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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

3 John 1

Verse 1

3 John 1:1 . The elder. The Greek article prefixed here, and in the second epistle, indicates that the writer was more advanced in years, and higher in reputation, not to say office, than any other elder then living among the churches: otherwise the title had been too assuming. This little omicron looks towards St. John as the omega of his age.

To the well-beloved Gaius, or Caius, as the Romans would say. We cannot affirm that this eminent man was the Gaius named by St. Paul, in Romans 16:23, 1 Corinthians 1:14; nor the Gaius mentioned by St. Luke. Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4. The first of these was of Corinth, and had been converted under the ministry of Paul. The second was of Derbe, and a disciple of Paul. But this Gaius, to whom John wrote, was one of his followers, and his son in Christ Jesus.

There is a difficulty, as some critics state, in the Greek text, which says, 3 John 1:9, that he had written to the church of Gaius, or according to the Vulgate, to that church; but that Diotrephes, (a word equivalent to nourished by Jove) who loved to have the preëminence, would not receive those whom the apostle sent. In case John therefore should come he would remember his deeds, for the apostles bore their croziers in the churches, as the sons of Jacob had their shapat, or staff in their tribes. The fathers in the family of God have a due share of power, and are entitled to reverence and respect. Age, wisdom, and office claim a deference in all the circles of society.

3 John 1:2 . I wish that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. John’s beloved Gaius, like many others distinguished for piety, appears to have been of a sickly constitution; and whether affluent or not, he was in the habit of exercising hospitality towards the brethren, and towards strangers who visited him, and all bore witness of his charity before the church. He did nothing grudgingly; whatsoever he did was done “faithfully,” as to the Lord, and not to men. Whether possessed of little or much, he considered himself as a steward who must shortly give an account. He helped forward after a godly sort the missionaries who were sent into the neighbouring districts, after refreshing them by the way, and spared neither labour nor expense to promote the cause of Christ. Nor was this all: he did not expend the whole of his zeal on public objects as a substitute for personal religion, or to the neglect of private duties, but was careful to cultivate the religion of the heart, and exemplify the spirituality and the power of those principles he was anxious to see propagated. He “walked in the truth” with so much exemplariness, and such undeviating simplicity, that others testified of the truth that was in him, and commended him to the affection of the aged apostle.

With such proofs of soul prosperity it is no wonder that John should express a wish so strongly, that he might prosper and be in health commensurably with his spiritual attainments. It is at all times desirable that truly good men should be blessed with outward prosperity, for the sake of the church of God, and general usefulness. We may therefore with great propriety join in the prayer of the psalmist, saying Do good, oh Lord, to them that be good, to them that are upright in their hearts. No one feels any interest in the success of a mercenary or selfish character, but in that of the pious and benevolent all are concerned; and the spirit of true religion especially is full of urbanity and goodwill towards others.

3 John 1:8 . We ought to be fellow-helpers to the truth. The apostle is here speaking of primitive missionaries, and the encouragement they should receive from their brethren. They are engaged in the arduous work of disseminating the gospel among the nations, have many sacrifices to make, many privations to endure, and need the sympathy and assistance of all who know and love the truth. These missionaries went forth, taking nothing of the gentiles to whom they were sent, lest their zeal should be suspected of being influenced by mercenary motives; and so defeat the object of their mission. Gaius is therefore commended for having entertained them at his house, and is encouraged to help them forward on their journey, that he might be a fellow-helper to the truth. Modern missionaries are placed in similar circumstances, and are entitled to the countenance and support of the christian world, provided only that their motives are equally pure and disinterested, and their object neither more nor less than the dissemination of the truth, or to show unto men the true way of salvation. We ought to become their fellow-helpers by prayer and supplication on their behalf, that they may be fitted and strengthened for their work, that they may be directed and supported under all their difficulties, and that their labours may be crowned with abundant success. This is the least we can do on their behalf, and it is what every one may do, if he can do no more. The great apostle of the gentiles, aided by all the powers of inspiration, felt nevertheless his need of the succours of a praying people. “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together in your prayers to God for me.”

Romans 15:30. Our assistance also is demanded on their behalf, by contributing liberally for their maintenance and support, while labouring in sultry climes, or in foreign lands. In this case we may say to all classes of christians what David said to the people when the temple was to be erected, Arise therefore, and be doing; let the gold, the silver, and the brass be without number; and the Lord be with you. 1 Chronicles 22:16.

3 John 1:10 . Neither doth he himself receive the brethren, the accredited ministers, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Here is the rise of antichrist, having affinity with the tyranny of the Roman pontiff. The cares of discipline are paternal and salutary. An elder in Christ should act with the spiritual family, as the head acts with all the members of the natural body. There probably was some disputes between the jewish and the gentile converts which Diotrephes might urge; but John imputes his conduct to the love of power. The Lord, says Eusebius, raised up a number of evangelical men, who imitated the apostles in their life and doctrine. By consequence, the rejection of such men, would be accounted in early days a very unbrotherly action, and a violation of the laws of custom founded upon apostolic example.

3 John 1:14 . Peace be to thee. This is the first and last of blessings which God pronounces on the church.

REFLECTIONS .

Here one loving christian writes to another: they were congenial souls. Gaius, a Roman by name, though living among the Greeks, was a man of eminent piety. His soul prospered in the Lord. Hence good men had communion together, and talked often of their spiritual concerns. So it will ever be among those whose hearts are set on the best things. Gaius’s piety was distinguished by hospitality. He received the persecuted saints into his house, and refreshed them on their journey. Yea, he brought them on their way sometimes to the next stage. How godlike is piety when adorned with charity. The fragrance spreads abroad as the breathing incense of the spring. The families that cherish ministers and oppressed saints, give the best proofs of discipleship to the Lord.

The church prays for blessings on such men, that their temporal affairs may prosper, and that their health may continue in one tide of good, proportioned to the prosperity of their souls. So it has happened in a thousand cases since those of Gaius, and of Obed-edom.

On the contrary, a proud unhappy temper spoils religion. Diotrephes loved to have the preëminence. When a man has embraced a new opinion, he will defend it more than all the other doctrines of the gospel. And when a dissatisfied man has fixed his eye on some office in the church, he will make his way to it by slandering the persons in office, and by forming petty factions in the church. That office is more to him than the visitations of God, for an infinitude of guilt and mischief. What does he care for driving away the best members of the church? They have no religion, he boldly avers, if they oppose his views. Now, it is best for the elders of the church to go in a body to that man, and let him know both his naughtiness and his place. When any help is wanted in the church, the elders look round for a man best approved, who will serve for love, as Jesus Christ served, and washed his church. Oh that we may hate all parties and schisms in the church, and be adorned with this charity, this simplicity and godly sincerity. Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 3 John 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/3-john-1.html. 1835.