Friday, February 27, 2015

Premarital Sex in Calvin's Geneva

I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte's book on marriage in Geneva. At the bottom of this post you can find the other articles.

Chapter 12 addresses how Geneva approached the period of time between engagement and marriage, including how premarital sex was handled, as well as desertion during the engagement. This post will only address premarital sex. 

This time included heightened sexual tension therefore the "Genevan authorities regulated this perilous interval in some detail."  One of the difficulties Geneva ran into was that they treated this period like a marriage except you could not have sex. For example, if an engaged woman slept with someone who was not her spouse to be, it was adultery, not fornication. To get out of an engagement was like getting a divorce. Yet despite all these trappings of marriage, a couple was still supposed to refrain from sex until the wedding day. 

Geneva tried to curb premarital sex between engaged couples in several different ways. First, you had six weeks to get married once you were engaged. If a couple failed to do this they would be called in to give an account for the delay. If they persisted they could be forced to marry.

If a delay is bad, why not get married immediately? Calvin felt this deprived the community of an opportunity to participate in the wedding. It also gave little time for examination of the marriage in case there were problems that needed to be sorted out, such as previous marriages or financial contracts.

Of all the rules and regulations in Geneva, this is one of the wisest. Long engagements are bad for couples. Today we are more interested in having the perfect wedding than we are in actually getting. But I also think getting married immediately or eloping is bad also.  Many couples, especially Christian couples, think long delays are bad. Therefore they assume that getting as quickly as possible is the best option. But elopement can leave out the family, the church community, and friends. I am not sure six weeks is the perfect time frame, but even three months sounds good.

The second way Geneva tried to curb premarital sex was that if a couple slept together during their engagement they were fined and put in prison for three days, unless the woman was pregnant. If she was pregnant they made her come into church on Sunday and confess her sins before the congregation and ask for mercy from God. The fact that women got pregnant during their engagement shows that the six week gap was the ideal, but was not always held to.

The third method of curbing this behavior is the most interesting.  Geneva eventually reached a place where if a couple fornicated during engagement they had to confess that sin at their wedding. First, Geneva decided that brides who fornicated would not be allowed to wear the traditional wedding wreath upon their heads. This was apparently not enough of a deterrent. So eventually Geneva drafted a resolution stating that if a couple fornicated before marriage the minister would "make a public declaration of their fault" at their wedding and the couple "will acknowledge their offense when they are married in the church."  

This last method employed by Geneva raises awkward questions that most Christians do not want to answer. Should a couple who waited faithfully to have sex until after they were married get treated the same way as a couple who did not wait, but fornicated?  Should there be some distinction made on the wedding day between virgins and those who are not virgins? Should scandalous sins be confessed publicly and if so how should it be done? Are their other ways of indicating unfaithfulness during an engagement? What role does the forgiveness of sins play in this scenario? What role does shame play in preventing future sins?

Previous Posts
General Overview of the Book
An Overview of Marriage Prior to Calvin
Calvin's Attack on Marriage as a Sacrament
Consent to Marriage in Geneva
The Desire for Reconciliation Instead of Divorce
The Power of the Consistory in Geneva
Courtship in Geneva
Coercion to and Conditions of Marriage in Geneva
Parental Consent to Marriage in Geneva
Impediments to Marriage in Geneva
Economics of Marriage in Geneva

