The Commendation of Demetrius
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The Commendation of Demetrius

3 John 1:9–14  (ID: 2644)

In contrast to those whose lifestyle undermines their profession of faith, the apostle John wrote of a man named Demetrius, who lived out the Gospel of Christ. Within the framework of the good news of the Gospel, Alistair Begg reminds us that good deeds are an expression of the Gospel at work. Friendship with Christ brings the blessing of peace as He leads us to walk in truth.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 2 and 3 John

Walking in the Truth 2 John 1:1–13, 3 John 1:1–14 Series ID: 16301

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to 3 John. And since it’s a few weeks since we read this together, I’m going to read the entire letter again. It’s not long—it’s just some thirteen verses—but it helps us to set context for our study.

Three John, and beginning at verse 1:

“The elder,

“To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

“Dear friend, you[’re] faithful in what you[’re] doing for the brothers, even though they[’re] strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.

“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

“Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”

Father, we pray now for your help as we study the Bible, that you will come and meet with us, so that beyond the voice of a mere man we might hear the very voice of God as the Scripture is illumined to us and as our hearts are made ready to receive its truth. Accomplish the purposes that you have for us in this hour, O God, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, in studying these, the two shortest letters of the New Testament—and arguably the most neglected of all the New Testament letters—we have, I hope, been making a number of important discoveries. Not the least of all is that as John addresses this fledgling congregation in the early church, it becomes apparent that his concern for them, two thousand or more years ago from now, is really nothing other than the concern that is in the heart of every pastor for their congregation at all points in history.

People ask me from time to time—in fact, routinely they ask me—“And what are you preaching on now at Parkside?” And just in the last few weeks, when I said, “Well, I’m doing a series in 2 and 3 John”—just met by a blank stare in almost every instance, and the sort of unspoken reply from their eyes being “Why would you ever do that? I mean, what has 2 and 3 John got to say to anybody at all?” People are scrambling, looking in their Bibles to see if there even is a 2 and 3 John. And it can be very unsettling for me, because I look around, and I see that so many of the series have to do with Five Ways to Deal with Your Teenage Children, and Seven Ways to Live with Your Husband, Nine Ways to Financial Freedom, Fifteen Ways to—you know, whatever it might be—all of these things being important. And here I am: 3 John.

What was John’s concern? My concern for you: that this congregation—those who profess to follow Jesus—would be those who are “walking in the truth” and living in love. “Walking in the truth” and living in love. For these things clearly are foundational, despite the contemporary circumstances that press in upon the congregation in any day and generation. Things are vastly different, obviously, from the environment to which John wrote this letter, and yet the hearts of men and women remain the same: opposed to God by nature, indifferent to the claims of Jesus, championing their own agendas, and resisting, often, that which is pressed upon them concerning the truth of the Bible. And even those who profess to follow Jesus: in danger of wandering away, finding our hearts to be stony, in danger of becoming like those whose personal concerns matter more than what the Bible has to say. Before you know where you are, you’re convinced all over again that “3 John will do nicely, thank you very much.”

Because if the church is not to lose its voice in this generation, as David Wells has reminded us, it must be clear concerning the fact, first, that “Christianity is about truth”—the truth revealed in the Bible, the truth ultimately revealed in the person and work of Jesus; that it is convinced concerning the fact that Christianity is about truth, and secondly, that those who proclaim themselves to be Christians will be modeling this truth by a life of integrity;[1] that it will not do simply to be those who are the affirmers of certain propositions, those who are simply giving affirmation to creedal statements, but rather that those creeds—that the credentials, if you like, of Christianity—will then be worked out in the realm of dealing with our adolescent children, in the realm of learning what it is to love our spouse, in the realm of dealing with the practicalities of the privileges and responsibility of finance and the opportunities that the finance brings to us to minister to the needs who are less fortunate than ourselves. In other words, if we stay with what the Bible has to say concerning the essentials, we will discover sooner rather than later that it intersects with every practical arena of our lives—even the things that we may feel to be totally unrelated to that which we’re studying.

So, it has been, in studying these two letters together, our humble expectation that our minds will become increasingly devoted to the truth and that our hearts might glow with Christian love. That’s really the test. Is my mind being stirred by the truth? Am I laying hold of it, understanding it? And is my heart increasingly seasoned by the love of which the truth speaks?

