3 - Friendship, Introduction
3 John 1:1 NASB "The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth."
There are several different men in the New Testament with the name Gaius but we don't know who this individual is or where he lived. We have no information about him other than the fact that he was involved in a local church and there seems to have a been a problem, maybe a power play, executed by a man named Diotrephes. Form that we see that John is giving specific guidance to Gaius as to how to handle this situation where there is an obvious division in the local congregation because of the arrogance of Diotrephes. John called Gaius his dear friend. This is to just a nice form of address but it indicates that he has a close relationship with Gaius. Four times in this letter he addresses Gaius as the beloved, vv, 1, 2, 5, 11. It is possible that Gaius was a pastor who had trained under John and due to a split and division was now out in the cold. We don't know exactly and can't say but there is a clear indication that there is this close friendship and affection between the apostle John and Gaius. To reinforce this statement, calling him the beloved one, John then goes on to say, "whom I love in truth." Here we have the preposition en [e)n] plus the dative of aletheia [a)lhqeia]. In the Greek, when there is a preposition en plus a dative like this one, this frequently indicates an instrumental idea. So it would be better translated "whom I love by means of truth." The emphasis here is that love is conducted by means of truth. Love and truth go hand in hand, you can't separate love from truth—truth with a capital T, the Word of God or Bible doctrine.
Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17: "Father, sanctify them in [by means of] truth; thy word is truth." There are all kinds of different truth in life—mathematical truth, truth related to certain social functions, etc., relative concepts of truth which we learn in different ways and perceive them in different ways. But when we come to the Word of God we come to a different category of truth, absolute truth that has been revealed from God and therefore is inerrant and infallible. It is only on the basis of this kind of truth that we can have a genuine, true, loving relationship because it is only on the basis of truth that there can be genuine love. When doctrine is violated then love is distorted. If we compromise on doctrine at any point what happens is that it will convert love, what we think is love, to selfishness.
Love and friendship
- Friendship is based on love. There are different levels of friendship in life. For example, there are people who are just simple acquaintances. Then there is, perhaps, professional colleagues or fellow students or co-workers, those with whom we spend a lot of time but not those we would call intimate friends. There can also be another level of friendship among fellow team players. The subject we are addressing is really a more intimate level of friendship, that circle of people who we might consider to be our closest friends. This is the kind of friendship that also undergirds a marriage. So this category of friendship is based on love.
- The kind of love that this is based on is the love triplex we have developed in our understanding of the spiritual skills—personal love for God the Father, impersonal love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ. The foundation for the believer for all relationships, for any kind of love, and the source of the kind of integrity needed for any kind of relationship, is personal love for God the Father. It is that personal love for God the Father that helps us to understand what integrity is, that provides the basis and motivation for relationships with others. If our relationship with others is not based on that personal love for God and instead based on the attractiveness of the object then when adversity comes it is very easy for that love to fall apart and to fragment. For love to have an enduring value, to be able to handle any and all adversity, it must be based on an immutable object. Therefore it is the personal love for God that supplies that foundation for all other categories of love. Personal love for God, then, becomes the basis for our impersonal love for others, especially impersonal love for all believers as Jesus mandated in John 13:34, 35; that we are to love one another as He loved us. On top of that we build our personal love for others. It must be grounded on an impersonal love because sooner or later the object of our personal love is going to disappoint us, is going to fail, is going to do something that we don't like. The only way to handle that is through an impersonal love that is based on an immutable object. Another category is non-romantic friendships. Then finally, we have that category of romantic love that we have for our spouse, and if it is not based on these other elements then of those feelings aren't there it is going to collapse. Failure to base friendship on these spiritual skills will lead eventually to either a dilution of the relationship or doctrine will be compromised as a priority.
- There are stages to the development of genuine capacity of love. We are not addressing the fact that there is a kind of love that is possible for the unbeliever but the kind of love that is developed in the believer that is specifically listed as a fruit or product of God the Holy Spirit. It is a quality of love that cannot be counterfeited by the unbeliever.
- For friendship and romantic love to be successful they must be based on personal love for God the Father.
- Personal love for God the Father can only come from the development of integrity in the soul through spiritual growth. Part of what John is including with the idea of truth here is the idea of integrity. Love cannot be separated from truth or integrity.
- Impersonal love is based on integrity and objectivity.
- Integrity and objectivity can only come from orientation to reality. Failure to orient to reality can lead to disillusionment and disenchantment.
- Reality is defined by God as revealed in His Word and perceived through the grace learning spiral. The pastor-teacher communicates the Word; the Word is made understandable to the individual through the Holy Spirit; and at that point we have to make a decision, either positive or negative, to understand it. A decision must be made to believe it. Once it is understood it becomes gnosis [gnwsij]; once it is believed the Holy Spirit converts it to epignosis [e)pignwsij] and stores it in the heart, the kardia [kardia], which is the innermost sphere of thought. Only on the basis of learning doctrine under the teaching ministry of the Spirit of God can we orient to reality; only on the basis of taking in the Word of God that we can have a true perception of other people.
- Only friendship based on the integrity of God can be a real friendship. For an advancing believer other friendships, friendship with a carnal believer or with unbelievers, will always lack something. There will always be something missing because at the very core of his existence what matters is his relationship to God and the truth of God's Word. If that can't be shared with that other person then the most important arena of life is missing in that relationship. That relationship may be weakened or destroyed under adversity because the foundation is not the Word of God and personal love for God the Father. If we are involved in a relationship with an unbeliever or a carnal believer, where is their love and friendship coming from? It can only come from one place, and that is, their area of strength and human good. This is why an unbeliever and a carnal believer can only produce a pseudo friendship.
- For love toward others, whether it is romantic love or friendship love, to function consistently and accurately it must be based on reality. Only Bible doctrine provides a framework for reality. It is only on the basis of doctrine that there can be real and genuine love. This is why John says he loves by means of the truth.
- Under doctrine we learn that we are all sinners, all fallible, all flawed. No matter how fallible or flawed the object of our love may be only a love based on the character, the integrity of God, can overcome those flaws. It is not by denying them but by accepting them in terms of reality.
- Therefore, genuine love of any category must be based on doctrine and the filling of God the Holy Spirit; otherwise that love is doomed to failure. So John says: "to the beloved Gaius, whom I love by means of the truth." Truth is the embodiment of doctrine, it is the absolute revealed by God in the Scriptures, and is the foundation for handling every single situation in life.