3 John 1:8
We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
3 John



FELLOW-WORKERS WITH THE TRUTH


3 John 1:8.

‘Fellow-helpers to the Truth.’ A word or two may be permitted as to the immediate occasion of the expression. There seems to have been, as we learn not only from occasional references in the New Testament, but from early Christian literature, and very frequent practice in the primitive churches, of certain members having, like our friends the Quakers, ‘a concern’ for some special ministry, and being loosed from their ordinary avocations, and sent out with the sanction of the Church. These traveling evangelists went from place to place, and sought the hospitality and help of the Christian communities to which they came. My text is an exhortation from the aged Apostle to treat such brethren as they deserved, seeing that they have ‘come forth for the sake of the Name’; and should be welcomed and helped as brethren.

Now there are ambiguities about the words, on which I need not dwell. So far as the grammatical construction of the originals are concerned, they may either mean what our Authorized Version takes them to mean, ‘fellow-helpers’-or rather ‘fellow-workers’-for the Truth; the co-operation being regarded as confined to the two sets of men, the evangelists and their hospitable receivers-or they may mean, as the Revised Version takes them, ‘fellow-workers with the Truth’- ‘the Truth’ and the two sets of human agents being all supposed as co-operating in one common end. The latter is, I presume, the real meaning of the Evangelist. ‘The Truth’ is supposed to be an active force in the world, which both the men who directly preach it, and the men who sustain and cheer those who do, are co-operating with. Then there is another question as to whether, by ‘the Truth ‘ here, we are to understand the whole body of Christian revelation, or whether we are to see shining through the words the august figure of Him who is personally, as He Himself claimed,’ the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.’ I believe that the latter explanation is the truer one, and more in accordance with the intense saturation in all John’s writings with the words of the Master. I can scarcely think that when he spoke thus about ‘the Truth,’ or when he spoke in another of his letters about the ‘Truth which dwelleth in us, and shall be in us for ever,’ he meant only a body of principles. I think he meant Jesus Christ Himself. And so with that sacred and auguster meaning attaching to his words, I wish to look at them with you.

I. The possessors of the Truth are to be workers with the Truth.

I do not say a word about the claim which is made in this expression, that Christian people possess the absolute truth in regard to all matters upon which the revelation made to them in Jesus Christ touches. That is a bold assumption, but I do not need to say a word about it here. I take it for granted that you professing Christians concur in the belief that what you have received about God and Christ and God’s will concerning men, and the way of salvation, and the prospects for the future life, stands alone and complete, as ‘the Truth,’ to which all other conceptions of God and man and duty and destiny are related, but as fragmentary at the highest, and as often perversions, corruptions, and contradictions. Do not let any modern width of thought, or any impressions gathered from the new science of comparative religion, blur the distinctness and the joyousness of your confidence that in Christ we have not a peradventure of men, but the ‘Verily! Verily!’ of heaven: the Truth.

And then remember that, according to the representation of my text, this Truth, wherever it enters into a man’s heart, lays hold upon him, and makes him its apostle. All moral and spiritual truth has that power. There are plenty of dry statements in various regions of science and thought the reception of which brings with it no compulsion whatever to say a word about them. No man is ever smitten with the conviction that it is his duty to go out into the world and proclaim that’ two and two make four,’ or truths of that sort. But once lodge in a man’s heart thoughts of a moral, religious, spiritual character, and as soon as he believes them he wakes up to feel’ Then I must-I must proclaim them, and get somebody else to share my convictions.’ It is the test of real, deep, vital possession of’ the Truth’ that it shall be as a fire shut up in our bones, burning its way necessarily out into the light; and that no man who has it dare wrap it in a napkin and bury it in the ground.

God forbid that I should say that a silent Christian is not a genuine Christian. I know too well how far beneath the ideal we all come, but sure I am that if men have never found that when ‘ the Truth as it is in Jesus ‘ drew back her veil, and let the lambent beauty of her face blaze in upon their hearts, it made them her slaves and knight-errants for evermore, they have seen very very little of that supreme loveliness. Brethren the truth that we believe is our mistress, and of the Christian truth that we profess to hold, we are sworn by the very fact to be the apostles and the missioners.

