3 John 1-15 Ministry Hospitality or Hostility? (Rev. Erik Veerman)
3 John 1-15
Ministry Hospitality or Hostility?
Rev. Erik Veerman
We’ll be looking at the book of 3 John this morning. Based on word count, it is the shortest book in the whole Bible.
3 John is like the inverse of 2 John. In 2 John, the apostle John warns against welcoming and supporting false teachers. 3 John, on the other hand, encourages the support and hospitality of faithful workers. So, these two letters go hand and hand.
The letter is written to Gaius. That name was one of the most common names at the time. In fact, there are three different Gaiuses mentioned in the New Testament. One Gaius was part of the church in Corinth, another was from Macedonia and seized by the mob in Ephesus, and the third Gaius travelled with Paul and was from Derbe. Derbe, by the way, is in central Asia Minor.
3 John could be written to Gaius from Derbe or possibly a fourth Gaius.
But this we do know about him, he’s was a dearly beloved Christian. The apostle John makes that clear.
Let’s now come to God’s Word.
Reading of 3 John 1-15
When you think about the Great Commission, what comes to mind?
The Great Commission is recorded in Matthew chapter 28 verse 19. It’s the last thing that Jesus commanded before ascending to heaven. He said, “Go… and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
When you hear that, what comes to mind?
You are probably thinking, and I would agree, the Great Commission is call to bring the good news of Jesus to the world. To every tribe, language, and nation. To every corner of the earth.
You may also be thinking the call to disciple and baptize as part of the Great Commission. Not just proclaiming the Gospel but teaching the word and receiving people into the church through baptism.
Those are all central aspects of the Great Commission.
But I’m guessing you’re not thinking about how the Great Commissions happens. What are the essential elements or necessary steps in order that the Gospel may go to the ends of the earth?
Well, number 1, certainly, people need to be sent. Some of you here have been called to that task. You’ve dedicated your lives to fulfill the Great Commission. You are participating in bringing the hope of Christ to all people.
When the Great Commission was given, there was a whole world that needed to hear about Jesus. People were called to go to places that had never heard of him before. There are still places today that have never heard of the good news of Jesus Christ.
The other essential element for the Great Commission is senders and supporters. The Great Commission doesn’t happen without the support of faithful churches.
Those necessary aspects of the Great Commission are what 3 John is about! Being sent, sending, and supporting. And the question for us is, are we helping and participating in the work? Or are we hindering the work to which the church is called? Both sides are addressed here.
If you look at this letter, there are three people that the apostle John mentions.
1. I’ve already mentioned Gaius –John commends him for his supporting role;
2. Then there’s Diotrephes – He was the one hindering the work – in several ways.
3. And Demetrius – He’s mentioned in verse 12. He was one of the brothers sent.
So, three people, and we’re going to take each of them one at a time. The question to ask is, Are you a Gaius – hospitable and supportive of the work of ministry? Or are you like Diotrephes, hostile to the work? Or are you Demetrius – a faithful worker called to dedicate your life to the Great Commission?
Well, first, Gaius. He’s really the main focus of this letter, so we’ll spend half of our time on him.
Let me describe Gaius this way: He was a faithful man of God, (1) loved by the church because of his loving spirit, (2) faithful in living out the truth of God in Christ, and (3) faithful to support the mission of the broader church.
That summarizes what we learn about Gaius in both John’s opening salutation, as well as John’s encouragement in verses 5-8. And if there were one word to describe Gaius, it would be the word faithful. Faithful to the church, faithful to Christ, faithful to the work.
Gaius is the one we’re called to imitate!
And one thing is clear, here: The apostle John loves Gaius. He says he loves him, verse 1, and he calls Gaius “beloved” three times. Gaius is like a son to the apostle John - a son in the faith. John mentions that he prays for Gaius’s wellbeing, his physically well being and his soul, verse 2. John is filled with joy, verses 3 and 4, because he heard that Gaius was being faithful.
