3 JOHN 1:1-8
A Chicago businessman called his wife to get her consent for him to bring home a visiting foreigner as a guest for dinner that night. At the time, the wife had three children in school and one preschooler, so there were plenty of important things to do besides entertaining strangers. But she consented and the meal came off without a hitch. The foreigner, an important Spanish official, never forgot that meal.
Years later, some friends of that family went to Spain as missionaries. Their work was brought to a standstill, however, by government regulations. When the Spanish official got word that the missionaries were friends of that hospitable Chicago couple, he used his influence to clear away the restrictions. There is a church today in that province of Spain, due in part to that one meal.
I. INTRODUCTION AND GREETING V. 1
This letter gives us an important glimpse into the life of the first century church. Third John, which is addressed to Gaius, is about the need for hospitality to traveling preachers and other believers. It also warns us against a person who wants to be a dictator in the church. Here again the Apostle John introduces himself not by his personal name but by the title, which his readers will evidently recognize, the elder. In the Greek, the word elder is (presbuteros), from which we get the word “presbyter” or “Presbyterian.”
In the NT there are several men named Gaius. We have Gaius of Corinth, who after his baptism by Paul became host to the apostle Paul and “to the whole church” (1 Cor. 1:14; Rom. 16:23). We have Gaius of Macedonia, who is linked with Aristachus of Thessalonica as one of Paul’s companions, who suffered in the riot at Derbe, who traveled with Paul on his last journey from Greece through Macedonia at least as far as Troas and was probably his church’s delegate for the carrying out of the collection for the poor in Judea (Acts 20:4).
Since Gaius was perhaps the most common of all names in the Roman Empire, it is safer to say that we do not know who Gaius was. Nevertheless, he was someone John dearly loved (see how he addresses him in verse 1). This Gaius occupies a position of responsibility and leadership in the local church. Gaius was highly respected in the Christian community. Perhaps he had shared his home and hospitality with John at some time during John’s travels. If that were the case then, John would have appreciated his actions because in those days, traveling preachers depended on hospitality to survive (Matt. 10:11-16). John’s love for Gaius was genuine as it is reflected in verse 2.
II. A PRAYER FOR A FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN LEADER V. 2
John expresses a wish for Gaius’ material well-being as well as his spiritual well-being (“I pray”). This prayer was in direct contrast to the Greek popular heresy of the day that taught the separation of spirit and matter and despised the physical side of life. John wished that Gaius would prosper in all respects. In effect John was saying, I pray that all may go well with you. The word “prosper” literally means, “to have a good journey,” and metaphorically to “succeed or prosper” (Rom. 1:10; 1 Cor. 16:2). John also prays that Gaius would be in good health but does not end there. He also prays that Gaius’ soul would continue to prosper. The soul is the immaterial part of our being. The physical matter dies or will die one day, but the soul lives forever. The soul is the inner part of our being to which the Spirit of God ministers. You and I should not draw a dichotomy (distinction) between the body and soul as some of the Greeks did. Unfortunately, there are still some today who fall into this faulty way of thinking. This non-Christian attitude logically leads to one of two responses: neglect of the body and physical health (asceticism), or indulgence of the body’s sinful desires (libertarian or antinomianism). Both extremes are to be avoided. God is concern for both your body and soul.
As responsible Christians, you should neither neglect nor indulge yourselves, but care for your physical bodies so you are at your best for God’s service. I want to take this issue further because I listen to prayer requests and how some of you pray. Many of you pray only for your physical and material needs. It is not a sin to pray for your physical and material needs. Nevertheless, your prayer should not be limited to those needs. You should also pray for spiritual prosperity. You should pray for divine wisdom. You should pray for spiritual hunger for the word of God and righteousness. You should pray for spiritual illumination to enable you understand what God teaches you in His word. You should pray for spiritual discernment in your decision-making process. You should pray for spiritual sensitivity and compassion for your dealings with others. This reminds me of a guy who became a Christian. He said that before Christ rescued him from sin, he read the Bible, but he could not understand it. But when he was saved it looked like somebody had written the Bible all over again. That is the spiritual truth because the natural person cannot understand the things of the Spirit. Why? Because the things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). Besides, the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers that they cannot comprehend the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4). What happened to this guy was that he received illumination from the Holy Spirit.
III. A COMPLIMENT FOR A FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN LEADER VV. 3-4
John is glad for the sincerity of Gaius’ life. John knows him personally. Others also have come to John to testify to the consistency of Gaius’ life. Are you consistent in your Christian life? Do you have a double standard for people? Gaius was a balanced Christian. He held the truth in love. He loved in truth. Gaius was a transparent, open Christian who was letting his light shine and not hiding it under a bushel. His truth and love were known to all. Sometimes I wonder why some Christians are so secretive. Some Christians are not transparent at all. Even when they need prayer, they refuse to divulge the content of their request. It is like they are not trustworthy so they cannot trust anybody. I am not saying that you must share every prayer request with fellow Christians. There are some needs that must remain between you and God. But there are some that you should feel free to share with fellow believers and solicit their prayer support. There are some of you too that are gossips. When a person shares a prayer request it is sin for you to take your phone and call another person and tell him/her the request. Some Christians have okra mouth that they cannot keep things in confidence. If you do not have anything to do take your Bible and read and you will gain more insight from God than just being a busybody.