Opening the Floodgates

One more quote from Robert Reilly's book Making Gay Okay. Here is a paragraph from his concluding chapter. Reilly is bit over the top, but his central point is a good one.
We cannot blame the homosexuals for all of this. As mentioned before, first came contraception and the embrace of no-fault divorce. Once sex was detached from diapers, the rest become more or less inevitable. If serial polygamy is okay,  and contraceptive sex is okay, and abortion is okay, what could be wrong with a little sodomy? First, short-circuit the generative power of sex through contraception; then kill its accidental offspring; and finally celebrate its use in ways unfit for generation...I only wish there were survivors from the 1930 Lambeth Conference-which first endorsed limited use of contraceptives-who might be forced to attend the Gay Pride events and officiate at same sex "marriages", so they could dwell upon what they hath wrought. Just as there is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant, there is no such thing as a little compromise on moral principle, as the Boy Scouts are about to find out. If the ideology behind the Casey decision [Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, a 1992 court case, which upheld the right to abortion] is correct, then the homosexual position is the right one. It substitutes the primacy of the will for the primacy of reason. If we can make it up as we go along, then there are no moral standards in Nature to distinguish between the use and abuse of sex, only personal taste. The broad embrace of this view has opened the floodgates to sexual dystopia. The problem with this inundation is that it threatens the very democracy that allows it. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fearing God Means Withholding Nothing

In Genesis 22 we have a narrative example of what it means to fear God. The story is one of the most famous in Scripture. God calls Abraham to take his son, his only son, the son of promise, up to the top of a mountain and kill him. Abraham obeys the Lord. He takes his son on a three day journey. He ascends the mountain, ties his son down, and prepares to sacrifice him. The Angel of the Lord appears and tells Abraham to stop. Abraham sees a ram in the thicket and uses it for the sacrifice instead of Isaac.

But when the Angel of the Lord appears he says something to Abraham,which shows us what it means to fear God. 
Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me (Genesis 22:12).
Why was Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac such an act of faith? Isaac was Abraham's son. What man kills his own son, especially at the command of someone else? Isaac was not just any son. Isaac was the son of the promise. Isaac was the only way all of God's promises could be fulfilled. God had given Abraham great promises (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:4-5). What man takes the promises of God, lays them on the altar and prepares to put a knife in them?  Abraham was not only willing to kill his son, he willing to kill the son that fulfilled all of God's promises.

In Abraham we see a picture of what it means to fear God. The Lord knew that Abraham feared Him because when he asked for Isaac, Abraham gave him up. The lesson is not difficult to understand though it is difficult to live out. When God asks for something we surrender it.  When someone is in need and we have the goods to help them we do. When a child needs help we give up our time to help them. When God calls upon us to minister to friend in pain we do that. When God calls upon us to move jobs to get our family in a better church we do. When God calls upon us to move churches, leaving behind friends, so we can be in a theological sound church, we do. When God calls upon us to sacrifice our reputation in the name of Christ, we do. When God calls upon us to care for our aging parents, we do. When God calls upon us to preach the sermon that will cause parishioners to leave we do. When God calls upon us to sacrifice that great job to care for our wife, we do.

But there is no sacrifice, like the sacrifice of our children. Our  greatest hopes and dreams often live in our children. We are not Abraham. My sons are not the children of promise like Isaac, though they are building blocks in the Kingdom. Nonetheless we are required to give them up. They are not ours. They belong to God. What if God called my son to Africa and I only got to see him every three years? What if my daughter marries a missionary to India? What if my son is martyred for his faith? What if my daughter's reputation is destroyed on the Internet because of her love for Jesus? What if I have great dreams for my children, but God has ordinary ones? It is true that whatever we lay on the altar will be resurrected (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham was willing to kill Isaac because he knew that God raises the dead. Whatever we give up we will receive back in the next life. But that doesn't make the sacrifice any less painful or necessary. We know we have the faith of our father Abraham when we withhold nothing from God, including that which we value most, our children.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ten Quotes: Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer

