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Lesson 13: Power Struggle *

Introduction: Have you ever read a book and wished it were longer? Were you sad when you came to the end? That is how I feel with the letters of John. This week we come to the last in our series of studies on John's letters to the church. Let's dive into our study of Third John. While we are at it, we will pick up on a discussion that we left unfinished last week!

  1. Gaius

    1. Read 3 John 1:1-2. John starts out with a comment about the health of Gaius. This is a short book, why spend any time at all on this subject? (John shows a personal interest in the life of Gaius. God has a personal interest in our life and His followers should reflect this concern about others.)

      1. Is this just a kindness? Or, is there a spiritual dimension to our physical health?(God wants us to enjoy physical and mental health. I believe there is a link between the two. Thus, John's greeting is not just a waste of time. John is telling us (and Gaius) that we should be concerned not only about the spiritual condition of those around us, but about their physical health as well.)

    2. Read 3 John 1:3-4. John first says "I hope you are well," and then in the next two verses he compliments Gaius. Is this also part of some spiritual lesson for us? (John is encouraging Gaius in right-living. We should do that for our fellow believers.)

    3. Read 3 John 1:5. Why mention that those being helped by Gaius are "strangers?" (It demonstrates that Gaius has no hope of personal gain from this. He is helping these strangers because they are Christian brothers, not because of selfish interests.)

  2. The Church

    1. Read 3 John 1:6-8. Why would the "brothers" who stayed with Gaius expect help from pagans? (This suggests that they were evangelists. Gaius took them in while they were doing evangelistic work in his area.)

      1. Assume that you do not have the gift of public speaking, does that make you less important in God's work? (Gaius is showing hospitality. John tells us that the work of the church is a team effort: "we may work together for the truth." Every one on the team is important to the final outcome. God recognizes the worth of every team member.)

    2. Read 3 John 1:9-10. If you asked the local church members who they thought was more important to the church, Diotrephes or Gaius, what do you think they would say? (If Diotrephes has the authority to put people "out of the church," the members must look up to him.)

      1. John points out that Diotrephes (unlike Gaius) refuses to welcome the brothers. If Diotrephes is the leader of the local church, is he not entitled to make that decision?

        1. What independent authority does God place in the hands of local church leaders?

    3. Read Matthew 16:17-19. Doesn't this give church leaders a great amount of authority and leeway in dealing with "brothers?"

      1. Look again at 3 John 1:10. Since John is the "Elder," why does he not assert his authority to "bind" Diotrephes? Why merely "call attention" to John's concerns about him?

    4. Read John 20:19-23. Last week, when we were discussing John's advice about error and the anti-Christ, a few members of the class mentioned the Catholic Church. I hate to attack fellow believers, so I explained some things I appreciate about the Catholic Church, but said I disagreed with some of the doctrines - including my concern about the distortion of Jesus' role as our mediator. A Catholic member of the class asked "What about John 20?" Let's look at this issue for just a few minutes.

      1. Who wrote John 20? (John - the same fellow who wrote the letters we are studying.)

        1. Who was Jesus speaking to in John 20:23 when He bestowed this authority? (John! Among others.)

        2. If John knew (because he wrote it down) that he had the authority to keep Diotrephes' sins of pride and gossip from being forgiven, why not say that? Why merely say that he was going to "bring attention" to his sins?

      2. As you consider John 20:23, who do you think Jesus was giving this authority? Just the disciples in the room? All Christian leaders? All evangelists? All Christians?

        1. If you think Jesus was giving authority to more than those in the room, consider again 1 John 5:16-17. Should Jesus have added a footnote to John 20:23 saying "Offer limited to those sins which do not lead to death?")

          1. If the believer (or leader) has the authority to forgive sin, why does John tell us ( 1 John 5:16) to "pray and God will give him life?"

    5. Context is important. What is significant about the context of John 20:23? (Jesus had just risen from the grave. He had just defeated sin!)

      1. What change did this make in the way sin was forgiven? (No animal sacrifices any more. Jesus had died once for all sin. Hebrews 7:27.)

      2. What role did the disciples play in alerting the world to this new solution to the sin problem? (This is primarily what I believe John 20:23 addresses: if the disciples share with others this solution to sin, then the listeners' sins can be forgiven. If they do not share this, then the world will not know.)

    6. Focus again on John 20:22-23. Part of the context is the giving of the Holy Spirit. What role does the Holy Spirit play in the forgiveness of sins? (Read John 16:7-8. Part of the role of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our sins.)

      1. Read Matthew 12:31-32. What does this suggest about the relative role of humans and the Holy Spirit in the forgiveness of sins? (It teaches that the active agent in the conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit. If we "speak against" (reject) the Holy Spirit then the power of conviction leaves and we will never confess our sins.)

      2. Can anyone tell me if anywhere in the New Testament we read of the disciples forgiving or retaining the sins of others? (John did not suggest he could do it with Diotrephes and nowhere in the New Testament do we find this practiced by the disciples.)

      3. Read Matthew 6:14-15. Does this suggest that we have the ultimate power to forgive sins?

      4. Read Acts 10:43. How does this suggest that we receive forgiveness of sins? (Through the name of Jesus.)

    7. Let's look again at John's writings. Read 1 John 2:1-2. Who does this say has the authority to forgive sin? (Jesus has the ultimate authority over sin.)

    8. Read Luke 24:45-49. What elements are combined here for the forgiveness of sins? (I believe this text is the ultimate explanation of John 20:23. Jesus' life, death and resurrection defeated Satan, sin and death. This is the essential element to the forgiveness of sin. However, another essential element is the Holy Spirit. If we drive away the Holy Spirit we cannot be forgiven - no matter what Jesus might have done or humans might do for us. The third element to the forgiveness of sin is the partnership between the Holy Spirit and humans to share the gospel.)

      1. Is that all Jesus means in John 20:23 - that we are to be witnesses to others? (Read Matthew 9:2-9. Reading the Matthew 9 story and understanding John 20:23 as some delegation of Jesus' authority, I think there is more to this than mere witnessing. How much more, I do not know. The limit on John 20:23 is that ultimately, the forgiveness of sins involves three elements: Jesus, the Holy Spirit and His followers.)

    9. Read 3 John 1:11. What is our role in daily living for Jesus? (To do what is good. We can get into complex discussions about what role humans have in the forgiveness of sins, but we must not lose sight of the fact that our personal goal is right living.)

    10. Read 3 John 1:12-14. Friend, would you like to be a Demetrius? As we close our study of John's letters, I believe his main message to us is to take the path of light (the path to eternal life) and every day move forward towards righteousness. Will you accept that challenge?

  3. Next week: We start our study of the book of Numbers!
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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