Turn with me to 3 John please, and we'll read all of this little book together as we will do each night. Verse 1: "The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true. I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name". Amen.
Now 3 John is unique in the canon of Scripture, as it is the shortest book in the New Testament, it is just one line shorter than the second epistle of John - that is, in the original Greek language. Yet, perhaps no other book in the New Testament paints for us a more vivid picture of first century early church life than 3 John does. It's as if we're a fly on the wall, witnessing some of the circumstances going on in this very early church. Now, it's very similar to 2 John, 2 John's keywords were 'love' and 'truth', and we find that the same keywords are in 3 John. But there is a significant difference midst all the similarities between 2nd and 3rd John, and it's simply this: you will remember that 2 John was addressed to an 'elect lady', John was writing to her warning that she should not admit false teachers into her home, which effectively was admitting them into the church fellowship. So she was warned, she was given a critique whereby she might know whether a teacher was true or false. Now 3 John is like a mirror image of 2 John in that it's opposite in the sense that John is writing to a man called Gaius, and Gaius is being commended for the very fact that he has admitted teachers into the church of Jesus Christ where he resided. Rather than a prohibition given by the apostle to Gaius, there is in fact a commendation and a warning that he should never refuse admittance to those who are the true teachers and preachers in the church.
So, if you like, these two epistles give us the two sides of love. In 2 John we have the firmness of love, that love does not open its doors to every thing and every thought. There has to be a protectiveness towards the church in love, towards the sheep, that the wolves do not get in and devour. Yet in 3 John we have this tenderness of love, that those who are truly in Christ, those who are in the fellowship of the Gospel ought to be given admittance, hospitality, among the people of God.
As we have read this book together, and as we will study it - that is 3 John - we will find ourselves, I think, saying: 'Well, times haven't changed much in 2000 years or so. We still have the same problems, and we still have the same types of people in the assembly'. I want you to imagine the scene which is the backdrop to 3 John. It's probably a house church located some distance from John's primary ministry, hence he has to write a letter. This little church is in the same theological struggle as the church that John wrote to in 1 John and 2 John. Now we know, by inference, that John once wrote to this church already - but an influential man within the assembly, probably a leader, an elder who had taken a primary position among other elders by the name of Diotrephes, rejected John's letter entirely. Verse 9 shows us this: 'I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not'.
Now after Diotrephes refused this first letter from John, the apostle sent emissaries to the church - but again Diotrephes stepped forward and refused them admittance, refused even to acknowledge them as children of God and servants of God. Verse 10 shows us this: 'Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church'. In fact, we know from verse 9 that Diotrephes even repudiated John the great apostle publicly. He spread rumours, verse 10 also infers, concerning the apostle's character. In fact, Diotrephes forcefully stopped any who were sympathetic to the apostle John and his brethren, anyone who gave fellowship and communion to them within the assembly, they were under the threat of excommunication. In effect what he was saying was: 'Anyone who sides with these men coming from the apostle John can get out of the church, just as I have thrown them out of the church'.
But there was one in the assembly, a courageous man, a gracious man, who accepted these missionaries as their host into his home, and his name was Gaius. Of course, he obviously knew Diotrephes, he knew the type of man that he was, he knew the venomous threats that he was making to any who accepted John or his friends, and yet he was not intimidated by him. We could say he feared God rather than men, and he helped these missionaries, he cared for them, he helped them on their way even financially. When the news returned to the apostle John first of all of Diotrephes' rebellion, and also secondly of Gaius' faithfulness, John then penned this short letter, his third epistle. In it he commends Gaius. Eventually he's going to visit the church, he tells us in his closing remarks, verses 13 and 14, and I just think perhaps that he wants an ally when he comes in Gaius, so that he can face Diotrephes with someone in the church who is of the same mind and the same heart as the apostle.
Let me just say that there's an interesting lesson there, I think, for leaders and elders within the church of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we spend so much time struggling with the problem people in the assembly that we forget to commend and encourage the faithful. The fact of the matter is: John didn't make that mistake. The first thing he does in this epistle is to commend Gaius for his faithfulness; and he is not a fool, because he knows that through his encouragement he is making an investment, for when he comes to face Diotrephes he will have the moral support of this faithful one, Gaius.