My father introduced me to Francis Schaeffer, a gift for which I am very grateful. Schaeffer's thought guided me through much of my college and post college years. It is has been a long time since I read anything by him. A friend of mine recently read Escape from Reason and then my oldest son just read How Should We Then Live? After hearing some of the conversation about Schaeffer, I decided to pick him up again. I was glad I did. He saw fifty years ago, what many Christians cannot even see today when our country and to a large degree the church has abandoned rationality (not rationalism) for mysticism and self-determination. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Escape from Reason. Many of these are longer because it helps to have context. Remember as you read these quotes that Schaeffer wrote this in 1968.
When nature is made autonomous, it is destructive. 
It is an important principle to remember, in the contemporary interest in communication and in language study, that the biblical presentation is that, though we do not have exhaustive truth, we have from the Bible what I term "true truth." In this way we know true truth about God, true truth about man and something truly about nature. Thus on the basis of the Scriptures, while we do not have exhaustive knowledge, we have true and unified knowledge. 
Men act the way they think.
The conclusions he [Marquis de Sade] drew were these: if man is determined then what is is right. If all of life is only mechanism-if that is all there is- then morals really do not count. Morals become only a word for a sociological framework. Morals become a means of manipulation by society in the midst of the machine. The word "morals" by this time is only a semantic connotation word for non-morals. What is, is right. 
The basic position of man in rebellion against God is that man is at the center of the universe, that he is autonomous-here lies his rebellion. Man will keep his rationalism and his rebellion, his insistence on total autonomy or partially autonomous areas, even it means he must give up rationality.
Often they [20th Century Middle Class Americans, which made up many churches] still think in the right way-to them truth is truth, right is right-but they no longer know why.
The significant thing is that rationalistic, humanistic man began by saying that Christianity was not rational enough. Now he has come around in a wide circle and ended as a mystic-though a mystic of a special kind. He is a mystic with nobody there. The old mystics always said that there was somebody there, but the new mystic says that that does not matter, because faith is the important thing. It is faith in faith, whether expressed in secular or religious terms.  
 The God is Dead school still uses the word Jesus...But Jesus here turns out to be a non-defined symbol. They use the word because is is rooted in the memory of the race. It is  Humanism with a religious banner called Jesus to which they can give any content they wish. 
Any autonomy is wrong. Autonomous science or autonomous art is wrong, if...we mean it is free from the content of what God has told us. This does not mean that we have a static science or art-just the opposite. It gives us the form inside which, being finite, freedom is possible.
It is possible to take the system the Bible teaches, put it down in the  market place of the ideas of men and let it stand there and speak for itself.  
And One:
There are certain unchangeable facts which are true. These have no relationship to the shifting tides. They make the Christian system what it is, and if they are altered, Christianity becomes something else. This must be emphasized because there are evangelical Christians  today who, in all sincerity, are concerned with their lack of communication, but in order to bridge the gap they are tending to change what must remain unchangeable. If we do this we are no longer communicating Christianity, and what we have left is no different from the surrounding consensus.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ten Quotes: Making Gay Okay by Robert Reilly

