Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. – 3 John 1:11
Tying this to Diotrephes’s actions, these are strong words. Diotrephes is a man who likes to put himself first, who refuses to welcome the brothers and stops others from doing so. He is doing evil. He is imitating evil.
Gaius, on the other hand, has done good and is being encouraged to continue to imitate good.
John goes on to say that whoever does good is from God and that whoever does evil has not seen God. This seems to imply that Diotrephes wasn’t a believer at all. Or at the very least, he wasn’t acting like one. His actions were consistent with someone who has not seen God.
This gets tricky for us. We always want to imitate good. Primarily, we want to imitate the Savior and secondarily, we want to imitate those who imitate the Savior well. We want to follow Paul as he follows Christ, for example. Or Gaius. Or John.
The tricky part is that we all sometimes imitate evil. Sometimes, we fail to love, fail to keep Christ’s commandments. Does that mean, then, that we have not seen God? No, we all continue to sin, even John, Paul, and Gaius. What we see here and in the whole counsel of God is that those who have been regenerated, made new in Christ, start looking more and more like Jesus by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, those who remain in their sin continue living in their sin. Therefore, if someone is Christlike, it is evidence that they are from God. And if someone is antichristlike, it is evidence that they have not seen God, that they are unregenerate, not led nor sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
So, this is not to say that whenever you sin, you should question your salvation. But if you claim to be a Christian and are totally disinclined to live for Him and you are purposely continuing to live the wicked life you had before you supposedly met Him, it’s likely that you’ve never actually met Him at all. If your lifestyle is one of imitating evil instead of imitating good, you have probably not seen God. The cure? Turn to and trust in Jesus for your sin. Go and sin no more, by His grace.
If you imitate good, if you are at all Christlike, it’s because of the Holy Spirit’s work in you. And that’s evidence that you are from God. It’s not about having a certain level of good; it’s having any genuine good at all. Even if you are .01% sanctified, you are still being sanctified by God, which means that you are saved. Continue to imitate good, by His grace and out of love and worship for Jesus. One of the marks of imitating good is hating when you imitate evil. All Christians sin. But all Christians hate sin. We hate it because it disrupts our treasured relationship with Jesus.
So, sheep, beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.