II and III John. Hospitality, Yes and No.

Key Notes: The Doctrine of Christ. The case for entertaining missionaries and needy people. Rejecting opponents of the Gospel.

II and III John are read together because they are short and deal wih the same issue, hospitality: when to give it and when not. The name of the author is in question. The traditional view is that the Gospel of John, I, II, III John and Revelation are all written by the Apostle John, one of the Twevle. Recent opinion is that II, III John were written by an elder named John of the Ephesian church. (The Letters of John and Jude. W.Barclay. Westminster, 1976; p.128). John Stott disagrees at length, favoring John the Apostle as the author. (The Epistles of John. J. Stott; Tyndale, 1964. pp24–41)

II John
1:1 The Elder (John) to the elect lady and her children. Is the Elect lady a person or a church? Most commentators favor a church. Both church and leader may be in John's mind. She is probably a devout believer, and a church-leader, with children.. But John loves her as do all other believers, unified by the Truth.
1:3 Grace, mercy and peace was a blessing given also by Paul in ITim.1:2.
1:4 "...some of your children are following the truth."

Who could rejoice unless all are included in the family of God? Perhaps John did not know about how all the children were doing. Or perhaps he is referring to the natural children of the "elect lady".
1:4–6 Follow: "following the truth", "follow His commandments", "follow love".
The word "follow" is Gr."peripateuo", to walk. Walk indicates a way of life, a life-style. We are to walk in love, in the commandments, and in the Truth. The three terms are those also emphasized in I John: obey, love and know the Truth. Each is to be followed.

Can love be commanded? Can thought be regulated? Obviously.

1:7–11 John now goes to his main concern: deceivers who are against Christ have gone out into the world ?from the Church. They deny Christ's humanity (Docetists). He warns her against this heresy in the church --"Look to yourselves"--lest your reward be lost.

1:9 He also warns against supporting workers who deny the doctrine of Christ. The believer should not share in their wickedness.
The command seems harsh. One commentator complains of "fierce intolerance", "incompatible with the general purport of the teaching of the New Testament and not really consistent with the teaching of these epistles themselves". ( II John. JW Stott; Tyndale, IVP,’64, quoting C.H. Dodd.) More of that later.

1:12–13 In closing John intends to visit so that he can speak face to face, literally, "mouth to mouth".


The doctrine of Christ which we defend contains these essential points, essentially the Apostles' Creed: Jesus

•was born of the Virgin Mary.
•was truly Man and truly God without confounding either nature.
•lived a sinless life.
•preached the Kingdom of God and performed miracles.
•died to atone for the sins of the world.
•was resurrected bodily and ascended to the Father.

People who differ are these critical issues are outside the Fold. People who teach otherwise should not be supported by hospitality or other means.


III John
1:1 The Elder (John) sends a message to Gaius.
1:2 He prays for his bodily as well as spiritual health. Christians care about the body as well as the soul.
1:3–8 He encourages Gaius to give help to brethren / strangers / those sent out in God's service / fellow-workers in the truth, dependent on the believers. These are itinerant missionaries needing hospitality.

1:9 Diotrephes, however, not only disrespects John, but does not welcome the missionaries and puts out those who do. His motive is not clear. What is his place in the church? Has he had a bad experience with a previous missionary?
1:11 It appears that Demetrius, on the other hand, can be commended and imitated.
1:13 In closing, John intends to visit and talk person to person.

Discussion of II, III John:

In II John, The Lady is warned against supporting missionaries which teach false doctrine.
In III John, Gaius is encouraged to provide for true missionaries against opposition.
We go to the rest of Scripture to find support and definition of hospitality, and then to consider special problems.

The Old Testament commands us to help strangers and visitors.

" He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." (Deut.10:17–19)
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Lev.19:33–34)
"The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless." (Psa.146:9)
"The sojourner has not lodged in the street. I have opened my doors to the wayfarer". (Job.31:32)
The cities of refuge were intended in part for strangers. (Josh.20:9)

The New Testament teaches hospitality.
"Practice hospitality." (Rom.12:13)
"...a bishop must be...hospitable." (ITim.3:2)
"Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another." (IPet.4:9)
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Heb.13:2)

Hospitality was a necessity in the ancient world. Private hospitality was also easier than today and relatively safe. In OT tent society, strangers could be segregated from the family with guards standing by. In NT times. there were no hotels, and inns were scarce except on main roads. They were crowded, dirty and notorious. Christians were a small minority and needed protection. In the Roman-style atrium compound, the family would occupy separate quarters from servants and guests, so hospitality was easily arranged.

