For the Sake of the Name”

I quote the above words from the Revised Version of the Third Epistle of John.

The Name! What name? “Because that for the sake of the name they went forth,” writes the beloved Apostle.

In this brief, fervent letter three names are mentioned: that of Gaius, that of Diotrephes, and that of Demetrius, whilst certain others are spoken of as “strangers,” but are unnamed.

First, of Gaius we read that he enjoyed more prosperity of soul than of body; but, spite of physical infirmities, he walked in truth and charity, and thus caused great joy to the heart of the Apostle, who had, indeed, no greater joy than to hear that his “children (in the faith, no doubt) walked in truth.” But Gaius was a lover of hospitality; his charity was witnessed publicly. He maintained, in equipoise, the balance of truth and love—not love at the expense of truth, nor vice versa. He exemplified, in practice, the “better way” of 1 Corinthians 13. He was a fine specimen of an all-round Christian. No wonder that he gladdened the heart of the Apostle!

Second, Diotrephes comes before us, but in a deplorable contrast to Gaius. His sole object was self-exaltation; he loved to have pre-eminence (mark the word) in the church, refusing the Apostle himself and the brethren—the “strangers” referred to above, who “went forth for the sake of the name,” forbidding those to receive them who would do so, and casting them out of the church. This is that Diotrephes! In him, cold, stern, hard officialism; rank, rigid ecclesiasticism, and a kind of papal tyranny combined with the zeal of a Jehu, outweighed the grace, patience, meekness, and lowliness that should characterize a servant of Christ. For such an one the Apostle had no regard. He would remember his deeds. He turns quickly away from thinking of Diotrephes; and, in his gentle style, he writes: “Beloved, imitate not that which is evil (let not the high-handed, merciless, inconsiderate ways of such an one be copied), but that which is good” (kind, profitable, beneficent); for, notice, “He that does good is of God (let these words sink into our consciences), but he that does evil has not seen God.” So much for Diotrephes!

Third, Demetrius. What of him? He carried “a good report of all, and of the truth itself.” Happy Demetrius! Like the elders of Hebrew 11 his record was good. The truth had his name on its pages; the Apostle found pleasure in the very thought of him; he adorned the doctrines of Christ.

Each of these men had his history; but what of the mysterious name which exerted so great an influence over these “stranger” brethren who went forth expressly and solely for its exaltation, and under its exclusive authority, at all cost to themselves? What of its omnipotence, its charm, its all-sufficiency, its infinite magnetism over heart and mind and hand and foot—the name that captivated, that saved, that delivered, that constrained, that separated, that entranced, that controlled without a rival, that commanded, and that obtained obedience unqualified? What name was that?

It was not that of an apostle, nor of a church, nor of a school, nor of a mission. It favoured no party, nor clique, nor section, nor division. All such things were annihilated in the immensities of that name.

“He shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father (Father of eternity), Prince of peace” (Isa. 9:6).

“God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of JESUS every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

Now we understand why these devoted strangers “went forth.” They had come under the spell of that name. It meant, first, their complete salvation—their purchase at a price incalculable—even His precious blood. They were slaves no more; they were Christ’s free men and servants. He was their Lord and Master, their leader and commander, their treasurer and source of supply. From Him they had received and their commission. They owned His absolute pre-eminence. These were some of the brethren whom Diotrephes would not receive! Then he should receive his own judgment. He may not be imitated. Happy it is to turn to a large-hearted, loving, and truthful Gaius; or to a record like that of the upright Demetrius, and seek to follow their faith while honestly and before God loathing the spirit of the wilful, place-seeking, domineering Diotrephes; or to tread humbly in the self-denying, devoted footsteps of the strangers and brethren who went forth, independently of man, simply and whole-heartedly “for the sake of the name.”

It is just possible that this epistle was the last inspired writing. Anyhow, it is striking that the expression “THE NAME” should have such prominence. For these last days are, alas, witnesses of a vast Babel of party names; sects are distinguished by the names of men, of doctrines, of places, to our common shame, all of which would, if the supremacy of “THE NAME” were but owned, sink into their own miserable nothingness, as, thank God, they certainly shall, when, as the rising sun outshines all lesser luminaries, that name which is above every name shall obliterate for ever the petty names and designations to which we attach so much puerile importance today. Oh! that the Spirit of God may magnify before the hearts of all the children of God the worth and glory and power and excellency of “THE NAME.” It gives its outline to the Philadelphian.