Robert Reilly's Making Gay Okay is a natural law defense of traditional marriage from a Roman Catholic perspective. He covers how the sodomites invert natural order and then walks the reader through the different ways sodomites have gained power in psychology, education, the military, Boy Scouts, and foreign policy. The book is filled with common sense, covers a lot of ground, and is worth your time. Some of these quotes will be men Reilly quotes throughout the book. All emphasis is the authors. Brackets are mine.
What they [homosexuals] want is legal recognition that obliges everyone to recognize  the legitimacy of their act. 
Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality, and family, and...transforming the very fabric of society...we must keep our eyes on the goals of providing true alternatives to marriage and of radically reordering society's view of reality. [Paula Ettelbrick, former legal director for Lambda]
When morally disordered acts become the defining centerpiece of one's life, vice can permanently pervert reason, and the inversion of reality becomes complete.
The central insight of classical Greek political philosophy is that the order  of the city is the order of the soul writ large. If there is disorder in the city, it is because of disorder in the souls of its citizens.
Aristotle taught that man cannot reach perfection by himself; he needs society and the political order to reach his full potential. The polis is necessary to him. Rousseau asserted the opposite: man begins in perfection which the formation of society then takes from him. 
[Here Reilly is commenting on the idea that a refusal to allow same-sex marriage is an injustice.] Before justice can be enlisted on behalf of this cause, we should ask ourselves: What is justice? The classical answer to this questions is that justice is giving to things what is their due according to what they are. In other words, to act justly, one must first know what things are. Without this knowledge, one cannot act justly. This may seem self-evident, but its application is far more difficult than one might first think. In order to know what things are, one needs metaphysics and epistemology. 
The separation of sex from procreation logically leads to the legalization of contraception, then to abortion, and finally to homosexual marriage and beyond. The logic is compelling, in fact, inescapable. Only the premise is insane.
What began as a plea for diversity ends with a demand for conformity. [Here Reilly is commenting on the proliferation of sodomite literature in schools.]
Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission. [Department of Defense Directive given in January 1981.]
Homosexuality is one of America's most successful cultural exports. [Ronald Lee, former homosexual.] 
And One:
 Justice Kennedy teaches, unassailable "private conduct between consenting adults" made under the inviolable "autonomy of self" is at the heart of liberty. But this cannot be right, particularly if it leads to self destruction...The reason is that the key to democracy is not free choice...the key, as our Founding Fathers knew, is virtue. Only a virtuous person is capable of rational consent because only a virtuous person's reason is unclouded by the habitual rationalizations of vice. Vice inevitably infects the faculty of judgment. No matter how democratic their institutions, a morally enervated [weakened] people cannot be free. And people who are enslaved to their passions inevitably become slaves to tyrants. Thus, our Founders predicated the success of democracy in America upon the virtue of the American people...Our culture no longer corners us into virtue, however, but impels into vice. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Economics of Marriage in Calvin's Geneva

I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte's book on marriage in Geneva. At the bottom of this post you can find the other articles.

Chapter 11 of the book is devoted to the way finances were handled when marriages were arranged in Geneva. It is tempting to think this is an area of similarity to 21st century America. However the opening paragraph of the chapter shows that, while there are some similarities, there are also substantial differences.
In sixteenth-century Geneva, as much as today, marriage is not only a union of persons. It was also a merger of properties-land, money, jewelry, clothing, household commodities, social titles, property rents, business interests, and sundry other "real" and "personal" property. When the parties were members of aristocracy or of the ruling class, a marriage could be the occasion for a massive exchange of power, property, and prerogatives that distilled into lengthy written contracts. But even paupers who intended marriage generally made at least token exchanges of property and oral agreements about future transactions. 
Today the rich and wealthy probably do something similar to what is described here. However, the lower and middle classes rarely have anything like a written contract concerning financial obligations, etc. before marriage. The reasons are many, but one would be that most of us have little wealth that we bring into marriage.

