by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:1 hr 16 mins 2 secs

Hospitality; Missions


We don't know much about Gaius but some things we can infer from this epistle are that he is not a pastor, not the head of a local church, but he seems to be a mature believer in this local church. He is a mature believer who is facing certain problems in the local church as a result of a personality problem with an individual named Diotrephes. That personality problem is grounded in Ditrephes' sin nature. The negative facets of our personality, whether we want to admit it or not, is the trend of our sin nature—our areas of weakness, the trends and the arrogance. That is true for every single one of us. This was a problem in the church there and Diotrephes loved the pre-eminence among them. As a result he was using his own personality and his own personal desire for attention and prominence to divide the church. So Gaius has a struggle.

First we will look at John's praise for Gaius. He begins in verses 2-4 by giving him praise because of his devotion to the truth. That is where it starts: our devotion to the truth, whether or not we are willing to make Bible doctrine a priority in our life. This does not mean just studying the Word. It is not simply learning the Word and going on an intellectually exciting trip through Bible doctrine, but applying it. That is the point of John's praise.

3 John 1:3 NASB "For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth…" That is the doctrine that is in you, what you know.  "…{that is,} how you are walking in truth." That's application; that is the Christian way of life. He is walking by means of the doctrine that he has learned.

3 John 1:4 NASB "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." That is, they are taking what they have learned and then are applying it consistently in every area of their life. That is exactly what has happened in the life of Gaius. He is a mature believer; he has understood all the dynamics of the Christian life and he has been putting this into practice so that he has reached spiritual maturity. It is clear from what we are going to see in the next few verses that he is grace oriented. Grace orientation is the foundation to the mature Christian life. The mature Christian life is really based on the love triplex—personal love for God the Father, impersonal love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ. Gaius has mastered all of that as evidenced by what he does in and through this local church in whatever town he was in. We can't have impersonal love for others unless we understand grace. Grace means that everything that we have is undeserved. Grace means that at salvation God gave us everything, that He paid the price. The penalty was paid by Jesus Christ on the cross. We don't do anything to gain salvation or to impress God with who and what we are. He loves us because of who he is and what Christ did on the cross. He loved us impersonally before we were ever saved, so that the issue for God is never what we've done or what we haven't done; God's love is based exclusively on who He is. Grace is then the foundation for us being able to personally love God, which becomes the motivation for impersonal love for other believers.

3 John 1:5 NASB "Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially {when they are} strangers." John is addressing Gaius. [6] 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. [7] For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles." In the original these three verses are one sentence. That sentence represents one thought, and that one primary thought that comes across in a sentence may have a lot of stuff stacked up against it. That is not to say they are not important but they are not the main thought. The main thought is always going to be expressed through the grammatical subject and verbs. The author is expressing one idea here, not two or three ideas, and the main concept is expressed in the first part of verse 5 which is translated "you are acting [or, you do] faithfully." Everything else he says in the next two verses modifies that basic idea.

"You do" is a translation of the Greek verb poieis [poieij] which is a second person singular of poieo [poiew] which means to do, to make, to manufacture or to produce. So we are talking about the production in the spiritual life of Gaius. It has to do with the production of the believer under the filling of God the Holy Spirit. This is not talking about works, it is talking about spiritual production: what happens as a result of spiritual growth, spiritual maturity and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Then John modifies the verb with what is actually an accusative direct object in the Greek, the word "faithfully," the Greek pistos [pistoj]. This word is usually translated in terms of its root etymological meaning and that is "faithful" or "faithfully." Actually we have an ellipsis here; it is "you do things faithfully." That is, you are faithful in what you do. To make it a little easier in the English we translate that as an adverb: "you do what you do faithfully." But pistos loses some of its sense when we talk about "faithfully" because as soon as we take this word faith and put it in some sort of religious context immediately people lose a sense of what we are talking about. The idea that we have in pistos is the idea of character. It is reliability, dependability; it is the fact that as we grow as believers we can be counted on in terms of the way we live our lives. It is rooted and grounded in a personal integrity that is the result of grace orientation and doctrinal orientation. Only as the believer grows is he going to be able to produce integrity under the filling of the Holy Spirit and a spiritual virtue of dependability and reliability. This is the kind of person that can be counted on in a crunch, in a crisis, to do what needs to be done.

Gaius as a result of his spiritual maturity is demonstrating personal spiritual integrity based on his spiritual growth from following the Christian way of life. That indicates that he has a biblical scale of values in his soul. He knows where his priorities are. So the sentence begins with a word of praise because he is reliable and dependable, not only generally but in a particular area of life, an area of life we should pay attention to. He is reliable and dependable in hospitality. What we have here is a series of relative clauses to define the arena of his reliability and his dependability. He is dependable, first of all, in what he does for the brethren and for strangers. Then that is further modified by another masculine plural relative clause in the first part of verse 6. They are defined as those who have born witness. They have presented a testimony; they have spread the word about his love. So what we are talking about is that he is faithful in the arena of application of love—impersonal love for all mankind because it is directed to two categories of people, those who are classified as brethren, and in this context it is not a contrast between brethren being believers and strangers being unbelievers. He is talking about itinerate pastors who are coming through the area and what we would call today missionaries. It talks about his generosity and hospitality towards missionaries, and to others who are travelling and teaching the Word. So he talks about the fact that he is faithful in whatever he does for these travelling missionaries classified as brethren and strangers, two plural nouns—"who have born witness of your love." So the brethren and strangers have com e to John's church in Ephesus and are extolling the virtues of Gaius.

Then the next clause starts of with another masculine plural relative pronoun and it should be translated "whom you sent forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well." This is talking about the fact that when he sends them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God he has done a good thing. Then there would be a semi-colon and a final causal statement, "For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles." So the point in verse 7 emphasises the grace orientation operation of the travelling missionaries. They were not going to take money or depend upon the Gentiles for their financial support, and so they were dependent upon other believers, local churches, to support them financially in their endeavour. What we see in the structure of vv. 5-7 is that John is praising Gaius because he has made his home available as a place for travelling missionaries. He treats them in a manner worthy of God. That means he is so gracious that his grace reflects the grace of God. He is just an ordinary believer in a local congregation and there is a lot to learn from Gaius in relationship to the way he applies doctrine. His doctrine comes out of the framework of his love. This is an illustration from Scripture of the doctrine of hospitality.

The doctrine of hospitality

  1. Hospitality begins with a mental attitude. It is not what you do, it is how you think; it is grace orientation in action.
  2. Hospitality is not a matter of money or financial ability. It has to do with one's own soul and it's grace orientation, not how much money we can afford to help people or to entertain people or to have a social impact.
  3. The basic Greek word is philoxenia [filocenia]. This is a compound word: philo, from philos, meaning love; xenia from xenos, meaning a stranger. It came to mean showing love to a stranger or being hospitable.
  4. Contrasts to human viewpoint: In classical Greek Homer recognised the fact that hospitality toward strangers was a mark of civilisation. So even under establishment principles unbelievers recognise a certain degree of hospitality. Stranger in many languages in early societies was a synonym for enemy. The natural inclination of the sin nature would be to be protective rather than to be open and vulnerable. Therefore hospitality in its full sense was going to have to wait for Christianity and a greater concept of love than that which can be expressed on the basis of the sin nature alone. So there is no excuse for a believer not to be hospitable, not to be open and generous towards other people, even strangers.
  5. Hospitality is a sub-category of the doctrine of impersonal love. John 13:34.
  6. Thus, hospitality involves an attitude of personal generosity towards others, an openness to invite others into our home, a desire to help others who are less fortunate, those in need of help with no expectation of any return whatsoever.
  7. The problem is that this is in conflict with the natural self-centred, arrogant orientation of the sin nature. Some people want to use the doctrine of privacy to rationalise away generous hospitality. We also use our busy schedule to justify not being hospitable. Generosity is a matter of what goes on in the soul, not the size of the bank account or the size of the home.
  8. The Christian doctrine of hospitality because the foundation for the development of guest houses, hotels, and eventually the whole concept of hospitals.

Hebrews 13:1 NASB "Let love of the brethren continue." There we have the word agape [a)gaph]. The word "continue" is the present active imperative of meno [menw], here used with the concept of ongoing action. So there is a mandate here to continue to apply the concept of love for one another. [2] "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers [filocenoj], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." The word "neglect" is the Greek word  epilanthanomai [e)pilanqanomai] which means to neglect or to be inattentive to something, to overlook something, to disregard something, to care nothing about something. So what the writer of Hebrews is saying is don't care less about hospitality. In other words, hospitality needs to be a characteristic of the believer's life.

In Genesis 18 there is the episode where three men come to visit Abraham and we see his hospitality. 18:1 NASB "Now the LORD [pre-incarnate Jesus Christ in a human form, but Abraham doesn't know that] appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. [2] When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw {them,} he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, [3] and said, "My Lord [Adonai], if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. [4] Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; [5] and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant." And they said, 'So do, as you have said'." In those days this would it have been a four or fiver hour procedure to prepare all of this. This is a major operation that is taking time and energy out of Abraham and his busy schedule.

1 Peter 4:8 NASB "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. [9] Be hospitable to one another without complaint."

Romans 12:13 NASB "contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality." That is dealing with poverty, giving to help out those who are impoverished.

1 Tim 3:2 NASB "An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable…" Also Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 5:10.