I was thinking, Gaius to the apostle, was like the model of a faithful believer. Many of the positive themes in 1 John and 2 John describe Gaius’s life. Gaius is an example of knowing and walking in the truth, displaying the love of God, and not being in love with the world.
Isn’t that the stuff we heard about over and over in the apostle’s letters? Gaius is like 1 and 2 John personified. Can you imagine the joy that John feels because of Gaius? Look at how John describes his joy. He writes in verse 3, “For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.” He basically repeats that in verse 4.
And when we get to verse 5, we learn about one way that Gaius had been faithful. And here’s where the letter begins to take focus. Gaius was faithfully supporting the work of the Great Commission.
You see, this is one application of walking in truth and love. Gaius is faithfully caring for the workers that God had called to go.
Now, I just want to say, some see this letter as a general call to hospitality – you know, to welcoming people into our homes like neighbors, co-workers, other brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s a good thing, of course, but I don’t believe that it’s the focus of 3 John. No, rather Gaius and others are showing hospitality to full time ministry workers. If you will, who have dedicated their lives to the Great Commission.
I say that because verse 7 says they have “gone out for the sake of the name.” We’ll come back to that in a few minutes. But basically, they had been sent to proclaim the name of Jesus. Verse 7 also says they accepted “nothing from the Gentiles.” That means they were called to go, and they needed support, but they did not want support from the people they were trying to reach – the Gentiles.
And look how John describes them in verse 8: “fellow workers for the truth.” Do you see how that all adds up? Today we would call them missionaries or maybe ministry partners.
So, Gaius and others helped these brothers. By the way, that word for “brothers” can also be translated “brothers and sisters.” Some of your Bibles have that footnote.
Look at how John describes Gaius’s service to them. Verse 5. “it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts.” They served these brothers and sisters, they hosted them, provided for their needs, cared for them, supported them, and sent them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.
Let me say it again: the Great Commission doesn’t happen without senders and supporters. And there are many ways to send and support. Certainly financial, but also prayer, and also hosting, and also caring and getting to know them, and loving them well… all done in “a manner worthy of God.”
In fact, we see this kind of ministry hospitality all through the book of Acts. That’s when the Great Commission work began to go forth.
Let me give you some examples:
•In Acts 9, Peter was hosted in Joppa at the home of Simon the tanner. While Peter was there, God used him to minister to the people. And we’re told many believed in the Lord.
•In Acts chapter 10, Cornelius the centurion came to faith in Christ. Cornelius then hosted Peter in his home in Caesarea for “some days” it says.
•In Acts 16, the apostle Paul came to the city of Philippi for the first time. He witnessed to a group of women by the river. One of them, Lydia, came to faith in Christ, along with her whole household. She then welcomed Paul and those with him to stay in her home. In fact, Lydia’s home likely became the place of worship for the Philippian church.
•Or consider what happened in Corinth in Acts 18. It’s there that Paul met Aquila and Priscilla. Not only did they support and host him, but they co-labored in their tent making trade. Priscilla and Aquila would also travel around to support the Great Commission work of the church. In 1 Corinthians, we learn that the church met in their home. They were tremendous examples of ministry hospitality.
•The examples continue. In Troas and Ptolemais, Paul and his companions stayed with the brothers, it says. In Caesarea, they stayed at the home of Philip. From there, they travelled to Jerusalem and stayed with Mnason of Cyprus.
•On Paul’s third missionary Journey, he stayed with Gaius in Corinth. Likely a different Gaius than the one in this letter. In fact, in Gaius’s home in Corinth, Paul wrote the letter to the church in Rome.
•Outside of the book of Acts, we’re given testimony in 2 Corinthians 8 of how the church in Macedonia – a very poor church - gave abundantly to support the Great Commission work. It says they “gave beyond their means.”
You see, this is the pattern over and over and over - faithfully supporting the Great Commission by faithfully supporting the faithful kingdom workers.
