Walk This Way: Mission (3John)



Back in 2008, a university study examined “road rage”[1] to see what caused the acts of verbal outbursts or physical violence on the nation’s highways. They could find no predictors along the typical lines of age, sex, ethnicity, class, or geography. However, they discovered there was one accurate predictor of road rage: the presence of bumper stickers on the vehicle of the offender. The study suggested the message of the bumper sticker was irrelevant, but the more there were the more likely the road rage.

Some of us have the desire to express our life mission in unique and urgent ways. However, there are many life distractions that get in the way of our mission that cause us to rage and rebel. Today’s message is meant to motivate believers to 3 actions of walking in the way of God’s mission.


EXAMINE           3John              Walk This Way in Mission

Walking in the way of mission requires us to pray and participate in each other’s well-being (3John 1:1-4)

In this third letter by John he again identifies himself as an elder – likely both in age and authority. Eusebius, the ancient church historian, says it was penned after John was released from the rock quarry island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. If this is correct, 3 John may have been the last book written in the New Testament. [2]

John’s audience is more specific in not just to an elect lady – the church, but writing to a man named Gaius. Similar to his previous letter he references great joy in hearing that his children are walking in the truth. It is very likely that John had been instrumental to Gaius’s faith in Christ. John indicates his love for Gaius 4-5x directly or indirectly; a powerful statement for men. John’s letters reveal his spiritual fathering to young believers in the church (cf. 1Jn 1:12-14).  As for Gaius, we know very little about this man but that it was a common name with at least 4 known in the NT (Acts 19:29 of Macedonia; Acts 20:4 of Derbe; Rom 16:23 of Corinth; and 3Jn 1:1).

John also encourages Gaius by letting him know he’s praying for him (3Jn 1:2). He’s praying for Gaius’s health, which mean both physically prosperous and healthy spiritually in thought and doctrine (cf. 2Tim 1:13, etc.).[3]  John was personally invested by praying and participating in Gaius’ well-being.

è Do you value and care for your spiritual health to the degree of your physical health?

o   Every day you wake up to brush teeth, hair, care for body… what about your spirit?

è Do you value others spiritual health to the degree of their physical health?

o   You care for and nurture children’s health by feeding, taking to drs, etc. Do you also pray for/with them daily, read Scripture to them, encourage and prioritize faith community?

o   If family or friend is in hospital, how do you care for them? What about spiritual emergencies?

o   “He who does not value his own soul is not likely to value the souls of his descendants.” (Spurgeon)

Charles Spurgeon on this text to parents[4]

“It is very grievous to see how some professedly Christian parents are satisfied as long as their children display cleverness in learning, or sharpness in business, although they show no signs of a renewed nature. If they pass their examinations with credit, and promise to be well outfitted for the world’s battle, their parents forget that there is a superior conflict, involving a higher crown, for which the child will need to be outfitted by divine grace, and armed with the whole armour of God. Alas, if our children lose the crown of life, it will be only a small consolation that they have won the laurels of literature or art. Many who ought to know better think themselves superlatively blessed in their children if they become rich, if they marry well, if they strike out into profitable enterprises in business, or if they attain eminence in the profession to which they have espoused. Their parents will go to their beds rejoicing, and wake up perfectly satisfied, though their boys are hurrying down to hell, if they are also making money hand over fist. They have no greater joy than that their children are having their portion in this life, and laying up treasure where rust corrupts it. Though neither their sons nor daughters show any signs of the new birth, give no evidence of being rich towards God, show no traces of electing love or redeeming grace, or the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, yet there are parents who are content with their condition. Now, I can only say of such professing parents that they have need to question whether they are Christians at all, and if they will not question it themselves, they must give some of us permission to hold it in serious debate. When a man’s heart is really right with God, and he himself has been saved from the wrath to come, and is living in the light of his heavenly Father’s countenance, it is certain that he is anxious about his children’s souls, prizes their immortal natures, and feels that nothing could give him greater joy than to hear that his children walk in truth. Judge yourselves, then, beloved, this morning, by the gentle but searching test of the text. If you are professing Christians, but cannot say that you have no greater joy than the conversion of your children, you have reason to question whether you ought to have made such a profession at all.”