These marital property contracts were not essential to a marriage, but they were expected in most cases. Often the property contracts would be negotiated by the families, not the couples. There were three types of marital property exchanges at that time.
First, it was customary for a man to accompany his marriage proposal with some form of a gift to the woman, and sometimes her family. At minimum, the man offered the woman a token gift to signify his affection...A man of more ample means could be more elaborate...But an elaborate engagement gift was neither required not customary by the sixteenth century. 
If the marriage went forward the engagement gift became the woman's or her families. However, if the engagement failed she had to return the gift. A failure to do so could lead to litigation.
Second, it was common for the woman, and her family, to bring property to the marriage. This was called her dowry. The dowry consisted, at minimum, in the woman's clothing and personal effects. But the dowry usually involved a good deal more. Frequently, it included other personal property such as household furnishings and decorations, cooking utensils and linens, poultry and cattle, standing orders for newly harvested fruit and grain, and more. Sometimes, especially with an aristocratic marriage, the dowry was a form of real property, whether land, a home, a rental property, or a place of business...[the] dowry was often a very expensive proposition for the woman and her family, and an ample source of tension for the couple and their families during the marital property negotiations...Once delivered, the woman's dowry did not pass entirely beyond her control or that of her family. The civil law provided that a portion of the dowry remained reserved to the woman and her family after the wedding. 
This last sentence is interesting. The amount of the dowry that remained reserved for the woman was negotiated during the engagement. In most cases, when married, the husband retained control over all the dowry, including the wife's portion. However, the husband could not sell or give away the wife's portion without her consent.  If the husband died the wife's portion went to her and/or her family, while the rest of the dowry went to their children or other heirs.
Third, not only did the wife reserve rights over a portion of her own property through the law of marriage portion. Upon marriage, she also gained rights over a portion of her husband's property through the law of dower. Dower was a form a built-in insurance to provide for wife upon her husband's death. If the wife became a widow, she would be entitled to one-third to one-half of all the personal property (that is, movables, not the land) owned by her husband during the marriage. This was not just the personal property that the husband brought into the marriage or left at his death. Dower rights attached as well to any personal property the husband acquired during the marriage-including, importantly, the personal property in his inheritance from his own family.,Typically the widow received...the right to use and possess the dower property for her lifetime, but with no right to sell or dispose of the property. This dower property would revert to the couple's children upon her death. Dower rights imposed an ample restriction on the husband's rights to dispose of his own personal property during the course of his married life. He could not simply sell, encumber, or give away his personal property without consideration of his wife's dower interests...only if the wife was convicted for adultery or malicious desertion of her husband would she forfeit her dower. 
Calvin used the story of Jacob and Rachel, as well as Isaac and Rebekah's engagement to argue for gifts when engagements were contracted, as well as having the finances of the marriage arranged prior to the marriage. Calvin also believed that if a woman was raped or there was fornication the man had to pay the full marriage price the father demanded. He could he also be forced to marry the woman if that was what the father and woman desired. These men also lost the right of divorce.

Calvin and his successors did little to change prevailing laws and customs of marital property at the time. All financial arrangements were to be made ahead of time in a contract that was clear. They did depart from medieval tradition in two ways. First, marital property disputes were to be resolved by the Council, not by the Consistory. That is it was resolved in civil courts, not in church courts. Second, a failure to deliver on the financial end of a marriage contract did not dissolve the marriage. Many engaged couples were dragged into marriage even after the promised financial deal was not delivered.

What is striking about this chapter is how little a role finances play in most modern engagements compared to ones in the sixteenth century. There are exceptions of course, but it is usually the rich who create contracts before marriage today. Most of us give very little thought to what our future spouse possesses and how it will be distributed during and after marriage. There are a couple of reasons for this. We have no concept of inheritance and passing things down to our children or retaining what was passed down to us. Many of the laws were designed to make sure a portion of the wealth of both the husband and wife remained with the family. When we get little inheritance, give little inheritance, and solidarity with our families means so little, it is no surprise that the laws they had make little sense to us. The other factor is life insurance, social security, and retirement accounts. Husbands still provide for their wives after death. But it does not usually come through property and goods. Instead it comes through these other means. The one difference is that today's husband does not have to provide for his wife after his death. In other words, he could make someone else the beneficiary of life insurance or his retirement funds should he die. In Geneva, it was a stipulation of the marital property contract that the wife must be provided for upon the death of the husband.

Previous Posts
General Overview of the Book
An Overview of Marriage Prior to Calvin
Calvin's Attack on Marriage as a Sacrament
Consent to Marriage in Geneva
The Desire for Reconciliation Instead of Divorce
The Power of the Consistory in Geneva
Courtship in Geneva
Coercion to and Conditions of Marriage in Geneva
Parental Consent to Marriage in Geneva
Impediments to Marriage in Geneva
Marriage to non-Christians and non-Protestants in Geneva

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: Chosen By God

Chosen By God: Know God's Perfect Plan for His Glory and His ChildrenChosen By God: Know God's Perfect Plan for His Glory and His Children by R.C. Sproul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A solid introduction to predestination by Dr. R.C. Sproul. He will not blow your mind with footnotes and scholarly tangents. But he does clearly, logically, and biblically lay out the reasons why predestination is true. His section on double predestination and equal ultimacy was very helpful in explaining the difference between Calvinism and hyper-calvinism. Other than his interpretation of Hebrews 6, I agreed with most of what he wrote. A good place to start for those who want a gracious exposition of unconditional election.

