Hospitality After a Godly Sort – 3 John

If you’re a small group, a remote fellowship, or a believer who is not near a larger church, 3rd John gives wonderful insight into the valuable and anointed ministry of Godly hospitality and support.

[3Jo 1:1-8 KJV] 1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

The Value of a Good Report

The Christians who Gaius was helping had brought back a good report to John’s church(es). John was probably writing this from Ephesus, but regardless of where he was, reports are reaching him regarding the health of smaller house-churches and fellowships around the world.

In much of the world today, there are large physical structures where groups of believers are free to meet. For the early Christians, this would have been the exception to the rule. The first followers of Christ were simply Jews who believed their promised Messiah had finally came. They continued to meet in the Temple and in synagogues, just as Jesus did. When they began to be ostracized from these places, the gospel spread. When persecution arose from the government, the gospel spread. When persecution arose from the Jews, the gospel spread. When false teachers arose from outside and within the church, the gospel spread. 

How did it spread? How was the message protected? How were traveling Christians strengthened? By small fellowships and house churches.

[Phm 1:2 KJV] 2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

[Act 16:40 KJV] 40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

[Act 20:20 KJV] 20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,

[Rom 16:5 KJV] 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

[1Co 16:19 KJV] 19 The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

[Col 4:15 KJV] 15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.

Good reports were important to early believers. In some cases, their physical well-being depended on it. Other times, their spiritual well-being. 

[Act 10:22 KJV] 22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.

[3Jo 1:12 KJV] 12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

[Eph 1:15-16 KJV] 15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

[Col 1:4 KJV] 4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

No Greater Joy

To better understand the importance of John’s simple yet powerful encouragement to Gaius (and to you), let’s briefly look at what John has been through up to this point. 

If we look at each of John’s 3 epistles, he takes time to combat false teachers. The same could be said for most of Paul’s letters. Satan fought viciously against the churches. Sometimes he used Judiazers, as is revealed Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Other times he’d use forms of gnosticism, as we see in 1 John, 2 John and Colossians. Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Revelation (revealed to John) also combatted the false teachings of the sect of Jezebel, Balaam, the Nicolaitans, and a group he simply dubbed “The Synagogue of Satan”. In our text of 3 John, it’s revealed he’s now dealing with rebellious factions within the church.

John has seen the churches—”his children”—endure so much many hardships. It was John who was leaning on Jesus’ breast when Judas’ left to betray them. John was the only other apostle in the High Priest’s courtyard when Peter denied Christ (Jhn 18:15-16). He was the only apostle at the cross when Jesus cried out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”. He had experienced his brother being martyred (Acts 12:1-2). John has survived persecution and exile. He’s outlived Peter, Paul, and probably all the other apostles at this point. He’s had a vision of the resurrected Jesus himself. We don’t know for sure, but 3rd John is probably the last book of the Bible that was written. 

So here, at the end of his life, what’s the epitome of joy for such a powerful apostle? John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.” He means this from the bottom of his heart. 

John has seen, learned, and experienced probably more than any Christian ever on this side of heaven. And John’s greatest joy lies in simply knowing that believers are healthy and being cared for. I’m sure the last living apostle had more pressing things he could be doing than writing a letter to a little fellowship like Gaius’. But to John, Gaius’ hospitality ministry is that important. 

“Walking in the truth” must mean more than just sound doctrine. We see Jesus rebuke the church in Ephesus because they had sound doctrine but cold hearts (Rev 2:1-6).

So if John says his children are “walking in the truth”, it means they are not only teaching the truth, but (just as importantly) walking in love. There are few things more rewarding for a parent than to see their son or daughter grow through the dangerous trappings of this life into a strong man or woman of God. And John delights that someone came all the way from this little fellowship to bring him a report that Gaius’ small group is remaining faithful.

Never underestimate the positive effect your faithfulness has on the rest of the body.

Godly Hospitality. You do it Faithfully. You do it Well.

5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

John goes on to encourage their work. Gaius’ fellowship was showing hospitality and helping ministers on their journeys. They were faithful in the work, even though many of the believers passing through were “strangers” to them (they had never met them).

They did it “after a Godly sort”. There is a way to show hospitality after a worldly sort—a clean environment, warm food, a friendly host, etc. And while these are all good things, there is a special ministry in doing the same things, but “after a godly sort”, meaning in a manner worthy of God, or in a manner that honors God. Believers are equipped to show hospitality that not only edifies the body, but the soul. The people passing through were out for Jesus’ name sake. What Gaius did for them, he was doing for Jesus.

Gaius and his fellowship are commended for their faithfulness.They are currently in a state of being bullied by a rebellious church member telling them to not receive Christian missionaries sent from the church (3 John 1:9-11). But John encourages them to stay faithful. 

[Mat 25:21 KJV] 21  His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.. 

What a relief it must have been to the larger, missionary-sending churches to know that there was a small group of faithful believers in this location to support the work. By showing hospitality, they become “fellowhelpers” of the truth. They shared in the fruit of these missionaries, even though they themselves were not necessarily the ones perceived as being “on the front lines.”

[1Sa 30:21-25 KJV] 21 And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them. 22 Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart. 23 Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. 24 For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. 25 And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day

[Mat 10:40-42 KJV] 40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. 41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

Supporting ministers and missionaries through hospitality is partaking in the ministry. It should be done “in a manner worthy of God”. It is part of the great commision. 

So encourage yourselves. Let your comfort rest in knowing that you are aiding the mission of the church by showing hospitality. Take joy in knowing that God’s children are still communicating and walking in the truth—partially because of your ministry.

Reflection Questions:

What brings you great joy?

How was Gaius’ love demonstrated (verse 6)? How is your love demonstrated?