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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:The 'Faithful' Friend
Text:3 John 1-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faithfulness rewarded
 
Preached:2000-06-25
Added:2007-12-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


“The ‘Faithful’ Friend”

Sermon by

Rev. S. Bajema

on 3 John 1-8

Scripture Reading: 3 John 1-13

 

 

Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ…

 

This letter is one of only a few in the Bible addressed to someone in a particularly personal way. Reading through it we couldn’t help but see that intimate note. And didn’t that word “friend” keep popping up? As the Concise Oxford defines it, a friend is “one joined to another in intimacy and mutual benevolence independently of sexual or family love.”

So there’s a special love between friends. And how much more isn’t that love special when someone is...A FRIEND BECAUSE OF THE TRUTH?

Congregation, this is the friendship which you only have through the greatest friend - Jesus Christ Himself! It’s this which is the point with which our text begins...A FRIEND BECAUSE OF THE TRUTH. This is our first point.

           

Now, the title this letter of 3rd John starts with, ‘The Elder’ must have been well-known among the second generation New Testament churches. This writer sees no need to add any further identification. There is certainly no doubt that Gaius would know who ‘The Elder’ was. It could be none other than the one surviving apostle - the one distinguished church statesman around just before the turn of the 1st century.

On the other hand, it seems likely that John would not have known Gaius at all. He would have known a Gaius - in fact, he would have known many Gaius’s. But the name Gaius then was like the name John is today, a very common name. So there’s nothing which stands out about this name.

Yet, there is something which really sticks out about the person here who has this name. I mean, John really loves him! In the verses 1, 2, 5 and 11, he calls him ‘Dear Friend’.

And in case we think that could be just a very nice greeting, in verse 2 John makes a reference to his health. It’s something we might see at first as a general wish for good health - you know, like “All the best!”  In the light of what comes later in this letter, however, this becomes is a specific prayer for his health.

Somehow he’s not right physically. So, as ‘the elder’ knows that Gaius’ soul is prospering spiritually that’s what he prays for him physically too. And it is of such a concern to the apostle that he leaves aside the usual greeting formula to straight away say this. John is so involved in the churches that he does know intimately of what Gaius is going through, though he may well be hundreds of kilometres and a sea or two away.

Congregation, that’s an amazing thing about the great men and women of the faith. While they themselves can have so many demands of their time, they always make time for the work of the churches as a whole. The lists of names in Paul’s letters shows this - he knew them all and he prayed for them all, every person and church he knew of. In church history leaders such as John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon carried on an extensive correspondence with people all over their known worlds - many whom they had never met.

Like the apostle John, each of them is...A FRIEND BECAUSE OF THE TRUTH. The Gospel draws us altogether with a love which goes far beyond any earthly friendship. A unique friendship which those mature in Christ will show!

 

Moving on from this point in the opening two verses of his letter, John goes on to make the point of encouraging Gaius because he is...A FRIEND STICKING TO THE TRUTH. This is our second point. This is something else the great saints throughout history would have personally known about. So many of them have suffered severely for the truth of the gospel. And, still, they kept on going the way of the Lord!

To see a believer bearing up against this kind of attack from those around him - whether of the world or in the church - is to see the Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of the apostle Peter, “if you suffer for doing good and endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Pet.2:20f)

 

Following the flow of the letter here tells us that Gaius is being persecuted because of his faith. John’s wisdom has picked up that which Hugh Latimer noted centuries later, “Wherever you see persecution, there is more than a probability that truth is on the persecuted side.”

Congregation, there are two qualities which show us that Gaius is...A FRIEND STICKING TO THE TRUTH. One is found in verse 3 and one in verse 4.

Turning to the first of these, we notice the character reflected in verse 3, “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.”

Hearing those words we see two aspects about Gaius noted here in this verse quality in verse 3. They are his faithfulness to the truth and his continuing to walk in the truth. We might call it today ‘doctrine and life.’

That makes up a quite balanced life - wouldn’t you think? What he says is supported by what he does - and what he does, shows what he believes. He’s no hypocrite!

