Third John 1:12
Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true (ESV).
In our last study in 3 John, we listened to a warning that the apostle gave to Gaius about an evil leader, Diotrephes. We need to receive warnings to protect us. But we cannot live on warnings. Prevention is not the same as nourishment. Fences serve a good purpose around gardens; however, if you spend all your time of fence building and maintenance, you don’t have any to invest in planting and tending to the garden.
Some leaders do not grasp what should be obvious. They are eloquent about warning people about the dangers of worldliness or whatever they feel they must oppose now. They are not nearly so concerned about the spiritual strength and health of the people they are to serve. People need sound teaching (Titus 2:1). Sound teaching instructs in the truth and provides a variety of spiritual food. It presents the glory of the Triune God, and it makes known the love and grace of God for his dearly loved people. It tells them to love one another; it shows how to love one another. It models love, compassion, and goodness.
In many evangelical churches, there is a proper emphasis about having a good testimony for Jesus Christ. We are to live and to speak for the Lord before others in a way that points people to repentance toward God and faith in Christ. However, do we give a good testimony about our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we tell of their goodness? Can we? Do we know how?
You see, a fence is unnecessary unless there is a garden, a garden of good people producing good fruit in a spiritual climate of rejoicing in the truth (3 John 1:3-4). It matters not if there is a splendid doctrinal statement with a fine constitution along with an attractive morning service with nice music and clever preaching. Advertising a schedule of advent services or children’s ministries is not close to what John teaches here. John wanted them to celebrate Demetrius, because of his goodness. The apostle was happy to point to a brother in Christ that bore good fruit. The Lord wants his people to be fruitful. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you (John 15:16 HCSB). A local church should be known for the Spirit’s fruit. It should be the place where people in Christ are very able and willing to speak well of each other.
Are the people in your local assembly interested in the spiritual well-being of one another? Do you know other people in your local church, not merely their names, but their spiritual struggles and progress? Do you celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit in producing Christ-likeness in each other? Every gathering of Christ’s people is a place to share our new life in him. It is a place, not only to be challenged but also to be celebrated. Listen to Paul’s words about the Corinthian church. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge… (1 Corinthians 1:4-5 ESV). He appreciated the spiritual riches that he saw in their “garden”. Yes, he knew their problems, but he could celebrate the grace of God given to them.
Join with other followers of Christ, and rejoice with one another. For Christ’s sake, rejoice in the Lord together.
Grace and peace, David