When discussing the sin of covetousness, we must review the life of one who lived in total contrast to a covetousness life-style. Gaius was an unselfish disciple who understood the purpose of discipleship, and thus, through the apostle John’s letter, the Holy Spirit gave him an overwhelming testimony that he was walking in the truth by his well-doing sacrifices to partner with evangelists in the preaching of the gospel to the world.
Romans 10:14 explains the mandate of Gaius’ obedience. This statement of Paul explains the organic function of the body in reference to the financial partnership that members have with those who go forth to preach the gospel. It explains the well-doing of Gaius.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
The sending forth and support of preachers is a function of the body of Christ to take the gospel into all the world. This is what the body does. When this function is either ignored by the members of the body, as in the case of the Corinthians, or disrupted by dominating leadership, as in the case of Diotrephes, then the body is financially dysfunctional. In the context of John’s letter to Gaius, if this responsibility is ignored by any individual Christian, then that Christian is dysfunctional in reference to his or her responsibilies to send forth preachers to preach the gospel to the lost. Such was the case with the disciples in the area where Gaius lived. The problem was so grave that Gaius may have been in doubt concerning his financial responsibilities to support preachers. For some reason, he wrote to John concerning one who was disrupting the organic function of the body in reference to what Paul stated in Romans 10:14,15.
John subsequently wrote a comforting letter to Gaius in order to reassure him that what he was doing in supporting evangelists was walking in the truth. “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in truth” (3 Jn 3). In this context, Gaius’ walking in truth was his financial support of the preaching of the gospel. From what John said of Gaius, therefore, we would conclude that one is not walking in the truth unless he is doing that which Gaius was doing in supporting preachers to go forth to preach the gospel.
Supporting traveling evangelists was a faithful work and walk in the truth. “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and especially for strangers” (3 Jn 5). Those who had been helped by Gaius on their journeys reported his faithful work to other disciples wherever they went. The extent of Gaius’ hospitality of those who came by his way is revealed in the fact that some were not formerly known by Gaius. They were strangers to him. But the fact that they were preaching the gospel was reason enough to warrant his support. John commended Gaius, “… who have borne witness of your love before the church” (3 Jn 6).
Gaius’ support of the traveling evangelists was a manifestation of his love, and thus, in John’s statement of 3 John 6, one definition of Christian love is identified to be one’s support of those who go forth to preach the gospel. Gaius’ godliness was revealed in his giving. “You will do well to support them [the preachers] on their journey in a manner worthy of God” (3 Jn 6). In order to be worthy of God, individual Christians as Gaius, should support those who are going forth to preach the gospel. The other side of the situation is also true. If one does not support the preaching of the gospel through the support of preachers who go forth, then he is not worthy of God. He does not know God, for God is love, and love manifests itself in the support of those who go forth to preach the gospel for God’s love of the world through Jesus (Jn 3:16).
The word “support” in 3 John 6 comes from the Greek word propempo. It means to set one forward on his journey with whatever it takes to get the evangelist on to his next location. The word assumes, therefore, that the evangelist is not staying at home. He is gone! He has gone into all the world to preach the gospel. The context of John’s discussion of 3 John is not the passage to be used for those who want to stay at home, and yet be supported according to John’s instructions. There are other passages that teach the church’s responsibility to support their teachers (See Gl 6:6).
In the evangelistic function of the early church, there were evangelists going throughout the world preaching the gospel. Paul, for example, sought to go on to Spain after he visited the disciples in Rome. When he wrote to the disciples in Rome, he hoped to be supported by them in his travel on to Spain. “… whenever I make my journey into Spain, I hope to see you in my journey and to be supported on my way there by you …” (Rm 15:24).
In 3 John, John explained the reason behind Paul’s statement in Romans 10:14. It is the responsibility of every disciple to do what Gaius was doing in supporting those who would go forth to preach the gospel. In 3 John 7,8, John gives three reasons why each individual member of the body should do this.
