THE DEMETRIUS SPIRIT
Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself (3rd John v12)
This letter written by John is a very personal message to a leader within the Church, one whom the Apostle describes as the well-beloved Gaius.
There are three people mentioned in this little letter, each one presenting lessons to us in the 21st Century Church: Gaius, Diotrophes and Demetrius.
While being the one about whom John has the least to say Demetrius represents those quiet people in the church who are the encouragers. Gaius’ and the church were enriched by the Demetrius effect. His is the spirit who will bring blessing to every local assembly of believers.
1: The Antithesis with the Demetrius Spirit
John commends Demetrius because he was everything that Diotrophes was not.
It seems that John’s core purpose in writing to Gaius was because of the problems that Diotrophes, another Church leader was generating. In teaching Gaius not to be taken in by Diotrophes’ swagger and belligerence he presented Demetrius as a good example, one who was the polar opposite of this rather divisive spirit. Therefore by examining Diotrophes we learn about Demetrius and the kind of man he was.
Diotrophes was a proud man who loved to have the preeminence (v9). Therefore the Demetrius spirit is one of humility, the spirit which puts Christ and His people before self.
Diotrophes was a rebellious man refusing the fellowship and leadership of John the apostle ordained by God (v9). The Demetrius spirit is one of gentle submission.
Diotrophes was an angry man who is remembered for his malicious words and deeds (v10). Therefore Demetrius is characterised as one who controlled his feelings, kept his words in check and who acted always with a spirit of grace.
Diotrophes was an accusing man who who used “prating” words. The Greek word means to gossip and comes from a root which means bubbles, that which which appears for a moment and is without substance. Demetrius by contrast never gossiped and if he had an accusation it was brought properly and with good evidence.
Diotrophes was a cruel man casting out of the church those who did not agree with his attitude. The Demetrius spirit recognises the church as the flock of God and is most careful and selfless in the care of the work.
2: The Attraction in the Demetrius Spirit
John commends Demtrius to Gaius in order to encourage this dear man of God who was, no doubt disheartened by the actions of Diotrophes.
It is so easy and natural to have our eyes fixed on that which discourages but the Lord directs our gaze to those with the spirit that commends, forgives, loves, helps and encourages.
Let us today thank God for the Demetrius spirit in the Church, seek the company of those who are adorned with the precious ornaments of grace.
3: The Acknowledgment of the Demetrius Spirit
Demetrius is acknowledged by John because he had a “good report of all men”. Knowing human nature as we do, we imagine that Diotrophes was as belligerent at home and in business as he was in the church. This was the outworking of a spirit that was not under the control of grace. But Demetrius by way of contrast was recognised not just within the church but by society generally as a man of God.
It is this spirit which attracts the world to Christ, which makes the local congregation a welcoming place and which honours the Lord.
4: The Allegiance by the Demetrius Spirit
Demetrius was also commended for bearing good testimony to the truth itself (v12). Although this man was good, kind and merciful he was not a weak man who turned a blind eye to sin and false doctrine.
He had acquired that rare and blessed characteristic of balancing truth with love, of hating sin and yet displaying compassion towards the sinner, of not being afraid of controversy should the circumstances require it but yet avoiding needless division.
The Demetrius spirit is motivated by the truth of God but maintains the happy balance of keeping all elements of God’s Word in proportion.
This is the spirit we long for within the Church of Christ.
It is easy to be so preoccupied by one element of truth that we elevate that to the detriment of other aspects and in so doing we lose the sense of balance that the situation demands. I have no doubt that Diotrophes thought that he was faithful and it could be that some of his accusations had some basis in reality but he was not balanced in terms of proper Church government and he certainly did not consider the spirit of grace and humility that is so necessary in Christian witness.
The Diotrophes spirit is never far away. In truth we struggle against it every day. John himself once had this spirit as he demanded fire from heaven to be poured out on the Samaritan villages that rejected Christ. For this he was nicknamed along with his brother James – The Sons of Thunder.
The early Christians were plagued by this spirit as the Jewish elements attempted to dominate and discourage the new Gentile converts. Even Peter was carried away by this spirit which necessitated Paul withstanding his brother to the face (must have been a rather interesting meeting between two spiritual giants).
In the case of John and Peter, however, they learned the lessons well as they went forth to preach the Gospel of grace to a perishing world. John is remarkable, one who naturally had a spirit of fire and passion that was so curbed and bridled by the grace of God that he is renowned today as the Apostle of Love.
Did Diotrophes learn, did he change? – of that we are in ignorance BUT yet the happy story is this, God’s grace does bring real change – the Dioptrophes can become a Demetrius.
In truth Diotrophes represents that which we all struggle against within ourselves. The spirit which judges which accuses, which condemns and which harbours bitterness. It is the spirit of the old man, the carnal nature.
But Demetrius represents a life under the control of God and His grace. His is a life of faithfulness devoted to honour of God and the good of his people.
Let us pray for the Demetrius spirit today.