Three Red Marks against Diotrephes

Now, in addressing this letter to Gaius—and you will see that it is a personal letter to an individual called Gaius in verse 1—John has found it necessary not only to affirm what Gaius is doing but also to call attention to the activities of two individuals who were represented in this local church.

If we stay with what the Bible has to say concerning the essentials, we will discover sooner rather than later that it intersects with every practical arena of our lives.

The first of these we considered last time: this individual by the name of Diotrephes. You find him there in verse 9. Sadly, the reason that Diotrephes gets a mention is because of his bad attitude and his poor actions. It isn’t simply that his activities have an effect on other people, but it is that his activities provide some kind of evidence of where this man is in relationship to what it means to follow Jesus and to obey his commands. He is obviously an aggressive member of this congregation, he clearly has a forceful personality, and by dint of that combination, he is able to hold other people in the sway of his own opinion. And on account of that, he is given, as it were, three red marks by John in this letter.

Depending on where you grew up and how old you are, you may understand getting three red marks. I grew up in the era where you presented your material in what we called a “jotter,” or a booklet, and the teacher took it out, and you agonized to see what it would look like when it came back. And what you didn’t want to see were red marks, because they were usually crosses, and they indicated the fact that something had gone wrong.

Well, here you have these three marks. We’ve noted them, mentioned them in passing—not to go back through them. You will see them there in verse 10. Number one bad mark: he slandered John. Notice: “I will call attention to what he[’s] doing, gossiping maliciously about us.” That is slander. Instead of that which was commendable, that which was encouraging, that which was profitable, that which was of good report[2] coming out of this man’s mouth, no, he was a slanderer. Secondly, he gave a cold shoulder to the missionaries. Instead of welcoming them in a warm embrace, as Gaius had done, this character gave them the cold shoulder. Thirdly, he excommunicated the loyal believers. Three red marks against him. Not a good example to follow.

And that, surely, is the significance of verse 11, where John says, “Dear friend”—that is, Gaius—“come on now, Gaius, don’t imitate what is evil.” And I think the inference is “Don’t do what Diotrephes has been doing, but instead imitate what is good. And then I’m going to give you an example of someone who is doing good—namely, this gentleman by the name of Demetrius.”

So, last time, we considered what we referenced as “The Condemnation of Diotrephes” in quite a hard and striking study, and we come now to our final study, which concerns “The Commendation of Demetrius.” And instead of three black marks, or red marks, he gets three gold stars. We used to get stars. They were actually sticky, and they would stick them there, and if you got the stars, it was terrific—especially gold. We had gold and silver. Silver were good; gold was terrific. And here you will find that Demetrius has these three gold stars. And you’ll find them there in verse 12.

Those Who Do Good and Those Who Do Evil

But before 12, we need to tackle, just for a moment, the balance of verse 11: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.” And then, notice, he goes on to say, “Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” This is a characteristic way of writing on John’s part. And if you have followed him—not only in 2 John but also in 1 John—you will recognize this to be the case. And in order to make this point and to clear things up in our minds, I encourage you to turn back two pages to 1 John 3:16.

It’s interesting that it is 1 John 3:16. John 3:16, from his Gospel, is perhaps the best-known verse in the whole Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believe[s] in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”[3] In the Gospel, John was writing concerning the truth so that people might come to believe that Jesus is the person he has claimed to be and that, by believing, they might have life in his name.[4] So his Gospel is a continual presentation of evidence—you got the signs and words of Jesus—so that on the basis of the evidence, the people might come to believe and, in believing, they might discover life in his name. So John is very, very clear that the way to know God, the way to see God, is through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, in coming to know him as a Friend and as a Savior.

