The apostle John wrote this short letter of 3 John in about 90AD to a man named Gaius. John introduces himself as ‘The elder’ (v1) which indicates both his status as a well-respected and long-standing figure in the church and also underlines his love and care for the church.
John has heard from other people about Gaius and he writes to Gaius about this at the start of the letter. Two characteristics of Gaius stand out:
- Walking in the truth (vv3,4)
This is the number one distinctive of Gaius: he is walking in the truth.
This is the feature that the people who have spoken to John report back first: ‘Do you remember Gaius? Well, he is a man who is walking in the truth’. What a testimony! How I long for that for me and for the church at large. Shouldn’t we be noted as people who walk in the truth? Our every action, our every motivation, our every decision would then come out of the fact that we are so full of the truth that it directs and affects all we do.
If we walk in the truth it means that the truth becomes the basis on which we make any decision. This not only affects how we serve in the church but also affects the multitude of decisions that make up our days: How should I react in this situation at work? How should I discipline my children? How should I use this money? How should I prioritise my time? What should I read or watch?
‘Walking in the truth’ combines the ideas of holding correct doctrine and living in a way that works out those truths.
Not just correct theology, but correct theology combined with correct actions.
Not just talking about the truth but living out the truth.
- Generously hospitable (vv5-8)
The nature of these times in which John wrote was that there were people who had itinerant ministries and travelled around to various churches to build up and strengthen them. It was an extremely risky lifestyle for these missionaries. There were many dangers at hand. As they travelled thorough inhospitable country there would have been bands of robbers who would pose a threat. When these travellers arrived in a new location they would need somewhere to stay. Secure lodgings were few and far between and the local inns were not necessarily the safest or most wholesome of places to be.
These people ‘went out for the sake of the Name [i.e. Jesus], accepting nothing from the Gentiles’ (v7). What this means is that these ‘fellow workers’, having been saved, were then called by God to this work but didn’t have any physical resources to help support their endeavours.
This is where the church had a role to play. Given that these fellow workers had come to encourage and help the church, the church could play its part in providing accommodation and food while they were ministering in the town. This hospitality was not without risk. Many of these people were strangers (v5) and so when they arrived in a town the Christians would have to take on trust that they were indeed ‘fellow workers’ and not something more sinister.
John tells Gaius that he, and others, ‘will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God’ (v6). I read this to mean not just a handshake on arrival and a cup of coffee with a biscuit after the meeting! To send someone away in a manner ‘worthy of God’ is to offer hospitality that ascends to the very highest measures of generosity. This is hospitality that gives and gives and gives. This is a generosity of spirit that reflects the heart of God. It will include, no doubt, a safe place for the missionaries to stay, a bed for them to rest in, food to build their strength and supplies for the journey. But it is more than this. It is not so much the actual form of hospitality that is important but the underlying heart attitude that reflects the abundant generosity of God.
Gaius was someone who selflessly offered this sort of hosptiality and it was motivated by his love for the church (v6). He knew that these travelling workers would be a blessing to the church because they were fellow workers sent by God. He therefore willingly opened up his home and selflessly provided for them so that the church was blessed.
This generous hospitality is an example of walking in the truth. The desire to serve others, to put others first, to give generously and to provide hospitality are all evidences of a selfless love that is founded on a thorough understanding of the truth.
May the truth be so deeply living in us that we walk in it like Gaius did.