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Bible Commentaries
3 John 1

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4094. A.D. 90.

The apostle, in this short epistle to Gaius,

(1,) Expresses his concern for his prosperity, and his joy in the honourable character he maintained for Christian candour, hospitality, and zeal, 3 John 1:1-8 .

(2,) He cautions him against the ambitious and turbulent practices of Diotrephes, but recommends Demetrius to his friendship, as a man of an excellent character, 3 John 1:9-12 .

(3,) He refers what he had further to say to a personal interview, 3 John 1:13 , 3 John 1:14 .

Verse 1

3 John 1:1 . The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius Gaius, or, according to the Latin orthography, Caius, was a common name among the Romans. In the history of the Acts and in the epistles we meet with five persons of this name. 1st, One mentioned Acts 19:29, called a man of Macedonia, and Paul’s companion in travel. 2d, A Gaius of Derbe, a city of Lycaonia, mentioned Acts 20:4. Gaius with whom St. Paul lodged at Corinth, and called his host, Acts 16:23. ne of that name, whom the apostle had baptized at Corinth, mentioned 1 Corinthians 1:14, who probably was the same person with the Gaius last mentioned. 5th, A Gaius to whom John wrote this epistle, thought by Estius and Heuman to be a different person from all those above mentioned; because the apostle hath intimated, 3 John 1:4, that he was his convert, which they suppose he could not say of any of the Gaiuses mentioned above. Lardner supposes he was an eminent Christian, who lived in some city of Asia, not far from Ephesus, where St. John chiefly resided after his leaving Judea. For, 3 John 1:14, the apostle speaks of shortly coming to him, which he could not well have done if Gaius had lived at Corinth, or any other remote place. This Gaius being neither a bishop nor a deacon, but a private member of some church, (as appears by the contents of the epistle,) his hospitality to the brethren, who came to him, is a proof that he possessed some substance, and that he was of a very benevolent disposition. The design of St. John, in writing to him, was not to guard him against the attempts of the heretical teachers, who were gone abroad, or to condemn the errors which they were at great pains to propagate; but only, 1st, To praise Gaius for having showed kindness to some Christian strangers, who, in journeying among the Gentiles, had come to the place where Gaius resided; and to encourage him to show them the like kindness, when they should call upon him again, in the course of their second journey. 2d, For the purpose of rebuking and restraining one Diotrephes, who had arrogantly assumed to himself the chief direction of the affairs of the church, of which Gaius was a member, and who had both refused to assist the brethren above mentioned, and had even hindered those from receiving and entertaining them who were desirous to do it. 3d, The apostle wrote this letter to commend an excellent person named Demetrius, who, in disposition and behaviour, being the reverse of Diotrephes, the apostle proposed him as a pattern, whom Gaius and the rest were to imitate.

Verses 2-4

3 John 1:2-4. Beloved, I wish Or, I pray, as ευχομαι is translated by Beza, Estius, Erasmus, Schmidius, Doddridge, and others. Above all things Or, with respect to all things, as περι παντων rather signifies; that thou mayest prosper and be in health Namely, of body; even as, I doubt not, thy soul prospereth In faith, love, and every virtue. For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren Who went to the church, of which thou art a member; came back and testified of the truth that is in thee Thy faith, love, and other Christian graces; even as thou walkest in the truth Adornest the gospel by an exemplary conduct, and all good works. The apostle emphatically terms Gaius’s joining works of charity with faith in the doctrines of the gospel, the truth that was in him. For there is no true faith without good works: it always produces good works: neither are any works good but such as proceed from faith. These two joined constitute the truth of religion. For I have, &c. That is, nothing gives me greater joy, than to hear that my children walk in the truth Such is the spirit of every true Christian pastor. It seems probable by this, as has been intimated above, that Gaius was converted by St. John. Hence, in speaking to him, he uses the tender style of paternal love, and his calling him one of his children, when writing under the character of the elder, has peculiar beauty and propriety.

Verses 5-8

3 John 1:5-8. Beloved, thou doest faithfully Uprightly and sincerely; or, as πιστον ποιεις is more accurately rendered, thou dost a faithful thing; or a thing becoming a faithful person, or one who is a real believer; whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers To thy fellow- Christians, known to thee, and to those with whom thou hast had no acquaintance. Who have born witness of thy charity before the church The congregation with whom I now reside; whom Which brethren or Christian strangers; if thou bring forward on their journey Supplied with what is needful; after a godly sort In a manner worthy of God, or from a principle of divine love, and correspondent to the relation in which you and they stand to him; thou shalt do well How tenderly does the apostle enjoin this! Because that for his name’s sake Out of zeal for his honour and interest; they went forth To preach the gospel, abandoning their habitations, possessions, and callings; taking nothing of the Gentiles Among whom they laboured, toward their support, that they might take off all suspicion of their being influenced by mercenary motives. We, therefore Who do not undertake expensive journeys for the sake of preaching the gospel, and who have any habitation of our own; ought to receive such Hospitably and respectfully; that If Divine Providence do not give us opportunities of laying ourselves out, as they do, in the exercise of the ministerial office; we might Though in a lower degree; be fellow-helpers to the truth Which they preach, and may be entitled, through divine grace, to a share in their reward.

