Kingdom Culture: A Look at John’s Cultural Oversight

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[Note: We pick up with 3 John 5-12, (Message and Amplified versions), for exegesis and application to Kingdom Culture.]

Introduction

Kingdom culture has principles, processes, and protocols. These are to a corporate body what behavior is to an individual. Apostle John makes this entirely clear in this epistle.

  1. Apostles have oversight for kingdom culture and personal behaviors within the kingdom, which they present to the Ecclesia for consideration, consensus, and confrontation; “The oversight elder” writes to the kingdom Ecclesia by addressing the leader with oversight authority;
  2. Apostolic oversight derives its information both from reporting and revelation; “For I was greatly pleased when [some of the] brothers came [from time to time] and testified to your [faithfulness to the] truth [of the gospel message], that is, how you are walking in Truth” – an apparent reference to living the culture of the kingdom of God;
  3. Apostolic leadership is an understood oversight context for all administration, including all five of the kingdom leadership dynamics; John has appropriate oversight with Gaius because Gaius is a spiritual son ( See verse 4); we should assume that Gaius is not an apostle but a kingdom leader in the fivefold eldering position.

This letter instructs a spiritual son in apostolic oversight and kingdom culture principles, processes, and protocols.

5 “Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.”

  1. Faith becomes visible in behavior; faith works, behaves, and follows rules for what is right and good because faith has consequences; what you believe manifests in action, habits, attitudes, and philosophy of life;
  2. Faith recognizes other believers even when unknown; that is, faith is more than “I believe:” faith is participation in what kingdom citizens believe; it is a personal belief held strongly internal that must be contextualized in kingdom culture;
  3. Faith is hospitality in action; faith acts when other believers are present because shared faith means shared passion, responsibility, and sacrifice; it is not a community but a culture that identifies faithful kingdom citizens.

5 “They’ve made a full report back to the church here, a message about your love. It’s good work you’re doing, helping these travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God himself! They set out under the banner of the Name, and get no help from unbelievers. So they deserve any support we can give them. In providing meals and a bed, we become their companions in spreading the Truth.”

  1. Kingdom culture “love in action” prioritizes believers; love in action occurs first within the culture as a basis for both personal and corporate response to those outside the kingdom; “they get no help from unbelievers” highlights the stark contrast of cultural norms; kingdom culture produces contrast and hostility from an apparent “other than” lifestyle; it is not an “I don’t smoke and I don’t chew, and I don’t go with girls that do” mentality that marks culture; it is passion for purpose;
  2. Kingdom culture accountability for personal and corporate behaviors is a norm; “they deserve” and “we become their companions” reveal values that kingdom citizens share; John will identify the reason for rejection of these values when he confronts a leader who kicks visiting oversight leaders out when they visit;
  3. Kingdom culture recognition of separateness, uniqueness, and the “other-than” contrast of kingdom citizens with other people; this not an effort to become a subculture, but a lifestyle and culture demonstrating and manifesting the fundamentals of faith and the consequences of faith;

9-10 “Earlier I wrote something along this line to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves being in charge, denigrates my counsel. If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account for spreading vicious rumors about us.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, Diotrephes not only refuses hospitality to traveling Christians but tries to stop others from welcoming them. Worse yet, instead of inviting them in he throws them out. (Diotrephes means “nourished or fostered by Zeus.”) His problem with visiting leaders who make him and the regional Ecclesia accountable? “He strives to have the preeminence.” We would say, “This guy has to be in control.” The bottom line with Diotrephes is “I refuse to allow apostolic oversight from visiting leaders. I demand that we operate without oversight.”

  1. Kingdom culture responds to apostolic authority, accountability both personally and at the leadership level for kingdom culture values; John reveals that Diotrephes has no right or position of authority, that he authorizes himself as a spiritual bully, and he rejects all accountability from kingdom leaders;
  2. Kingdom culture reveals people who do evil because they do not behave properly; Kingdom culture values reveal a passion for purpose – “these strangers are doing kingdom work, so we welcome them;” John points back to the bad behavior of Diotrephes in contrast to the good behavior of Gaius and Demetrius; he makes clear statements about behavior and values within the kingdom culture; he is specific, practical, and insistent about what is right and what is wrong, what is good or what is evil;
  3. Kingdom culture may suffer temporary breaches, but these breaches must be identified and confronted.

11 “Friend, don’t go along with evil. Model the good. The person who does what is right does God’s work. The person who does evil falsifies God, doesn’t know the first thing about God.”

  1. Kingdom culture calls for decision-making responsibility; that is, you must take sides within the kingdom as the kingdom takes sides outside the kingdom; there is conflict within the kingdom because of immaturity, rebellion, bad or evil behavior and attitudes; kingdom culture isn’t perfected but processed through leadership oversight;
  2. Kingdom culture can be described by these words – “The person who does what is right does God’s work;” this contrasts with “the person who does evil falsifies God, doesn’t know the first thing about God;” John has a presuppositional basis for determining something “good” or “bad,” measured by behavior; within the kingdom, citizens must separate themselves from people in process who refuse to live the values of kingdom culture;
  3. Kingdom culture has citizens with immaturity, rebellion, revolution, and wolf behavior who must be confronted by leaders; John makes it clear by the announcement that he will not tolerate Diotrephes usurpations when he arrives; he also addresses this issue with an underlying concept of a regional kingdom Ecclesia.

12 “Everyone has a right word for Demetrius—the Truth itself stands up for Demetrius! We concur, and you know we don’t hand out endorsements lightly.”

  1. Kingdom culture includes, assumes, and values a report process is one of oversight accountability; John hears reports about the people in the kingdom Ecclesia; the reports come from the visiting elders who are strangers to those receiving them with honor;
  2. Part of the Ecclesia function in judicial, legislative, and administrative implementation can be measured in personal and corporate behaviors; that is, no one should be following the rebellion of Diotrephes (who is identified clearly, by name, to all who read this communication);
  3. Kingdom culture recognizes people by behavior and this part of the basis for endorsement; apostolic endorsements are not trivial; apostolic endorsements carry more weight than other approvals.

Don Lynch

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