Title: Faithfulness Demonstrated
Text: III John 1-8
FCF: We often struggle specifically applying what it means to love one another.
Prop: Because we are united in truth and practice with all who are genuine believers, we must continue to walk in truth together.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to III John. Regarding the background of III John, we really have covered it quite extensively already.
John is a leader in the greater church of Asia Minor. He is currently trying to defeat a secessionist group who has left orthodox truth and is now teaching a gospel that is not what the apostles received or transmitted. These three epistles are the ripple effects of this group and their evil works.
I John is written to the church in which it happened. Ground zero if you will. They needed to be assured that they were in fact the ones who remained true and were not as the secessionists claimed – missing something.
II John was to warn another church that such teaching was being exported throughout their area. John charges the assembly he writes to, to be on guard and defend the faith by not welcoming traveling preachers who do not confess Christ as they had received from the apostles.
And here finally we come to III John, where John gives the “other-side-of-the-coin” message encouraging hospitality for those traveling preachers who do preach the gospel of Christ.
We see the difficulty it is to be a church leader, even in this early age of the church, as John has several fires to put out, all stemming from one aberration of the gospel. Do you see how much damage false teaching can do?
III John is probably a letter hand delivered by a group of traveling preachers, one of which is named in this book. It is a letter written to a man named Gaius, who will receive personal instruction from John the Elder himself.
Although no theologically groundbreaking concepts are revealed in this book – it does give us a look at church practice specifically in regard to those who preach and teach the gospel of Christ. Many themes from I and II John are repeated here as I am sure you will see.
Although having more verses than II John, I do anticipate this book, along with our study on the Epistles of John, concluding next week. After that, a special speaker will be here with you for 1 week and then we will begin a new book study – of which I have not fully settled on yet. Keep praying that God would be clear.
I am in III John and I’ll start reading in verse 1 from the NET. You can follow along on page 1378 in the pew bible or whatever version you have. If you don’t have a bible of your own you can take home a pew bible with you today.
Since the letter is so short, why don’t we read it all today.
Although the letter clearly gets a little sharper at the end, today we will deal mostly with some very upbeat and encouraging comments from the apostle John. These comments are given color and purpose by what follows – but we’ll have to save all that for next week. So let’s dive in.
I.) It is a joy to all when God’s people are united in ongoing faith and practice, so we must continue to walk in truth together. (1-4)
a. [Slide 2] 1 - From the elder, to Gaius my dear brother, whom I love in truth.
i. III John stands as one of only two books in the bible addressed specifically to one person.
ii. Bonus points to who can name the other – Philemon.
iii. As we addressed before, John’s title of elder here can and probably does mean both his role as an elder in the church of this area in Asia Minor, and also to his advanced age compared to the rest of the believers there.
iv. We are left to wonder at the identity of Gaius. In 4 other places in the New testament there is a Gaius mentioned. Each of them are associates of Paul.
v. Based on what Paul writes of Gaius it is unlikely that this Gaius is the same one Paul mentions.
vi. Gaius being a relatively common name in the Roman empire, we should assume that III John records the only details about this man we have.
vii. But what is recorded is profound.
viii. First, John calls him a dear brother. An assurance of identity and common bond.
ix. Second, John uses the same expression he did in II John in communicating to the church there. That he loves him in truth. Probably a phrase used in the community of churches there to indicate true Christian love and fellowship.
x. Not just that he loved him truly – but that he loved Him in the reality of the truth of the triune God and His work in their hearts.
b. [Slide 3] 2 – Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.
i. The last piece of information about Gaius John offers is that John calls him friend. Not just a brother in Christ, but even a friend. Well liked and well loved.
ii. We see John moves to a greeting in which he intercedes for Gaius to be healthy in his body just like he is healthy in his soul.
iii. I think when we use and sing this phrase “It is well with my soul” we tend to see it as our stating = I’m ok with it.
iv. But I believe the original author of the song, as well as John here, intends the meaning to be = it makes my soul healthy. Or – it makes me more like Christ. It conforms me to Christ.
v. Let’s read the lyrics in that context
1. When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say - it conforms, it conforms me to Christ.
2. Wow. That song, as powerful as it is, just got WAY more powerful. Right?
vi. John again comments on the spiritual health of Gaius. Not only that he is a brother, a friend, loved in truth by John, but also spiritually healthy. Perhaps even healthier than he is physically.