The Didache, an early Church Manual had these instructions for hospitality of missionaries:

An "apostle" may not stay beyond one day, or in case of necessity, two. "If he stays three days he is a false prophet."
"If he asks for money he is a false prophet."
They were not to be given money unless the money is "for others in need".
If the missionary wants to settle down, "he must work for his living....If he refuses to do this he is trading on Christ." (quoted in John Stott's commentary on I, II, III John).

II John says that there are rewards for doing good, a concept well supported in the New Testament.
"...so that your alms may be in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matt.6:4)
"He will repay everyone for what he has done." (Matt.16:27)
"Whatever your task, work heartily as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward." (Col.3:23–24)

Christians are ofen exhorted to work "not for reward", but God promises us rewards for doing right. We are restrained only in expecting our rewards now. Jimmy Bakker was an evangelist who became corrupted by wealth and pleasure.

Not only are there rewards, for hospitality, but the reward is dependent on the motive.
"He who greets him (the heretic) shares his wicked work." (II John 11)
"He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. He who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward". (Matt.10:41–42)

Giving hospitality or help to a prophet gives a righteous man a reward. It gives us a share in that person's work. We are prone to devalue ministry unless we are doing it ourselves. Spouses of Christian leaders often chafe at their routine duties and lack of the lime-light. World War II soldiers who peeled potatoes and did not get into combat felt demeaned. But the principle was established millennia ago in David:
     "For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike." (ISam.30:24)
Only a quarter of American soldiers in WWII saw combat, but they are provided for equally. Ruth Bell Graham may share equally in God's Kingdom with her famous husband.

We should think of our money given to the church and to missionaries as a personal investment which will receive a pay-back just as we expect real-estate or other investments to pay dividends in the long run. Careful thought and clear motive are important. God will reward but not neessarily in monetary terms.

Modern hospitality is difficult. The American home is not a tent colony or a villa and usually does not have an atrium. Our homes are small and intimate. There are many clean and inexpensive inns--and most of the Lord's servants would rather stay there. This means that we must broaden our definition of hosspitality and include money for lodging. Sharing our homes for small group meetings can also yield benetifs to both givers and receivers.

Numerous questions come up on the limits of hospitality to those who are not believers. What about letting missionaries and recruiters from non-Christian religions into the house?
We should not invite them in. II John forbids it. They are missionaries intending to persuade. They profit from the contact even if we are not responsive and we are therefore supporting their deceitful enterprise.

What about friends and relatives who are not believers?
     Are they coming to try to recruit us to a New Age activity or just to sell Amway?
     Do they intend to dissuade our children from following the Lord?
     Does an unmarried couple expect to sleep together in our house?
     Will they smoke, bring drugs, or invite their friends to party?
     Are they seekers?

What about students? Students (foreign students, in particular) are usually safe to entertain because they are subject to the School they attend.

The Sermon on the Mount has been cited as an over-riding instruction:
     "Give to everyone who begs from you and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again."
     "Love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great...." Lk.6:30,35.

We should differentiate between political enemies, and missionaries for non-Christian religions.
Feeding our enemies is a US policy for defeated foes and enemies like N. Korea. It does not imply that we would welcome WWII Nazis, Communists, or Fascists into our country much less into our homes. Feeding the destitute and helping to rebuild the ruins of Afghanistan is a task we support, with no intention of supporting Islam.

We must use care in our choice of intimates. One of our students said that the Old Orthodox Believers of Russia were persecuted by the New Believers so that when the Bolsheviks came to power, the Old Believers helped them. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend", they reasoned. Unfortunately, after the Bolsheviks were given the secrets of the Old Believers--their networks, their refuges, secret passwords, etc.--they slaughtered the Old Believers. By letting the Bolsheviks into their confidence, the Old Believers perished.

There are other real hospitality problems.

Migrant workers continue to be exploited unfairly.
How shall we treat illegal aliens?
Most foreign students will go home without ever having been in an American home, much less a Christian home.
What of the poor among us? What are we doing for them?
What would happen to us in a ’30's depression? What would our churches do?  We must prepare.