Verses 9-11

3 John 1:9-11. I wrote Or have written; to the church Probably that to which they came; but Diotrephes &c. As if he had said, But I fear lest my letter should not produce the desired effect; for Diotrephes, perhaps the pastor of it, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them To govern all things according to his own will; receiveth us not Neither them nor me; or, does not acknowledge my authority as an apostle of Christ. So did the mystery of iniquity already begin to work! As six or seven MSS. read here, εγραψα αν , a reading which is followed by the Vulgate, the Syriac, and the Coptic versions, Macknight, supposing it to be the genuine reading, renders the clause, I would have written; remarking, that the letters which the apostles wrote to the churches, were all sent to the bishops and elders in those churches, to be by them read to the people in their public assemblies. So that “if Diotrephes was a bishop or elder of the church to which St. John would have written, the apostle might suspect that that imperious, arrogant man, would have suppressed his letter; consequently, to have written to a church of which he had usurped the sole government, would have answered no good purpose.” Wherefore, if I come As I hope I quickly shall; I will remember Or, as υπομνησω more properly signifies, I will bring to remembrance; his deeds which he practiseth, prating against us Both them and me; with malicious words As if I were not an apostle, but had assumed that office. “In thus speaking, the writer of this epistle showed himself to be Diotrephes’s superior. It is therefore highly probable that the writer of it was not the person called by the ancients John the presbyter, but John the apostle. Heuman and Lardner are of opinion the apostle only meant that he would put Diotrephes in mind of his evil deeds, and endeavour to persuade him to repent of them by mild admonitions. But there is no occasion to give a mild sense to the apostle’s words: for, allowing that John threatened to punish Diotrephes for his insolence, in prating against him with malicious words, and for his uncharitableness in refusing to entertain and assist the brethren and the strangers, his threatenings did not proceed from resentment, but from zeal for the interests of religion, in which he is to be commended; because, as Whitby remarks on this verse, ‘private offences against ourselves must be forgiven and forgotten; but when the offence is an impediment to the faith, and very prejudicial to the church, it is to be opposed and publicly reproved.’” Macknight. Neither doth he himself receive the brethren Though he knows they come from us; and forbiddeth them that would Receive them, to do it; and casteth them Who entertain them contrary to his orders; out of the church. But as for thee, beloved, follow Or imitate; not that which is evil In Diotrephes, or any one; but that which thou seest to be good in those with whom thou art acquainted; that is, behold such a conduct as that of Diotrephes with a just abhorrence, and act according to that model of humility and condescension which you have seen in others. He that doeth good From a proper principle, namely, from love to God, in obedience to his will, and with a view to his glory; is of God He knows God, and, as one of his people, imitates him; but he that doeth evil That harbours unkind tempers in his heart, and acts in an unfriendly manner toward the servants of Christ, in their wants and necessities, whatever high notions he may entertain of himself, hath not seen or known God But is evidently ignorant of his perfections and of his will, and even an enemy to him.

Verse 12

3 John 1:12. Demetrius, on the contrary, hath good report Hath a good testimony from all that know him; and of the truth The gospel; itself His temper and conduct being conformable to its precepts, and he having exerted himself greatly to propagate it. Yea, and we also bear record I, and they that are with me; and ye know that our record is true That every commendation I give is well founded.

Verses 13-14

3 John 1:13-14 . I had many other things to write To communicate to thee concerning the affairs of your church, and concerning Diotrephes; but I will not I am not minded; to write unto thee with ink and pen Meaning, probably, lest this letter should fall into hands who might make an improper use of it. But I trust I shall shortly see thee Lardner conjectures that John did actually visit Gaius; and adds, I please myself with the supposition that his journey was not in vain, but that Diotrephes submitted and acquiesced in the advices and admonitions of the apostle. Peace be to thee And every desirable blessing, from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord. Our friends salute thee Our translators have inserted the word our in this clause without any authority. The apostle’s words are οι φιλοι , the friends, an expression nowhere else found in Scripture; but it applies excellently to the primitive Christians, as it denotes, in the strongest manner, the love which, in the first ages, subsisted among the true disciples of Christ. Greet the friends by name That is, in the same manner as if I had named them one by one. The apostle, by sending a salutation to the faithful disciples of Christ, who were in the church of which Gaius was a member, and who were living together in great love, showed his paternal and affectionate regard for them, and encouraged them to be steadfast in their adherence to the truth and grace of the gospel, and to walk worthy of it.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 3 John 1". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/3-john-1.html. 1857.
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