The Apostle John in his third letter commended a man named Demetrius as someone to imitate. What made Demetrius such a good role model for the early church, and what can we learn from his example?
We'll find out today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg teaches us from the closing verses in 3 John. So last time we considered what we referenced as the condemnation of diotrophes 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.
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. 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. Therefore, we ought to labor, so to lure the top sale 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 wee 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. Mr. Blair was ninety-four years old when I met him in the Tor nursing home in Kerstorfen, on the road that leads to the heart of Edinburgh. On the day that I went to see him initially, he wasn't there. I'd been dispatched to make a visit to this elderly member of our congregation. And as I went around the home in his absence, seeking to make myself useful, given that it was a sort of redundant visit, I would greet different people in the home—a lady at a table, and another man in a wheelchair, and so on—and I just introduced myself. Hello, my name is Alistair. I'm from the church in the center of the city, and I had come to visit one of our congregations, but he's not here.
Who is that? That I came to see Mr. Blair. And without exception, everyone said the same thing in one way or another. They said, Oh, Mr. Blair, he's a good man. Mr. Blair is a good man. 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. Dietrophy's got it wrong. Demetrius got it right.
Gold star number two, the facts confirm this assessment. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone and even by the truth itself. In other words, what you see is what you get. The integrity of his life was such that even without the testimony of others, genuineness was self-evident. The truth, he professed, was embodied in him so closely did his life conform to it.
There's a tremendous challenge in this, isn't there? That without people actually having to say anything, there was a commendable dimension that exuded from the life of Demetrius. He was it, if you like. Demetrius is a good man. Demetrius walks in the truth.
Demetrius lives a life of love. And the third gold star has to do with the fact that John and his companions are able to affirm that this is the case. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. John might equally well have said, and I testify to this as well. Peterson paraphrases it, we concur, and you know we don't hand out endorsements lightly. In other words, John says, we are able to say the same thing. Now, I think that probably what is going on here says more about the notion of truthfulness than it actually even does about Demetrius's testimony.
And let me just explain to you what I mean by that. We also speak well of him, and you know that, what? Our testimony is true. This is a very Johannine statement. If you know your Bible, you will know that he begins 1 John in this very way.
Listen to how he begins his first letter. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched, this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. In other words, he says, we bear true testimony. We are asking you to walk in the truth. We rejoice when our spiritual children walk in the truth.
And therefore, it is imperative that you understand that our testimony is true. Remember, there were all kinds of characters going around in the first century who were false prophets and false messiahs. They were false Christs. They were phenomenally eloquent.
They had gathered crowds after them. And the early first-century church was in danger of capitulating to the stories told by these individuals. Indeed, when Paul writes his last letter to Timothy, he says to them, You must be on your guard, Timothy. You must guard the good deposit of the gospel. You must preach it clearly. You must understand it properly. You must live it rightly.
Why? Because the time will come when men and women will not put up with sound doctrine, but they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths—to myths, to mythologies. And as a member of the Parkside congregation, your uttermost concern must be, Are we dealing in the realm of truth? Are we here listening to pastors whose heads are full of air, or they have agendas that are somehow or another to manipulate the Scriptures to their own ends? Or are they the servants of this truth? Are they seeking, with the enabling of God the Spirit, to understand the truth, to be increasingly conformed to the truth, and to see that we walk in the truth? That is a genuine concern, and it ought to be an ongoing concern.
For it is my concern for myself as well as for my colleagues. And our testimony is true. When Peter writes in 2 Peter, which is just a page or two back, he says the same thing.
I think it's 2 Peter 1, 16. We didn't follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. Do you see where the authority lay? They didn't have an invention.
They didn't come up with a scheme or a dream. They were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus. The Spirit of God enabled them, as humans, in light of their own personalities, their own capacities, to write down the truth which they had personally encountered.
That truth is now inscripturated. It is in the Bible. Therein lies the inherent authority of the Bible. It is not a man-made invention.