Now Gaius is one of four characters that we will face in 3 John. Gaius is 'The Man', I have entitled this study tonight, 'Who Helped God's Work'. He is a hospitable character, a friend to the workers in the Gospel, he is a spiritual man. Next week, in the will of the Lord, we will encounter 'Diotrephes, The Man Who Hindered God's Work' - self-seeking, unloving, self-promoting, and proud. Then, God willing, in our final study we will face Demetrius, he is 'The Man Who Is Honoured In God's Work' - set forth as a commendable example to all children of God in his faithful service to the Lord. We believe he is the man who took this letter to this particular church. But if there's a message in this little epistle, it's this, and it's one we often hear reiterated in all sorts of circles today: where there are people there are problems. The church is not exempt, it never has been. Sometimes we hear ministry that we need to get back to the practices of the early church, and I would agree with that in one sense - but, you know, the early church has many problems, many more than we do today. There were people in the church, and they were problem people.
The question we need to ask tonight, as we seek to perhaps fit ourselves into the caricature of whether we are a Gaius, a Diotrephes, or a Demetrius is: am I a person who is a problem? Am I part of the problem, or am I part of the solution to the problem? So let us embark upon this epistle with that question on our minds personally: am I part of the problem, or am I part of the solution?
Now this little epistle begins, as all epistles, with a salutation. We know it's from John the elder again, and if you want to know why we believe that that is John the apostle, the last surviving apostle who was with the Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry, I would encourage you to get our introduction to the second epistle - I'm not going to go over that old ground regarding the authorship. This epistle is addressed clearly to this man Gaius. Now, there are several Gaius' named in the New Testament. There is Gaius of Macedonia who, together with Aristarchus, was seized by the rioting mob at Ephesus - we read of him in Acts 19. Then there was another Gaius who accompanied Paul the apostle on his last trip to Jerusalem. He formed part of the group of delegates that presented the offering from the Gentile churches to the church in Judaea. We read of him in Acts chapter 20. Then there is Gaius, another, of Corinth, in whose house we believe Paul the apostle lived while he was dictating the epistle to the Romans. You can read about that in Romans 16:23.
Now the big question is: is this Gaius the same Gaius? The answer is: we don't know, and there's no way of knowing. Gaius, we're led to believe, was probably the most popular name in the whole of the Roman Empire - it's a bit like James or John today - so we can never be sure who this man is. The fact of the matter is, even if we don't know anything more about Gaius than what we know in the third epistle of John, we learn a great deal about his character in these verses alone. We learn first of all that he was a well-beloved believer in the church and of John. You see that right away, 'wellbeloved Gaius', verse 1. He is well beloved, we shall see, because his whole life commended him to these fellow believers, his whole life was a witness to the love, the grace, and the life of God in Jesus Christ.
'Love' and 'truth' are not the only keywords in this epistle, another is the word 'witness'. It's found in verse 3, it's expressed in the word 'testified'; then in verse 6 we have the word 'report'; and in verse 12 we have the word 'bear record' and 'record'. Right away we are impressed with the fact that this man Gaius, Gaius the man who helped God's work, was a tremendous witness and testimony to love and to truth, these two great themes in John's epistle. The emphasis, I believe, is that whilst John has been concentrating on a great amount of doctrinal material regarding Christology and the doctrine concerning the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, he wants us to grasp this truth that the fight against falsehood is not fought alone by our words, but the fight against falsehood must be fought on the battleground of our lives. To others in our world, truth is not essential. Some believe, and you've heard them say it, so long as the deeds that you do are good, and you do them, that's all that matters - it doesn't really matter what you believe. Then there are others and they only believe that it's important to believe what's right, and after that it doesn't really matter what you do or how you do it. John right away is obliterating both of those fallacies, and showing us that truth and life must be always married together, they are inseparables. Every Christian life must be a witness of the truth. Truth is not some just objective thing that is intangible, but truth must be enshrined within the life - and every Christian, like Gaius, is a witness. The big question is whether you're a good one or a bad one. Whether, like Gaius, you're helping the truth, or you're hindering the truth.