Nor let us forget the solemn and elevating thought which goes along with the imagery of my text; that the Truth, for all its majesty and dignity and divinity, needs men for its helpers. The only way by which it can spread is through us and our fellows. There is no magic by which it can divide and impart itself, apart from the agency of the men who already possess it. The torch has been brought from heaven, and the light with which it blazes is celestial, but in order to enlighten the darkness of the earth it must be passed from hand to hand by a linked chain of men. The lake lies full of possible fertility and promise to flush with green verdure the barren burning desert sands; but it will lie there, its possible good unrealized for ever, unless men with their spades and excavators dig the channels and lead the heaven-sent blessing that came from the clouds into all the barren places. The Truth needs us, but when the work is done that the workers with the Truth do, it is the Truth and not the workers that have done the work.

So, Christian men and women, I come to you with this message-recognize your dignity, the honour that is laid upon you in being allowed to be co-operators with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. Recognize the obligation, solemn and heavy, which is laid upon you by the very nature of the truth which we believe, by the common bonds of fellowship between man and man, to impart the message that has brought life to us; and recognize it as at once our highest honour and our widest duty to be ‘fellow-workers with the Truth.’

II. The companions of Christ are to be workers with Christ.

He, as I have pointed out, is the Incarnate Truth. And here we come upon the especial peculiarity of Christianity as a system, considered in its relation to Jesus Christ, its Founder and its Giver. You can take Plato’s philosophy and do what you like with it, and treat Plato as a negligible quantity. You can do the same with all other great teachers, even those of them who have most impressed their own individuality upon their thinkings, and theorizings, and teachings, but you cannot do that with Christianity; you cannot say, ‘Never mind who it was that said it. Attend to what was said.’ For Jesus Christ, and His message, are so interwoven and interlaced in such a fashion as that you cannot get rid of Him, and keep it. He Himself is the Truth. Christ is Christianity; and any man that has ever tried to deal with the teachings of the New Testament as a body of principles, ignoring the lips from which they came, is left with what they call a caput mortuum, a dead mass of impotent generalities. Get Christ into them, and they are all palpitating, and living, and flaming, and have power.

So, then, when I call my brethren, and feel myself bound to the task of being ‘workers with the Truth,’ it is no mere devotion to the propaganda of a creed that I want to urge, but it is devotion to proclaiming the beloved hand of the person out of whom the creed is carved, and in whom all the truth is shrined and sphered. Every man that is Christ’s companion is thereby bound to be a worker with the incarnate Truth. He needs our help. True, he finds all the capital, but we are His partners, His representatives and agents here on earth, as He has taught us in more than one parable. The pound or the talent is His; it is given to me, but it is left with me to determine whether it shall increase and fructify or not. On the Cross He said, ‘It is finished,’ but all through the ages He is working, and all through the ages His mightiest means of working is through the men by whom He works. The Lord works with them, and they work with the Lord. They are His tools; He makes them, but He cannot do His work without them. And notwithstanding the Cross, notwithstanding the adequate powers for the regeneration of humanity, and the salvation of individuals, which lie in that message of the Gospel, the co-operation of the Church is needed if the world is to be saved. Surely it is constituted in order to fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ, and to carry on the unfinished development of the finished work which, done once for all on the Cross, is not done until it has been applied to the world by Christ working through His people, and by His people working with Christ. If there is a flaw in the covering that enwraps the wire, there will be no message at the other end. If you and I are non-conductors, no matter how much power may be flashed into us, that which is beyond us will want the power. The medium between Christ and the world that He died and lives to save, the medium is we Christian people.

‘Workers with the Truth.’ That is parallel with what Paul says, in the great word which he ventures upon when, having just declared that neither he nor Apollos are anything, he rises to the thought which balances that of their nothingness: ‘We are labourers together with God.’