When he writes his letters, he’s not writing now to commend belief to people, but he is writing now to those who have professed belief in Jesus to say to them, “Here, then, are the evidences of believing faith as worked out in an individual’s life.” And in 1 John, he says the person who truly believes is obedient to the commands of Jesus,[5] the person who truly believes loves as Jesus loves,[6] and so on. And so it is that in verse 16 he says, “This is how we know what love is.” This is actually a recurring phrase by John, and he comes to it again and again. In fact, in 4:9—sorry to digress—but in 4:9, he says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son.” Here in 3:16, he’s doing the same thing: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” He was not simply an example to us, but he was actually making a sacrifice for sin. He was bearing the punishment that we, as sinners, deserve, so that he was covered in shame in order that we might be covered in glory. He bears the darkness of the Father’s condemnation in order that we might, in Christ, enjoy all the light of fellowship with him. And so he says—16b—“We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Here’s the pattern: Jesus lays down his life for us; we profess to be the followers of Jesus; then we do as he has done.

And then he says, “[Let me give you an illustration of it. For example,] if anyone has material possessions”—which pretty well covers the entire congregation right now—“if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”[7] In other words, he says there’s an inherent logic in this. Here we have somebody who has discovered, they say, that “God is love”[8] and that that love has been expressed in the giving and the self-sacrificing of Jesus—and now, having entered into the benefits of that and enjoying the privileges of material possessions, I now look on those who are in need, and I don’t even care. It’s like, “Well, hey, what did you do? What’s your deal?” How can the love of God be in him?

“Dear children,” he says, advancing the ball up the field, “let us not love with words or tongue”—“words or tongue”—“but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”[9] In other words, says John, “Come on, now! Become what you are! Become what you are! Look at what you have become in Jesus. Now become what you are! You are this. Now be what you are!” Ethics is “Become what you’re not.” Self-discovery is, you know, “Look inside yourself, and find the answers.” Christianity is “Resting in all that Jesus has accomplished and all that he provides, live out the life of Jesus in practical ways.” And so it is that Diotrephes calls in question the very profession from his lips. And Demetrius, as we see, commends the gospel of Christ.

Three Gold Stars for Demetrius

Well, look at the three gold stars, just briefly.

First of all, no one has anything bad to say about him: “Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone.” “Well,” said somebody, “but I read in the Bible that you ought to be alarmed if all speak well of you.”[10] It does say that in the Bible. “Aha! A contradiction!” says somebody. “Over there it says, “Be alarmed if all speak well of you,’ and now Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone. Therefore, although you say it’s a commendation, you should really be alarmed.”

Well, context means everything, doesn’t it? What is Jesus talking about when he says you should be concerned that all would speak well of you? When, on the basis of a compromised testimony, you simply align yourself with whatever the prevailing notion is at the time, so that you want the affirmation of men more than the affirmation of God. And when you get the affirmation of men, no matter who they are or what they believe, then that ought to be a cause for concern.

What he’s talking about here is within the framework of Christian living. He’s talking about “Here’s a really nice guy in the church.” When you say “Diotrephes,” people go, “Oh, wait a minute!” When you say “Demetrius,” they go, “Oh, we love Demetrius! He’s a great guy.” It’s a bit like what Luke says concerning Barnabas—that when we meet him in the Acts of the Apostles, succinctly, “he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and [of] faith.”[11] Three gold stars: good, filled up with God, and full of faith. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

Does it matter what people say about us? Well, in some measure, yes. Therefore, we ought to labor so to lower the topsail of our arrogance and our own agendas that brooks no rivals and refuses to be on the receiving end of guidance from others—to recognize that we’ve been given two ears and one mouth so that we may hear more and say less. Because, you see, at the end of day—and that may be sooner than any of us realize, our own individual day—people will not remember for long human eloquence. They won’t remember for long mental brilliance. They’ll remember other things. And I guarantee you they will remember goodness. Goodness.

Sue and I just visited the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, which was a day well spent and one to which I’ve looked forward for a long time. And in the midst of it all, and the pieces of the Berlin Wall and every other aspect of things, I think one would be forced to conclude that there was about this particular president an almost compelling sense of goodness—of goodness—right down to the jelly beans on the desk of the Oval Office.

In my barber’s yesterday, I noticed that there was a sign that said, “Here in Tony’s, you get a great welcome, a good haircut, and good lollipops.” And I thought, “You know, how nice is that?” There’ll be children growing to manhood and beyond, and on the day that wee Tony is long gone, they’ll say, “I remember that man. He was always so nice to me—always gave me a lollipop.”

“So what’s your legacy, sir? What do you think you’ll be remembered for?”

“I think I’ll be remembered for my lollipops.”