And look how John puts it in verse 8, “we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” In other words, by supporting Great Commission work, we are participating in Great Commission work. That is how it happens.
So, to summarize the example of Gaius. He faithfully walked in the truth, faithfully loved the church, and faithfully supported the kingdom work by supporting these mission partners. May we be known as faithful in those same ways.
End of story, right? Unfortunately, no!
You see, it turns out that not everyone was supportive. In fact, Diotrephes was not just passively unsupportive. No, he was actively hostile to the work.
This is the second person John mentions in his letter. Diotrephes. He’s also an example for us, but a negative example. In fact, we can learn how to be supportive of mission work by thinking about the opposite of what Diotrephes was doing.
He’s a troublemaker. And notice, Diotrephes was part of the church. He’s not on the outside opposing the work. No, rather, he is on the inside. We can say that because he even wants to put those who support the work, out of the church. That’s at the end of verse 10.
For that reason, John planned to visit and to sternly exhort Diotrephes. But even if John doesn’t make it, this letter serves as a grave warning to him. Earlier John called Diotrephes’s words about them “wicked nonsense.” And in the second half of verse 11, John writes: “whoever does evil has not seen God.”
He’s saying that Diotrephes’ works are evil. And if he persisted in this evil, he would be demonstrating that he does not know God. You see that grave warning? Was Diotrephes even a true believer. The Lord knows.
If you were to ask me, what is the purpose of this letter for us? I would point you to verse 11. John writes, “beloved, do not imitate evil, but imitate good.” Do not imitate Diotrephes but imitate Gaius! That is our call.
But there’s something really important here. And I want you to see it. Verse 11 doesn’t just tell us to imitate good. It also tells us why. Look at the second half of verse 11. It says, “Whoever does good IS from God.” That is critically important. The good that we are called do comes from God. “Is from God.” The doing comes from the being. Imitating Gaius and not Diotrephes testifies to a heart that knows and has God in Christ. It’s the same for Gaius. He was walking in the truth because he abided in the truth. I don’t want you to misunderstand what is underlying this call to imitate and do good. Do you understand that?
Well, let’s get back to Diotrephes as the bad example. What exactly was he doing or not doing that caused this stern word.
In verses 9 and 10, we’re given 3 things not to imitate:
1. Number one, Diotrephes put himself first. In other words, he was a self-promoter. Instead of being humble and honoring others, Diotrephes was selfishly prideful. That is not the call for believers, and especially leaders in the church.
2. Second, he did not acknowledge the John’s authority. The apostles had been given the authority by Christ to establish the church and to teach what Jesus had taught them. But Diotrephes rejected that authority. Again, John says that Diotrephes was talking “wicked nonsense” about them. Besides rejecting the true authority, Diotrephes was committing slander.
3. And third (and this relates directly to the emphasis in the letter), Diotrephes rejected the faithful Great Commission workers. AND he rejected those who wanted to support them. Now, we’re not told why he rejected them. Perhaps he thought it was a waste of resources and time. Or perhaps he thought that people shouldn’t be dedicating their lives to ministry. You know, “get a real job and stop mooching off of the goodwill of others.” Or perhaps he was rejecting the Great Commission – “we shouldn’t minister to those people.” We don’t know the reason, but whatever it was, Diotrephes was really rejecting God and his work.
So, number one, he was prideful. Number two, he rejected the authority of the apostles. And number three, Diotrephes rejected the support of faithful workers of the truth.
He’s the opposite of Gaius. Imitate good and don’t imitate evil.
Kids, your mom or your dad has probably said to you at one time, “choose your friends wisely.” Right? It’s true. You will imitate those you spend time with. So, seek out friends who model goodness and truth. And watch out for those whose who are prideful and who deny God. Now, I’m talking about your dearest friends. Of course, you should be friendly to your classmates who may or may not know of Jesus. Be a great example of Christ to them, like Gaius.
