Going Out for the Sake of the Name
A sermon on 3 John by Coty Pinckney, Desiring God Community Church, Charlotte, NC, 8/1/04
This is a special Sunday in the life of our church. Today we’re commissioning our first long-term missionaries.
But this leads naturally to some questions:
Where can we go to find answers to such questions?
These questions are all answered in the little book of 3 John, which we read earlier. These three questions will form the bulk of our outline:
The Apostle John is an old man, probably living in Ephesus. Some missionaries – whom he refers to as the “brothers” - went out from him for the sake of the Name of Jesus. For some reason, they couldn’t carry all their support with them. Perhaps the road was dangerous, populated with thieves, so it was not wise to carry much silver with you. Perhaps the sending church was not able to provide all their support anyway. And remember, this is the first century AD; there are no ATM’s, no banks, not even any paper money (that won’t be invented for another 1600 years).
So they needed help from churches along the way.
But a church leader named Diotrephes did not receive these missionaries. Indeed, he spoke against the apostle John himself, and prevented others who wanted to help the missionaries from doing so. He even threw out of the church some who helped the missionaries. He doesn’t seem to have been a false teacher - that is, he’s not teaching false doctrine. But his life shows he has never really seen God.
Gaius – the recipient of the letter - stands in contrast to Diotrephes. He too seems to be a leader in a church near the church of Diotrephes. Gaius may have been a personal convert of the Apostle John - John calls him his child. Gaius took in the missionaries and helped them on their way – even though it seems he was sick at the time. These brothers then did their missionary work and returned to Ephesus, reporting all that happened to John. This is the occasion for John’s letter.
John tells Gaius to expect these same missionaries again, and to treat them as before – and explains why. He also commends a man named Demetrius to Gaius; perhaps Demetrius is the bearer of this very letter.
So that’s the setting and the story. Now let’s turn to our three questions.
What are some reasons why missionaries go out?
Some of those reasons for going are better than others.
Indeed, some are necessary for missionaries:
But when John describes why these brothers went out, he doesn’t give any of those reasons. He just says:
They have gone out for the sake of the Name (verse 7)
He doesn’t say, “They went out because they love the Gentiles so much.” He doesn’t say, “They went out because they want to save people from hell.”
Instead, he captures their primary, their central motivation: They went out for the sake of the Name.
A logical question arises: Whose name? What does “going out for the sake of the Name” mean?
The words “sake” and “name” appear in 34 verses in English Standard Version of the Bible, scattered throughout both Old and New Testaments. It’s very instructive to look at some of these occurrences. The best known is in Psalm 23:3:
He leads me in paths of righteous for His Name’s sake.
Whose name is David referring to? God! David says, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for the glory of His Name.” God leads us so that He might show what He is like. He doesn’t lead us because we are attractive or good in and of ourselves. But He desires to display His glory, His Name.
Another occurrence is in Psalm 25:5
“For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great”
The psalmist says, “My guilt is so great, I have done so many evil deeds, there is no hope for me if You weigh my good deeds against my bad deeds. The only reason for which You could pardon me is for Your own sake, for the glory of Your Name.”
Look also at Psalm 79:9
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake!
Here there’s an even more explicit parallel between “for your name’s sake “ and “for the glory of your name.” The psalmist says, “The only reason to pardon my guilt, to atone for my sin, is to show what you are like.”
But perhaps the most powerful use of this phrase in the Old Testament is in Isaiah 48:9-11:
9 "For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
God is passionate about His glory. This is the central motivation for all He does. Here, He restrains his anger over rebellious Israel not because of anything in them but in order to display what He is like – in order to display His love, compassion, justice, patience, and faithfulness. And He assures these faithless Israelites that He WILL glorify himself.
In addition to 3 John, There are ten other places in New Testament where this phrase occurs. Here are two:
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29
Whose name is Jesus referring to here? His own! The name of Jesus Christ! And here He is talking specifically about those who leave – missionaries of various types. Those who go out for the sake of the Name of Jesus Christ, those who go out to glorify Jesus, will receive a hundred times more than whatever they give up in this life, and will inherit eternal life.
Finally, look at a statement made by the first and greatest missionary. We’ll pick up the text mid-sentence:
Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations Romans 1:4-5
Paul tells us that God calls him for one reason: The sake of the name of Jesus Christ among the nations.
Thus, “go out for the sake of the Name” means they go out for the glory of God. They go out so that the name of Jesus might be exalted above every name. They go out so that the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
As John Piper says, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Missionaries go out to show that Jesus Christ is worth more than ALL this world has to offer. They leave behind ease and comfort and big TV’s and the latest movies and Breyer’s ice cream and hot cars and new clothes and old friends and loving families. And they go out, not knowing how God will lead them, to bring glory to His Name, praying that He might choose to use them to bring worshipers to Himself from people who have never in history praised His Name.
That’s the primary biblical reason for going out – the glory of His Name.
Look at verses 6 and 7. Note that verse 7, which we’ve been considering, begins with the word “for”. This means that in verse 7 John is explaining some idea from verse 6, explaining why that idea is true.
You will do well to send them on their journey . . . for they have gone out for the sake of the Name.
John says, “Because they are going out for the right reason, you should help them, you should support them. If they were going out for any other reason, it wouldn’t be right to support them. But because their heart is the same as God’s heart, because they love the glory of God and want to magnify it, support them!”
Note also verse 8: “Therefore we OUGHT to support people like these.”