Gaius was a man, as we see from verse 8, who helped it: 'We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth'. Is that not what the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of in all of His ministry here on the earth? A case in point is the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 5 and verse 16: 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven'. The whole point of our residing here on earth as children of God is for witness, for record, for testimony of love and truth. Now, we need to ask the question of this man Gaius: what kind of characteristics do we find in a man who is walking in truth? We've been talking about this already in 2 John, but now we're given personification, an example of a man who is walking in truth - what are the salient characteristics that we see in this man?
Here's the first thing that I want you to notice: he was spiritually healthy, spiritually healthy. Verse 2, John says, and we're still in the salutation: 'Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth'. Now, it is customary in first century letters to begin them with a prayer, and John is keeping to the custom but he's Christianising it in a sense. What John is saying here is that he wishes that Gaius' physical health would correspond to his spiritual vigour, his spiritual health. He says: 'that he might prosper in all things', that is his physical well-being - not as the health and wealth prosperity gospel movement teaches us, that you should be a millionaire and never be sick - rather he clarifies it for us and says: 'that you might prosper and be in health'. John is saying: 'I long that your health would mirror your spiritual wealth'.
I was just thinking as I was studying this today, it's just as well John wasn't praying this prayer for many of us - for if the Lord granted it, some of you would be dead, some of you would be up in hospital! Most of us, I'm sure, would have an ailment of one kind or another. I wonder if we were to be asked the question: 'Would we like our physical condition to correspond to our spiritual condition?', how we would answer? The sad fact of the matter is, we often take better care of our physical well-being, our bodies, than we do of our souls. I'll not just ask the ladies the question: how long did it take you getting ready for the meeting tonight? Looking at some of you, it didn't take too long mind you! Then ask the question: how long did it take you talking to the Lord this morning? How long will it take you talking to Him this evening? It's a lesson, isn't it?
Just as an aside on this point, this flatly contradicts what is often taught by so-called 'faith healers'. Let me say that I believe that God can heal, I'm not one of these people that believes that God's healing is finished today, but many so-called 'faith healers' believe and teach that all sickness is as a result of specific sin in your life. Then, if they try to heal you and you're not healed, they tell you: 'Well, you've a lack of faith, that's why God hasn't worked in this regard'. Now Gaius' example flatly denies this, because here is a man whose spiritual condition was exemplary, whilst his physical condition was abysmal. It doesn't follow, and we must never make the mistake as Christians to assume that a person's illness or physical condition reflects something that is sinful in their life. Now sometimes it does, 1 Corinthians 11 tells us that, that many were weak and sickly among them because of their sin, getting drunk and feeding themselves around the Lord's Table - it was a judgment from God. But let me remind you that only God was able to make that call, only God could diagnose that that was the reason for their illness, and you certainly can't do it, nor can I.
But note also that at the same time the apostle John in this salutation is expressing a prayer that Gaius would be well. We ought to pray that folk should be well, and I think this is the lesson that John's trying to bring to us here: the Christian ought to be concerned with the whole person. God is concerned with the whole person, God has redeemed us body, soul and spirit. God will resurrect us one day, bring us into the eternal state body, soul and spirit. Remember now the backdrop theologically to these epistles, John has already told us that it is the deceiver and the antichrist who claims that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh, because they believe all flesh is wrong - dualism, the material, physical world is evil, and only the spiritual is good and pure. John says: 'No', and that's why he was praying for Gaius' physical condition.
Here's his point: spiritual health will manifest itself in good symptoms, and the good symptom of spiritual health is witness for Jesus Christ. Verse 3: 'For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth'. He said the same thing of those in the elect lady's house in verse 4 of his second epistle: 'I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father'. Now it's tremendous to be a Christian and have the truth in you, but what John is saying is: it's better to manifest that truth in our lives, to exhibit it, to be a testimony, a witness, a record of truth. We should be people that don't just hold the truth, whether it's the Bible in our hand or doctrine in our head or even in our heart, but we should be a people by whom the truth is held, and who are held by the truth.
