Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1088 MP3 Audio File Video File

Loving Strangers

(3 John 1:5-8)

Delivered 10/31/21

We are continuing our study this morning of 3 John which is the shortest epistle in the New Testament. We looked last week at the salutation in verse 1. Following the opening greetings in Greco-Roman letters there often followed an exordium in which the writer established rapport with his readers. We see this in verses 2-4. Then following the exordium, John now addresses himself to the first of his concerns in this letter in verses 5-8. He praises Gaius for his faithfulness in showing hospitality to travelling preachers.

In our last study we looked at the verse that is a spoof text for the health/wealth doctrine,

Dear friend, I am praying that everything prosper with you and that you be in good health, as I know you are prospering spiritually. 3 John 1:2 CJB

Commenting on this verse John Stott writes, "Both verbs [for prosper and be in health] belonged to the everyday language of letter writing." This phrase was so common that sometimes it was condensed into only initials, and everyone knew what the writer meant just from the initials. The abbreviation used in Latin was SVBEEV, meaning Si vales, bene est; ego valeo—"If you are well, it is good; I am well."

What I want to stress here is that this was just a common greeting of the day, it is NOT a doctrinal statement saying that God wants us all healthy and wealthy.

For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:3 ESV

In our last study we saw that Gaius was "walking in the truth." He was abiding in Christ; he was being an image bearer. Now John tells us what that looked like in the next four verses.

And so, we meet Gaius. Gaius, beloved by God, beloved by John, called that three times in a short little letter. Beloved, why? Because he lived his life in harmony with the truth. Biblical love is the product of abiding in the truth.

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are,  3 John 1:5 ESV

What is John talking about? What was Gaius doing for these brothers who were strangers to him? When we read 2 and 3 John together it becomes apparent that two groups of missionaries were moving around among the churches, one group was teaching error and the other teaching the truth.  

Let's look at a little historical background. In the first century there was a widespread ministry of itinerant teachers and preachers. At that time, there were many who were traveling around, preaching the Gospel and teaching the word of God. In these travels, they needed a place to stay. After they had spent the day preaching from house-to-house, they would have needed a place to spend the night. We see from historical sources that inns during the first century tended to be little more than brothels. The Rabbi in the Mishna, which is a Jewish oral law and tradition, placed innkeepers on the lowest scale of human degradation. Plato actually labeled innkeepers as pirates, the lowest of the low. Itinerant preachers would not have felt comfortable staying in such places. So, they would have needed hospitality from the believers. Hospitality would include a place to stay, food and sometimes money. It is not hard to see how this custom could be abused by false teachers.

The Didache, a second-century book of church order and one of the earliest fragments that we have, lays down strict rules concerning itinerant preachers and teachers. It was an early code of conduct that provided guidelines for both churches and ministers of the Word to follow.  The Didache states,


"Whosoever, therefore, cometh and teacheth you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not; but if he teach so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, according to the decree of the Gospel, thus do: Let every apostle that cometh to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goeth away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodgeth; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet" (p. 380).

The Didache states, "they are to be viewed as a Christ-monger"— someone who is seeking to live off the reputation of the Gospel and the Lord Yeshua for false gain." You can see how seriously the early church considered false teaching and false teachers.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 2 John 1:10 ESV

John is warning his readers of the missionary efforts of the secessionist false teachers and of the dangers of welcoming them. Nothing threatens the church more than false doctrine.

These strong warnings against the bringing of false teachers into their homes were necessary because the Jews had a list of six things to commend a man in the life to come. Does anybody know what was the first thing on that list? It was Hospitality! Hospitality is "loving strangers." We don't usually think of hospitality as one of the top ten commands, but the Jews saw it as number one. Let me show you how important this was to them.

Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof." Genesis 19:8 ESV

Do you know the context of this verse? Homosexual men had surrounded Lot's house demanding that he send out two men that were staying with him. Lot stepped outside, closing the door behind him, hoping to defuse the situation. He pleaded with them not to act wickedly, and he offered to surrender his two daughters to the appetites of these depraved degenerates. What kind of father would do something like this? We might just write this off as the actions of a very lousy father, but we see a very similar incident in Judges. Here a bunch of wicked men come to the man's house and demand that he bring his visitor out to them "that they may know him."

And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing." Judges 19:23-24 ESV

In both of these stories we have men offering their daughters to a homosexual crowd in order to protect a guest in their home. Why? What would possess these fathers to do such an unspeakable thing? Hospitality! The crowds demanded that Lot and the man of Judges 19 turn over their guests. This was an unthinkable violation of the protection guaranteed one who comes under the roof of one's house. It was a violation of Hospitality. Now, these are bizarre incidents of hospitality, but they show us the importance that the Jews placed on it.

In case you're thinking that this is a crazy outdated practice, let me share with you something from David Instone-Brewer's book, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, in which he outlines the Muslim custom of mut'ah marriage.

In Islamic law, there is something called, "pleasure marriage" (mut'ah marriage). You can search this out on the web. Look up "mut'ah marriage in Shiite law." Under this law, one could marry someone just for a short period. A man could enter into a marriage agreement with a girl (or with a woman) for a few nights and then end it. And it's just temporary. This is something they've inherited, and it is still practiced. It's still part of Islamic law. Brewer said, "It was part of the culture and probably part of the hospitality culture. And you can imagine that someone comes along. Hospitality is so important in Arabic culture. And you give them every comfort you can imagine. You give them food; you give them the best place in the house (or in the tent). And you can imagine, you might also give them a wife for the night."

But Islam demands that there be an actual marriage ceremony. There must be a very quick marriage, and in the morning, the man simply says, "I divorce you," and it's over. And the woman can go back to her original husband who divorced her for the night. It's legal in Islam.

David Instone-Brewer thinks that this may be the background to the strange prohibition in Deuteronomy 24 where a woman gets divorced from her husband and then remarries and then the second husband divorces her. The first husband cannot remarry her.

then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 24:4 ESV

So, they were not to re-marry a woman that they had been married to before. Why? She can marry a complete stranger. She can marry someone that she's committed adultery with. She can marry anyone. But she can't marry the person she was originally married to. Why is that?

Brewer suggests, "If that ‘pleasure marriage' was happening in Moses' time, this would be the exact way in which they would stop it. If a man divorces his wife and someone else marries her, then the man can't go and remarry his wife."

Understanding the importance that was placed on hospitality helps us to understand why Lazarus cautioned against welcoming false teachers into their home in 2 John and why he encourages Gaius to keep being hospitable in 3 John.

Hospitality wasn't something that was just a big deal to the Jews. In the ancient world Hospitality was seen as a duty even in the secular side. Strangers were supposedly under the protection of Zeus Xenios who was known as the god of strangers. Xenos means stranger. And the ancient world understood that there was a deity to take care of strangers. And if they wanted to have that deity on their side and not against them, they needed to be kind to strangers.

As we come to the New Testament, we see that hospitality is a very important ministry in God's sight. God not only wanted Israel to love strangers, He wants the same from us, his church.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:13 ESV
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 ESV

The word "hospitality" comes from the Greek word philoxenos, which comes from two Greek words; philos, which means: "to love" and xenos, which means: "a stranger." So, "hospitality" means: "love to strangers," people we don't know.

The author of Hebrews exhorts us to be hospitable because some have entertained angels unawares,

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:1-2 ESV

Hospitality here is the same word we saw in 1 Peter 4:9. So, the writer of Hebrews is saying that "hospitality" is a matter of love.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. Luke 24:28-29 ESV

"They urged him strongly stay with us." They were hospitable to the Lord, even when they didn't know it was him.   