Is not that a dignity? And what shall we say of men who have so little consciousness of union with Jesus Christ as that they have next to no sympathy with the things that fill His heart? I plead for no narrow interpretation of the duties of the ‘fellow-workers with the Truth.’ He came to redress all human misery, sin, and evil. He came not only to speak the words that save the soul with the everlasting salvation of sin forgiven, and friendship restored between God and man, but to carry light and healing and peace and hope into every region where the darkness broods, to break every chain and let the oppressed go free. Social improvements, and all the wider outlooks which Christian benevolence takes in these late years, all come into the general category of being the carrying out of Christ’s sympathies and purpose, and being part of the work of those who are ‘ fellow-workers’ with Him in His toil, and who shall one day hear, ‘It is finished! The kingdoms of this world are the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.’

III. Farther, the workers with Christ are to be workers with one another.

These traveling evangelists had one function. The people in the unknown church in Asia Minor, staying at home and following their secular callings, had another; and that was, to help and to further these peripatetic brethren. Co-operation means diversity of function and identity of aims and ends. For us there remains the duty still, as incumbent as it was in those early days, of recognizing our own special task, of cleaving to that, and yet of furthering and helping all our brethren who, in their diverse ways, are engaged in the same great end. The men that take care of the base of operations of that army that is pressing down upon the foe are as truly fighting the enemy as the men that are in the front. It was the old law in Israel, based upon a clear understanding that all who co-operated towards one end, in whatsoever divers ways, are united together; that ‘as his part is that goes down into the battle, so shall his part be that abides by the stuff; they shall part alike.’

Brethren, learn your special work. Remember that you have each something to do that nobody can do as well as you. Learn your special work, and beware of narrowing your sympathies to your special work. Let them go out to embrace all, however far apart upon the wall and however different may be their tasks, they are still co-operant to one end. ‘He that planteth and he that watereth are one.’ Identity of purpose, and wide diversity of method, with as wide charity, and as wide sympathy, ought to mark all Christian workers.

All the thoughts that I have been trying to urge have a very direct bearing upon church as well as upon individual life. Although there is no intention, on our Apostle’s part, of laying down anything like the constitution of a Christian church, in the incidental words of my text, yet the principles involved in these words do lie very deep down in the conception of what a Christian church ought to be. They make very short work of all sacerdotal assumptions. A priest doing a miracle there at the altar, and the people simple recipients of, and spectators-that, in many quarters, is the modern notion of the relation between pastor and people. John gives the truer one when he says-’ fellow-helpers to the Truth.’

The words bear on a mistake that is more common in the audience, I suppose, than sacramentarian notion -namely, that a church is a place where people come to hear sermons and pay their pew-rents, and there an end. There is a dead-weight of idle people clogging the work of every Christian congregation in England. -Christian professors! what do you do for the Truth, for your Lord, for your brethren? I, for my part, have to say with the Apostle,’ not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy; for by faith ye stand.’ I decline all responsibility for doing more than my own share of the evangelistic work of this church. The Chinese put up mud-forts in which there is one real cannon that can be fired, and make a noise, and all the rest are dummies; painted, wooden. That is a great deal too like what a great many Christian churches are-one piece to fire, and the others for show.