Charles Spurgeon on this text to ministers[5]

“No minister ought to be at rest unless he sees that his ministry produces fruit, and men and women are born to God by the preaching of the word. To this end we are sent to you, not to help you to spend your Sundays respectably, nor to quiet your conscience by conducting worship on your behalf. No, sirs, ministers are sent into the world for a higher purpose, and if your souls are not saved, we have laboured in vain as far as you are concerned. If in the hands of God we are not made the means of your new birth, our sermons and instructions have been a mere waste of effort, and your hearing has been a mere waste of time for you, if not something worse. To see children born to God, that is the grand thing. Hence every preacher longs to be able to talk about his spiritual sons and daughters.”

Mark Batterson Praying Circles Around Your Children,

“I want to be famous in my home.”

“You don’t have to do everything right as a parent, but there is one thing you cannot afford to get wrong. That one thing is prayer. You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent. Prayer is your highest privilege as a parent. There is nothing you can do that will have higher return on investment. In fact, the dividends are eternal” (p.11).

“Parents [and teachers] you are prophets to your children… Prayer is the way we write the future. It’s the difference between letting things happen and making things happen” (p.39). Further… we “need a vision for our children. With our physical eyes we see who a person is. With our spiritual eyes we see what that person can be. And it’s only when you close your physical eyes in prayer that God will open your spiritual eyes to perceive what is far more real than the reality you can perceive with your five senses (p.70).”

◊      At SPBC, we must pray for and participate in each other’s well-being.

◊      At SPBC, we desire a partnership with parents where we equip parents, encourage children, and evangelize families. Our partnership ministries take place primarily on Sunday gatherings, but also relationally and periodic events. If you choose not to partner then our influence will be little, but don’t blame God or the church if your child is not walking in the truth.

◊      At SPBC, we must also value depth as much as breadth – being spiritually deep & wide.

Walking in the way of mission requires us to serve and support fellow missionaries (3John 1:5-10)

John commends Gaius that he serves and supports fellow workers for the truth (missionaries). Gaius served faithfully, cared sincerely in hospitality, and gave generously for the cause of missions. The missionaries John references were “strangers” to Gaius, and perhaps to John, but there were no less served. Further, these strangers testified before the church[6] of how well they were treated. John commends serving and supporting missionaries for 3 reasons:

1)   Affirm Christ’s exclusivity“in a manner worthy of God, for they have gone out for the sake of the name” (1:6-7). These missionaries serve and speak for the only name for which salvation is found (Acts 4:12). The ambition and passion for the believer is to make Jesus’ name known among all the earth (Ps 67:2; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:1, 15:20).

2)   Affirm Christian generosity: “they accept nothing from the Gentiles [unbelievers]” John notes that Christian missionaries depended on God’s provision in the church’s generosity. In so doing, they were maintaining integrity and avoiding scandal like those who were only in it for the money. Christian missionaries should not have to beg for support or pursue worldly fundraising efforts when God has called the church to support and send them out. Other apostles note the importance of support and hospitality for traveling strangers/missionaries (cf. Paul’s ending of his letters; also cf. Mat 10:9-14; Rom 15:27; 1Cor 16:1-11; 2Cor 9:1-15; Php 4:10-19; Gal 6:10; 1Tim 5:18 “The laborer deserves his wages”; Hebrews 13:1-2 “entertain strangers”; James 2:14-16; 1Peter 4:9 “show hospitality”, 2John 1:10-11; etc.).

