NEW PROVIDENCE BAPTIST CHURCH

WHERE GOD IS CALLING YOU OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday School Lesson

May 3

Lesson 10

Work Together for the Truth

Devotional Reading: 2 Timothy 2:14-19

Background Scripture: 3 John

3 John

1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.

4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;

6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:

7 Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:

14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

Key Verse

We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. —3 John 8

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize the work of Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius.

2. Suggest some modern activities these men might be involved in if they were living today.

3. Identify one faithful worker in the church and tell how he or she can partner with this worker.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. The Prosperity Gospel

B. Lesson Background

I. Salutation (3 John 1)

A. Name of Addressee (v. 1a)

B. Status of Relationship (v. 1b)

II. Message (3 John 2-12)

A. Commendation (vv. 2-8)

B. Contrast (vv. 9-12)

The Desire to Be “Somebody”

Following a Pattern

III. Closing (3 John 13, 14)

A. Desire (vv. 13, 14a)

B. Blessing (v. 14b)

Conclusion

A. Spiritual Health and Hospitality

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction

A. The Prosperity Gospel

One peculiarly American distortion of the gospel is known as the health and wealth gospel or the gospel of prosperity. Religion columnist Cathleen Falsani has put this teaching in her category of “The Worst Ideas of the Decade,” so this is not a false teaching hidden behind closed doors.

There are many variations to this teaching, but essentially it ties together physical, material, and spiritual health. Those who preach this doctrine tell their listeners that God wants them to be wealthy and healthy. To prosper in these ways requires strong faith, so the lack of a large bank account and/or a healthy body is a sign of spiritual failure. Sometimes this is tied to a teaching that faithfulness is measured by how much you give to a ministry and that God will multiply your monetary offering many times over in your personal life. This message has funded some very large ministries.

The gospel of prosperity has been picked up by preachers outside North America and delivered with gusto to the poor of Africa, Asia, and particularly Latin America. Christianity is proclaimed not so much as a message of reconciliation with God but as investment wisdom, a path to wealth. How all this will play out has yet to be seen, but the empty promises of this distorted gospel have already alienated many seekers of truth.

One Bible text used by prosperity preachers comes from 3 John, the focus of today’s study. We will look at the entire book to see what John really intended his friend Gaius to know in this area, among other things.

B. Lesson Background

We do not know the order in which 1, 2, and 3 John were written; they are simply arranged in our Bibles by length. It is likely, though, that 2 John (lesson 9) and 3 John were written at approximately the same time because of similarity in content. Therefore the background for the two is the same, so that information from lesson 9 need not be repeated here. We can add that 3 John is the shortest book in the Bible, containing a mere 249 words in the King James Version; by comparison, 2 John has 298 words and Philemon has 430 (all three are even shorter in the Greek). The little book of 3 John has many points of similarity with 2 John, but differs in being more specific regarding those addressed.

Both 2 and 3 John deal with the issue of hospitality in the first-century church. Nothing like our modern network of motels, hotels, and bed-and-breakfast lodging existed at the time. Therefore itinerant teachers needed to be hosted by families within a congregation. In 2 John, the apostle forbade extending hospitality to false teachers; this included denial of room and board as well as not allowing them to attend congregational meetings, which likely took place within the homes of believers. The opposite issue is addressed in 3 John.

I. Salutation

                                                                                       (3 John 1)

A. Name of Addressee (v. 1a)

1a. The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius.

As in 2 John 1, the author only identifies himself as the elder. This signifies that John enjoys a relationship of respect as a teacher and mentor with a certain Gaius. There are several men named Gaius in the New Testament (see Acts 19:29; 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14). Given that Gaius is a very common name in the Roman Empire, we do not know which, if any, of these men are in view here.

This letter has the tone of communication between close friends, with Gaius being addressed as the wellbeloved. The same word is translated beloved in verses 2, 5, and 11 (below), and John uses this same word to address many of his readers (see 1 John 2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11).

B. Status of Relationship (v. 1b)

1b. Whom I love in the truth.

For John to love Gaius in the truth communicates the nature of the author’s affection (compare 2 John 1, lesson 9). The warmth of this letter is striking, and we can see that John and Gaius must be very close.