 

So the quality in verse 3 is a balanced Christian life. This is not as easy as it looks. There would be many believers who would quite heartily agree with the words of this second point, about A FRIEND STICKING TO THE TRUTH, who are quite unbalanced. You see, they lift this truth into an exclusive focus on doctrine alone. Some Christian churches and denominations go so far with what they believe is sticking to the truth that they become unhinged altogether!

Now, at one stage those folk were right to be concerned. But their focus on the concern increasingly took over their lives. In the end everyone else became seen through the extremely narrow focus of their concern. So much so, in fact, that fundamental aspects of Christian lifestyle didn’t matter anymore. Sexual promiscuity and bad business ethics increased among them, but so long as they held to that concern they were fine. They even began to see other Christian’s concern with them because of their narrow focus and ungodly lifestyle as a kind of devilish persecution.

And devastatingly it all so often ended with a terrible disillusionment. They weren’t balanced at all. And their imbalance only turned many away from the Gospel.

 

It is the balanced Christian life which is supported in verse 4 by noting the nest quality about Gaius. This is his consistency. He just keeps walking the Lord’s way. Something so notable that the apostle “has no greater joy than to hear” about it.

You can hear John the pastor speaking here. John is a good minister when he makes it clear that he’s there to help people to know the truth and to live by it. Certainly by using the title of “children” he shows his fatherly affection for him. Like Paul writes to the Corinthians as his children, so John connects with them in a warm, intimate way. They are a family. A family of friends. That’s why he prays for Gaius. He’s part of the same precious Body of Christ. That’s why, in the words of Paul, “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.”

Gaius is certainly honoured. He has done the apostle proud. He has held to the testimony about Jesus Christ. He has joined with those John wrote to in his second letter, who are walking in the truth, and with all those others whom John and Peter and Paul and Jude encourage to keep walking in the Lord.

           

John then goes on to show us how this is so. Moving on from encouraging A FRIEND STICKING TO THE TRUTH, he proves that he is A FRIEND LIVING OUT THE TRUTH. Our third point...A FRIEND LIVING OUT THE TRUTH.

So, how does John find that Gaius is A FRIEND LIVING OUT THE TRUTH? Well, it’s actually through those Gaius doesn’t know. At least he wouldn’t have known them when he first met them. Because what Gaius has done is to offer somewhere to stay for travelling believers. This would have especially helped the preachers and teachers of the time who so often went through the churches, depending on their support to be able to preach. He took them in and gave them what they needed. That made all the difference in the world. There wasn’t any other way to do that vital task. For the only alternative of that time, staying in an inn, meant being involved in a terribly ungodly lifestyle.

What is the important thing about Gaius here, however, is that this is all out of his love for strangers. True, they weren’t total strangers as such, for they were travelling believers, but they were quite removed from his comfort zone. It wasn’t as if he was having some family over, whom he knew well enough for years already.

It’s a love through Gaius which really is a going out of his way for the travellers. And that’s the special Greek word used - a love for strangers. It’s not a love just for those he doesn’t know - it shows the love he has for everyone in the Body of Christ. That’s a love which is about to be contrasted against quite a different attitude from someone else in the church. For this is the love which goes even further than perhaps entertaining angels unaware, as Hebrews 13 says we might be doing by looking after strangers.

Indeed, this is the love that welcomes the Lord Jesus Himself into His home. In the words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 10, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 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. And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciples, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (v40ff)

It’s exactly this love from Gaius that John has heard all about from those who have travelled through there and stayed with him. Perhaps he heard about it personally at one of their minister’s conferences! Maybe it was what he has heard at meetings those preachers conducted as they travelled through John’s own town. The phrase “they have told the church” speaks about a public occasion when the example of Gaius is mentioned, indicating how highly thought of it was.

 

It’s interesting then what John writes. Because I wonder how a Christian leader would have written to Gaius nowadays. What do you think? Could a church let such work go by without some kind of public affirmation? There would have to be some award or position offered to go back to him. I mean, you can’t just expect him to keep on doing it just for the sake of it, can you? Maybe we should look at a ministry restructuring so that his obvious gifting in that area can be passed on to others? A school of hospitality perhaps? We should call him into that special role.