3)  Affirm Church cooperation“that we may be fellow workers for the truth” In John’s eyes, the church and traveling missionaries were working together whether praying, giving, or going to spread and send the gospel in neighborhoods and among the nations. The term fellow workers συνεργός-sunergos is where we also get our English word synergy meaning interaction or cooperation of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.[7] The power of cooperative missions is that we can do more together than apart or alone!

While John commends Gaius, he also condemns Diotrephes. John writes for the church to condemn lukewarmness or opposition to supporting missions. Diotrephes had 4 characteristics that John warned the church to avoid:

1)    Avoid being selfish (3Jn 1:9). Diotrephes liked preeminence, putting himself first. Only Jesus should have preeminence (cf. Mk 10:45; Php 2:6-11; Col 1:18). Note the subject is in context of supporting missionaries. So, churches should be cautious in the ways they steward funds internally for maintenance purposes versus externally for ministry and mission. The resources the church needs are always in the harvest of reaching people for the gospel.

–        Church health is measured by its sending capacity more than seating capacity

2)    Avoid being subversive (3Jn 1:9). Diotrephes did not acknowledge John’s or the church’s authority, so John was going to publicly point his subversive behavior out to the whole church. John’s remarks would be viewed as church discipline and rebuking the wayward. John was not afraid to love tenderly or lead tenaciously based on the relevant circumstances.

3)    Avoid being shameful (3Jn 1:10). Diotrephes was talking wicked nonsense. He was accusing unjustly and simply gossiping evil words (φλυαρέω – phluareo; cf. 1Tim 5:13). John’s actions of discipline are in line with other apostles commanding the church to not accept unjust accusations (1Tim 5:19-20).

4)    Avoid being surly (3Jn 1:10). Diotrephes was progressively an annoyance and antagonist to the work of God. He not only disregarded apostolic leadership but sought to disrupt church unity by refusing to welcome other Christians and hindering those who did show hospitality. He was surly, argumentative, complaining, crabby, cranky, difficult, grouchy, grumpy, touchy-sensitive – any of these descriptors of you or people in church?

Walking in the way of mission requires us to declare and display truth (3John 1:11-12)
John addresses a third individual in this church. His communication uses a wise rhetorical technique of sandwiching a bad example between two good examples. While Diotrephes sought to gain a following with his evil behavior, John exhorted the church to imitate the good exemplified by another named Demetrius.

Demetrius has a good testimony from everyone in the church, from the truth itself, and now also from the apostle John. Believers are called to imitate [μιμέομαι – mimeomai / mimic] the good. we must be careful of whom we admire and adhere. Further, we would be wise to ask ourselves, “What would happen if everyone followed my example?” Our words are good, but our deeds in concert with our words are even better. We can be self-deceived by teaching what we know but reproducing who we are; so we must be sure our character not only declares truth but also displays it.


Concluding application to walk in the way of gospel-family-mission:

–    Are you thanking yourself for blessings or are you trusting & thanking the Blesser Jesus Christ?

–    Are you linked in love with other believers as a member of SPBC?

–    Are you partnered with the local church in growing godly generations?

–    Are you praying for and participating in other’s well-being both physically and spiritually?

–    Are you supporting gospel witness with pray-give-go in your neighborhood and among the nations?

Jesus’ mission is not an option to consider but a command to obey. Let God’s purposes begin in our homes and lived out in our communities and world.

– – – – –

[1] W.J. Szlemko, J.A. Benfield, P.A. Bell, J.L. Deffenbacker, and L. Troup, “Terrirtorial Markings as a Predictor of Driver Aggression and Road Rage,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38 (2008): 1664-1688.

[2] Background info adapted from Daniel Akin, NAC, 1,2,3 John.

[3] Kruse, Colin. Pillar NT Commentary, 3John 1:2.

[4] Charles Spurgeon, A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 21, 1873, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “ekklesia: church” is mentioned 3x in this letter indicating the community of faith where the following actions took place: love for one another, support for missions, disciplining wayward members. Church membership is relevant in NT and also today.

[7] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/synergy

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