II. Message

                                                                                     (3 John 2-12)

A. Commendation (vv. 2-8)

2. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

Translated very literally, this verse says, “Beloved, I am praying that in every way you have a good journey and be healthy, just as your soul has a good journey.” To “have a good journey” carries the resultant meaning of prospereth, which we see here. John’s twofold desire for Gaius are not separate things, but connected. John seems to be saying, “I’m praying that you might prosper materially and have good health, in coordination with your spiritual health.”

This verse has served as a proof text for promoters of the gospel of prosperity (see the lesson Introduction). There is no promise here, however, that spiritual health will result in physical and financial health. John is praying these things for Gaius, just as we have prayed for our sick brothers and sisters or for fellow Christians in financial distress.

3. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.

As in 1 and 2 John, the issue of truth is of paramount importance for the author. John commends Gaius in regard to truth in two ways. First, other believers have reported that Gaius is indeed one of whom it can be said that the truth is in him. This means that Gaius is demonstrating the truth of the Christian faith in his teaching.

Second, John’s commendation of Gaius as being one who walkest in the truth means that his life is an acted-out demonstration of what he teaches. True Christian teaching must have an impact that way. It is truth we live.

4. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

To be one of John’s children means to be a student who listens to his lessons on the truths of the gospel, and Gaius is one such. There is nothing more satisfying than for elderly teachers to see that what they have taught over the years has made a lasting impact on their students. This brings joy to any teacher of the gospel, and such is the case here.

What Do You Think?

What are some ways to walk in truth daily?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In the workplace

In relationships with neighbors

In church involvement

In caring for the marginalized of society

Other

5, 6. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well.

As we review John’s commendation of Gaius regarding his faithful behavior toward the brethren, and to strangers, we need to determine whether said brethren and strangers are two groups or one. The key is verse 6; strangers would not make such a report unless they were also fellow believers. Therefore the brethren in view here are teachers from other congregations who visit Gaius.

The fact that John encourages Gaius to send these teachers on their journey adequately provisioned (compare Titus 3:13) seems to speak to Gaius’s regular practice. Gaius should keep doing what he is already doing! This means ensuring that the visitors are well rested, have food in their packs, etc., as they depart to resume their travels. This demonstrates charity (love) in the best sense.

In the cultural setting of 3 John, strangers in town are seen as threats unless someone welcomes them into his or her home (compare Acts 16:15, 34, 40). Such a welcome changes the strangers’ status from outsider to guest. For Gaius to welcome traveling Christian teachers into his home involves more than provision for immediate needs of food and lodging. It also allows them to operate as temporary residents of the city. Such hospitality, then, is the reception of strangers who become members of the household as long as they are in town.

What Do You Think?

What does your church do to make Christian outsiders feel like welcome guests? What can you do personally to enhance this ministry?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding initial greeting

Regarding meal invitations

Regarding guest-friendly facilities

Other

7. Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

The name in view is that of Jesus Christ, a symbol of the Christian faith and the church. The visitors are not traveling so that they might be personally enriched or honored. They come and go as servants of the Lord, traveling in faith that they will be received by congregations that both accept their teaching and tend to their physical needs.

The traveling teachers do not expect assistance from the Gentiles, referring to the pagans of the cities they visit. The travelers might be able to utilize their own network of friends, relatives, or business contacts to meet their food and lodging needs regardless of whether such folks are believers. But since the travelers represent Christ, they choose not to do that; instead, they depend on Christians like Gaius to receive them into their homes.

What Do You Think?

Does this verse have anything to say about soliciting or accepting help from unbelievers today? Why, or why not?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Church fund-raisers that involve selling a
product (bake sales, etc.)

Church fund-raisers that involve providing a service (youth-group car washes, etc.)

Requests for donations

Other

8. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

John closes this section with a broad principle: when Christian leaders travel to teach and encourage other congregations, they should be received warmly. When congregations do this, they become fellowhelpers to the truth.

B. Contrast (vv. 9-12)

9. I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

The church to which John has written is probably the one Gaius attends, but that is not certain. In stark contrast with the gracious Gaius is the inhospitable Diotrephes, who also attends there. He is a man who fancies himself to be a leader in the church, but he is actually more of a bully and a control freak. This is the opposite of the kind of leader that Jesus talks about in Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-44. The fact that Diotrephes receiveth us not is at least an indication of inhospitality and probably more (next verse).

What Do You Think?