- The evangelists went forth to preach Christ. If we would claim to be “of Christ” (Christian), then it is our obligation to support those who preach the One in whom we believe.
- The evangelists did not take contributions from the unbelievers. We should support evangelists in order that they and their families can live, and not bring shame upon the gospel message by living in need of material sustenance (1 Co 9:14).
- We must be fellow workers for the truth that the evangelists preach. We join in with those evangelists who go forth by supporting them on their journeys. We partake of the fruit of their labors when we partner with them through our giving of support (Ph 4:17).
The preceding evangelistic function of the body was disrupted by one man in the vicinity of Gaius. The case here is similar to that in Corinth. There was a group in Corinth who were puffed up and arrogant, and subsequently hindered the Corinthians from supporting Paul, whom they accused of all sorts of nonsense. The same happened with Gaius when Diotrephes, who was puffed up, disrupted the financial function of the body by slandering the evangelists and John with malicious words. One of the evils in which some involve themselves in order not to support a certain preacher is to make slanderous statements to others of the church about the preacher.
The financial disruption caused by Diotrephes was enshrined in one simple statement made by John: “Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not receive us” (3 Jn 9). Diotrephes did not receive and send forth even John, the apostle of love. In his actions to dominate a group, or area of house groups, he disrupted the function of the organic body that was explained by Paul in Romans 10:14,15. Gaius could not send forth the beautiful feet of those who preached the gospel because Diotrephes wanted to dominate the church, and thus, present himself to be first among the disciples.
John’s letter to Gaius was meant to encourage Gaius during this unfortunate time of financial disruption of his evangelistic outreach through the support of evangelists. “Beloved, do not follow what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is from God. He who does evil has not seen God” (3 Jn 11). That which Diotrephes was doing was evil. If Gaius submitted to what Diotrephes was trying to impose on the church, then he would also be doing evil and not walking in truth. The Holy Spirit takes a very dim view of anyone who would disrupt the financial support of those who go forth to preach the gospel.
When any member of the body of Christ disrupts the outreach of the body, then that member is a cancerous evil. His behavior will lead to the death of the body in any particular region where the body is not allowed to preach the gospel. If the other members of the body allow a dominant member to disrupt the evangelistic outreach of the body, then they have fallen victim to the cancerous evil of the autocratic leader. We enable evil when we say nothing about these matters, nor refuse to confront the evil of those who would dominate our desire to send forth those who preach.
When the leaders of a group of disciples do not allow a traveling evangelist to speak to the members of the body about the function of the body in evangelism, then they have fallen victim to the cancerous evil of Diotrephetic leadership. When a preacher blocks the coming of a traveling evangelist to speak to the members of the body, then he has become a cancerous evil to the evangelistic function of the body of Christ. When churches as a whole are not receiving and sending forth those who preach the gospel, then they are indeed dead with a cancerous evil. When John wrote to Gaius about Diotrephes’ hindering of the evangelistic financial function of the body, He wanted all of us to know that such is evil, and should be avoided.
We must not ignore or consider lightly the Holy-Spirit inspired words of John in reference to the behavior of Diotrephes in his efforts to block the evangelistic function of the body. Diotrephes was hindering the function of the body to preach the gospel by not receiving and sending forth those who grow the body into all the world. His actions were contrary to the existence of the church, and thus, his actions were evil. It is for this reason that every disciple, as Gaius, must be assured that receiving and sending evangelists is the function of every member of the body of Christ. Paul concluded his letter to the dysfunctional Corinthians in this matter: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test your own selves. Do you not know your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you are disqualified?” (2 Co 13:5). An old Persian proverb is, “What I kept I lost. What I spent I had. What I gave I have.” Someone wrote, “If you want to be rich, give; if you want to be poor, grasp, if you want abundance, scatter, if you want to be needy, hoard.”
(Be sure and research this subject in the …
Biblical Research Library, Book 22, Chapter 11