It is not a collection of nonsense or mythologies. John says. In fact, when he ends his gospel, he does the very same thing, doesn't he?
Well, I'll just check and make sure he does, but I'm pretty sure he does. At the end of John, in 21. Yes, verse 24. John 21, 24. This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.
Here we go. We know his testimony is true. We know his testimony is true. So you see, when we're talking, or when we're being confronted by the opportunity to walk in the truth, we're not talking about truth like a plasticine nose on the front of a man-made creation that can be twisted into any shape we fancy. We're talking about truth as it has been revealed to us in the Scriptures so that men who were moved by the Spirit of God spoke and wrote as God gave them utterance. And that is why, loved ones, we read the Bible, we pay such close attention to the Bible, and we seek to submit to its truth even when it's painful, even when it is countercultural. Why would we have a view of morality that is different from Jesus' view of morality? We can't.
Why would we have a view of marriage that would deviate from the Bible's view of marriage? We can't. Now, we're there by dint of various deviations from the phrase, Our testimony is true. You see, if you think about us walking in the truth and telling the truth to our neighbors, our neighbors at so many points will say, Well, where do you come up with that? How could you possibly say that?
Why would you believe that? And our only answer can be in the Scriptures. Here is our sole authority.
Our sole authority. And John says, We're able to say that Demetrius is all of these things, and our testimony is true. Well, let's just say a word about farewell, because he ends with a fond farewell. 13, I have much to write to you.
I don't want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon and talk to you face to face. If you've ever written letters to people over a long distance, then you know just what that means. It's okay to write it down, but I want to come and see you face to face.
I can't say it adequately. I can't say all the good things I want to say properly, because I'm limited by language. And if there are bad things that I have to write, I would rather say them to your face than write them down.
And probably that's it here, don't you think? There's more, he says, about this than can be written down on one sheet of papyrus. I think the matter would be better served if I look you in the eye so that you can grasp things better when I speak in person.
And there is a lot to this, isn't there? Because putting things down on a sheet of paper is very hard. To write clearly is a gift to be mastered. Not simply to convey information but to be able to convey a sense of the emotion and the empathetic dimension of what is contained in those words. That's why literature and great literature is so immense, that it can move you. How can a sentence move you? How can you read something, just bits, these characters, on a white sheet of paper, and it makes tears come from your eyes? How could that happen? And when it happens for good, it's wonderful.
When it happens for ill, it's painful. And may I just say a word in passing to those of you—the very few of you—who have over the last long time written me letters telling me things that you thought were important for me to know—and I'm sure they were—sometimes not very commendatory letters—and I made you even angrier by the reply that you got from me. Because you wrote me a four-page letter, and you got a two-line reply. And you said to yourself, see, he is an ignorant peasant. That's only somebody as horrible and as arrogant as that would take all my endeavors of four solid pages and write two sentences back. No, it wasn't dismissive.
It was purposeful. I don't want to leave behind a paper chase of letters that you can unearth or your children can unearth and say, Pastor Begg wrote that to me or wrote that to you. That's why I'd rather talk to you face to face. Because then you can see my body language. Then you can see my eyes. But I'm not so good at writing. Therefore, I'd rather say it face to face, especially if it's bad. But when it's good, I write to you. Oh yes, I write you illegible scribbles.
Those of you who have them don't know whether to take them to the pharmacy and try and get medication with them, or just entirely what to do with them. Trust me. Trust me.
You can keep them. I think there's something of that in John here. I have much more I could write, but I'm not going to write. I don't want to say any more than is necessary about diatrophies. I've said plenty. You understand the circumstances.
They're not right. But let me just say one word to you. Shalom. Shalom.
