3 John is one of the shortest epistles in the New Testament. It is so short that we may even miss it when we flip the pages of our Bible. Because of its length, some New Testament scholars even called it an apostolic postcard. However, this short epistle had some important truths regarding the support of missions. John wrote to encourage Gaius to support missionaries such as Demetrius despite the opposition from Diotrephes. He also encouraged the church to see its responsibility to support God’s work.
We could learn much from this epistle regarding the support of God’s work. First of all, supporting God’s work is a yardstick of our spiritual condition. John reminded Gaius that ‘he that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God’ (2Jn.11). The good work here in the context refers to the hospitality and acts of love extended to God’s servants. If we shut our heart by refusing to show hospitality and support missionaries, then we reveal our true character of selfishness.
Second, we must be prepared to face opposition when we intend to do God’s will in this matter. John warned Gaius not to be affected by Diotrephes who not only refused to support missionaries but also stopped others from doing so (3Jn. 9, 10). Gaius must not be discouraged by the actions of Diotrephes.
Third, John reminds us that supporting missionaries is not just an option. It is our sacred duty and privilege. He used the word “ought” in verse 8: “We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.” In the original language, this means a moral obligation on our part. We should support God’s work because it is what our Lord had commanded.
John indicates that missionaries had set out to other places where they proclaimed the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. These messengers were commissioned by the church to bring the gospel. In obedience to our Lord, they left home and family to go to other regions. They knew that if our Lord sent them forth, He would surely provide for their needs (Matt. 10:9-10; Mk 6:8; Lk 10:4).
The missionaries refused to accept financial aid from non-Christians. The missionaries did not want to hinder the work of the gospel. They knew that if they accepted help from unbelievers, they would leave themselves open to the charge that they preached for financial gains (1Cor. 9:12). Therefore, John teaches that missionaries should receive help from the church (3Jn8).
Finally we learn that when we support missionaries in the gospel ministry, we are actually ‘fellow helpers to the truth’ (3Jn. 8). This verse seems to teach that those who support God’s servants will also share in the reward of their labors. We are reminded of Jesus' words, “Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward” (Matt. 10:41).
May we be reminded that supporting God’s work is not a matter of duty and finance only, but it is also a matter of the heart. Like Gaius let us show the world that we practise the truth by supporting His work through the church’s mission outreach.
Rev. Mark Tay