How do we recognize that what seems to be a legitimate desire to be a church leader (1 Timothy 3:1) is actually an unholy desire for preeminence? What do we do in such cases?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Before an individual becomes a church leader

After an individual has become a church leader

10. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

John has plans to visit personally. We presume that he will be staying with Gaius, not Diotrephes! This is an opponent with whom John has tangled in the past, and John intends to confront him concerning his unacceptable behavior at three levels.

First, Diotrephes has maliciously defamed certain people; the us includes the traveling teachers, John himself, and perhaps even Gaius. Diotrephes has attacked either their teaching or their character (or perhaps both).

Second, Diotrephes has refused to receive the brethren and render the expected hospitality. From the perspective of his culture, Diotrephes might be within his rights to do this, but from a Christian perspective, he is without justification. Third, Diotrephes has warned others in his congregation not to receive such visitors, even going so far as to disfellowship those who do.

Whether or not the church of Gaius and the church of Diotrephes are the same church, these two men seem to be acquainted. John uses this connection to draw a vivid contrast between them. Gaius, unlike Diotrephes, is a man of faithful love and hospitality. He receives teachers from John because of his desire to benefit from their ministry and his deep love for fellow Christians. Gaius acts in such a way that both the visitors and his congregation will benefit from the interaction that results. Gaius does not feel threatened by the itinerant teachers.

Diotrephes, on the other hand, sees the outsiders as a threat. They remain strangers to him, never becoming guests. It may well be that their message would undermine various false ideas that Diotrephes has been propagating, teachings that perhaps accrue benefits for him personally. In behaving as he does, this man rejects the authority of the apostle John.

The Desire to Be “Somebody”

President Calvin Coolidge once said, “It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.” By this Coolidge was calling attention to the danger of thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, something the apostle Paul warned about in Romans 12:3. What is true for presidents and others who have climbed to the top of the ladder of earthly success is just as true for those who are anywhere else on that ladder.

Those who aspire to do good in a spiritual sense are also in danger in this regard. As Allen Wheelis has observed, “The greater evil is wrought by those who intend good, and are convinced they know how to bring it about; and the greater their power to bring it about, the greater the evil they achieve while trying to do it.”

Both President Coolidge and Dr. Wheelis could have been speaking about Diotrephes. It is possible that his desire to be “somebody” in the church was prompted by the belief that he was doing good, but the apostle John’s inspired insight saw through the man’s self-deception.

Jesus showed us the way to true significance. It is found in serving others, as John makes clear in his critique of Diotrephes’s conduct. “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).—C. R. B.

11. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

As John brings us back to his beloved friend Gaius, we see the marked contrast between that man and Diotrephes. Gaius is the good example who is to be imitated, while Diotrephes is the evil example not to be followed. Gaius is of God, a true brother in Christ. Diotrephes has not seen God and is a false brother (compare 1 John 3:10).

Character is revealed in deeds. Gaius and Diotrephes act the ways they do because of what is in their hearts. Gaius truly loves God, so hospitality for visiting Christians comes naturally for him. But Diotrephes sees such visitors as threats to his personal empire, the domain of his control; this reveals a lack of relationship with God.

12. Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

The exhortation of verse 11 to pattern oneself after “that which is good” is immediately followed by an example of someone who can serve as such a pattern: a certain Demetrius. It is very possible that he is the one who ends up carrying this letter to Gaius. One theory holds that this Demetrius is the silversmith of the same name who led the riot against Paul and Silas in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41). If so, this would be a remarkable conversion story! But ultimately this proposal is speculative.

In any case, the Demetrius in view embodies the things John emphasizes in the letter: spiritual health, walking in truth, faithful actions, and avoidance of evil. We expect that Gaius will receive Demetrius with all the hospitality he shows to the other teachers and that Gaius will welcome with anticipation the coming of John himself.

Following a Pattern

Telemachus, who died in about AD 404, was a monk who was credited with being instrumental in stopping the gladiatorial games in Rome. Theodoret of Cyrus tells us how this happened:

A certain man of the name of Telemachus had embraced the ascetic life. He had set out from the East and for this reason had repaired to Rome. There, when the abominable spectacle [of gladiatorial combats] was being exhibited, he went himself into the stadium, and stepping down into the arena, endeavoured to stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another. The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the triad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death.

