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Address and commendation of Gaius:
v. 1. The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
v. 2. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
v. 3. For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
v. 4. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.
The address, or superscription, of the letter is very brief: The elder to Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth. The apostle here again calls himself simply the elder, although he might have stressed his apostolic authority. He is satisfied with bearing the name which was held by all pastors in those days and had no hierarchical aspirations. He addresses Gaius as a beloved brother. Both being members of Christ through faith, they were united by a most intimate fellowship of love, of which John says that it flows out of faith and out of the truth of God.
The apostle opens his letter with a prayerful wish: Beloved, concerning all things I pray that thou mayest prosper and be in good health, even as thy soul is prospering. This wish shows the genuineness of the apostle's love. He desires that Gaius may prosper, have success in every respect, in all matters pertaining to this world, and that he may always be in good health. He had stood the test of trouble and adversity and was entitled to a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty. Of his piety St. John had been informed, and he therefore states that his soul is in a prosperous condition. His willingness to incur the hostility of Diotrephes, to risk the loss of business on account of his stand, and the untiring efforts for the brethren, which even threatened his health, were all sufficient evidence for the genuineness of Christian love that lived in his heart. From the hints here given the situation in the city where Gaius lived was probably the following: Some Christian brethren had gone forth from Ephesus on a missionary tour into the interior. John had given them letters of commendation addressed to the various congregations, in order that these missionaries might be received with due hospitality. Upon their return to Ephesus the brethren reported that Diotrephes had not only spurned their letters, spoken evilly of John, and refused them hospitality, but had also made it very unpleasant for Gaius when the latter performed his Christian duty with cheerful willingness. Hence the acknowledgment of the apostle.
St. John is not sparing with his words of praise: I rejoiced exceedingly when brethren came and bore testimony to thy truth, just as thou livest a life in truth. The apostle was very glad, overjoyed, whenever he received another message of the piety of Gaius. Whenever itinerant brethren came back to Ephesus from the provincial districts, these reports came in, hearing witness to the fact that Gaius was living in the truth, that he not only had accepted the truth of the Gospel by faith, but was also leading a life in conformity with the eternal Truth of God, His holy Word. So deeply is John affected by this evidence of true Christian love that he adds: A greater joy than this I do not have, that I should hear of my children walking in the truth. Having probably been converted through the Gospel-message which John preached, Gaius belonged to his spiritual children, Galatians 4:19. Therefore it was a source of great satisfaction, of the very greatest joy and happiness, to the aged apostle to know that the Word of God had such a powerful effect in this case, that Gaius was walking in the paths of truth, in the way of sanctification. To this day it is a source of inexpressible joy and delight to a faithful pastor to see children whom he has baptized and confirmed and probably joined in holy wedlock remaining faithful to their Savior in word and deed.
The hospitality of Gaius:
v. 5. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren and to strangers,
v. 6. which have borne witness of thy charity before the church; whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well,
v. 7. because that for His name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.
v. 8. We, therefore, ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.
The apostle here specifies the virtue in which Gaius excelled: Beloved, thou art acting as a faithful brother in rendering service to the brethren, strangers at that. It was an act of faithfulness agreeing well with the faith Gaius was professing which he performed when he rendered such signal service to the brethren, who were total strangers to him, at that. He had not known them before, he was bound to them by no external ties, but the fact that they were believers with him, as the letters of John showed, was a sufficient incentive to him to receive them with open arms and to do all in his power to make their journey and their stay a pleasant one.
It was from some of these brethren that St. John had received the report which occasioned this letter: Who testified to the love before the congregation; and thou wilt do well in speeding them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. So great was the impression which the cordial hospitality of Gaius made upon the missionaries that they reported it at once upon their return. ; they were effusive in their commendation of their host, of the love which he had shown them. In acknowledging this, the apostle incidentally provides for a future continuance of this charitable endeavor: If Gaius continues this policy of assisting the missionaries by speeding them on their way, and in a manner worthy of their calling of ministers of God, then he will do well. See Acts 15:26. For, as John says, it was for the sake of His name that they went out and did not accept anything from the heathen. These missionaries, like all men worthy of the name, did not go out to seek their own glory and advancement. They were concerned only about the Word of the Gospel, about extolling the name of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. They were preaching without receiving any compensation from the heathen, probably in order not to bring suspicion upon their office as though they were merely in the business of preaching for the sake of the money they might make that way. This being the case: We, therefore, are under obligation to support such men, that we may prove fellow-workers with the truth. That is the duty of the Christians at all times and in all places, to provide for the bodily necessities of men that are going forth to preach the Gospel. In this way the Christians perform their share with the truth and for the truth of the Gospel, they assist in spreading the glorious news of salvation through the redemption of Jesus Christ.
