Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Letters Of The Apostle John. Day 21, The Value Of Showing Hospitality To Fellow Believers

As we take a look at the first half of John's third letter, we find him praising the hospitality that a believer named Gaius has shown to missionaries of the gospel. Out of love and admiration for the work Gaius is doing, John prays for the Lord to bless his friend's physical and spiritual health.

Although John mentions his friend Gaius by name (Gaius being an extremely common name in the Roman Empire in the first century AD), he refers to himself only as "the elder" as he did in his second letter. When we studied the second letter we spoke of the need to write somewhat "in code" due to the growing intolerance toward Christians in the Roman Empire. John referred to the church as a lady in his second letter and he called the church members the children of the lady. He didn't mention anyone by name other than God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this third letter John will make reference to God, which wouldn't be a serious offense if the letter were found by a Roman official. But the name of Jesus Christ could very well be considered divisive or even a threat to the Roman government, so John doesn't mention Christ at all in this letter. His only reference to Him is veiled when he speaks of the spreading of the gospel as doing work for the sake of "the Name", meaning the name of Christ. So if someone comes across this letter it would be difficult for them to prove who wrote it, or to whom it is addressed (since there were probably thousands of men named Gaius), or to whose "Name" it refers.

"The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth." (3 John 1:1) In his other letters John commonly uses the term "the truth" to mean the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He's saying to Gaius, "You are my friend, whom I love in the Lord."

He now prays for his friend, which is something we should do for our friends every day. Our friends are struggling in this broken world. They face all sorts of trials and temptations. They need the strength to stand firm, as did Gaius, and this is why John prays that Gaius will be strong both in body and spirit. "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 1:2-4) Some scholars believe that Gaius converted to Christianity under the preaching of John since John refers to him as one of his children. That could be the case, or it could simply be that John, who has been in the faith for a very long time now, takes on a protective fatherly role with younger believers.

In John's day, men and women are busy fulfilling the great commission by sharing the gospel with as many people as they can in spite of the fact that it is difficult and dangerous work. It can be dangerous to be associated with them, but Gaius has shown them love and hospitality. He has sheltered these missionaries under his roof. He has served them food and water. He has refreshed them not only physically but also spiritually by giving encouragement. John has words of praise for his faithfulness. "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans." (3 John 1:5-7)

These missionaries were not aided by any of the Gentiles who were still living in idolatry. Believing Gentiles no doubt often helped their fellow believers, but those who were still heathens did not. The unbelievers of the world don't often help those who are working to share the name of Christ. Sometimes unbelievers even do their best to hinder this work. But Gaius went out of his way to give aid to those who were sharing the gospel. And that's the attitude we should all have toward fellow believers. We are being a hindrance to them if we don't have this attitude. We can give to their ministries financially. We can support them with our love and encouragement. We can pray for the Lord to keep them strong physically and spiritually.

As Christians, and as the children of God, we must think of ourselves as one big family. We show hospitality to our family members, don't we? We love and pray for our family members. We help our family members out when they fall on hard times. We all work together as a unit for the good of the family. John concludes today by reminding us that we are all in this together, and that we must work together for the good of the family of God. "We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth." (3 John 1:8)

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