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3 John 1:7-8

1:7 For they have gone forth 1  on behalf of “The Name,” 2  accepting nothing from the pagans. 3  1:8 Therefore we 4  ought to support such people, so that we become coworkers in cooperation with the truth. 5 

1 sn The verb gone forth (ἐξέρχομαι, exercomai) almost certainly refers to some form of missionary activity. This verb is used of Paul’s travels in Acts 14:20, and of his setting out on his second missionary journey in Acts 15:40.

2 sn Three possibilities for the identification of ‘The Name’ have been suggested: (1) the name of God, suggested by the unqualified noun with the Greek article. In Rabbinic literature “the Name” is a frequent substitute for the Tetragrammaton YHWH, the name of God, which was too sacred to be pronounced. This would make good logical sense in 3 John, because in the previous verse the author has instructed Gaius to send the missionaries on their way “in a manner worthy of God.” (2) Some have understood “the Name” as the self-designation of the Johannine community, or as a reference to the Christian cause at large, or as a way of designating Christians before the title “Christian” came into common usage. (3) The interpretation favored by most commentators is that this is a reference to Jesus’ name. Paul uses a similar phrase in Rom 1:5, and in 1 John 2:12 the author wrote, “your sins are forgiven on account of His (Christ’s) name.” John’s Gospel also makes reference to believing “in the name of Jesus” (John 1:12, 3:18).

3 tn The word ἐθνικός (eqniko") occurs only 4 times in the NT (the other three are in Matt 5:47; 6:7; and 18:17). It is virtually synonymous here with the far more common ἔθνος (eqno", used some 162 times in the NT). Both refer to the Gentiles (that is, pagans).

sn Since the issue here is support for the traveling missionaries, and there is no indication that the author would want to forbid receiving support from Gentile converts to Christianity, the word pagans must refer to Gentile unbelievers, i.e., pagans. The traveling missionaries sent out to combat the false teaching of the secessionist opponents have been accepting nothing by way of support from non-Christians.

4 sn Clearly the author does not refer to himself alone by the use of the first person plural pronoun we here, since the issue is support for the traveling missionaries. It stands in contrast to the pagans mentioned in the previous verse, and is thus to be understood as inclusive of all true Christians: the author, Gaius, and all true Christians. All true Christians ought to support the endeavors of these traveling missionaries in their efforts to counteract the heretical teaching of the opponents.

5 tn The ἵνα (Jina) clause indicates the result of such support for the traveling missionaries: The Christian who helps to support them in their efforts thus becomes a coworker in cooperation with the truth. Although the dative τῇ ἀληθείᾳ (th alhqeia) is somewhat difficult to specify, it would appear (corresponding to the σύν- [sun-] prefix of the noun modified) to indicate a sense of cooperation with “the truth” which is at work through the missionaries. There is precedent in the Johannine literature for understanding “truth” as personified (John 8:32, “the truth will make you free”; possibly also 1 John 3:19). More explicitly, 1 John 4:6 identifies the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Truth,” a characterization repeated in 1 John 5:6. Thus it seems likely that the “truth” at work through the missionaries here is ultimately the Holy Spirit, who works through their efforts. The Christian who supports them thus becomes a coworker with the Spirit of God himself.

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