3 John 11-12 "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true."
Over the past month I have written two posts that draw material directly from the book of 3 John. We have noted that John's main purpose in writing this shortest of all the Bible books is to detail the healthy Christian walk. John's little letter is addressed to Gaius and features two other men: Diotrophes and Demetrius. The first post (7/20/13) was entitled "Marks of a Healthy Christian faith" and listed out three traits that we find of a healthy Christian faith from 3 John 1-8:
1. Sound Faith. 3 John 1-2
2. Strongly Committed Faith. 3 John 3-4
3. Sharing Faith. 3 John 5-8
In that first post we focused attention upon Gaius and noted how he emulated all three traits.
In contrast to Gaius we looked at the life of Diotrophes in a post (7/30/13) entitled "Marks of an unhealthy Christianity, and how to cure it." Diotrophes is the villain of John's short epistle and evidences three traits of unhealthy Christian faith in 3 John 9-11:
1. Resistance. 3 John 9
2. Rebellion. 3 John 10
3. Rottenness. 3 John 11
Gaius shows us the qualities necessary for a healthy Christian faith, whereas Diotrophes shows us what not to have. We concluded that last post with a prescription from 2 Peter 1:4-10 for curing an unhealthy Christian faith.
The importance of imitating a Good Testimony
In today's post we aim to close out our study of 3 John by looking at the third man in John's little letter: Demetrius. If Gaius shows us the internal qualities to have in a healthy Christian faith, then Demetrius' life illustrates a good testimony that flows from such faith. Gaius' life illustrates the roots of healthy faith and Demetrius' life highlights the fruits of healthy faith. Therefore in today's post we will consider the topic: "The importance of imitating a good testimony." Note the following imitable qualities of a good testimony from 3 John 11-15, with the main focus on verse 12:
1. A Good Testimony should be imitated.
3 John 11-12
John exhorts Gaius in 3 John 11 to "imitate what is good. The one who does good is of God." Diotrophes is the illustration of what not to imitate. John mentions Demetrius to illustrate by example what a good testimony is to both Gaius and us. John is actually exhorting Gaius to consider and imitate Demetrius' testimony. In 3 John 12 we read the following about Demetrius, namely that he "had received a good testimony from everyone." The one verb in the original language translated "had received a good testimony" is in the perfect tense, meaning that Demetrius' testimony was good from the moment he got saved and is still a good testimony even to John's present day. Demetrius is the type of Christian whom you can rely upon and who has been consistent from the beginning of faith up until now.
Testimonies by nature are to be of such a quality as to be imitated. The Apostle Paul encourages this practice in Philippians 3:16-17 "however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us." Why is it good to imitate a good testimony? Not because of the person so much as the fact of what the person is imitating. Demetrius had a good testimony that was worthy of imitation due to the fact that he imitated scripture.
2. A Good Testimony should imitate scripture. 3 John 12
John writes in 3 John 12 "Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself....". Three times in this one verse is the word "testimony" mentioned. The Apostle John himself undoubtedly would had been imitated by Demetrius, since out of all the New Testament authors, no one wrote more on the subject of testimony than John (nearly 50 times in all of his writings). A good testimony will pattern itself after what it sees in scripture, and build its elements from the Bible. The Bible Knowledge Commentary draws out this interesting observation about 3 John 12:
"In accordance with the Jewish law of witnesses (Deut. 19:15), the apostle adduced a threefold testimony to the character of Demetrius. (1) He was well spoken of by everyone who new him. (2) He was also vouched for by the truth itself. Here the truth is personified as a "witness" and John no doubt meant that Demetrius' character and doctrine were in such conformity with that truth that the truth itself virtually spoke on his behalf. (3) As a third line of testimony, John wrote, we also speak well of him, and you know our testimony is true." Think of how often the Bible itself instructs us to pattern our lives around its words. (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17) So if a good testimony is to be imitated and if it is marked by how it imitates scripture, then why imitate scripture? Because when you imitate scripture in your testimony, you are imitating Jesus Christ.
3. A Good Testimony should imitate Jesus Christ. 3 John 12-15
Demetrius' testimony imitated scripture and was worthy of imitation because of the fact He aimed to imitate Jesus Christ. How do we know that? Other scripture speaks about the imitation of Jesus Christ as being the chief mark of a good Christian testimony. John writes the main purpose of his Gospel in John 20:31 "but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." Later on John writes in John 21:24 "This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true."
Or consider these words about imitating Jesus in 1 John 2:6 "the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." The Apostle Peter mentions Jesus' example as the basis of our Christian testimony in 1 Peter 2:21 "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." Then finally, consider these thoughts in Hebrews 12:2-3 "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
John urges Gaius and us to imitate Demetrius because a good testimony should be imitated, due to the fact it imitates scripture, and thus in doing so it imitates Jesus. This is why a good Christian testimony is so important to imitate.