So, 2 John deals with the warning of helping heretical, itinerant preachers, while 3 John deals with the admonition to help itinerant Christian preachers. The contrasts between these two letters are interesting. In one they are told to refuse the false. In the other, they are told to receive that which is true.

G. Campbell Morgan believed that hospitality is the subject of this epistle. "In that [second epistle] John warned against false hospitality. Here he commands true hospitality."

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are,  3 John 1:5 ESV

"All your efforts"—this is a relative pronoun hos with ean and an aorist middle subjunctive ergázomai which expresses a condition with the prospect of being fulfilled. Gaius had helped "these brothers" on every occasion and in every way possible. Traveling preachers/teachers/evangelists (these brothers) from John's community who were unknown to Gaius (strangers) had arrived in the city where Gaius lived, and Gaius had welcomed them into his house. John is praising Gaius for his hospitality.

The church should have been welcoming and supporting these itinerant Christian teachers, but because of the local situation, Gaius alone was helping these brethren of whom he knew nothing except that they also knew, served, and loved Yeshua.

who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 3 John 1:6 ESV

"Who testified to your love before the church"—the "who" here are the itinerant Christian teachers mentioned in verse 3 who have brought back to John such a favorable report of Gaius' hospitality.

This is the first of three references to the "church" in this letter (vv. 6, 9, 10), the only places the word is found in the Johannine writings. The word "church" is from the Greek ekklesia which means "to call out of." The church is a body of called out people. The word ekklesia, in secular Greek as well as in the Greek translation of the Tanakh, always refers to a group that assembles and meets together and never just to an entity. The manifestation of the spiritual body of Christ is the local church. The church universal always finds its expression in the church local, a body of believers called out of the world and into a spiritual fellowship based on the life of Yeshua within.

As you read the New Testament, you don't find any church buildings. You finish the New Testament and there hasn't been a church building built. This doesn't mean that it's wrong to have a building, but the building is not the church, it is believers that are the church.

In order to encourage Gaius to continue this good work of his, John informs him that those to whom he gave hospitality have given a good report of his love before the church.

"You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God"— 

"You will do well"—is a Greek idiom found in the Egyptian papyri, according to  Moulton and Milligan, in The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, for "please." So, John is saying to Gaius, Please "send them on their Journey."

The expression "send them on their journey" translates a form of the verb propempō, which functioned as a technical term for missionary support in the early church (cf. Acts 15:3; 20:38; 21:5; Rom 15:24; 1 Cor 16:6, 11; 2 Cor 1:16; Tit 3:13). The third edition of Bauer's lexicon defines it in this and similar contexts as "to assist someone in making a journey, send on one's way with food, money, by arranging for companions, means of travel, etc." Paul uses this word in addressing the Romans.

I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. Romans 15:24 ESV

 "Helped on my journey" is propempō, "to assist someone in making a journey, send on one's way with food, money, by arranging for companions, means of travel, etc."

"In a manner worthy of God"—means with all the adequate provisions.

For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 3 John 1:7 ESV

"For they have gone out"—the expression "gone out" (exerchomai) is found four times altogether in the Johannine letters, and in the other three places it is used in reference to the secessionists. So, John uses this verb exerchomai of; the false teachers leaving the church in 1 John 2:19; false prophets going out into the world in 1 John 4:1;

many deceivers going out into the world in 2 John 1:7; and true teachers going out (into the world) in 3 John 1:7.

Unlike the false teachers that have gone out the men that Gaius was helping have gone out, "for the sake of the name"this is the Greek hyper tou onomatos. What is "the name"? The words hyper tou onomatos, for the sake of the Name, are found in five other places in the New Testament, most often in contexts where people suffer persecution on account of their witness to Christ (Acts 5:41; 9:16; 15:26; 21:13).

So, what is the name? Some say "the name" stands for the person and work of Yeshua. I agree, to the ancients, one's name expressed the sum of the qualities that marked the nature or character of that person, but what is the name? Just as "the Name" to a Jew always meant Yahweh, so now to the Christian—whether Jew or Gentile—"the Name" means the God of gods and the Lord of lords Yahweh.

Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, ‘What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'" Exodus 3:13-14 ESV

"I AM WHO I AM" is the Hebrew, "Ehyeh; asher ehyeh" and means: "I am that which exist." The root of Ehyeh is hiya, which means: "to be" or "I exist." So here Elohim tells Moses His name is Ehyeh. But look at the next verse:      

God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Exodus 3:15 ESV

Elohim again gives His name to Moses, but this time it is Yahweh. The two names, Ehyeh and Yahweh, are related. Ehyeh is, and Yahweh is. Ehyeh means: "I exist, I will exist, I am." Yahweh includes the verb hava, meaning "to exist, "and the letter yod as a prefix, meaning: "He.' So, Yahweh means: "He exists." If it is a causative verb, it would mean: "He causes to exist." Both are true, Yahweh is the self-existent One who causes to exist.

If you can remember back to our study of the Fourth Gospel, Yeshua continually declared that He is God. Every time He said, "My Father," He was underscoring that He had the same nature as God. And His Jewish audience knew this was a claim to deity.

Within the community of Johannine Christians the Tetragrammaton (Greek, meaning: "four letters"); these are the four consonants, YHWH, which make up the divine name or the "I am" was used to refer to Yeshua. In other words, "the Name" in 3 John 7 would ultimately refer to God's name, Yahweh, but since Yeshua was himself God (Cf. John 20:28), and in light of the use of the "I am" phrase in the Gospel of John, there would be no inconsistency in using this designation for Yeshua also.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  Philippians 2:9 ESV

Christ has many names; Yeshua, Christ, Son of man, Son of God, Messiah, Immanuel, but here He receives a new name. Some say that it's "Yeshua." But it can't be because that is not a new name. God gave him that name at his birth:

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins."  Matthew 1:21 ESV

Second, no other name than Yahweh has a right to be called "the name above every name."

Thirdly, the movement of verses 9-11 does not stop at the phrase "gave him the name" but flows straight on to the universal confession that Yeshua the Christ is Lord, which suggests that the significant thing is the ascription of "LORD" in addition to the names already known.

Fourthly, verse 10 says, "at the name 'of' Yeshua" (not at the name Yeshua). The name "of" Yeshua is "LORD."

Fifthly, verse 10 is a pretty direct quotation of Isaiah 45:23 where Yahweh, having declared himself to be the only God and only Savior, vows that he will yet be the object of universal worship. It is this divine honor that is now bestowed upon the LORD Yeshua the Christ.

These verses in Isaiah 45:20-25 speak of the uniqueness of the only God. In the Greek Old Testament, the LXX, the Greek word "Kyrios" which means: "Lord" is used to represent the personal name of the God of Israel—Yahweh.

In most English versions, LORD is spelled with four capital letters when it stands for the name of Yahweh.

"Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Isaiah 45:20 ESV

He is speaking here of the heathen idols.

Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Isaiah 45:21 ESV

"There is no other god besides me"—was an ancient biblical slogan of incomparability of sovereignty, not exclusivity of existence. It was a way of saying that a certain authority was the most powerful compared to all other authorities. God is saying, "I'm unique, there is no other God like Me."

"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.' Isaiah 45:22-23 ESV

This is where our quote in Philippians is taken from, this is Yahweh, the one and only God, that is speaking.

"Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory." Isaiah 45:24-25 ESV

It is in Yahweh that salvation will come. In Isaiah 45:23, we see a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God. And in Philippians, this title "LORD" is ascribed to Yeshua. Yeshua the Christ is Yahweh, the LORD!

Back to 3 John, This little epistle is the only book in the New Testament that doesn't specifically mention the name of the Lord Yeshua.