‘Fellow-helpers.’ That defines our mutual relation. But do not be too sure that your work is only the indirect work of sustaining ‘ them that are such.’ There is some direct work for you to do. And you are shutting your souls out from a great blessing by not doing it. Sure I am that whoever is in union with Jesus Christ will have his lips touched to proclaim His Name somehow. And sure I am that whoever, smitten by love and loyalty to his Master, by the ardour of affection born of the grasp of the Truth, and by real love for his fellow-men that need it, opens his lips to make Christ known, will find that there is no surer way of increasing his own grasp of the Truth, and deepening his own union with Christ, than to seek to make others share in the blessings which are his life. ‘Fellow-helpers to the Truth’-and with the Truth-I pray that we may be so more and more for the days or years that may yet remain to us.1:1-8 Those who are beloved of Christ, will love the brethren for his sake. Soul prosperity is the greatest blessing on this side heaven. Grace and health are rich companions. Grace will employ health. A rich soul may be lodged in a weak body; and grace must then be exercised in submitting to such a dispensation. But we may wish and pray that those who have prosperous souls, may have healthful bodies; that their grace may shine where there is still more room for activity. How many professors there are, about whom the apostle's words must be reversed, and we must earnestly wish and pray that their souls might prosper, as their health and circumstances do! True faith will work by love. A good report is due from those who receive good; they could not but testify to the church, what they found and felt. Good men will rejoice in the soul prosperity of others; and they are glad to hear of the grace and goodness of others. And as it is a joy to good parents, it will be a joy to good ministers, to see their people adorn their profession. Gaius overlooked petty differences among serious Christians, and freely helped all who bore the image, and did the work of Christ. He was upright in what he did, as a faithful servant. Faithful souls can hear their own praises without being puffed up; the commendation of what is good in them, lays them at the foot of the cross of Christ. Christians should consider not only what they must do, but what they may do; and should do even the common actions of life, and of good-will, after a godly sort, serving God therein, and designing his glory. Those who freely make known Christ's gospel, should be helped by others to whom God gives the means. Those who cannot themselves proclaim it, may yet receive, help, and countenance those who do so.We therefore ought to receive such - All of us ought hospitably to entertain and help such persons. The work in which they are engaged is one of pure benevolence. They have no selfish aims and ends in it. They do not even look for the supplies of their own needs among the people to whom they go to minister; and we ought, therefore, to help them in their work, and to contribute to their support. Doubtless, the apostle meant to urge this duty particularly upon Gaius; but, in order to show that he recognized the obligation himself, he uses the term "we," and speaks of it as a duty binding on all Christians.

That we might be fellow-helpers to the truth - All Christians cannot go forth to preach the gospel, but all may contribute something to the support of those who do; and in this case they would have a joint participation in the work of spreading the truth. The same reasoning which was applicable to that case, is also applicable now in regard to the duty of supporting those who go forth to preach the gospel to the destitute.

8. We—in contradistinction to "the Gentiles" or "heathen" referred to, 3Jo 7.

therefore—as they take nothing from the Gentiles or heathen.

receive—The oldest manuscripts read, "take up." As they "take" nothing from the Gentiles, we ought to take them up so as to support them.

fellow helpers—with them.

to the truth—that is, to promote the truth.

See Poole on "3Jo 1:7" We therefore ought to receive such,.... We who are Jews, that have believed in Christ, for such an one Gaius, it seems, as well, as the apostle, were, ought to receive such preachers of the word into our houses, and entertain them cheerfully, while they continue, and supply them with all necessaries when they depart:

that we might be fellow helpers to the truth; that is, to the Gospel, and the propagation of it in the world: some are helpers to it, in preaching of it, by making use of the ministerial gifts bestowed upon them; and others are fellow helpers with them, to the same good work, by their purses, communicating freely to the support of those, who labour in the word and doctrine; and these latter have the honour to be co-workers, or fellow labourers with the former, as the word here used signifies. The Alexandrian copy reads, "fellow helpers to the church", that so the whole burden of taking care of these ministers might not lie upon them. The Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, "fellow helpers of the truth".

We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be {d} fellowhelpers to the truth.

(d) That we ourselves may help the preaching of the truth.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
indicates “the highest point of view for Christian φιλοξενία” (Lücke)

3 John 1:8 indicates “the highest point of view for Christian φιλοξενία” (Lücke).

ἡμεῖς οὖν] ἡμεῖς emphatically forms the antithesis to οἱ ἐθνικοί; as they take nothing from the Gentiles, we Christians are bound to take an interest in them; ὀφείλομεν ὑπολαμβάνειν τοὺς τοιούτους] ὑπολαμβάνειν is just as little used in the N. T. in the sense of hospitable reception (Oec. ὑποδέχεσθαι) as the ἀπολαμβάνειν that is found in the Rec. In the classics it appears (but not ἀπολαμβάνειν) both in this meaning and in the modified signification: “to support” (so in Strabo: οἱ εὔποροι τοὺς ἐνδεεῖς ὑπολαμβάνουσι); so it is to be taken here also, and in connection with it the play upon words, between λαμβάνοντες and ὑπολαμβάνειν, must not be overlooked.