vii. This could mean that Gaius was sick or not well – or perhaps John is simply saying this to emphasize his spiritual health. Hard to say. All we do know is that, so far, John has nothing but glowing words for Gaius.
c. [Slide 4] 3 – For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, just as you are living according to the truth.
i. Now we don’t quite know the context of this because John doesn’t go into great detail.
ii. We can surmise that certain brothers came from Gaius to John and reported that he was a true believer. What exactly that testimony was, has yet to be revealed. But from John’s other letters we can take an educated guess.
iii. Gaius not only is united in the doctrinal confession of the apostles, but he also is producing evidence of that faith in his life.
iv. And to these brothers specifically, Gaius proved himself to be walking in the truth.
v. In this testimony by these brothers – John rejoices greatly.
vi. In fact, John broadens this statement of joy -
d. [Slide 5] 4 – I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth.
i. As a pastor I can tell you this is absolutely true.
ii. There is no greater joy than to hear people who you labored for and taught to have gone on and are found to be walking in truth.
iii. So this is generally true for John across the board – but specifically also true in Gaius’ case.
iv. Last week we saw how joy is completed in coming face to face. But what was only subtlety mentioned last week takes full scope here.
v. That joy is only truly completed when those who gather face to face are unified in their confession and their practice. It is only true joy when true followers of Christ, walk in truth together.
vi. It cannot be simply seeing each other – but being one in Christ that provides true and complete joy.
e. [Slide 6] Passage Truth: John to his friend and brother Gaius wishes to express great joy over the report he had received about Gaius continuing to walk in the truth. Indeed, nothing could make him more joyful than to hear such things.
f. Passage Application: The, perhaps unspoken but implied application is, that Gaius continue to walk in truth. John has a specific way that he can do just that – but for now it is good for us to leave it general. Simply, continue on walking in the truth!
g. [Slide 7] Broader Biblical Truth: Zooming out from III John, we see similar patterns of New Testament writers communicating to churches who have done well. Paul to the Philippians and Thessalonians, John to the church in I John, and even John to some of the churches he writes to in Revelation. All express wonderful and heartful joy over their continued walking in truth. Joy is generated in the hearts of true believers when they see other believers continuing to walk in truth.
h. Broader Biblical Application: Indeed, this is not only a great joy for the teacher and other believers, but it is the guaranteed outcome of all those who are genuine Christians. We will persevere in our faith and in walking in the truth, because the truth is in us. It is a word of status. Therefore, it is an ongoing battle cry for those who have the truth to continue to walk in it. To persevere. To keep going.
[Slide 8 (blank)] but John has a particular occasion for writing this letter. One more specific than simply – keep walking in truth. An occasion that we will only see half of today and the rest next week. Why specifically is John writing to Gaius? How specifically does John wish Gaius to continue to walk in truth? These answers are found in verses 5-8.
II.) Those who are united in faith and practice ought to be supported in gospel work, so we must continue to walk in truth together. (5-8)
a. [Slide 9] 5 – Dear friend, you demonstrate faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers (even though they are strangers).
i. Here John clues us in on what the report of the brothers may have been.
ii. It seems that Gaius was especially hospitable to traveling preachers and missionaries sent from John’s church.
iii. Though they were unknown to Gaius previously – he trusted the testimony of John that they were brothers and cared for them while they were there.
iv. John tells Gaius that this is how he has proved that he was faithful. He demonstrated his faithfulness in this way.
v. Indeed this is lock step with what John has taught already in I and II John. Walking in truth is more than simply confessing the right things, but then living them. And Gaius was living them.
b. [Slide 10] 6 – They have testified to your love before the church.
i. The most overt reference here is the love for these brothers that Gaius had.
ii. No doubt putting them up and giving them food and shelter, and even provision for their journey.
iii. All of which they testified to as they went back to John’s church.
iv. But now John is done complimenting Gaius and will turn to exhorting him. Not because he has failed, but because he has succeeded and needs to keep doing so.
c. [Slide 11] You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.
i. So has John sent these same men back to him?
ii. Has John sent more or others?
iii. This is possible. In fact, as we mentioned previously, this letter may have been sent with the traveling preachers and missionaries to validate that they came from John and give credence to welcoming them.