The insolence of Diotrephes:
v. 9. I wrote unto the church; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
v. 10. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words; and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
v. 11. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which Is good. He that doeth good is of God; but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
Diotrephes seems to have held some office in the church; he may have been an elder in the congregation to which Gaius belonged. His behavior shows to what lengths a person will go that seeks personal aggrandizement in church-work: I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who is seeking to obtain the leadership among them, does not receive us. John had given the itinerant missionaries short letters of introduction, addressed to all the congregations, just as letters of that kind are now often given. But this Diotrephes absolutely ignored the authority of the apostle, refused to receive his delegates. And all this was because Diotrephes had the intention of making himself a leader, probably in that entire province. It was a case of misguided ambition which did not shrink from any degree of insolence.
But John was equal to the occasion: For that reason, if I come, I shall remind him of his works which he does, prating against us with evil words; and, not content therewith, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and those that are willing to do so he hinders and casts them out of the church. This was the form of reckoning which John had in mind for this upstart. He would visit the congregation in person, and would recite the various evidence of insolence and false ambition at a meeting of the church: the evil speaking against the person and office of John, the refusal to receive the missionaries as Christian brethren, the attempt to hinder the true Christians in the performance of their duties, and the false excommunication which Diotrephes practiced in the ease of those that refused to comply with his unwarranted interference. This picture is not overdrawn in a single line, but has often been duplicated in the Christian Church since those days.
The apostle's earnest admonition to Gaius in view of such conditions is: Beloved, do not imitate the evil, but the good; he that does good is of God; he that does evil has not seen God. Gaius is to keep before him as a pattern and example only such things as have the approval of the Lord, as are good in His sight, and he is to shun everything that is evil. Every one that actually does live a life of sanctification in doing that which is good thereby gives evidence that he is of God, that he is born out of God, that he is a child of God. Of those that do evil it is ever true that they are so far from being the children of God that they have not even seen Him, that there is not the faintest idea of their knowing the Lord. But note the gentleness of the apostle, even in this case, since he does not say that the doers of evil are children of the devil.
Commendation of Demetrius and conclusion:
v. 12. Demetrius hath good report of all men and of the truth itself; yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.
v. 13. I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee;
v. 14. but I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
The apostle now commends Demetrius, who was apparently the bearer of this letter To Demetrius testimony has been borne by all and by the truth itself; and we also testify, and thou knowest that our testimony is true. Demetrius was held in the highest regard and esteem by all the brethren that knew him; everybody testified to the soundness of his Christian conduct. He fulfilled the requirements of the Gospel and testified to its saving truth. His faith in the Gospel-message was expressed in his entire life. But to make assurance doubly sure, St. John adds his own testimony, with the remark that, as Gaius knew, his testimony was reliable, he was writing the truth.
In conclusion John states that he indeed had many things to write to Gaius; his heart was so full of the Gospel-message and of its application under the varying circumstances of the congregations that he might have written a long letter with ink and pen. But he had the hope of seeing Gaius very soon, and it would be so much easier and more satisfactory to speak face to face. The ancient greeting, "Peace to thee," has now acquired a new meaning, since the peace of the Christians is in the merits of Jesus, in whom they put their only trust for salvation. Friends of Gaius in the congregation at Ephesus sent greetings by the apostle's hand, for Christian fellowship in those days was very intimate and sincere. And John himself, as his last word, bids Gaius greet the friends by name in token of the fact that the apostle was thinking of them all in love. Such love ought to be a pattern and example for all Christians until the end of time.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 3 John 1". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29