John goes on to say that his cup of joy is full because he has heard how his spiritual children are walking in the truth. He has realized that his spiritual sacrifices and labors have not been in vain. It is even a similar desire of every faithful parent to know that his/her children have not deviated from the virtues he/she has inculcated in them. John’s joy as a spiritual parent was bound up in the welfare of his children. Not only have John’s children given assent to the truth, but also, they have applied the truth to their behavior. If you are walking in the truth you are an integrated Christian in whom there is no dichotomy between profession and practice. On the contrary, there is an exact correspondence between your creed and your conduct. In other words, you do not say this and do something else. The conformity of his children’s spiritual life to the truth brought greater joy to John than anything else. Truth mattered to John. He did not regard theological issues as unimportant trivialities.
Part of the reason many churches are powerless today is because we have ignored many fundamental theological truths. Today a Christian can flagrantly live in sin and still hold a leadership position in the church. Do you think that when such a person prays, God is going to answer the prayer? Not on your life until he/she confesses and gives up the sin. Today a person might be living in open sin and still be a church leader. Why? Because he/she gives a lot of money to the church every member becomes silent of his/her lifestyle. How do you expect the Spirit of God to move in such a church? Such a church has become like the church of Laodicea. The members are dead, but they think they are alive. Some pastors are even guilty of condoning and conniving sin in the church. It is no wonder we do not see the movement and the power of the Spirit of God in the church. God has not stopped healing and performing miracles in His church. The unconfessed sins of Christians have suppressed the power of God in His church today. Do you want to be used of the Lord? Then put sin behind you and put God’s truth to work in your life and you will see the hand of God in your life.
Today some Christians have bought into secularism. They say that there is no absolute truth; everything is relative. They say, what is truth to you is not truth to me. We are not surprised that schoolboys and girls are killing each other. Any nation that rejects God and absolute truths becomes a chaotic society. We reap what we sow.
IV. A TESTIMONY TO A BELIEVER’S HOSPITALITY AND GENEROSITY TO THE WORK OF CHRIST VV. 5-8
John has complimented Gaius for his standing in the truth. Now he commends Gaius for his service of love. Gaius was a Christian leader who was given to hospitality. Every Christian is called to practice hospitality (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9). In the early days of the NT church, there were traveling prophets, evangelists, and teachers who were helped on their way by fellow believers like Gaius who provided accommodation and food for them. Unfortunately, hospitality is a lost art in many churches today. It would be a blessing if you would invite people for meals—fellow church members, young people, traveling missionaries, those in need, even visitors. This is an active and much appreciated way to show your love. In fact, hospitality is more important today, because of our individualistic, self-centered society there are many lonely people who wonder if anyone cares whether they live or die. If you find such a lonely person, show him or her that you care! You may not be an eloquent preacher, teacher, or evangelist, you may not be able to perform a spectacular miracle, but you are called to show hospitality and generosity to those who are in need. Gaius did not raise the dead; he did not heal the sick; he did not open the eyes of the blind. He did what he could do and today you and I are reading about him. Show hospitality and generosity to the genuine servants of God and your act of love will not go unnoticed. Have you forgotten the remarkable stories of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath and Elisha and the Shunamite woman? Both stories are found in 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4. Gaius demonstrated his love to these believers who were strangers because he did not know them. Perhaps he received them because they mentioned the name of Apostle John. Apostle John was appreciative of Gaius’ hospitality to these traveling evangelists or missionaries. John knew that Gaius could be counted on. Can we count on you when something needs to be done? Gaius took a risk in his hospitality and generosity. The Christian life involves risks. Faith in God is risky business, because you believe in someone you have not seen with your physical eyes. Those who are afraid of risk do not do anything for Christ. They just occupy space. Gaius opened his house to traveling servants of God. This act of love touched the heart of the itinerant preachers that they shared it with their home church upon their return. This act of love pleased the Apostle John that he urged Gaius to continue to entertain traveling teachers who preach the truth of God’s word.
The implication of extending hospitality to itinerant missionaries is now clear. You are not just to receive them when they arrive, but they are to be refreshed and provided for as to be sent forward on the next stage of their journey. That is why when our church invites a guest preacher, we give him/her a stipend or love offering. When we are fellowshipping in food it is our responsibility to dine with a guest preacher and our guests. Hospitality to people touches the heart of God. That is why we support missionaries both locally and internationally. We support them materially, financially, and spiritually. That is why we give money to the Cooperative program and Tarrant Baptist Association. That is why we pray for missionaries. We do these for them because they are servants of God and represent Him. You are to treat the servants of God as you will treat God. Jesus said, “He that receives you receives Me, and he that receives Me receives Him that sent Me” (Matt. 10:40).
In verse 7, John gives the reason for such special hospitality. These traveling missionaries were sent out for the sake of Christ. Watch this; the traveling missionaries neither asked for nor accepted anything from non-Christians, because they did not want anyone questioning their motives for preaching. It is the responsibility of the church to care for Christian workers. This should never be left to non-believers (2 Cor. 12:13). God’s true preachers do not preach just to make money, but out of love for God.
When you help somebody, who is faithfully preaching the gospel, you are in a very real way a partner in ministry. Christian ministers and teachers certainly have the right to be supported by those who benefit from their service, as Paul on several occasions insisted (1 Cor. 9:1-18; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17, 18). A Christian congregation supporting its pastor is one thing; missionaries taking money from the heathen is another.
Verse 8 is in direct contrast to verse 7. Apostle John is saying that because these missionaries refused to be supported financially by pagans, that is why the church needs to support them. Why? Because they have no other means of support. We must do for the ministers of the gospel what they will not ask the heathens to do for them. If those who do not believe in God were to support traveling evangelists, missionaries, and pastors financially we must as well close our sanctuaries. Why? Because how can you preach and witness to unbelievers that if they became Christians God would meet their needs, and then you turn around and ask them for financial support. If your God could not meet the needs of His church to support His servants who are proclaiming His word, then your God is not worth serving. Therefore, you and I must financially support Christian enterprises that the world will not.