Sacrificial Love For Those Faithful To The Truth

WELCOME:

Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

Today we are going to start our study of 3rd John where he is going to provide his most personal and intimate letter to a friend, Gaius. Like 2 John, it addresses the issue of a believers’ duty to show love and hospitality within the bounds of faithfulness to the truth. Second John revealed the negative side: false teachers are not to be granted hospitality in the name of showing love. Third John expresses the positive counterpart to that principle: all who embrace the truth are to be loved and cared for. Let’s read the text for today’s message.

In 3 John 1-8, John says….

1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. 5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6 and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth. (3 John 1-8)

OVERVIEW OF 3 JOHN:

John wrote this letter to a personal friend named Gaius as a way to encourage him. Unfortunately, a powerful and influential man (Diotrephes) in Gaius’s church refused to show hospitality to traveling teachers of whom John approved. Not only that, Diotrephes also excommunicated or removed those who defied him and showed hospitality to the teachers. He even went so far as to slander the apostle John and defy his apostolic authority. John wrote to encourage Gaius to remain loyal to the truth by continuing to show hospitality to strangers, as he had done in the past. John also promised to deal personally with Diotrephes when he arrived.

INTRODUCTION TO TODAY’S SERMON:

Truth is the primary theme of this letter, especially in the opening section where the word appears five times. Here in Third John, there is a call to give hospitality, but more specifically there is a call to give hospitality to those who are faithful teachers of the gospel truth.

When the apostle Paul detailed his suffering for the cause of Christ in 2 Corinthians, some of that suffering involved travel far different from the comfort and safety of our modern travel. But the apostle’s experience reflected the common reality of life in the ancient world: “I have been on frequent journeys,” he wrote, “in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea” (2 Cor. 11: 26)“three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep” (v. 25). As that list indicates, travel was difficult, unpleasant, and even dangerous. The few inns that were available in Paul’s time were often very dangerous and most their keepers were dishonest and of ill repute. As a result, travelers seeking a safe place to stay were largely dependent on people opening their homes to them.

Hospitality therefore was both a necessity and a duty for Christians in the early church. Even in the pagan cultures this hospitality was recognized as one of the highest virtues. In fact, some of the pagan “gods” invented by the Canaanites were designed to act as protectors of strangers and travelers. The Greeks also viewed travelers as being under the protection of the deities and should therefore to be shown hospitality. The Greeks had a system of guest-friendships whereby families in different parts of the country undertook to give each other’s members hospitality when the occasion arose.

The Bible certainly stresses the importance of hospitality. What the false Greek gods supposedly did to protect travelers, the one true God actually did. In Psalm 146:9 the psalmist says, “The Lord protects the strangers.” God charged Israel with hospitality to travelers;

9You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus. 23:9).

Hospitality was so important that God accused and indicted those who turned away aliens and strangers in Malachi 3:5;

5Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:5)

The Old Testament provides many examples of hospitality. For example, Melchizedek provided Abraham with bread and wine after he returned from rescuing Lot in Genesis 14:18. Abraham provided food for the Lord and two angels in Genesis 18:1-8. Laban offered hospitality to Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24:31–33. Jethro offered hospitality to Moses. Remember the Shunammite woman offering hospitality to Elisha in 2 Kings 4:8. What about Job as he was defending his integrity against the false allegations of his friends? Job declared in Job 31:32, “The alien has not lodged outside, for I have opened my doors to the traveler.”

Just as it was stressed in the Old Testament, hospitality is equally stressed in the New Testament. Certainly the general Jewish cultural view of hospitality was inspired by Jesus in Luke 10:4–7 where He instructs the seventy as they were being sent out for ministry:

4Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. (Luke 10:4-7)

Today, we are to open our houses to those who have also been called to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. We too are to be hospitable! There are missionaries who are traveling through our area who need a place to stay one or two nights as they provide reports on how God is working in their ministry. So, there are always opportunities for us to show hospitality to those who minister.