Do you think it counts? Yeah, of course it counts!

Mr. Blair was ninety-four years old when I met him in the Tor Nursing Home in Corstorphine on the road that leads to the heart of Edinburgh. On the day that I went to see him initially, he wasn’t there. I’d been dispatched to make a visit to this elderly member of our congregation. And as I went around the home in his absence, seeking to make myself useful, given that it was a sort of redundant visit, I would greet different people in the home—a lady at a table, and another man in a wheelchair, and so on. And I just introduced myself: “Hello, my name is Alistair. I’m from the church in the center of the city, and I had come to visit one of our congregation, but he’s not here.”

“Who is that?”

“I came to see Mr. Blair.”

And without exception, everyone said the same thing, in one way or another. They said, “Oh, Mr. Blair—he’s a good man. Mr. Blair is a good man.”

Isn’t it very strange, when you read the history of evangelicalism, that evangelicalism at some points along the journey referred to people as “do-gooders” in a disdainful way? You know: “Well, they’re just do-gooders.”


“Yeah, they’re just do-gooders, you know?”

Yeah? Aren’t we supposed to do good? Isn’t the Christian to be “eager to do good”?[12] That you would “teach these things”[13] to people so that they will be eager to do good? We can’t set this up as an antithesis: “You can either be a Bible-believing Christian, or you can go out and do good. Make your choice.” You know? Good for nothing with a head full of information, or good with no information. No. It’s completely bogus. Good news of the gospel; good deeds as an expression of the gospel at work. Diotrephes got it wrong; Demetrius got it right.

Gold star number two: the facts confirm this assessment. “Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” “Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself.” In other words, what you see is what you get. The integrity of his life was such that even without the testimony of others, genuineness was self-evident. The truth he professed was embodied in him, so closely did his life conform to it.

People will not remember for long human eloquence. They won’t remember for long mental brilliance. They’ll remember other things. And I guarantee you they will remember goodness.

There’s a tremendous challenge in this, isn’t there—that without people actually having to say anything, there was a commendable dimension that exuded from the life of Demetrius? He was it, if you like: “Demetrius is a good man. Demetrius walks in the truth. Demetrius lives a life of love.”

And the third gold star has to do with the fact that John and his companions are able to affirm that this is the case: “We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.” John might equally well have said, “And I testify to this as well.” Peterson paraphrases it, “We concur, and you know we don’t hand out endorsements lightly.”[14] In other words, John says, “We are able to say the same thing.”

Now, I think that probably what is going on here says more about the notion of truthfulness than it actually even does about Demetrius’s testimony. Now, let me just explain to you what I mean by that. “We also speak well of him, and you know that”—what?—“our testimony is true.” This is a very Johannine statement. If you know your Bible, you will know that he begins 1 John in this very way. Listen to how he begins his first letter: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”[15] In other words, he says, “We bear true testimony. We are asking you to walk in the truth. We rejoice when our spiritual children walk in the truth. And therefore, it is imperative that you understand that our testimony is true.”

Remember, there were all kinds of characters going around in the first century who were false prophets and false messiahs. They were false Christs. They were phenomenally eloquent. They had gathered crowds after them. And the early, first-century church was in danger of capitulating to the stories told by these individuals. Indeed, when Paul writes his last letter to Timothy, he says to him, “You must be on your guard, Timothy. You must guard the good deposit of the gospel.[16] You must preach it clearly. You must understand it properly. You must live it rightly.” Why? Because “the time will come when men [and women] will not put up with sound doctrine,” but “they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn … away from the truth and turn aside to myths”[17]—to myths, to mythologies.

And as a member of the Parkside congregation, your uttermost concern must be “Are we dealing in the realm of truth? Are we here listening to pastors whose heads are full of air, or they have agendas that are somehow or another to manipulate the Scriptures to their own ends? Or are they the servants of this truth? Are they seeking, with the enabling of God the Spirit, to understand the truth, to be increasingly conformed to the truth, and to see that we walk in the truth?” That is a genuine concern, and it ought to be an ongoing concern, for it is my concern—for myself as well as for my colleagues. “And … our testimony is true.”