So, these men that Gaius was supporting were faithful proclaimers of the Name; they proclaimed Yeshua as Yahweh "coming in the flesh".

Then John says that these itinerant teachers were, "accepting nothing from the Gentiles"— This is the late first century use of "Gentiles" as an allusion to pagans or unbelievers. The Greek word here is ethnikos which is only used 4 times in the New Testament, here and 3 times in Matthew.

And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:47 ESV

 This is clearly a reference to unbelievers. The ancient world of the early church was filled with the missionaries and preachers of various religions, and they often supported themselves by taking offerings from the general public. But John said that these Christian missionaries should take nothing from the Gentiles (non-Christians). Instead of soliciting funds from the general public they were to look to the support of fellow Christians.

As they travelled from place to place they were dependent on the Christian community for hospitality, because they did not solicit or accept funds from unbelievers (cf. Ezra 8:22; Matt. 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:14; 1 Thess. 2:9).

Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. 3 John 1:8 ESV

"Therefore we ought to support people like these"—the word "ought" is the Greek opheilō which literally means to be in financial debt, but it came to be used figuratively to be obligated or to be indebted to someone. this is an often repeated, moral admonition.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16 ESV

The word "ought" here is opheilo. This word is used 35 times in the New Testament. It is translated; owe, owed, obligated, indebted, ought, must, have to, be responsible. John is saying that believers are obligated to support faithfully teachers of the truth.

This is the same thing that Paul says to the Galatians in:

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.  Galatians 6:6 ESV

The word "share" is the Greek word koinaneo, which means: "to share with others, communicate, distribute, be a partner." God is laying down a principle here that those who are blessed by the word of God through faithful teachers are to provide for the physical needs of those teachers as a thanksgiving to God. And in our text John says the same thing, believers are obligated to support faithfully teachers of the truth.

Please notice what he says next, "That we may be fellow workers for the truth"—the word "that" here is hina which indicates the result of the support for the itinerant teachers. The Christian who helps to support them in their efforts becomes a "Fellow worker"—is synergós which means, a companion in work, a co-laborer in cooperation with the truth.

The first person plural here "we may be" is inclusive, referring to the author himself, Gaius, and all Christians, all of whom become fellow workers in cooperation with the truth by supporting the efforts of the traveling teachers in their efforts to resist and counteract the teaching of the secessionist opponents.

In 2 John, John warned his readers against providing hospitality to a secessionist preacher, for to do so would make them sharers "in his wicked work".

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 2 John 1:10-11 ESV

John is saying that to show hospitality or even greet these false teachers is to fellowship with them. It is to partake literally in their evil works. That's amazing! We are not even to give verbal encouragement to false teachers.

But in 3 John 8 with respect to the faithful itinerate teachers he counsels Gaius to do the opposite. He encourages him to provide hospitality to those who proclaim the original message, for in doing that, he says, we become "fellow workers for the truth."

Please get what John is saying here. We have a share in the work that others do by supporting them materially. If we support false teachers we share in their wicked work. And if we support true teachers we share in the good work they are doing.

Listen to Yeshua's words,

"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." Matthew 10:40-42 ESV

By receiving a prophet, they would receive a prophets reward. Bottom line, be careful who you support. Do your homework and if you find someone who if faithfully teaching the truth support them and by doing so you will become a fellow worker in spreading the truth. You will receive a faithful teachers reward by supporting them.

Gaius's faithfulness involves not only holding to correct doctrine, but also persisting in correct action. In the context of this letter that correct action is thought of primarily in terms of providing hospitality to those itinerant preachers who deserve support.

Gaius wasn't an elder or deacon at the church, he didn't hold any office that we are aware of, but he faithfully served the Lord as he served those who were teaching the truth. And so this man "Gaius" is forever enshrined in Scripture because he not only had an open home and open heart, but he had an open hand. He helped make possible the teaching of the truth and thus became a co-worker with those who taught the truth. He was a man who was walking in the truth.

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