Someone has well said: 'Men would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon'. Now I know some of you might have watched that program 'You Are What You Eat', I confess to you I have never ever seen it before, but I've heard a little bit about it. Of course, that's a saying that's been going around for years. Dieticians tell us that if you eat too much garlic, you'll smell of it, and it comes out of your pores. I don't know that if you eat steak you'll become like a steak, I'm not sure, or if you eat chicken you'll become a chicken - but nevertheless, there is an element that when we digest our food, it becomes assimilated into our system. When we drink water it becomes blood, and it's the same in our spiritual lives. If we are to be strong spiritually, if we're to be a witness, if we're to manifest the power of God and energy in a spiritual sense to others, we need to digest spiritual things. Digestion in the spiritual life is meditation, meditation on God's word and God's truth - not just reading it, not just studying it, but inwardly digesting it is what digestion is to the physical life. It's not enough to hear God's word - you need to hear it. It's not enough to read it - you need to read it. It's not enough to study it - you need to study it; but you need to meditate upon it to digest it! So much so that Paul could say: 'Though the outward man perish, the inward man can be renewed day by day', if you meditate upon God's word. Meditation, digestion makes God's word part of the inner man.
That's what Gaius was: he was a walking Bible. D. L. Moody would have called him 'The truth translated into shoe leather'. William MacDonald, the commentator, said very profoundly: 'There's nothing that counts more for God in an age of fact', and I think what he means by that is a rationalistic age, 'nothing counts for more in this age than a holy life'. Gaius is what I would call a 'glasshouse Christian', transparent. What you see is what you get. He's the real thing. It's important to John that he knows that about Gaius. We believe, perhaps, he led him to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that's why he could say in verse 4: 'I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth' - no greater joy! Have you ever heard it said by an evangelist or preacher, maybe I have even said it myself, 'There's nothing like leading a soul to Christ'? There's no greater joy on this earth than pointing a soul to the Saviour. But you know, there's no greater heartache than to have pointed someone to the Lord Jesus Christ, and then see them return, after profession of faith, to their former life, and go back to the mire like a pig and wallow in the dirt, or go back like a dog to its own vomit. The greatest thrill is not pointing a person to Christ, the greatest thrill and joy is to lead a person to Jesus and then see them going on with the Lord. That was John's joy.
That's why we need to emphasise follow-up in our evangelism - not just getting people saved, but discipling them and getting them mature in the faith. Here is a man, Gaius, who is spiritually healthy - are you, my friend? That is a person who's walking in the truth, that is a person who's a witness.
The second thing that we see about him is not only that he was spiritually healthy, but he was openly hospitable. Now, I think I told you already that in these days the ministry in the local church was an itinerant ministry, and the pastors and evangelists, and teachers and preachers would travel around and visit the churches, and stay in the homes of the believers. Preachers weren't wealthy, and they couldn't afford to stay in inns - and they wouldn't have wanted to because of the debauchery that was going on in inns of that day - and so the believers, the saints of God put them up. Here is a man who exemplifies hospitality in the early church. It was a delight to him, a special privilege to throw open his doors, the doors of his home, to preachers and teachers of the Gospel. It's tremendous when we see this - in verse 5 not only did he open his home to the brethren, it says, but to strangers. Some versions put it like this: 'And especially to strangers'.
He was openly hospitable. I'm not so sure if you're familiar with this, but the New Testament presents hospitality as a very important ministry in God's sight. Elders, the Bible teaches that bishops are to be hospitable, 1 Timothy 3 verse 2, Titus chapter 1 and verse 8. In Romans 12 we read that if a widow is hospitable to others she is to be honoured by the church. Do we practice this today? In 1 Peter 4 and verse 9, we read that we are to offer hospitality without grumbling, without murmuring. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to be hospitable because some have entertained angels unawares, they have unwittingly entertained angels because they have flung open their doors to strangers! The New Testament is full of the exhortation to hospitality.
But let me show you the primary reason why we ought to be hospitable as Christians. Turn with me to Matthew's gospel chapter 25, and there is a judgment here being described but the principle refers to many things. Verse 40 of Matthew 25: 'And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me'. What does that mean? It means this: that when you engage in open hospitality to brethren and servants of Christ, you care for them as if you were caring for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! On the other hand, failure to care for the Lord's servants is looked upon as failure to care for the Lord Himself in verse 45 of the same chapter: 'Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me'. There is a blessing from the Lord when you are openly hospitable, because you're not just ministering to the servants of Christ and to the brethren in Christ that you have, you're ministering to the Lord Himself!
