3 John 1: 7, 8
Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.…
Because that for his Name's sake they went forth, etc. The Bible is remarkable for its universality. Either directly or inferentially, it has something of importance and value to say on almost everything which affects human life and interests. It throws light on many modern questions; and in studying it we are often agreeably surprised to find directions and hints touching many things which we regard as quite modern, and concerning which we had not expected to find much suggestion or light in its pages. Thus in this short letter we have some apostolic notes on Christian missions, which are as applicable to missionary enterprise now as they were to the mission work of the Church eighteen hundred years ago. Here are notes on -
I. MISSIONARY WORKERS. "For the sake of the Name they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles." Notice:
1. The motive of these Christian missionaries. "For the sake of the Name they went forth." In all that we do we are actuated by some motive or motives. Christian work is no exception to this rule. In Christian propagandism there may be various motives; e.g., zeal for a cause or society, or for the spread of certain doctrines or forms of Church government, etc. Each of these is allowable in its place; but neither of them is the highest and best motive of Christian service. The most devoted workers in Christianity have a nobler motive than any one or all of these. "Go into a large manufacturing establishment. If you will notice carefully, you will perceive a large shaft running the whole length of the building. To this are attached wheels, and bands go from these wheels to other wheels, and in these is inserted short shafting, and to it are attached augers, saws, knives, and chisels; and by these an immense amount of mechanical work is done. But what is the cause of all this motion? Where is the secret power which makes all this machinery do the work of five hundred men? The answer is easily given. It is steam. Let the steam go down, and this whole machinery would become as still and silent as the grave" (C.M. Temple). And the grand motive power for working the machinery of Christianity is love to the Lord Jesus Christ; not zeal for doctrines, however sound, but love to a Person; not the desire to build up the Church, still less to extend a denomination or sect; but a passionate attachment to the living Lord of the Church. Christ himself is the life of Christianity. The great motive of the noblest Christian work is supreme love to him. "The love of Christ constraineth us" is the explanation of the best and bravest work which is done for men. There is no motive like love; and love to a person will always prove a stronger motive than love to a cause or a creed. When Christ is received into the heart he awakens its highest, holiest, intensest love. This love is the mightiest inspiration in Christian service. It can dare most, do most, endure most. The bravest workers go forth "for the sake of the Name" of Jesus Christ.
2. The policy of these Christian missionaries. "Taking nothing of the Gentiles." The apostles held and repeatedly asserted the principle "that they which proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). Our Lord taught the same truth: "The labourer is worthy of his food" (Matthew 10:10). But there were cases in which it was not expedient to enforce this principle. The gospel should be proclaimed without charge to those who know it not; for they cannot be expected to prize it before they are acquainted with it. Therefore these early missionaries, by "their own deliberate purpose," took nothing of the Gentiles to whom they went. If they had done otherwise, they might have been suspected of mercenary motives. We should always be able to say to the heathen, both at home and abroad, "I seek not yours, but you." "I coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel." But when the heathen are heathen no longer, but have learned to appreciate the gospel, we may say unto them, "If we sowed unto you spiritual things," etc. (1 Corinthians 9:11, 13, 14). In these respects the apostles and the early missionaries are an example for succeeding ages.
II. MISSIONARY HELPERS. "We therefore ought to welcome such, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth." This brings out the duty of the Church to missionary workers.
1. To support the missionaries. "We ought to receive such;" Revised Version, "to welcome;" Alford, "to support." The word signifies not only "to welcome," but "to aid and strengthen." And this should be done in a worthy manner - "worthily of God." Workers for Jesus Christ should be treated with kindness, generously entertained, and encouraged in their work. They need this from the Church. Without it they may "wax weary, fainting in their souls;" and in that case the work will suffer.
2. To cooperate with the missionaries. "That we might be fellow-helpers to the truth;" Revised Version, "that we may be fellow-workers with the truth;" Alford, "that we may become fellow-workers for the truth." The idea is that, by supporting the missionaries, Gains would become a fellow-worker with them in promoting the cause of the truth. This is stated as a reason why he should show kindness to them and help them. It is also clearly implied that it is the duty of the Christian to be a fellow-worker in the cause of the truth. Knowing the truth ourselves, we are morally bound to make it known to others. But there are many who cannot do this themselves by preaching or teaching. Then, according to St. John in our text, they should do it by encouraging and supporting those who can preach or teach. "In this way," says Binney, "Gains was enabled to do much; far more, in fact, in the way of preaching, than if he himself had been the most eloquent of preachers; for by aiding many, and helping them on their way and in their work, he was virtually speaking, at the same moment, by many mouths, and in the eye of God might be regarded as converting many souls in several places and at the same time, and when otherwise occupied himself - when he was engaged in his worldly business, at home in his family, asleep in his bed, at rest or on a journey, in sickness or in health, living or dead." Christians, behold your duty and privilege, to be either missionary workers or missionary helpers, - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.