To Mr B
I have just received your letter. I bless God with all my heart that He has strengthened you in body and soul. He is always faithful, always God; one can always count upon Him, whatever may be. His love does not change; He always thinks of us – a marvellous thing, but true – and counts the hairs of our head. It is marvellous indeed that the God of glory enters into all the details of our life, and always in view of our blessing. “He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous”, and everything contributes good to those who love Him. I ask you to greet Mrs B affectionately. May God also bless your little boy; it is a worry no doubt in this world, but a worry that God, if we confide in Him, can take, and take in fact as an occasion to prove anew His faithfulness and His goodness. May God accord to you both to be faithful and to know to look up to Him.
As to what concerns the history of St, I see it a little differently to what I have been told. Our dear brother F has told me some details of what has taken place. I do not envisage the position of these sisters as an excommunication. The assembly alone could excommunicate; but when they said to some that they do not want to come to the assembly, they were free to state their feelings and those of other people, if they authorised them to say so. I do not say it was a wise thing according to God, but they were free to express their feeling as being their feeling; if it is the flesh which has produced this feeling, it is clear that it was not according to God. But I believe that it is not [within] the competence of a brother or a sister to withdraw from the assembly and to come back at their whim. The assembly must have its word to say about this. It may be that the one who has absented themselves has committed all sorts of sins during their absence. Thus as to those who stand apart, the assembly must say if it can receive them, as also an individual who may want to return. I hope, I would like to say I have good hope that this will happen, that the assembly will be blessed and restored by grace; it will be if it walks in humility and in a spirit of dependence on grace. If grace acts in the heart of these sisters, they will judge what has been the flesh in them. It may be that N having had the habit of directing a lot, there has been a lack of spiritual know-how with him.
Your part, I am sure, is to work according to grace and to communicate to souls what God gives you for them, while nourishing your own soul. Besides, it is what is much more useful for the assembly itself. I doubt that it would be the will of God to deny a souls the Supper because they are in a bad state. The word says that one examines oneself and eats; but if I saw a soul in a state of conscience that sin would have produced and did not know what it was, I could, it seems to me, imagine the case where I could counsel the person to abstain until it was clear. However, as a general rule, one cannot exclude souls provisionally, and it would only be in a particular case that I could even give such counsel. Pastoral care is the remedy which a soul in a bad state must have, and not temporary exclusion. This care is lacking a little sometimes among the brethren, and often expedients are turned to. I think that strangers were people who were not of the locality, principally brethren and in particular the Lord’s workmen (perhaps others too), towards whom the assembly exercised hospitality. Diotrephes would not do it. You can see that the second epistle of John warns the elect lady not to receive those who did not bring sound doctrine as to the Person of Christ; the third encourages Gaius in his hospitality. I think that these are Christians in general (as approving hospitality in general – cf Heb 13: 2) because of what follows. The “who have given testimony” in v 6 applies to v 5 in general – (some read it: the brethren and even those [among them] who come from outside); vv 7 and 8 show that he had the workmen principally in view, for thus they worked together with the truth. Diotrephes did not want to receive them, desiring to have the assembly for himself, and broke the link with the apostle and all the brethren.
As to the word ‘Gentiles’ – your Diodati links these words: “are gone out” with “from among the Gentiles”. He translates thus: “They are gone out from among the Gentiles for His Name, without receiving anything”.
This translation is not received by the majority; however there are some very acceptable names that accept it. I think that John, like Peter, was still much attached to the Jewish cradle of Christianity. Thus, in 1 John 2: 2 he says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours alone, but also for the whole world”. Paul himself often speaks [thus], as in Galatians 3 and Ephesians 3, where “we” refers to the Jews, “you” to the Gentiles” and “we” afresh of Christians. I think it is more often a matter of Gentile believers than of unbelievers, but it could well be that these men had not wanted to receive anything from their parents. The apostles considered the Jews (even unbelievers) as brethren, not in the Christian sense but nationally; Paul spoke thus in his discourses. The Gentiles were only Gentiles; it could well be that Diotrephes did not want to receive workmen from among them. The workmen had to be received, and it was a title accorded to Christians of the Jewish race who had not wanted to receive anything from the Gentiles, or their parents, unbelievers or otherwise.
Farewell, beloved brother, may our good and faithful Father, full of love, be with you, encourage you and sustain you near to Him. In the enjoyment of the love of Jesus, one is always well, always encouraged.
Greet the brethren affectionately everywhere you go – may those in St cultivate peace, being tranquil and seeking above all to grow in the grace of Jesus.
Your very affectionate brother
Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.
 Job 36: 7
 See Rom 8: 38
 This is a discussion about 3 John – the strangers are those referred to in v 5, and Diotrephes is in v 9
 Giovanni Diodati or Deodati (6 June 1576-3 October 1649) was a Swiss-born Calvinist theologian and translator. He was the first translator of the Bible into Italian from Hebrew and Greek sources. He also undertook a translation of the Bible into which appeared with notes in 1644 – Wikipedia