Now turn with me to another portion, Luke's gospel chapter 24, where we have an actual illustration of this fact literally. Luke 24, the two on the road to Emmaus after the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection, unknown to them. They are despondent, desolate, thinking all hope is gone, and in verse 29 we read that after the Lord Jesus appeared to them, not knowing who He was, and after He began at Moses and all the prophets expounding unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself: 'They constrained him', verse 29, 'saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them'. They were hospitable, they opened their home unwittingly to the Lord Jesus Christ. 'And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures. And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread'.
What a wonderful story! Opening their home in hospitality, and opening their home unwittingly to the Lord Himself! William MacDonald says this of that very instance: 'Many can testify that through the practice of hospitality meals have been turned into sacraments, children have been converted, and families have been drawn closer to the Lord'. Do you practise hospitality? Elders, do you practise it? Deacons, do you practise it? Members, do you practise it? I'll have to be honest, sometimes we're in an awful predicament when we invite visiting preachers over to the province because we haven't got anybody, but one or two, to put them up. Those one or two are overburdened continually because the rest aren't willing - that's hospitality. Do you do it?
Not only do you do it, but do you see a blessing in it? W. A. Criswell is arguably one of the greatest Southern Baptist preachers that this generation has known, he's now deceased recently. He tells the story that it was actually through his parents' ministry of hospitality that he was converted. When he was 10 years of age a preacher came to their church to hold an evangelistic crusade, and his mother, Anna Criswell, invited him to make his lodgings with them during the two week stay. The young W. A. Criswell was greatly impressed by this visiting evangelist by the name of John Hicks. When he was out for a walk little W. A. would go and walk alongside him, and when he was going to church he would go to church with him, he would return home with him. When he was in the home, during their meals the boy would pull up a chair close to the preacher and listen to the adult conversation over the meal. Mr Hicks stopped and took time with the little boy, he talked about his thoughts with him, he asked him questions, he asked about his aspirations for the future, what he would do when he was older. By the time Mr Hicks left the town, W. A. Criswell had received Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord.
Don't underestimate hospitality. There is a Danish proverb that says: 'Where there is room in the heart, there is room in the house'. Hospitality isn't just putting a meal down to someone, it isn't just inviting someone back for supper, hospitality is opening your heart to others. When your heart is open to them, your home is open and everything is open. Even when we are hospitable, do we open our hearts to others? Someone has said: 'Hospitality is the art of making people feel at home when you wish that they were at home'. I heard about a man today who took his dog to the vet, and asked him to cut off his tail completely. The vet says: 'I'm not sure I could do that! Why on earth would you ever want to do that to your dog?'. 'Well', said the dog owner, 'My mother-in-law is coming to visit us, and I don't want anything in the house to suggest that she's welcome'. That's often the way our hospitality is, isn't it? It's tongue in cheek, we do it reluctantly, it's not with an open heart.
Gaius not only opened his home, he opened his heart - do you know something? When you open your heart like Gaius, you'll open your hand. You see, he was not just spiritually healthy and openly hospitable, but we find out about this man that he was evangelically generous, evangelically generous. Look at verse 6: '[These brethren] have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well'. Charity, love! He was generous to all the church, all these ministers, all these brethren, these evangelists, these preachers and teachers who came - even strangers, he didn't know some of them! He knew they were the Lord's, that's what mattered - but how generous he was! It was reported right throughout the whole church as a testimony to the love of Christ - and because of that, please don't miss this: his name 'Gaius' is ever enshrined in holy writ because he not only had an open home and open heart, but he had an open hand. He was evangelically generous.
John not only commends him, but he encourages him to continue in the same. He says: 'send them forward on their journey', verse 6. Now what that literally means is: 'Assist them on their journey', not just a friendly 'Goodbye, the Lord bless you and keep you, and make His face shine upon you, but I'm not giving anything to you!' - no. It was material supplies to assist them on their way, those who were engaging in this itinerant Gospel ministry. Now that could have included many things, as we go through the New Testament we see those things - it could have been money, it could have been food, it could have been anything like washing their clothes and mending their clothing. But the whole point of it was this: Christian love in Gaius was exemplified practically. Gaius was the man who helped God's work.