When Peter writes in 2 Peter, which is just a page or two back, he says the same thing. I think it’s 2 Peter 1:16: “We did[n’t] follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” You see where the authority lay. They didn’t have an invention. They didn’t come up with a scheme or a dream. They were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus. The Spirit of God enabled them, as humans, in light of their own personalities, their own capacities, to write down the truth which they had personally encountered. That truth is now inscripturated. It is in the Bible. Therein lies the inherent authority of the Bible. It is not a man-made invention. It is not a collection of nonsense or mythologies. John says. In fact, when he ends his Gospel, he does the very same thing, doesn’t he? Well, I’ll just check and make sure he does, but I’m pretty sure he does. At the end of John, in 21. Yes, verse 24. John 21:24: “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.” Here we go: “We know … his testimony is true.” “We know … his testimony is true.”

So, you see, when we’re being confronted by the opportunity to walk in the truth, we’re not talking about “truth” like a Plasticine nose on the front of a man-made creation that can be twisted into any shape we fancy. We’re talking about truth as it has been revealed to us in the Scriptures, so that men who were moved by the Spirit of God spoke and wrote as God gave them utterance. And that is why, loved ones, we read the Bible, we pay such close attention to the Bible, and we seek to submit to its truth even when it’s painful—even when it is countercultural. Why would we have a view of morality that is different from Jesus’ view of morality? We can’t! Why would we have a view of marriage that would deviate from the Bible’s view of marriage? We can’t!

Now, we’re there, by dint of various deviations from the phrase “Our testimony is true.” You see, if you think about us walking in the truth and telling the truth to our neighbors, our neighbors at so many points will say, “Well, where do you come up with that? How could you possibly say that? Why would you believe that?” And our only answer can be “In the Scriptures.” Here is our sole authority. Our sole authority.

And John says, “We’re able to say that Demetrius is all of these things, and our testimony is true.”

A Fond Farewell

Well, let’s just say a word about farewell, because he ends with a fond farewell. Thirteen: “I have much to write to you. I don’t want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon and talk to you face-to-face.”

If you’ve ever written letters to people over a long distance, then you know just what that means: “It’s okay to write it down, but I want to come and see you face-to-face. I can’t say it adequately. I can’t say all the good things I want to say properly, because I’m limited by language. And if there are bad things that I have to write, I would rather say them to your face than write them down.”

And probably that’s it here, don’t you think? “There’s more,” he says, “about this than can be written down on one sheet of papyrus. I think the matter would be better served if I look you in the eye so that you can grasp things better when I speak in person.” And there is a lot to this, isn’t there? Because putting things down on a sheet of paper is very hard. To write clearly is a gift to be mastered—not something to convey information but to be able to convey a sense of the emotion and the empathetic dimension of what is contained in those words. That’s why literature, and great literature, is so immense that it can move you. How can a sentence move you? How can you read something—just bits, these characters on a white sheet of paper—and it makes tears come from your eyes? How could that happen?

And when it happens for good, it’s wonderful. When it happens for ill, it’s painful. And may I just say a word in passing to those of you—the very few of you—who have, over the last long time, written me letters telling me things that you thought were important for me to know? And I’m sure they were. Sometimes not very commendatory letters. And I’ve made you even angrier by the reply that you got from me, because you wrote me a four-page letter, and you got a two-line reply. And you said to yourself, “See, he is an ignorant peasant. Only somebody as horrible and as arrogant as that would take all my endeavors of four solid pages and write two sentences back.” No, it wasn’t dismissive; it was purposeful. I don’t want to leave behind a paper chase of letters that you can unearth or your children can unearth and say, “Pastor Begg wrote that to me?” or “wrote that to you?” That’s why I’d rather talk to you face-to-face: because then you can see my body language. Then you can see my eyes. But I’m not so good at writing. Therefore, I’d rather say it face-to-face—especially if it’s bad. But when it’s good, I write to you. Oh, yes, I write you illegible scribbles. Those of you who have them don’t know whether to take them to the pharmacy and try and get medication with them or just entirely what to do with them. Trust me, you can keep them.