ἵνα συνεργοὶ γινώμεθα τῇ ἀληθείᾳ] Confirmation of ὀφείλομεν. The dative τῇ ἀληθ. is not dependent on συν; Vulg.: ut cooperatores simus veritatis; Luther: “so that we may be helpers of the truth” (so Grotius, Bengel, Besser, etc.), but it is the dative of reference, and συν refers back to τοὺς τοιούτους (Brückner, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune): “so that we may be their fellow-workers for the truth;” comp. 2 Corinthians 8:23; Colossians 4:11, where instead of the dative the preposition εἰς is used.3 John 1:8. ἡμεῖς, emphatic in contrast to the Gentiles. ὀφείλομεν, of moral obligation. See note on 1 John 2:6. ὑπολαμβάνειν, suscipere, “receive hospitably” (cf. ὑποδέχεσθαι), “take under one’s protection”. Observe the Wortspielλαμβάνοντες, ὑπολαμβάνειν. συνεργοὶ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ: a division of labour. If we cannot preach the Gospel ourselves, we may help others to do it. William Carey, comparing his missionary enterprise to the exploration of a mine, said: “I will go down if you will hold the ropes”.8. We therefore] ‘We’ is in emphatic contrast to the heathen just mentioned. The Apostle softens the injunction by including himself: comp. 1 John 2:1.

ought to receive such] Or, ought to support such, to undertake for them: the verb (ὑπολαμβάνειν not ἀπολαμβάνειν) occurs elsewhere in N.T. only in S. Luke’s writings, and there with a very different meaning. Comp. Xen. Anab. I. i. 7. There is perhaps a play upon words between the missionaries taking nothing from the Gentiles, and Christians being therefore bound to undertake for them.

that we might be fellowhelpers to] Rather, that we may become fellow-workers with. ‘Fellow-workers’ rather than ‘fellow-helpers’ on account of 3 John 1:5; see also on 2 John 1:11. Cognate words are used in the Greek, and this may as well be preserved in the English. ‘Fellow-workers’ with what? Not with the truth, as both A.V. and R.V. lead us to suppose; but with the missionary brethren. In N.T. persons are invariably said to be ‘fellow-workers of’ (Romans 16:3; Romans 16:9; Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Php 2:25; Php 4:3; [1 Thessalonians 3:2;] Philemon 1:24), never ‘fellow-workers to’ or ‘fellow-workers with:’ those with whom the fellow-worker works are put in the genitive, not in the dative. The dative here is the dativus commodi, and the meaning is; that we may become their fellow-workers for the truth. Sometimes instead of the dative we have the accusative with a preposition (Colossians 4:11; comp. 2 Corinthians 8:23).3 John 1:8. Συνεργοὶ, fellow-helpers) that we may assist the truth, so that it may not be hindered.Ver. 8. - We, therefore, ought to support such. The pronoun is very emphatic. If no help comes from the heathen, we must give it; that we may become their fellow-workers for the truth. Just as the apostle warned the elect lady that to welcome and support preachers of false doctrine is to partake in their evils works (2 John 1:11), so he encourages Gains and his friends with the thought that to welcome and support preachers of the truth is to partake in their good works. It is the Master's teaching in another form, "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward" (Matthew 10:41). Ought (ὀφείλομεν)

See on 1 John 2:6.

To receive (ἀπολαμβάνειν)

The best texts read ὑπολαμβάνειν to support; i.e., to welcome with the provision of hospitality. Rev., welcome. The verb means, originally, to take underneath in order to raise. Hence, to support. Figuratively, to take upon the mind, to suppose, as Luke 7:43; Acts 2:15 : to take up or follow in speech; hence to answer, as Luke 10:30.

Fellow-helpers to the truth (συνεργοὶ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ)

Lit., fellow-workers. The expression is explained in two ways: either fellow-workers with the teachers (τοιούτους such) in support of the truth; or fellow-workers with the truth. Adopt the latter, as Rev.

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