All faith, we are told in the Scriptures, must be proved by works. That is not Catholicism, that is Christianity. Turn with me for a moment to the epistle of James chapter 2 verses 14 to 16: 'What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone'. Friends, remember the parable of the Good Samaritan - have you ever read that verse where it says that the Good Samaritan then took out a tract and put it in his top pocket, the man who was lying bleeding by the side of the road? You don't read that. You don't read that he took it as an opportunity to share the Gospel to him. Now I'm not saying that we should never do that, but the whole point is this: let us not minimise the whole teaching. Many people take allegorical interpretations that would blow your mind, out of the good Samaritan, and miss the whole point! He was showing love, Christlike, unconditional love to a man that was in need. Our love must be expressed in deeds, God's word says, not just in words.
Look to John's first epistle if I need to remind you of what he said in chapter 3 verse 16: 'Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth'. Is that the way we love? Lord Shaftesbury was a great reformer in a political and religious sense, and there was a couple who were due to meet him at the station, but they had never met him before. They inquired of a friend of his: 'We don't know what he looks like, how will we recognise him?'. This friend of Lord Shaftesbury said: 'Well, when you see a tall man getting off the train and helping somebody, that'll be Lord Shaftesbury'. Sure enough they went down to the station, and a big tall man alighted from the coach carrying in one hand his suitcase, and in the other three bundles of a little old working lady's luggage.
John gives us the reason why he encouraged Gaius to help these missionary itinerants on their way. There are four, the first is: it honours God. He encouraged him to help them on their journey 'after a godly sort'. Now that literally means 'in a way that is worthy of God', a way that befits God. Someone has said: 'We are never more Godlike than when we are sacrificing to serve others'. Also because, verse 7 tells us, these missionary were doing this work for His name's sake, that's why they went forth. That means, as we've said from Matthew 25, that if you minister to them, you need to realise that they're doing this for God, and if you minister to them you're ministering to none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, for they are doing it for His name's sake - that name in whom there is salvation and no other name, that name which is above every name, that name to which every knee shall bow and tongue confess. Incidentally, this little epistle is the only book in the New Testament that doesn't specifically mention the name of the Lord Jesus Christ - but it doesn't matter, this is the synonym for it: 'the name', they went forth for the name of Jesus. That's why it honours God to honour them!
The second reason is that it is a testimony to the lost. You have to remember that many of these false teachers and preachers were wandering around churches and houses begging money to share their ideas: 'If the price is right I'll tell you what God told me'. Do you find that around today? I think we do. My skin crawls at times at some of these meetings that are ticketed with charges of £10 and £15, even in conservative evangelicalism to hear special preachers. Is that of God? I think not! You see, it's a testimony to the lost when believers support the work of God so that we're not going around with a hat asking them to give. It prevents this perception that the evangelist of the Gospel is after money, Jesus said: 'Freely you have received, therefore freely give'. To do anything else might even create in the mind of the unsaved a false ground of self-righteousness on which to rest: 'Because I've given to the Gospel ministry, in some way I'm on tick with God'. Right away, what a rebuke this is we see to the money raising methods in Christendom today. God's people should finance the work of the Gospel, and God's people alone - they took nothing of the pagans. Let us not put temptation in anyone's way to go to the world, and let us support God's work. Gaius did it.
It honours God, it's a testimony to the lost, thirdly: it is obedience to God's word. 'We therefore ought to receive such', verse 8 - we ought to receive such, we ought, why? Because God has taught us to: the ministry of hospitality in support of God's work is a command of God, it is obligatory to God's people. Turn with me for a moment to Galatians chapter 6, and often we miss the context of this portion of Scripture, Galatians 6 verse 6: 'Let him that is taught in the word', those who are recipients of the teaching of the word, 'communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing', that is, giving to the work of God, 'for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith'.
