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Follow That Which Is Good

Kathy Waaraniemi | The Voice of Zion September 2023 - What Does the Bible Say Article --

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. – 3 John 1:11

Do I follow that which is good and not that which is evil? This passage causes me to pause. It seems that I can readily relate to what Paul writes to the Romans: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. 7:19). What is this third letter of John teaching us?

The writer of the letter, the elder mentioned at the beginning of the text, is the Apostle John. He is writing to a specific individual named Gaius who seems to be a worker in the congregation in Asia Minor. John greets Gaius and testifies that he and Gaius travel in the same understanding of faith. John expresses joy that he has received testimony of Gaius’ faith from the other brothers who have visited the congregation: “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee…I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:1–4). Even today it brings great joy when we hear that a dear friend is still endeavoring in faith! When we visit one another, it doesn’t take long to know that this brother or sister believes the same way that I do. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16).

John writes that it has brought him great joy that Gaius shows love and hospitality to the brothers who have traveled to his congregation spreading the gospel of Christ. He says, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. John expresses how the brothers felt Gaius’ love and hospitality towards them and felt how he lovingly sent them on to the next place of mission work. John exhorts the believers to show hospitality and to support the brothers, and in this way they also do the work of God in spreading the gospel (3 John 1:5–8).

There also appeared to be one who was not in unity. As John writes, Deiotrefes seemed to have “preeminence among them” (v. 9), or great self-importance. Deiotrefes did not want to welcome the brothers who visited the congregation, and rather than showing them hospitality and love, he gossiped and spoke maliciously about them. He also tried to prevent other congregation members from showing them hospitality. John writes to Gaius that when he comes to visit the congregation he will call attention to what Deiotrefes is doing (v. 9,10). This is familiar to the child of God and to the living congregation of God today. As believers we want to care for another when we see a brother or sister going astray or growing in themselves. We also want to care for those who serve the congregation. This kind of care is a service of love done in the hope of restoring the fallen one into the fellowship and love of the congregation.

John, at this point in the letter, instructs Gaius and others with the words of our text: “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” (v. 11). When we consider John’s words to Gaius and his warning about what Deiotrefes was doing, what can we consider about this text for us in our day? We can ponder: Do I carry the work of God’s kingdom with love and in prayer? Do I speak maliciously about the work, about board members or servants of the Word? Do I speak well of my neighbor and put the best construction on all he or she does? Do I gossip about the difficulties of others? Do I serve others with Christian hospitality and love? Do I keep the mind of Christ in all my interactions? While our flesh would more readily follow that which is evil, John instructs us to follow that which is good. Goodness follows faith and is a fruit of the Spirit. Paul writes to Timothy, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

At the end of the letter John names another brother, Demetrius, who walks in the truth. John gives a good testimony of his faith. John writes that he hopes to visit the congregation soon and that he has many other things to write about but he will wait until they can visit in person (3 John 1:13,14). He concludes the letter wishing Gaius the peace of God. He sends Gaius personal greetings from the brothers he is with and wishes Gaius to personally greet friends that he is with by name. Even today we send greetings of love and peace to one another in congregations around the country and around the world. It is heartwarming to receive greetings by name from friends in faith.

God’s children want to remember and serve one another with love. Yet, we often find that the good we would desire to do, that we don’t do, and the evil we don’t want to do, that we do. How good it is that even these errors and offenses can be cared for freely with the gospel!

Reference: Soronen, Mauno (2017). Johanneksen kirjeet. In Se sana seisoo vahvana – Raamatun historiaa ja sanomaa, Ed. Olli Lohi. SRK.

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