When the admirable emperor was informed of this he numbered Telemachus in the number of victorious martyrs, and put an end to that impious spectacle.

To walk faithfully in the path of truth can be costly, indeed! But we are to walk that path wherever it leads. Although our ultimate pattern in this regard is Jesus, it helps to have contemporary models who walk in truth. For Gaius, the apostle John says the model can be Demetrius. For some who lived in the fifth century AD, it could have been Telemachus. For those who live today, could it be you?—C. R. B.

What Do You Think?

What are some traits and behaviors that result in a person having a reputation that is worthy of emulating in the church?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding personal practices

Regarding relationships with other believers

Regarding reputation among unbelievers (1 Timothy 3:7)

Other

III. Closing

                                                                                    (3 John 13, 14)

A. Desire (vv. 13, 14a)

13, 14a. I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: but I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face.

John expresses the same desire as in 2 John 12: he prefers face to face communication over that of a letter. John has much more to say to both Gaius and Diotrephes!

B. Blessing (v. 14b)

14b. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

John ends the letter with personal touches. The desire for peace is the traditional Jewish blessing for health and well-being (see v. 2). The writer also passes greetings for friends on both sides of the letter; Gaius has friends in John’s church and these folks have friends in the church of Gaius. We can imagine that John and Gaius have stayed in some of their homes in the past. This is a long-standing relationship joined in faith, bound together in mutual hospitality, and maintained by love.

Conclusion

A. Spiritual Health and Hospitality

If we are spiritually healthy, we will more easily bend our lives to the needs of others. This may result in extending hospitality to folks we barely know, with many applications in churches today. I have been a guest teacher or preacher in numerous churches over the years. Sometimes it has been necessary for me to stay in a hotel; but, when possible, I have always enjoyed staying with one of the church families. I get great meals, have a clean bed, and make new friends. I especially enjoy it when there are children in the household (since my children are adults), so I can again experience the world through the eyes of a child.

Such hospitality makes my time of teaching and preaching all the more meaningful and precious to me and to the congregation. I come as a stranger, become a guest, and leave as a friend.

Churches may also live this out when they support field missionaries. I have always thought that a church should have at least one missionary family for whom it provides at least partial funding, so that a long-term, fulfilling relationship may be developed with these folks. When the member of a missionary family is home on furlough, he or she should be given proper hospitality while visiting the church. This is more than money. It is friendship, encouragement, and acceptance.

That may be reciprocated if members of the church take the time and expense to visit the missionary family on the field, something that was unthinkable 30 or 40 years ago. Hospitality between Christians builds a bond that strengthens ministry and contributes to the mission of spreading the truth of the gospel to all. The need to extend hospitality endures, and the words of 3 John on this topic continue to be of great value for us.

B. Prayer

God of peace and truth, may we love our fellow Christians as You would have us! May we open wallets, homes, and lives to them. In so doing, may You prosper our souls in the grace of Your abundant love. In the name of Jesus, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Measure prosperity by your relationship with God.

 

Visual for Lesson 10. Start a discussion by pointing to this visual as you ask, “How can we better promote teamwork in our church?”

How to Say It

Ceres Sir-eez.

Demetrius De-mee-tree-us.

Diotrephes Die-ot-rih-feez.

Gaius Gay-us.

Philemon Fih-lee-mun or Fye-lee-mun.

Telemachus Taw-leh-maw-kuss.

May 10

Lesson 11

Gifts of the Spirit

Devotional Reading: Romans 12:1-8

Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Key Verse

The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. —1 Corinthians 12:7

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. List the spiritual gifts cited in today’s passage.

2. Compare and contrast miraculous spiritual gifts with non-miraculous ones.

3. Express esteem for others’ gifts and commit to using his or her own gifts to serve others.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. A Team of Quarterbacks?

B. Lesson Background

I. Unity in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1-3)

A. Addressing a Knowledge Deficit (v. 1)

B. Acknowledging a Sinful Past (v. 2)

C. Describing a Present Fact (v. 3)

II. Variety of Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

A. From the Triune God (vv. 4-6)

B. For the Common Benefit (v. 7)

One for All, All for One

C. In Diverse Expressions (vv. 8-11)

Performance Art?

Conclusion

A. Are You “Spiritual”?

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Standard Lesson Commentary 2014-2015 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless