Other than those that I have preached, I have never heard a sermon on what I consider to be, perhaps, the greatest text on the subject; namely, III John 8. Which is as follows:
We, therefore, ought to take up (support) such men so that we may be fellow-workers for the truth
Gaius, along with unnamed others, had been thrown out of the church by Diotrophes (whom we assume was the pastor), who refused to share the limelight with visiting missionaries sent out by John. Gaius’ “sin” was that he gave money and supplies for these traveling missionaries to get safely to the next Christians’ home.
John is furious about what he did. And he tells Gaius to continue to support them in the future—no matter what the pastor might say or do. Indeed, he was soon coming with full apostolic authority to deal with (“remember”) the problem and the problem-maker!
In the midst of that discussion, John wrote the verse listed above. Playing on the Greek (in which he was writing), he says, Because these missionaries refused to “take” any support from the heathen to whom they preached (so as not to sully Christ’s name[i]), Gaius and other believers ought to “take up” such men. When one does so—supporting them in their work financially or otherwise—one becomes a “fellow-worker” for the truth. He is looked upon by God as if he too were out there on the mission field preaching the Word. What an incentive to give!
It’s about time to hear some sermons from this passage—don’t you think?
[i] There were man travelling sophists who were simply out to make money. They wanted not to be confused with them. They were not “selling” the gospel! The passage lends itself to a sermon about money-making in the church as well.
Are you one of those who has a special interest in foreign missions? I hope you do. Yet, I also hope you’re not one who supports foreign missions more than you support your local church. There are such, you know. Such people, it seems, have an idea that money sent over water is special—sacrosanct. Where did such an idea come from? Think about it, if you are one who’s pastor is inadequately paid, but you are sending money galore elsewhere. Can that be justified biblically? Moreover—think of this: you are a convert on a foreign mission field! Your congregation is a foreign mission—Jerusalem was the home base; not where you live.
I recently received a wonderful book written by some missionary friends telling about how God has blessed their long and faithful work. It was the record of a husband and wife and children who had dedicated their lives to maintaining a preaching station for the Gospel, and how it grew over the years with many solid converts.
Only one thing about it troubled me—its title—one that I suppose was put their by the publisher. It has the word “Miracles” in the title, describing the work.
As I read through the book, not a single miracle was described. There were many instances of God’s good providence, but no miracles.
Someone had misled us—as they often do in Christian circles today—calling all sorts of marvelous things that God does “miracles.” Let’s stop using that word loosely! Let’s call miracles “miracles” (they don’t happen except in the Bible).
Let’s call them the results of hard labor for the Lord that He blesses, and His providential working regardless of circumstances.
If someone grows a news leg after amputation; that’s a miracle. If Doctors, dedicated to their work, are able to save a leg that would have been amputated in Civil War days—that’s God’s providential working through their expertise. It’s no miracle!
In the book of III John (not the Gospel of John, but the book just this side of Revelation!), there is high praise given to the itinerant missionaries who were sent out by the Apostle John.
He tells Gaius—who had been given the boot by Diotrophes (the probable minister of Gaius’ church) for receiving these missionaries into his home—to hold them in high regard because they went out preaching in the Name of Jesus Christ, refusing to take anything from those to whom they preached. Presumably this was to keep down any accusations that they were just out to get money. That was a common charge against travelling Sophists, Stoics and other teachers of the day.
At any rate, he tells him that he did the right thing, that he will take care of Diotrophes when he comes, and that he should continue such good work.