View all my reviews

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Loving Better on Valentine's Day

In my room, hidden away in a shoe box are all that love letters that I wrote to my wife while we were dating. Most of them are  embarrassing, bad poetry mixed with terrible sentimentality and lack of masculinity. If you wanted to make me blush then get some of these and post them on the web.  However, there is  one piece of paper I am proud of. After we got engaged, we spent a summer counseling kids at a camp out in Oregon. It was a good summer, but also a hard one.  I was not ready to care for a woman.  We were not married yet, which added to the tension. I was generally selfish and arrogant, which made me a hard fiance.  As I worked through my own selfishness I decided to try to love her better.  Naturally I went to I Corinthians 13, the love chapter.  I wrote down on a sheet of paper each characteristic of love Paul mentions in verses 4-7. Then I wrote specific ways I would try to imitate that love in my relationship with my bride to be. Here are some examples: 

Love is patient/long suffering-I will not interrupt her when she talks. I will not be upset when she is late to meet me. I will keep my hands off of her and wait patiently for marriage. 

Love is not rude-I will speak kindly to her. I will not make fun of her or her views on things like movies. I will be attentive when I am around her family and respect them. 

Love rejoices with the truth-I will rejoice when she is more righteous in an area than I am. When she shares what she learns from reading Scripture I will listen, assuming that God has something for me in what she is saying. 

I listed at least ten specific things I would do for each characteristic of love that Paul mentions in I Corinthians 13:4-7. Many of them are trite, but they expressed a desire to be more godly. The total came to almost four pages of lined paper. At family worship this morning we read this passage. I was reminded of how wonderful and how painful that text is.  Paul cuts us up with the Word.  

Perhaps this Valentine's Day you should take some time and examine how well you are loving those around you. How are you treating your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends? Make a list of all those traits Paul mentions, patience, kindness, not irritated/easily provoked, not seeking your own, bearing all things, etc. Then list some specific ways you would like to change. Ten per trait is too many. My exuberance got the better of me when I was sitting in my cabin nineteen years ago. Now I realize how hard it is to improve in one area, much less ten.  So list one specific way you would like to be more patient. One way would should stop rejoicing in iniquity/wrongdoing. One way you should stop being puffed up.  Keep the list somewhere you can look at it, perhaps in your Bible or journal. Pray over it. Work at it. It will not make you spiritual overnight. It is not going to taste as good as chocolate or smell as good as that dinner you are planning for your wife or look as good as what you will wear this evening. But it may be the best thing you can do this Valentine's Day for those you love.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Many Believed in Jesus?

This post is in the "that is interesting category." I am reading through John's Gospel. One theme that I am noticing for the first time is how many times John tells us that many people believed in Jesus.

John 2:23  Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.

John 4:39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did."

John 4:41  And many more believed because of his word.

At this point, my mind goes to John 6:66 where we are told many of disciples left him after his speech on eating his flesh and drinking his blood. I assume that after John 6 his following was reduced as many left him because of his hard teachings. Yet the converts keep coming.  The refrain "many believed" is found over and over again in the chapters leading up to Christ's final days. 

John 7:31  Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, "When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?"

John 8:30  As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

John 10:42  And many believed in him there.

John 11:45  Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him

John 12:42  Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.

