By: Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Third John 1.2-4
Note to the Reader
This week, we continue our examination of Third John, as such I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of Third John in conjunction with this article.
The Power of a Testimony
What do you think of when you hear the word testimony? It seems probable that the immediate thought is that of one under oath giving their testimony in a court of law. But the word encompasses so much more than just what is said under oath. So as we look at Third John, this week we are going to consider the power of a testimony.
Consider some of the things we hear every day. We hear lots of information. We hear the weather report. We hear the traffic report. We hear local, state, and national political reports. We hear reports about the commodities markets. Yet we also hear reports about our community, from those who have passed away to those who are in conflict with the authorities. But we also hear reports through various people that we know, take for example a friend of a friend who knows someone that (insert situation here); however, these reports are referred to as rumors and gossip. The point is that we hear many kinds of reports, many testimonies, every day.
The interesting reality is that we filter each and every testimony we hear. As we have experienced life, we have constructed an internal mechanism that assists us in determining whether we trust or distrust any given testimony. Such can be demonstrated by one simple scenario. If one of my associates gives me a report involving someone I doubt, after I have heard what my associate said, I would respond with, “Yeah, but take what they said with a grain of salt.” The truth is we don’t readily accept everything we hear. Each testimony we hear we weigh against our established reality, our experience.
Generally speaking, we respond in one of three ways to any report we hear. One, some reports we dismiss because the information did not come from a good authority. Two, some reports we accept, but only with a grain of salt, until someone we trust can verify the report. Third, we fully accept the report as true because we have placed trust in the one who gave the report because they have proven themselves to be truthful.
A testimony has value. But the one who gives the testimony has just as much, perhaps even more, value. This is so because the one giving the testimony is either a person we completely trust, a person we somewhat trust, or a person we distrust. Consequently, our trust in the message corresponds to the level of trust we have in the messenger. This can be seen in how John speaks about the things he heard about Gaius.
Testimony about Gaius
When it comes to the Apostle John, we believers accept what he says as true. Some of the things he said may be difficult to process or to understand with regard to how it fits into God’s plan, but nonetheless we accept what he said as true. So when Gaius read the following words from John, John’s words and the content of those words must have been very powerful:
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.1
From this statement, we can tell Gaius meant a lot to John and John has a desire for Gaius to find physical and spiritual prosperity. But it is the testimony that others gave about Gaius that really impressed John. John told Gaius that the greatest joy John could ever have was to learn that Gaius remained faithful to truth.
From this passage, we learn that John did not have to witness Gaius firsthand in order to believe in Gaius. John believed in Gaius because of the testimony that other disciples of Jesus gave about Gaius. The disciples who had seen Gaius saw in him two things. One, the disciples testified of the truth that was within Gaius; this seems to mean that Gaius in his thinking, in his meditations, in his spiritualness was influenced and molded by the truth of the Gospel. Second, the disciples testified that Gaius walked in truth; this seems to mean that Gaius used his resources (from his finances to his property to his own person) to help other people, as evidenced in verses five through eight.
Whether or not Gaius knew prior to John’s letter that disciples were spreading the news about him is uncertain. But we can be certain that once he received John’s letter he knew that who he was and what he was doing was making an impact to fellow disciples. We cannot know whether or not learning this information unnerved Gaius. Nor can we know whether or not learning this information caused Gaius to change his actions. But just from personal experience, if I was Gaius and I was unaware of disciples talking about me, how could I be bothered? But if I learned from such a well-known church leader, like John, that the church was talking about me, it seems proper to conclude that such news would cause me to pause and contemplate.
It is not possible to know the testimony that other people will give about us. When you and I live our individual lives, we operate in our own world and sometimes the world of other people intersects ours. Once they leave our sphere, it is up to them to speak hurtful or helpful testimonies about us. But one thing is certain, as disciples we are expected to be doing helpful things. If we, in good conscience, are doing helpful things, then other disciples will see those good things and hopefully they will speak good tidings about us. May the LORD bless us as we seek to “walk in the truth”.2