What does John write to him? Well, he says simply this, “You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.” While he is very thankful for all Gaius is done, he now encourages him to continue on. There’s no time out here - even though with the pressures in his local context I’m sure Gaius could do with a recuperative leave! Rather, Gaius is encouraged to keep on being, in the fourth place...A FRIEND FOR THOSE OF THE TRUTH.

                       

In fact, congregation, what John does here, in the verses 7 and 8, is not to put Gaius in the centre at all, but the work of those he’s so good at giving hospitality to. For just as much as he knows that the pagans won’t ever look after preachers of the gospel, so he’s reminded that it’s up to believers like him to make their work a blessing. And that’s by practical support.

John Stott writes about this: “An important principle lies buried here, namely that Christians should finance Christian enterprises which the world will not, or should not be asked to, support. Indeed Christians have an obligation to do so. There are many good causes which Christians may support; but they must support their brethren to whom the world should not be asked to contribute. This is a good guiding principle for Christian giving.”

    

That’s what it is, congregation, to be A FRIEND FOR THOSE OF THE TRUTH. For those itinerant evangelists - these travelling missionaries - aren’t the ‘deceivers’ of 2nd John 7. They weren’t bringing the lie that Jesus isn’t the Christ, the Son of God. Quite the opposite - they brought ‘the truth!’ And so, in completely the opposite way to which the church should treat the false teachers, we are to do whatever we can for those properly called to preach. Sending the missionary on his way, as John instructs Gaius in verse 6, involved supplying him with food and money to pay for his expenses, washing his clothes, and generally helping them to travel as comfortably as possible.

And while there are different levels you can give this help, John wanted it to be offered most of all in a way which would please God. It had to be worthy of the One who gives generously and richly to all His servants. While we all know about so-called Christian evangelists who have taken Christians for a ride - metaphorically and literally! - we shouldn’t treat missionaries like beggars, and so bring discredit on the name of God to whom they were looking for support. Are you...A FRIEND FOR THOSE OF THE TRUTH?

 

Congregation, when John refers to the ‘Name’ of verse 7, it is to none other than the name of Jesus. His is the only name by which anyone may ever be saved! This was the gospel the missionaries preached.

But as they went about preaching it would be wrong to expect money from those they were evangelising. That would only go against what the Lord had said about their work, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt.10:8b)

So it lay with those who had already received the gospel, those who already had had their whole lives changed around, to support the evangelists. There is a difference between demanding payment for the gospel and encouraging those whose hearts have been transformed by grace to show their thanks in this way.

Verse 8 draws this point all together. Because what it does is to draw the Body of Christ together in the vital work of ‘the truth’. Each of us must realise how we are doing that - and where we’re doing that.

 

You can do that exactly through the four points of this text. I mean, are you A FRIEND BECAUSE OF THE TRUTH?  Do you find yourself concerned for your fellow believer - whether nearby or far away? Have you ever been concerned for someone you wouldn’t ordinarily meet at all?

 

Are you A FRIEND STICKING TO THE TRUTH? Do you faithfully keep to this gospel the apostles preached? Have you spoken that truth in love, remembering to be balanced?

 

Are you A FRIEND LIVING OUT THE TRUTH? Is your love for the brethren shown in such a way others are talking about it? I don’t think we should be vain, but this is the proof you have when you hear from believers who haven’t met you before that they already know good things about you.

 

Are you A FRIEND FOR THOSE OF THE TRUTH? Do you support the ministry of this church or the church where you belong? Is that a commitment which is substantial, because it’s a commitment you’re praying for as well? Are you giving to those Christian groups which don’t get money from the state or unbelievers, because they depend on people just like you?

Dear friend, are you a friend?

Amen.

    

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray...

     O Greatest Friend of all, we have heard once more the good news about what you have done and how that changes us right around. You make sinners into saints.

     But Lord, we sin still, and many of these sins really do spoil Your Church of which we all a part of. So please keep us looking to You, so that we may see each other in Your light too. And by that light may we all together bring about the fulfilment of Your great and glorious will.

     In Your precious Name we pray, Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2000, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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