I think there’s something of that in John here: “I have much more I could write, but I’m not going to write. I don’t want to say any more than is necessary about Diotrephes. I’ve said plenty. You understand the circumstances; they’re not right. But let me just say one word to you: shalom.” Shalom. “Peace to you.” That’s what they needed. That’s what Gaius needed. He needed peace. John remembered how, when Jesus appeared on the day of resurrection, when he came back in amongst them, he had only one word for them, and the word was “shalom.” It’s a wonderful little progression of thought in John chapter 20: “And on the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together,” and so on, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Shalom!’ And they saw the Lord, and they were overjoyed. And again Jesus said, ‘Shalom!’ And Thomas, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples, and they said, ‘We’ve seen the Lord.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m not going to do that. I don’t believe you until I can put my hands into the nail marks,’” and so on. “And a week later, his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. And though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Shalom!’”[18] “Peace.” “Peace.” Well, you’ve got a character like Diotrephes throwing his weight around, and your name is Gaius: to be reminded of peace, to receive a blessing of peace, is a great blessing.

Now, just a word to notice the final two sentences: “The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.” In other words, the greetings go two ways. We are on the receiving end, and we are on the giving end. Friendship matters, doesn’t it? It mattered a great deal to Paul. That’s why he says to Timothy, “Timothy, try and get here before the winter. I’d love to see you.”[19] In Acts chapter 27, on the voyage, Julius, the kind man who’s responsible for all of the soldiers who are in captivity, he showed his kindness to Paul by “allow[ing] him to go to his friends so [that] they might provide for his needs.”[20] A genuine greeting or a generic greeting would be welcome, but to be remembered by name would be such an encouragement, because friendship matters.

There’s a reason why certain songs span time—all kinds of reasons for different songs. But there’s surely a reason why this song continues to play hundreds of times a day on radio stations all across America. Because it begins,

When you’re down and troubled
And you need a helping hand,
And nothing, [no], nothing is going right,
[Just] close your eyes and think of me,
And soon I[’ll] be there
To brighten up even your darkest [night].

You just call out my name,
And you know wherever I am,
I’ll come running. …

Hey, ain’t it good to know
That you’ve got a friend?
People can be so cold.
They’ll hurt you
And desert you.
… They’ll take your soul
If you let them.
[Well now,] don’t you let them.

You just call out my name.[21]

That is actually the message of Jesus to his church. When you feel yourself to be friendless, he is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”[22] And when we have been less than friendly and the Evil One accuses us, our only solace is to be found in the fact that Jesus is a friend for sinners.[23] And so I turn to him, and so do you. Because he’s the one, as a shepherd, who calls us by name, and he leads us out,[24] and he leads us in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.[25] In other words, he leads us in such a way so as to find us walking in the truth.

Father, for the clarity of your Word we thank you; for the gift of your Spirit we bless your name—for the fact that Jesus Christ experienced all of the dispeace of Calvary in order that we might have peace with God. Forgive us when our lives look more like Diotrephes than Demetrius. Come and stir us up so that our hearts may glow with Christian love, so that our minds may be fed and submitted to Christian truth. And we thank you most of all for the friendship that is ours in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. And in his name we pray. Amen.

[1] David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 92.

[2] See Philippians 4:8.

[3] John 3:16 (KJV).

[4] See John 20:31.

[5] See 1 John 5:1–2.

[6] See 1 John 4:19.

[7] 1 John 3:17 (NIV 1984).

[8] 1 John 4:8, 16 (NIV 1984).

[9] 1 John 3:18–20 (NIV 1984).

[10] See Luke 6:26.

[11] Acts 11:24 (NIV 1984).

[12] 1 Peter 3:13 (NIV 1984). See also Titus 2:14.

[13] 1 Timothy 4:11 (NIV 1984).

[14] 3 John 12 (MSG).

[15] 1 John 1:1 (NIV 1984).

[16] 2 Timothy 1:14 (paraphrased).

[17] 2 Timothy 4:3–4 (NIV 1984).

[18] John 20:19–21, 24–26 (paraphrased).

[19] 2 Timothy 4:21 (paraphrased). See also 2 Timothy 1:4.

[20] Acts 27:3 (NIV 1984).

[21] Carole King, “You’ve Got a Friend” (1971), as adapted by James Taylor.

[22] Proverbs 18:24 (NIV 1984).

[23] See Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34.

[24] See John 10:3.

[25] See Psalm 23:3.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.