If someone is going out for the right reason - to bring glory to His Name - we OUGHT to support them! It is a privilege, as we shall see, but it is also an obligation.
Thus, the central and most important reason we should support missionaries is because they have the right motivation – and the goal of the church too is to bring glory to God among all the nations.
But John also makes four subsidiary points, four other reasons why Gaius should support the missionaries. These four follow from this central reason.
3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.
John rejoiced when the brothers, the missionaries, returned with the report about Gaius’s support. It is this very support that provides evidence to John that Gaius is walking in the truth - that he is walking in a manner worthy of his calling, to use the phrase from Ephesians 4. We see something similar in verse 11:
Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
Gaius shows that he is from God, he shows that he has seen God, by doing this good work of supporting the missionaries. Just so with us. When we support missionaries who are going out for the right reasons, we show that we are walking in the truth. For we show that we are passionate about the glory of God.
2) Supporting such missionaries gives joy to our spiritual parents
How does Gaius’ support for the missionaries impact John? See verse 4:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Today we are blessed to have the parents of one of our missionaries with us. How do you feel about your son and daughter-in-law going out for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ?
But note that John is NOT talking about the spiritual parents of the missionaries. Surely, their spiritual parents were pleased with them. But what prompted John’s joy is Gaius’s SUPPORT of the missionaries. He is the spiritual parent of a missionary SUPPORTER – and that gives him great joy.
In the future, God may call you to go as a missionary – and if you’re going for the right reason, it would be our joy to support you. And your spiritual parents will get joy from your going out for the sake of the Name. But RIGHT NOW you can give your spiritual parents great joy - by supporting THESE MISSIONARIES in the right way. Your support for God-centered, Christ-exalting missionaries shows you are walking in the truth – and that gives great joy to your spiritual parents.
3) Supporting such missionaries is necessary, for others oppose them
Not everyone is concerned about the glory of God. Not every church is willing to support those who go out for the sake of the Name. And some – even some within the church – will oppose such people. This is what Diotrephes did: he refused to help the missionaries and prevented others from helping them.
For any missionary going out, there will be opposition:
· From unsaved or nominally Christian family members who don’t understand the importance of the glory of God;
Missionaries need our assistance to overcome these obstacles. If we don’t help them, who will?
4) Supporting such workers makes us fellow workers for the truth
Look at verse 8 again:
Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
Do you see what John is saying?
We become fellow workers with those we support! Their work is our work! Their accomplishments are our accomplishments! We can glorify God among many peoples around the world by properly supporting missionaries.
This leads to our last question:
Look at verse 6 again:
You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.
A manner worthy of God. Do you see how this is logical? They are going out for the sake of God’s Name, for the sake of God’s glory. They are showing that He is more valuable than anything in this world. So we – who share their passion for God’s glory – must support them well. For as we support them we are advancing the glory of God.
· We don’t say, “Whew, it sure is hard to meet our budget when we’re giving 30% of local offerings to missions. Maybe we should shave that down to 25%.”
How do we do it, then? How do we send them in a manner worthy of God?
· We put together a support team of people who work to meet their needs, to hold them accountable, and to communicate to the church what is going on in their lives.
“A manner worthy of God”
Sending a missionary is a huge privilege. Sending a missionary is a great responsibility. How will we serve as senders.
Back in November, 2002, even before we first met as a core group on a Wednesday night, when we were just a small handful of people, I wrote:
We are not an inward-looking church, focused only on our joy in fellowship or our own spiritual growth, but we see ourselves as those who fulfill the Great Commission for the glory of God. WE are the ones who are to go and make disciples of ALL nations; the task is assigned to US and WE are ALL called to obedience.
And in our vision and values statement we say:
We will raise up men and women who will serve the people groups both here and abroad, in long-term commitments to cross-cultural ministry.
Our missionaries: You are the first to step in our fulfillment of that vision.
I ask you: Why are you going?
I hope you can answer yes to all of those – even to enjoying the challenge of learning the language.
But if those were your only reasons for going to East Asia, we couldn’t support you. We shouldn’t support you.
Missions exists because worship doesn’t. The fundamental reason for going for all true missionaries must be: They go out for the sake of the Name. They go out to bring about the greatest accomplishment of all time: The filling of the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea
Don’t forget that. With all your other supporting reasons for going, keep this one purpose at your center.
Remind yourself every day, every morning, even as you wake:
And when you struggle – for you will struggle -
Remember: You are called by God to go for the sake of the Name. You are walking in the truth. It will be hard.There will be many unexpected challenges and setbacks. But you are there for the sake of the Name. And that makes everything worthwhile.
Desiring God Community Church:
Once again, in November, 2002 I wrote:
WE are the ones who are to go and make disciples of ALL nations; the task is assigned to US and WE are ALL called to obedience.
We obey the Great Commission when we support our missionaries well. We become fellow workers with them when we do so.
Will you support these missionaries in a manner worthy of God? Not just sending support checks – though that is important and vital - but also regularly praying for them? Communicating with them? Meeting whatever needs they have?
Will you become their fellow workers for the truth?
Will you show that you have seen God – will you show that you are walking in the truth by the way you treat this couple?
Are you willing to commit yourself to this type of support – for the glory of His Name?
Today we take a first step – a big step – toward becoming the church God intends us to be.
Let us show this precious couple our love – and then send them away in a manner worthy of God.
So I address you all – every individual here:
What is the central motivation for all that YOU do?
Paul tells us, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
May all that you do – each minute of every day – be for the sake His Name.
This sermon was preached at Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, NC on 8/1/04..
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