Ecclesiastes Podcast

3 John 1:5-8

This brief letter of John was apparently written and sent in haste to counter the actions and teaching of Diotrephes. John had much more to say, but wrote that he planned to visit the recipient of his letter, Gaius, and would address in person the other topics he had in mind. Nevertheless, the actions of Diotrephes apparently required an urgent and immediate response.

Diotrephes was a self-serving leader who appears to have been creating a division in the church. He was not a servant leader, but was rather seeking to elevate himself above the other leaders. Further, he was forbidding the members of the church to be hospitable to traveling ministers who were ministering in the name of Jesus.

John confronts Diotrephes, while being careful not to make any of the same missteps. John does not appeal to his superior authority, but rather invites the local church to make their own decision based on the facts, the testimony of reliable people, and the truth of God.

John commends the church for its faithfulness toward other believers, especially traveling missionaries who preach the gospel of Jesus. John affirms that it is right to support these travelers, so that we can share in their work.

John again addresses the believers as beloved and tells them that they are acting faithfully in whatever they accomplish for the brethren. Here the brethren appear to be Jewish missionaries who are being welcomed and supported by the believers receiving John’s letter. These brethren are missionaries who went out for the sake of the Name accepting nothing from the Gentiles. This indicates that they are Jewish. The name here refers to the name of Jesus. John commends their hospitality and care for these brethren especially when they are strangers. Their display of such hospitality to those who are of the faith has not gone unnoticed. They have testified to their love before the church. The phrase before the church likely refers to the church across the world. As these traveling missionaries were hosted and cared for, they testified of the tangible love they received on their travels from the Gentile believers.

In addition to hosting, it appears John encourages them to provide the missionaries with money or supplies for the road, exhorting them to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. The manner in which they supply these traveling ministers was not to be minimal, but to be at a level that was worthy of God. The Bible emphasizes the value God places on hospitality. Hebrews states:

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
(Hebrews 13:2)

This verse seems to indicate that God sends His angelic messengers to test the hospitality of His people. The Bible makes clear that supporting those who minister for the gospel is something that God rewards. Galatians 6:6 states, “The one who is taught the Word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” The next verse states that we reap what we sow, indicating that God rewards those who care for those who minister the Word according to the level of support given. Jesus speaks of the reward God will give for caring for His ministers—the prophets—stating, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).

John reasons why these brethren should be supported in a manner worthy of God—they went out for the sake of the Name. When the church supports those who are ministering on behalf of the name of Jesus, they are honoring the name of Jesus. Further, these apparently Jewish ministers performed their ministry among the Gentiles without payment. They received nothing from the Gentiles. It was, therefore, appropriate for the believers in John’s assembly to support them well.

The fact that John says the brethren received nothing from the Gentiles seems to make it clear that the brethren were Jewish. The assembly John addresses in this letter could have been Jew or Gentile. In either case, Diotrephes apparently opposed ministering to these traveling missionaries, which was an offense John felt compelled to address urgently. It is possible that an additional motivation for John’s letter was to head off conflict between Jew and Gentile. The epistles have a continuing theme of desiring unity among Jew and Gentile believers.

Biblical Text

Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.