3 John 1: 5, 6
Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do to the brothers, and to strangers;…
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, etc. We have here -
I. HOSPITALITY EXERCISED. "Beloved, thou doest a faithful work in whatsoever thou doest toward them that are brethren and strangers withal."
1. The persons towards whom it had been exercised.
(1) "Strangers." We mention this first because it is involved in the Greek word for "hospitality," φιλοξενία, i.e., kindness to strangers. Entertaining our friends is not properly hospitality. This virtue, says Barnes, "springs up naturally in countries thinly settled, where the sight of a stranger would be therefore peculiarly pleasant;... and where the population was too sparse, and the travelers too infrequent, to justify inn-keeping as a business. From these causes it has happened that there are, properly speaking, no inns or taverns in the region around Palestine. It was customary, indeed, to erect places for lodging and shelter at suitable distances, or by the side of springs or watering-places, for travelers to lodge in. But they are built at the public expense, and are unfurnished. Each traveler carries his own bed and clothes and cooking utensils, and such places are merely designed as a shelter for caravans. It is still so; and hence it becomes, in their view, a virtue of high order to entertain, at their own tables and in their families, such strangers as may be traveling." But these strangers were also:
(2) "Brethren." They were fellow-Christians. Hospitality should not be limited to them, but it should be shown to them first and chiefly. The New Testament teaches that kindness should begin at home (1 Timothy 5:8; Galatians 6:10). The apostles were to "begin at Jerusalem." Christian people have sometimes supplied the wants of the drunken, the indolent, and the wasteful, and neglected their own sober, industrious, and thrifty poor in their need. It seems to us that in such ministries the rule should be - our own home first, our own Church and congregation next, other Christian brethren next, and then the irreligious.
2. The person by whom it had been exercised. Gains. But St. John in the text sets forth the exercise of hospitality as specially becoming in Christians. He speaks of it as "a faithful work," i.e., a work worthy of a faithful man or a Christian. Hospitality is frequently in the sacred Scriptures enjoined upon Christians as a duty (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). St. Paul mentions it as one of the duties of a Christian bishop (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). At the last judgment, one reason for the reward of the good is that they exercised hospitality, and one of the charges upon which the wicked will be condemned is the neglect of hospitality (Matthew 25:34-46). Accordingly, we find that the "primitive Christians considered one principal part of their duty to consist in showing hospitality to strangers. They were, in fact, so ready in discharging this duty, that the very heathen admired them for it. They were hospitable to all strangers, but especially to those who were of the household of faith. Believers scarcely ever traveled without letters of communion, which testified the purity of their faith, and procured for them a favourable reception wherever the name of Jesus Christ was known" (Calmer). We also find that the hospitality of Gains was hearty; for the brethren whom he had entertained testified to his love (verse 6). "There is," says Washington Irving, "an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease." As occasion requires it, hospitality is still a Christian duty.
II. HOSPITALITY ACKNOWLEDGED. "Who bare witness to thy love before the Church." The evangelists, when they returned to the Church from which they had been sent forth on their work, gave an account of their mission, and in so doing testified to the hearty hospitality of Gains. This report of Gains differed from that of a minister of whom I have read. This minister "had traveled far to preach for a congregation at -. After the sermon, he waited, expecting some one would ask him to dinner. At length, the place becoming almost empty, he mustered courage, and walked up to an old gentleman, and said, 'Will you go home and dine with me today, brother?' 'Where do you live?' 'About twenty miles from here, sir.' 'No;' said the man, colouring, 'but you must go with me.' 'Thank you; I will, cheerfully.' After this the minister was never troubled about his dinner." Gratefully to testify to kindness like that of Gaius must be a delight to those who are worthy recipients of it.
III. HOSPITALITY ENCOURAGED "Whom thou wilt do well to set forward on their journey worthily of God." This refers to a second visit to Gains, in which they probably brought this letter with them. To set them forward was to enable them to proceed onward by furnishing them with necessaries for the journey. Here is an admirable rule for regulating the exercise of our hospitality - "worthily of God;" Alford, "In a manner worthy of him whose messengers they are and whose servant thou art." We should show kindness as becometh the followers of him "who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not." "It would," says Barnes, "be particularly expected of Christians that they should show hospitality to the ministers of religion. They were commonly poor; they received no fixed salary; they traveled from place to place; and they would be dependent for support on the kindness of those who loved the Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. Matthew 10:9-15). The exercise of this duty is often richly rewarded in the present. Certain and splendid is its reward in the future (Matthew 10:40-42; Matthew 25:34-36). - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;