iv. So John’s words here would be an encouragement to continue to care for them, and to make sure that when they left him, they left in a way that God would approve of.
v. Again, this sounds strong, but John has made sure to tout Gaius’ keeping of this without a command. John simply issues a “keep it up” to Gaius.
vi. Next week we will see why perhaps John desires to reinforce this idea, but for now, it is enough to know that this is important for John. They need to be cared for. But why?
d. [Slide 12] 7 – For they have gone forth on behalf of “the name” accepting nothing from the pagans.
i. John cites 3 reasons Gaius must continue to be hospitable to the preachers John sends. Two of these are in verse 7 and one in verse 8.
ii. These two in verse 7 have to do exclusively with the kind of men John was sending to Gaius. They are shown to be worthy of hospitality both because of the reason they left John’s church and the manner in which they continue to travel and preach.
iii. The Reason these men had gone out from John’s assembly was on behalf of the name.
iv. Unlike the secessionists in I John and the traveling false teachers in II John, these men had not left John’s church because they had a different gospel to preach. Quite the opposite.
v. John says they have gone out on behalf of the name.
vi. The name, although somewhat unclear, is without question the name of Christ. And thus, the gospel of Christ as received and transmitted by the apostles from Christ to them.
vii. This reason they had come to Gaius was probably enough for him to conclude that he should help them. But John is sure to include the manner in which they traveled and preached.
viii. The manner they traveled and preached, was in a selectively funded way. They were not supported or supplied by pagans.
ix. Other translations leave this as Gentiles, but in the New Covenant context Gentiles is often a short way to refer to the godless or false deity worshippers of the time.
x. What is clear from II John is that many false teachers were traveling around peddling their particular gospel for their particular deity. We actually have some records of these teachers, Rabbis and seers going around and fleecing the people for money. They would orate and expect to be compensated for their time and effort, oftentimes bringing back large amounts of wealth.
xi. In short – if you wanted to get wealthy, you could easily make a lucrative career as a traveling preacher. And it didn’t really matter what you preached so long as it interested people enough to pay for you to be there.
xii. Recorded for us in scripture is the example of preachers of the gospel of Christ behaving very differently.
xiii. While we do see them accept water and provision from the unsaved, we do NOT see any expectation nor dependence on support from the unsaved. Rather, the gospel of God’s free grace is offered without charge and without expectation to those who would hear it.
xiv. This was not a cash grab, nor was it an expected or anticipated source of funding. Rather they relied solely on the provision of God through His people.
xv. Since they go forth for the cause of Christ and seek no support from those who need the gospel, John concludes…
e. [Slide 13] 8 – Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we become coworkers in cooperation with the truth.
i. Such people are worthy to be supported. Not just in prayer but in hospitality and love.
ii. We ought to give what we can to support their cause, because their cause is our cause.
iii. And this is the final reason that John advocates for Gaius to continue to extend gracious hospitality to these men. The first two had to do solely with what kind of men they were. This final reason has to do with who Gaius is.
iv. You might remember from II John that he made the case that any who welcome apostates or false teachers into their home and gave them greetings would be participating in their evil deeds. Part of this is because welcoming them affirms their person and their message.
v. John essentially says the same thing of these men only with the opposite effect since they proclaimed the truth.
vi. When we support them we become co workers with them for the sake of the truth.
vii. When we welcome and affirm their message and support their cause, we participate in their works of the gospel.
f. [Slide 14] Passage Truth: So John again reiterates how Gaius has been hospitable to traveling preachers who are genuinely preaching the truth of Christ. He even shares with Gaius a few reasons that hospitality should be shown to traveling preachers, both from their character and for the mutual benefit of sharing in the gospel work.
g. Passage Application: Therefore, John asks Gaius to continue to do just that. To continue to be hospitable to these traveling preachers, some of whom are probably standing upon the threshold of his door as he read this letter for the first time.
h. [Slide 15] Broader Biblical Truth: Zooming out we see all through scripture that our past success at following the Lord’s commands does not give us reason to slack or give us extra credit to fail. Instead, past success only reemphasizes the need for us to continue on and keep obeying. In Christ we are not only able to, but commanded to.
i. Broader Biblical Application: And I think while we could draw a more general application here to walk in truth – we’d be foolish to neglect the specific way John mentions in which we can walk in truth together. Those who diligently work for the sake of the gospel of Christ, having no desire or intention of being supported by non-believers, ought to be supported by God’s people. This joins God’s people to the gospel work of the traveling preacher, and gives support to those who would not otherwise have it.
