“For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” (III John 7)
Here in an often overlooked letter, we find a little verse which succinctly defines and prescribes the work of the missionary and missions support:
— “they went out”. Missionaries are people who “go out” from their homeland and home church to minister in a far off place.
— “for the sake of the Name.” But these people are not merely going out as “tourists”; rather than going out for pleasure and curiosity these folks go out specifically “for the sake of the Name” — in other words to share the message of Jesus, “the Name which is above all names” (Philippians 2:9) and “the Name” which alone under heaven can save (Acts 4:12). This is a reminder that those who go as missionaries need to make sure that they do not lose this Prime Directive and become sidetracked with lesser aims (improving health and agriculture, social understanding, etc.). These can and should be for the missionaries channels of demonstrating love, and thus tools for the gospel, but they are never to become the focus in and of themselves. Missionaries are going specifically “for the sake of the Name.”
— “accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” This is a word about where the support of the missionary is to come from. John is clear that they took “NOTHING” from the “Gentiles” — in other words, from the lost people they were trying to reach. So where WAS their support to come from? He expands on this in :8, “Therefore WE ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.” Support for missions and missionaries should come from the people of God, who desire to be “fellow workers” with those on mission. Missionaries ought not be found begging for financial support from the very lost world with whom they are trying to share the gospel, lest their motives be questioned: is their desire for the souls, or for the money of the lost?
Christians going on mission, and God’s people who would support those on mission, would do well to read and apply John’s little third letter. It is like a “missions conference” in a nutshell!