There are so many examples of hospitality in the New Testament. Zaccheus extended hospitality to Jesus in Luke 19:5–7. Simon provided hospitality to a Pharisee in Luke 7:36 and to another Pharisee in Luke 14:1. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus showed hospitality to Jesus and his followers in Luke 10:38. There were also the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who showed hospitality to Jesus (Luke 24:29–30). The apostles also enjoyed the hospitality of both Jews and Gentiles. Peter stayed in the homes of Simon the tanner and Cornelius. Paul and his companions received hospitality from Lydia, the jailer at Philippi, Jason, Priscilla and Aquila, Philip the evangelist, Mnason of Cyprus, and Publius.

So, hospitality was a cultural obligation for both Jews and Gentiles. But, it is so much more for a Christian. It is part of our Christian duty. It is a necessary and practical expression of love that should mark the fellowship of believers. In Romans 12:13 Paul wrote that believers are to be “practicing hospitality.” Peter exhorted believers to, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Peter 4:9). The writer of Hebrews commanded his readers,

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2).

Paul also listed hospitality as one of the virtues of a godly Christian woman In 1 Timothy 5:10. And Elders in particular are required to be hospitable as one of the exemplary qualifications for that office (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8).

Hospitality was significant in the early church because the home was central to its heart and life. The believers met in homes for worship, prayer, fellowship, teaching, preaching, and discipleship. So it was common for Christians to open their doors to travelers visiting the church, especially the faithful teachers of the truth.

The theme of showing love through hospitality is clearly commanded in both 2 and 3 John, but the foundational reality that underlies that duty is love for and obedience to the truth. John highlights the truth in his second letter in that he sets the exclusive limit that only those who embrace the truth are to be shown hospitality. Here in his third letter he affirms the inclusive approach that all who are in the truth are to be loved and cared for as they spread the gospel. That emphasis is made evident in John’s greeting here in 3 John, “the elder to the beloved Gaius.”

Unlike our modern correspondence which identifies the sender at the end of a letter, text, message, email, etc., it was customary for the ancient writer to name himself at the opening of the letter. The term “elder” is not a reference to John’s age, although he was a very old man when he wrote this letter, but more significantly, it points to his position of spiritual oversight for the church. As the last surviving apostle of Jesus Christ, John was not just an elder, he was “the elder,” the most revered and respected figure in the church.

We don’t really have any details concerning this specific Gaius, but there are several other men with that name in the New Testament. It turns out that Gaius was one of the most common names in Roman society at that time. This Gaius was evidently a prominent member of the local church, probably somewhere in Asia Minor, whom the apostle John discipled and knew personally.

We don’t much about Gaius’ life but his excellent character is disclosed in an incredible tribute by John. The term “beloved” can include not only the thought that this Gaius was loved by the Christian community, but also by the Lord. You may recall that John addressed the lady to whom he wrote his second epistle as “chosen;” here he addresses Gaius as “beloved.” This combination is so reassuring because we can be assured that all who love the Lord Jesus Christ are both chosen by God and loved by Him. In Colossians 3:12 Paul referred to Christians as “those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved.” The Bible repeatedly speaks of God’s love for His elect and specifically in Galatians 2:20 it says;

20I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

John, too, loved this man and confessed so by saying that Gaius is a man “whom I love in truth” in the first verse of Third John. It is “Truth,” that is the common link in which genuine biblical love is shared by believers. It is that inseparable link between love and truth that draws believers into common fellowship with each other. There is a sense in which Christians are to love all people just as God loves the world. But the love John spoke of here is the unique love that believers have for those who are in Christ and faithful to the truth.

Wrapping up this introduction to the sermon today and an overview of 3 John, this letter revolves around three individuals and their relationship to truth and love. We first have Gaius, who walked in the truth and loved sacrificially (verses 1–8). Then we have Diotrephes, who rejected the truth and hindered sacrificial love (verses 9–11). And then we have Demetrius, who was to receive sacrificial love for his faithfulness to the truth in verse 12.

Today we will be focusing on verses 1 – 8 where John opens this letter highlighting Gaius as he expresses his

  1. concern for,
  2. commendation of, and
  3. counsel to him.