Peace to you. That's what they needed. That's what Gaius needed. He needed peace. John remembered how when Jesus appeared on the day of resurrection, when he came back in amongst them, he had only one word for them, and the word was shalom. It's a wonderful little progression of thought in John chapter 20. And on the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together and so on, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Shalom. And they saw the Lord, and they were overjoyed. And again, Jesus said, Shalom. And Thomas, one of the twelve, wasn't with the disciples, and they said, We've seen the Lord. And he said, Well, I'm not going to do that.
I don't believe you until I can put my hands into the nail marks and so on. And a week later, his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. And though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Shalom. Peace. Peace.
Well, you've got a character like Diotrephes throwing his weight around, and your name is Gaius. To be reminded of peace, to receive a blessing of peace, is a great blessing. And just a word to notice the final two sentences. The friends here send their greetings, greet the friends there by name. In other words, the greetings go two ways.
We are on the receiving end, and we are on the giving end. Friendship matters, doesn't it? It mattered a great dear to Paul. That's why he says to Timothy, Timothy, try and get here before the winter.
I'd love to see you. In Acts chapter 27, on the voyage, Julius, the kind man who's responsible for all of the soldiers who are in captivity, he showed his kindness to Paul by allowing him to go to his friends so that they might provide for his needs. A genuine greeting, or a generic greeting, would be welcome, but to be remembered by name would be such an encouragement, because friendship matters. There's a reason why certain songs span time. All kinds of reasons for different songs.
But there's surely a reason why this song continues to play hundreds of times a day on radio stations all across America. Because it begins when you're down and troubled, and you need a helping hand, and nothing—no, nothing—is going right. Just close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest night. You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I'll come running.
Hey, ain't it good to know that you've got a friend? People can be so cold. They'll hurt you and desert you. They'll take your soul if you let them.
Well, now, don't you let them. You just call out my name. That is actually the message of Jesus to his church. When you feel yourself to be friendless, he is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And when we have been less than friendly and the evil one accuses us, our only solace is to be found in the fact that Jesus is a friend for sinners. And so I turn to him, and so do you. Because he's the one as a shepherd who calls us by name, and he leads us out, and he leads us in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. In other words, he leads us in such a way so as to find us walking in the truth. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life.
Alistair returns in just a minute. Today we are concluding our study in 2nd and 3rd John. If you missed any of the messages in this series or you'd like to re-listen to the series, all of Alistair's teaching can be streamed or downloaded or shared for free through our mobile app or on our website at truthforlife.org.
And if you'd prefer to own the complete study, you can purchase it on a USB for our cost of $5. You'll find it in our online store at truthforlife.org slash store. Here at Truth for Life, in addition to producing this daily radio program, we love recommending books that will help you and your family learn more about the Bible and how to have a closer, deeper relationship with Jesus. Today we want to recommend to you a bundle of three books that we would put in the must-read category for every believer. Each of these is a short book, but each contains a highly influential piece of work that is considered a classic. One of the authors is theologian J.I. Packer, another is from Scottish ministry Henry Scougal, and the third book is written by Thomas Chalmers, who was a minister in Scotland in the early 1800s. The book by Chalmers contains his famous sermon on the power of genuine love for God. The title of the book is The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, and in it he poses this question, how can the human heart be freed from its love for the world?
The book goes on to answer that question. It presents the written version of Chalmers powerful preaching. All of the books in this three book bundle have been intentionally chosen by our team to introduce you to classic works that we believe you will benefit from greatly. Ask for your set of short classics when you donate to Truth for Life using our mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate. Of course, you can give us a call.
Our number is 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair. Father, for the clarity of your Word, we thank you. For the gift of your Spirit, we bless your name. For the fact that Jesus Christ experienced all of the dispiece of Calvary in order that we might have peace with God.
Forgive us when our lives look more like diatrophes than Demetrius. Come and stir us up so that our hearts may glow with Christian love, so that our minds may be fed and submitted to Christian truth. And we thank you most of all for the friendship that is ours in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. And in his name we pray. Amen. Tomorrow we're going to begin a series that examines the heart of the Christmas story to help us prepare for the holiday properly and to celebrate it joyfully. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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