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In 3 John 1:5-8, John gets more specific about the way in which Gaius and his children have been walking in the truth:

[5] Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, [6] who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. [7] For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. [8] Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 1:5-8)

The backdrop against which John is writing is a time when Christian missionaries went from city to city, preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus, planting and strengthening churches wherever they went. Yet, this was a time when there restaurants were not readily available, and when clean and safe lodging was not easy to find. So, Christians were expected to open up their homes to provide food and lodging to these traveling missionaries as they performed their ministry.

This is exactly what Gaius had been doing. Though these missionaries (probably missionaries whom John had sent) were strangers, John had made many “efforts” for them, doing whatever he could to support them and to “send them on their journey”–in other words, to provide them with enough food and money to get to the next town and the next church. In doing this, John says that Gaius has become a “fellow worker for the truth.”

Interestingly, John writes that Gaius “will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” The suggestion in this language is that whatever Gaius does for these missionaries, he is actually doing this for God himself!

Of course, this is nothing new in the Bible. Jesus said that, at the final judgment, he will say to the righteous, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40), and to the wicked, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matt. 25:45). Also, when Jesus stopped Saul in his tracks from persecuting more Christians in Damascus, the Lord said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Whatever we do to the people of God–whether for good or for evil–we do to Jesus Christ himself. We should support missionaries in a manner worthy of God because what we do is actually for God!

But don’t ever slip into a joyless, duty-bound obligation in your support of missionaries. John doesn’t want to browbeat us into merely writing a check to the mission board–he wants us to see that supporting missions means involvement with missions for the right Reason.

As mentioned above, John says that Gaius is a “fellow worker for the truth” because of his supporting “people like these.” Gaius is not someone in the bleachers, simply cheering on the team, but an active member of the team staff on the sidelines. He may not take the field himself, but he is actively invested in and working for the success of the team.

The problem, though, is that very often we miss out on the main reason that we should work for the success of the team. We flagellate ourselves as we think about how much money we spend on what we don’t need and how little we spend on “what’s really important.” We show horrific photos representing the poverty of the people whom our missionaries are trying to reach. We imagine the terrors of an eternity in hell for those who do not believe the gospel of Jesus.

Now, none of those reasons is a bad reason for supporting missions; however, none of them is the Reason for missions. John gets it right when he speaks of the missionaries’ going out “for the sake of the name.” They have the privilege of bringing the light of Jesus into the darkness. They get to see the miraculous power of Jesus soften hard, bitter hearts. They have the honor of proclaiming the life, death, and resurrection of the King of Creation to those who have never heard of him.

Those who are given over to the work of missions get to preach Christ–and there can be no greater joy than this. The reason we support and involve ourselves in missions however possible is not to make us feel better about ourselves, or primarily to help other people.

The Reason for missions is the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Post Series on 3 John:

  1. No Greater Joy (3 John 1:1-4)
  2. Missions For the Sake of the Name (3 John 1:5-8)
  3. Do Not Imitate Evil, but Imitate Good (3 John 1:9-12)

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