We have already mentioned how John feels about Gaius in verse 1 so we are going to move on to John first major point where we see…

JOHN’S CONCERN FOR GAIUS

2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 3)

The phrase “I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health” was a standard greeting in ancient letters, so this does not necessarily indicate or imply that Gaius was ill. The word “prosper” means “to succeed,” “to have things go well,” or “to enjoy favorable circumstances” and it is used only here, Romans 1:10, and 1 Corinthians 16:2. The first use of the word “prosper” in verse 2 refers to Gaius’s physical health. John’s wish was that Gaius’s physical health would be as good as that of his spiritual health as his “soul prospers.”

John’s primary concern for Gaius is a pastoral desire that he be free from the turmoil, pain, and debilitation of illness so he would be unrestricted in his service to the Lord and His church. This same attitude mirrors God’s concern for the physical health of His people. The Old Testament dietary laws, and the regulations concerning hygiene, even circumcision, were designed to protect the health of the people of Israel for their usefulness as well as their preservation. In the New Testament, Paul advised Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23,

23No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. (1 Timothy 5:23)

The wine used in biblical times was usually mixed with water such that the mild alcohol content in the wine would help to disinfect the water and thus keep the body healthier. Drinking this relatively purified water would help guard Timothy from further illness. Paul’s concern for Timothy’s physical health was characteristic of any apostle’s affection for a child in the faith. This same type of affection was certainly true of John’s love and concern for Gaius.

Although John was concerned for Gaius’ physical health, John took great delight in Gaius spiritual health and his soul. He knew he had a vibrant spiritual life. Gaius was among those who were sound in the faith constantly growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. John knew this to be true by the testimony of those who had personal knowledge of Gaius, as he states in verse 3.

The second major point of this portion of Scripture relates to…

JOHN’S COMMENDATION OF GAIUS

3 For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. 5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6a and they have testified to your love before the church. (3 John 3-6a)

John was “very glad” when some brethren, possibly some traveling preachers to whom Gaius had shown hospitality, came and testified to him of the truth that was operative and evident in Gaius’s life. Gaius was “walking in truth” by loving others and being obedient to God’s Word. He was walking the talk; living out the truth in his daily conduct.

Showing hospitality was a manifestation of love which is all the more remarkable when contrasted with Diotrephes’ ugly rejection that we will discuss when we get to verse 10. John, however, did not specifically commend Gaius for his love but instead, he commended him for his fundamental commitment to the truth. As is always the case with true believers, Gaius’s genuine love flowed from his obedience to the truth. John commended him because he not only knew the truth, but lived in it. It is never enough to know the truth!!! It must be applied in our daily walk as we live out each day.

Although there are other commendations found in the New Testament for numerous reasons including being a faithful servant and helper in the church, for great sacrifices by helping others, or for risking one’s life for the spread of the gospel, there is no higher commendation for a Christian than the one given to Gaius by John here in this passage. Gaius not only knew the truth revealed by God, but also lived in conformity to it.

John’s comment, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth,” expresses the ultimate goal of every true minister of God. That goal is not just to teach the truth, or even to make sure that the local church understand it, but instead, to know that the people believe, love, and obey the truth. The writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers,

17Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you (Heb. 13:17).

A pastor’s most painful and grievous moment occurs when people are indifferent or rebellious toward the Word of God. And one of the most joyous moments is when believers are living in the truth. What an incredible blessing to know that believers are truly striving to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ through obedience to God’s Word. John MacArthur said it like this; “With Gaius there was no dichotomy between creed and conduct, between profession and practice.” May we all live a Gaius-like life in obedience to the truth!!!

John specifically highlights Gaius’s obedience to the truth as “acting faithfully in whatever” he labored to “accomplish for the brethren.” Gaius must have given the gospel preachers shelter, food, and perhaps money. But whatever he did, he was meeting their needs even though they were “strangers” to him. Certainly we all need to be discerning as we minister to others but, we need to minister. Living in a time when so many are out to deceive you and take whatever they can get, we must be wise in our ministering to others. However, being cautious should never deter us from seeking to minister to others. We are to love others in various ways as we spread the gospel and support those who serve the Lord in different ways. We need to be wise, discerning and most of all dependent on the Holy Spirit as He guides us. Genuine saving faith always produces good works. Ephesians 2:8–10 says,

8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The missionaries were so impressed with Gaius’s humble service to them that after returning to Ephesus “they … testified to” his “love before the church.” Consistent with Gaius’s devotion to the truth, he was a model of someone who consistently contributed to the needs of the saints by practicing hospitality.

