're just do-gooders. Pardon? Yeah, they're just do-gooders, you know?

Yeah? Aren't we supposed to do good? Isn't the Christian to be eager to do good, that you would teach these things to people so that they will be eager to do good? We can't set this up as an antithesis. You can either be a Bible-believing Christian, or you can go out and do good.

Make your choice, you know? Good for nothing with a head full of information, or good with no information. No, it's completely bogus. Good news of the gospel, good deeds, is an expression of the gospel at work. Diatrophy's got it wrong. Demetrius got it right. You're listening to Truth for Life, and that is Alistair Begg with a message he's titled The Commendation of Demetrius.

We'll hear the conclusion on Monday. Our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance. We know when God's word is proclaimed, many will be converted from unbelief to becoming followers of Jesus, and those who already believe will grow deeper in their faith, and in the process, local churches will be strengthened and encouraged to keep the word of God central. This mission is carried out through God's grace and through your partnership. Your prayers and your donations both uphold us and care for the cost of producing and distributing Alistair's teaching. As we approach the end of the year, we rely on your support to help us close out 2023 in a solid position and enter the new year with the resources we need to continue another year of ministry.

You can give securely online at slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And to thank you for your donation today, we're offering a bundle of three small books that we've titled Short Classics. The books are What Did the Cross Achieve? by J. I. Packer, The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Skugel, and The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers. You may not be familiar with these titles or these authors, but these are books Alistair thinks every Christian should read. Each book will take you just a few hours to complete, but you will be reflecting back on the insights you gain from these books for years. Request your bundle of Short Classics today when you donate to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. Again, you can give a gift online at slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884.

I'm Bob Lapine. I hope you're able to worship with your local church this weekend. On Monday, we will conclude our study of John's letters. We'll learn why we can submit to scripture even when it's painful or counter-cultural. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-08 07:04:50 / 2023-12-08 07:13:28 / 9

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