[Slide 16(end)] So how then ought we to live?
The primary message of II John amid the encouraging words of the
introduction and the conclusion, was to defend the faith.
Almost as if they were written in tandem to two churches on opposite poles, III John is written to the other end of that spectrum. It’s primary message, one we have only seen some of so far, is not necessarily to defend the faith. But rather to love the faithful.
In II John, John encourages the readers to defend the gospel from those who would wish to distort it.
In III John, John encourages the readers to support the gospel by loving those who are faithful witnesses of it.
Indeed some could argue that the message of III John to support the faithful is a subpoint of defending the faith – which I will concede 😊
However, it is not an unspecific and therefore general application that John gives to broadly love the faithful – but rather he is calling upon Gaius specifically and all Christians broadly, to lovingly lend a hand to those who are faithfully preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John gives subtle instruction to those who go to preach the gospel and specific instruction to those who host those who preach the gospel. The prerequisites that push John to insist that Gaius and all believers support these traveling preachers are that they first, go on behalf of the name.
Now this does not mean that we as followers of Christ ought not support any cause or purpose that does not go on behalf of the name. Rather it gives necessity to us supporting those who DO go on behalf of the name.
Is it wrong to send funds to a political candidate you support? Is it wrong to give assistance to a homeless man? Is it wrong to help those who fight injustice in the world? Of course not.
However – Is it absolutely necessary for you to help a person who goes out on behalf of the name of Christ to preach the Gospel of Christ? ABSOLUTELY YES!
Now this doesn’t always mean financial support, monthly support, or even physical support. But it does mean, that when a person who preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ is among you with a need – God’s true children must and indeed WILL clamor to meet that need.
But remember this is only half of the prerequisites John mentions. The other is a test of the first. How do we know they go out on behalf of the name of Christ alone, and not on behalf of the name of Christ AND… something else?
We must look to the way they go out for His name. From where do they gather their funds? Are they supported by any and all? Are they indiscriminate in the sources of their funding? Are they living sacrificially or lavishly? Do they seek God’s provision through God’s people, or do they seek man’s provision through measurable means?
At the core, John’s statement seems to indicate that a person who truly goes out for the sake of the name of Christ and His gospel, will do so relying on the provision of God and His people alone. They will not take from those who are their mission, and they will not take lavishly from any.
We see Paul, although having a right to be supported by the church, refused to be supported by the church so as not to add burden to them. Here John says it is the responsibility of God’s people to provide for those who do the work of the gospel and are not receiving anything from pagan sources.
Therefore, when we have someone who is clearly sent by God with His gospel, and they come not by earthly means but by faith in the Lord’s provision through His people – it is incumbent upon the Lord’s people to supply to them their need.
And those who supply their need do also then benefit from this. For they now are participants in the gospel work. It is as if they too are preaching with the preacher. They are going with them and sharing Christ with them.
The most obvious application of this teaching is of missionaries that come to us, but could also include any who are preaching Christ. Still we must be careful we don’t force the text to say too much here. Just because a preacher comes in who fits the prerequisites, it does not mean we must support them in a perpetual monetary way. John’s context is actually a temporary situation – providing food and lodging and acceptance. So, the best I think we can conclude from this text is the heart of hospitability and welcoming affirmation should be our response to those who go come on behalf of the gospel and are depending on the provision of God through His people. To them we ought to strive to welcome and support them in any way we can. Not just on an organizational churchwide level, but even individually – offering our home, our goods, our services, our counsel, and our approval, for them while they are among us and even after they leave.
And the benefit to us? Is that we join them in their gospel ministry.
This is a message that I’d give our church a good grade for. Like John I would commend CBC as John commended Gaius. I believe we do a wonderful job caring for those who come to us preaching the gospel and relying on God’s provision. But like John, rather than stopping with patting us on the back – the encouragement is to carry on. Continue being that hospitable church to those who come here under these circumstances. May we continue to co-labor with them for the sake of The Name!