Ok, one more person mentioned here. Demetrius. He just gets one verse – verse 12.
Demetrius is the example of the sent one. I say that because John goes out of his way to affirm Demetrius’ faithfulness in his work. John uses that word “testimony” three times in this one verse. He’s basically telling Gaius to receive Demetrius as a fellow worker. To treat him well and support him in the work to which he is called.
Gaius doesn’t know Demetrius, but when he receives this letter from John, he would eagerly anticipate Demetrius’ arrival. Demetrius had been sent forth, like the others, for the sake of the Great Commission!
Some people are uniquely called to full time Great Commission work. We have a few people here. Pastor Chuck, Jonathan and Beka, pastor Jay is out of town today, but he’s another example. Another Chuck, our guest violinist, ministered the Gospel to refugees in London for years and years. [Dennis and Brenda?] Others of you have been involved in full-time work in the past. Roy and Kristy and Sanders, and I’m sure there are others here. And, as you know, we support the work of several who serve all over the world. This is part of the church’s calling – to send and support that work.
Jesus said in Matthew 9, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Maybe you are the answer to those prayers. Are you called just as Demetrius was called? Have you felt the burden to go and dedicate your life to Great Commission work? If so, what is holding you back from exploring the call?
I’m using the phrase “exploring the call” on purpose. In verse 12, Demetrius was validated. What I mean is that part of being sent is the testimony of others. If you have an inward sense that God may be calling you to go, that needs to be matched with an outward confirmation of that call. In verse 12, that happens through the testimony from leaders in the church and the testimony of the truth. In other words, God will confirm that call in you through the witness of people you know and your faithfulness to the truth of the Gospel.
Will you pray about whether God is calling you as he did Demetrius? Will you explore that call with those who know you and with the church? If you are called, know this: the Lord will use his church and his people to support your Great Commission work to the end of the earth.
Conclusion and Gospel Connection
In summary, the Great Commission requires people to be sent as well as churches who send and support the work.
•Gaius was a faithful demonstration of supporting and sending those called to this full time work. Our call is to imitate Gaius out of hearts that know God in Christ.
•Diotrephes, on the other hand, modelled how not to serve and love those who are called. Let the testimony of his life be a warning.
•And, last, Demetrius revealed a life called to go and verified by the testimony of the church.
As we draw to a close, what is the purpose in all of it? Is it for the purpose of social change in the world? Or to bring Christian morality to the world? Well, let’s go back to verse 7. Again, it reads, “they have gone out for the sake of the name.” That name is the one name under heaven whereby we must be saved. The name of Jesus. The sending, supporting, and being sent is for the express purpose of heralding the name of Jesus. The primary goal is not to bring about social change. To be sure, there will be aspects of the work that serve the tangible needs of the people being reached, but the primary goal and emphasis is for the “sake of the name.” That the name of Jesus may be exalted. That more and more may know of his love and then they themselves supporting and be sent in the work.
Think of the 2000 years since the Great Commission. That work has multiplied through the efforts of churches and brothers and sisters like Gaius and Demetrius. The Lord has used all those who have supported the Great Commission and have heeded the call.
We are here today worshipping because of the faithful ministry and support of those who have gone before us. Running through my mind this week has been all the faithful missionaries that have sought to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Amy Carmichael and William Carey in India. David Livingstone in Africa. Hudson Taylor and Gladys Aylward in China. Adoniram Judson in MyanMar. And many many many others. I can’t even imagine how many homes were opened up to these servants and how many churches supported this work. For they were all fellow workers fulfilling that Great Commission call to the nations.
So, may the testimony of our church and each of us be similar to Gaius as we seek to imitate good. May we each be warned about the life of Diotrephes that we may not imitate evil. And may God call some of us to go as he did Demetrius. All for God’s glory, all for his kingdom to go to the ends of the earth, and all because of the Gospel hope in us. Pray