The third point of this passage is…

JOHN’S COUNSEL TO GAIUS

6b …You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth. (3 John 6b-8)

John encouraged Gaius to continue his generous love to other preachers of the truth as opportunities came to him in the future. John advised Gaius, “You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.” The phrase “You will do well,” is a Greek colloquialism equivalent to the English word “please.” John was encouraging Gaius to send any missionaries that came to him on their way refreshed and fully supplied for the next phase of their journey. This exhortation is similar to Paul’s command to Titus in Titus 3:13;

“Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them.”

As always, believers are to serve with excellence! We are to serve others well such they are lacking nothing! Obviously, the standard is high; Gaius was to treat them “in a manner worthy of God.” He was to give to them generously as God would give. John goes on to gives three reasons for supporting all faithful servants of Christ.

First, they “went out for the sake of the Name.” God’s name represents all that He is. The work being performed is the work of God Himself for His own glory and is the motive that underlies all the church’s evangelistic efforts. Certainly, it is an insult to God when people do not believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, who is obviously worthy to be loved, praised, honored, and confessed as Lord. When believers proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, people come to a saving knowledge of Him and as Paul proclaims in 2 Corinthians 4:15,

“the grace which is spreading to more and more people … cause[s] the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.”

It is all about bringing glory to God.

The second point highlighted is that preachers of the truth could expect “nothing from the Gentiles.” Here Gentiles is a reference unbelievers and it goes without saying that unbelievers are not going to support those who preach the true gospel. Therefore, if Christians do not support them, no one is going to support them. And, as Paul explained to Timothy, those who faithfully proclaim the Word of God are worthy of financial compensation (1 Tim. 5:17–20).

Although it is right for all preachers/missionaries to be paid for their labor, true ambassadors of the gospel are never in the ministry seeking financial gain. Some would say, it is precisely the issue of money that separates true preachers from false ones. However, that not necessarily the case. Scripture is clear that some are invariably in it for the money, and have no honest commitment to the truth. They are spiritual con men, and now women, who are guilty of peddling the Word of God and teaching things they shouldn’t be teaching for monetary gain. In Jude 11, Scripture exclaims,

“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”

To avoid any suspicion that he too might be a swindler, Paul worked with his own hands to support himself. He wanted to remain above reproach in all areas and had no desire to be lumped into the same group as these money hungry sham artists.

Lastly, we “ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.” Back in 2 John 10–11, John cautioned against participating in false teachers’ evil deeds by supporting them, even verbally. But by supporting those who present the truth, Christians become partners with them. For example, Jesus said in Matthew 10:41, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” Jesus promised an eternal reward as if the one caring for a prophet was himself a prophet. In God’s limitless grace He not only rewards a true prophet, preacher, or missionary for his faithfulness, He also rewards anyone else who receives him. God uses all believers in various ways to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some go, some sent, but all faithfully serve together for the spread of the gospel. The phrase Jesus used in Matthew 10:41, “receiv[ing] a prophet,” refers to affirming his call and supporting his work. In the same sense, “receiv[ing] a righteous man” is that same principle, but is extended to every believer who is accepted for Christ’s sake. God showers His rewards on every person who receives His people because they are His people. God’s grace is truly limitless and many times His blessings are immeasurable. We all need to be faithfully doing our part as Christians to be engaged in God’s work. Everyone who is a believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ has a part to fulfill.

APPLICATION/CLOSING:

When we are living in the truth, God provides blessing upon on us. It may not be the blessing we had hoped for but it is the blessing we need. Many times when we become the source of blessing for others, we are the ones who are most blessed. And likewise, whenever other believers become a source of blessing to us, they are blessed. In God’s magnificent economy of grace, the least believer can share the blessings of the greatest, and no one’s good work will ever go unrewarded. I want to encourage all of us to go forth and live out the truth each and every day as we serve one another and show hospitality to those who are faithfully serving God.

John says….

1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. 5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6 and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth. (3 John 1-8)