He makes it clear that believers in the church who have received spiritual blessings from those who minister in God's word ought to share, with those who minister, those material blessings. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 9, and it further explains this principle for us, verse 7: 'Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?'.
It is obedience to God's word to help the Gospel on its way as Gaius did. It honours God, is a testimony to the lost, it is obedience to God's word, and fourthly: it accelerates world evangelisation. This is a beautiful phrase that John uses in verse 8, turn back with me to 3 John. He calls Gaius a 'fellowhelper': 'That we might be fellowhelpers to the truth'. It could be translated 'joint workers in the truth'. Now please note this, and I don't know what your gifts are here tonight, the Bible would teach us that we all have spiritual gifts - but most of us are not preachers, most of us are not public speakers, most of us are not involved in a so-called 'full-time ministry', whether as a pastor, a preacher, a missionary, an evangelist or a teacher, whatever it may be. Gaius may not have been someone who had a gift in public ministry, but nevertheless John says that he is a fellowhelper in the truth! He is defending contending for the truth, and by his liberality, his evangelical generosity, he is extending God's truth to the world!
That excites me, it should excite you. The Baptist missionary, the pioneer to India, William Carey who went to India in 1793 and spent the rest of his life there until he died in 1834 - despite many of the difficulties he faced, Carey was humble enough to appreciate that there were those at home who were praying, there were those who were giving sacrificially to the work in the field. Do you know what he called them? 'Rope-holders' - there they were at home, holding the rope. This is the imagery that he used: as they were holding the rope, he was venturing down what he described as 'the goldmine of India' gathering jewels for Jesus' crown. You may or may not be on the front line of the battle, so to speak, but isn't it wonderful that all of us can share in the work of God if we support those who are on the front line? There's no indication that Gaius was a preacher or a teacher, and this is a wonderful point for you to remember dear child of God, if you're of the same ilk: Gaius will receive reward at the judgment seat of Christ.
Here's a verse for you if you're a fellowhelper in the Gospel, it's Matthew 10 and verse 41, it's a verse that could be applied to those who give to the Gospel, it could be a verse applied to those who are married to those that are in the Gospel ministry, it could be a verse to those out on the mission field that are helping others in a practical ministry. Matthew 10:41, listen to it: 'He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward' - I think that's marvellous. Gaius will receive the reward of all the preachers he ever entertained. Whatever blessings come from a preacher's ministry, those who have cared for him, those who have helped him, those who have speeded him on his way will have his reward credited to their account.
Philippians 4:16-17 says: 'For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity'. Paul was speaking of financial aid to his work, and this is what he goes on to say: 'You sent it, and I perhaps needed it and there was maybe a request, not because I desire a gift - no, no, no - but I desire fruit that may abound to your account'. He knew they would be rewarded. Can I ask you: what reward will you have at the Judgment Seat for your spiritual health, for your open hospitality, for your evangelical generosity? Do you have an open home? An open heart? An open hand? Are you a Gaius, the man or the woman who helped God's work? The lesson is: God one day will pay back every good deed. Let me finish with this poem which encapsulates the spirit of the message:
'We cannot all be heroes
And thrill the hemisphere
With some great daring venture,
Some deed that mocks at fear;
But we can fill a lifetime
With kindly acts and true,
There's always noble service
For noble hearts to do.
We cannot all be preachers,
And sway with voice and pen,
As strong winds sway the forest,
The minds and hearts of men;
But we can be evangels
To souls within our reach,
There's always love's own gospel
For loving hearts to preach.
We cannot all be martyrs,
And win a deathless name
By some divine baptism,
Some ministry of fame.
But we can live for truth's sake,
Can do for Christ and dare,
There's always faithful witness
For faithful hearts to bear'.
Come back next week and we'll look at 'Diotrephes, The Man Who Hindered God's Work'.
Father, help us all, we pray, to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ who laid His life down and gave it a ransom for us all. Even so may we lay our lives down for the brethren, and for the furtherance of Thy kingdom. Lord, may we all be fellowhelpers in the work of this Gospel. Let us be a help to the testimony of Jesus, God forbid that any should be a hindrance. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty first recording in his '1, 2 and 3 John' series, entitled "Gaius - The Man Who Helped God's Work" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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