Five times after John 6 we are told that "many" believed in Christ. I am not sure what to make of this. My assumption has been that Christ was rejected by all with even his disciples leaving him on that last night. While he was certainly rejected, John emphasizes that there were still many who trusted in Him as he preached and worked miracles. It makes me wonder if those who called for his blood on Good Friday were from Jerusalem while many around Israel still trusted in Christ. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Notes on III John

  • The name Gaius shows up many times in the New Testament (Acts 19:29, 20:4, Romans 16:23, I Corinthians 1:14) but we have no way of knowing  if the Gaius in III John is one of these or a different one.
  • Truth is central to John’s teaching. The Greek word for truth is used 109 times in the New Testament. 43 of those come in John’s writings. In III John it used seven times in fourteen verses. In verse 1 truth and love are woven together. Our love for one another, like John’s love of Gaius, must be in the truth. Love without truth is a lie.
  • John is not above praying for Gaius’s physical well-being. Many Christians find this beneath them. They only want to pray for “spiritual” issues. John does not share this view.
  • John in interested in people, not just the church. In these fourteen short verses he mentions Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius. It also clear from verses 5-7 that he is aware of specific deeds done by Gaius and his church to travelling strangers and brothers. John does not simply show up on Sunday and shake hands. He knows the people. He even closes the letter reminding Gaius to greet the friends by name (verse 14).
  • III John is primarily about how to receive Christians, probably missionaries, who arrive at Gaius’ church. John tells Gaius that he does well in whatever he does for these “brethren and strangers.” He also does well by “sending them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” Hospitality is not just welcoming someone, but also sending them away properly.
  • When we welcome these traveling Christians we become “fellow workers.” (verse 8) We do not have to go to the mission field or be in full time ministry to work for the spread of the gospel. By welcoming those full time workers with care and financial provisions we take part in their work. Paul says the same thing in Philippians1:5 and 4:15.  
  • Diotrephes is one of the more notorious characters in the New Testament. He loves to be first or to have the first place. How does this translate into action? What happens when a man or woman loves to be first? They end up rejecting those God has place over them. Notice Diotrephes does not receive the Apostel John’s rebuke (verse 9). They end up rejecting Christians who are passing through (vs. 10).  Again these Christians passing through are probably missionaries. Finally, he also forces those around him to reject these missionaries passing through (vs. 10). If they do not reject these travelling missionaries he kicks them out of the church.  Diotrephes is a leader at Gaius’ church with some influence. He is probably a fellow elder. Pride leads to the rejection of authority, the rejection of fellow workers, and persecution of those who do not hold your views. Nothing destroys Christian fellowship like pride. 
  • God does not allow men like Diotrephes to get away with hurting his church. He will answer for his actions and his words of nonsense (vs. 10) when John arrives. Too often we despair over wicked leaders. But Jesus loves his bride. He will deal with Diotrepheses in our churches.
  • The verb “imitate” (vs. 11) is only used four times in the New Testament. In every other place (II Thessalonians 3:7, 9 and Hebrews 13:7) it means to imitate your leaders. The noun form often means this as well (See I Corinthians 11:1). It probably means the same thing here. John is telling his readers and Gaius, “Do not imitate Diotrephes. Imitate Demetrius.” It is possible both of these men are leaders in the church.  The important point here is that we imitate people, not ideas. We are to follow men. We can learn through CDs, internet, etc. But we can only imitate the men who we see.
  • Pen and ink are not enough for John. He wants to see them face to face. Here is Holy Scripture written by the hand of the Apostle John and inspired by the Holy Spirit and yet face to face trumps it. There is much value in using the different mediums God has given to us to communicate with one another. But there is no substitute for being face to face. This same idea is expressed in II John 1:12 and throughout Paul’s letters.
  • John’s gentle, pastoral tone in this letter is a good model for all men who aspire to leadership. He is warm, gracious, and encouraging. Like a good shepherd he is going to protect the sheep from the wolf Diotrephes. He calls them his friends, which reminds the reader of Christ’s words in John 15:13-15. And he ends with his desire to see them face to face.  In fourteen short verses John gives us a model of loving, pastoral ministry. 
Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8