“Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.” ~ 3 John 12
Explanation of the Text: Coming to verse 12 in our reading of 3 John we are compelled to stop and ask, “Who is Demetrius and why does John write of him now?” To that question there is only one answer: We don’t know who Demetrius is. It was a common name of the day and so to pinpoint exactly who he is would not profit anything except pure speculation.
Understanding the culture of the day, we know that it was common for people to write letters to others and have them sent with a known confidant. We see this with Paul as he sends letters with those whom he trusts and are known by the church. Because we know that the churches functioned this way, some have posited that Demetrius may have been working with John and been the courier of this particular letter. Because Demetrius was not known to the church, John would have had to vouch for Demetrius to the other believers.
This is not unlike our understanding of both 2 and 3 John in terms of showing hospitality to those who are doing the work of God. Uncertain who these traveling ministers were, it is easy to understand why members would have been uncertain about opening their homes to those working in ministry. Therefore it was not uncommon for them to have a letter from someone in authority attesting to their validity, authority, and testimony. It is the same concept that commentators are relying upon here when suggesting that Demetrius was the deliverer of the letter and John was verifying who he is.
This is a reasonable assumption to make and one cannot be faulted for thinking this to be the case. However, it is also nothing so concrete that one can stand on a firm foundation. The truth is, it is likely we know at least the position and function of Demetrius here, without knowing who he is, but we cannot say with absolute certainty.
Examination & Application of the Text: Demetrius comes bearing the testimony of who he is from others. In fact attestation of a good testimony is threefold:
- First from ‘everyone.’ That is to say that among those who know him, there is not a bad report to be found.
- Second from the truth. It is uncertain as to exactly what this means. It is likely though that Demetrius’ testimony can be measured against what is known to be true (i.e. God and His Word) and in that measurement, Demetrius does not contradict that truth.
- Finally, from John and his group of believers. This is perhaps the strongest testimony of all, at least in these circumstances because Gaius certainly knows John on an intimate level and thus trusts him. Of all the testimonies given, it is the one from John that Gais us is able to know first hand at that particular moment.
The testimony of Demetrius then, stands in stark contrast to that of Diotrephes.
In a quick examination of this verse, what we see is a man with an impeccable reputation. It is a reputation that is so pristine that it reflects Christ to those whom he comes in contact with. Think of the impact this can have for the glory of God.
Certainly there is a high standard set upon Christians and certainly there are times we fail. The expectation though is that even in those failures we can be rightly reconciled and still bring glory to God. The understanding though is that God has called us to a high calling, one that is only achieved through a complete reliance upon Him.
We see from Demetrius then, not only has he kept a good testimony, but we also see the importance of maintaining it. It is a point that we must not forget. As we call ourselves Christians, everything we do then carries an impact. It is an impact that can be either positive or negative. Therefore, every action, every reaction that we take must be done with due consideration of how it will reflect Christ to others and encourage them in their relationship to Him (or how it will draw them to a relationship with Him).