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I. Address and Expression of Goodwill.
3 John 1:1-2. Three men called Gaius, the Latin Caius, are mentioned by St. Paul, and one of them with the same acknowledgment of his large hospitality; but these lived in an earlier generation. Nothing is said as to his holding any office; he is beloved only, the ordinary term of Christian fellowship, though evidently used here in its strongest meaning, whom I love in truth, and emphatically repeated in several verses. Instead of the ordinary greeting we have an expression of goodwill, I wish, which however is really, as every Christian good wish must be, prayer to God (James 5:15).
Concerning all things must be connected with the prosper, or make good advancement; and one particular is singled out possibly because Gaius had been sick, and be in health. The prosperity of the soul is the standard of all prosperity: even as thy soul prospereth, or makes good advancement.
3 John 1:3-4. The commendation of Gaius is first general: the apostle rejoices greatly to hear from brethren testimony to his interior religion, unto thy truth, as it was openly shown, even as thou walkest in truth. The apostle has no greater joy than to hear that my children the members of the Christian family specially committed to his care are walking in the truth. Truth and love are in both these Epistles the twofold and yet one sphere of all religion. The love with its fruits follows in the next verse.
3 John 1:5-8. Thou doest a faithful work: the labour of Gaius’ love is said to be faithful, as corresponding with the commandment of love and true to it.
Towards the brethren, and moreover strangers: not both brethren and strangers, but, as the sequel shows, brethren who came from abroad. ‘Thou doest’ marks that the conduct of Gaius is supposed to be habitual, though a special instance had been brought before the apostle.
Who bare witness to thy love before the church: being evangelists, they gave an account of their travels in the presence of the church where the apostle dwelt; and returning to Gaius for further travels, they are commended to him for further support; to be set forward worthily of God, their Master and the Head of their cause. Then follows a tribute to the dignity of their work, and the high claim it gave them. For the sake of the Name, the name of Christ who is God, they went forth, from the church into the world, though in a very different sense from the going out of the antichrists (1 John 2:19), taking nothing of the Gentiles: this is stated as their fixed principle, to receive nothing from the
Gentiles as such, before they were formed into churches; but it contains no maxim for the missionary work generally. It is introduced here for the sake of what follows. We therefore ought to support such, that we may be fellow-workers with them for the truth: an important sentence, as showing that they who provide of their substance for the maintenance of the labourer are partakers of his work.
3 John 1:9. I wrote somewhat to the church: not meaning either important or unimportant, but touching the maintenance of the evangelists; this communication, probably intercepted by Diotrephes, is lost or superseded by the present Epistle.
But Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, the members of the church, receiveth us not: we know nothing about this man but what is contained in this graphic sketch of him. The evangelists had reported to St. John that neither his authority nor his letter was honoured by Diotrephes; that he rejected both, and spoke against the apostle publicly in a church which was almost entirely under his influence, being opposed by Demetrius and his selecter company, and Gaius keeping aloof probably through sickness.
3 John 1:10. We mark here the same tone of faithful sternness which pervades the two other Epistles: in these, however, as against those who assailed the truth, in this against one who invades the order of the church. It is more than probable that Diotrephes was of the Judaizing faction which strove to thwart the publication of the Gospel to the Gentiles; and this would account for the apostle’s severity. I will bring to remembrance before the church, his works which he doeth: not merely his prating against us with malicious words, as reported by the evangelists, but his actions, of more importance to the apostle than any words spoken against himself merely. He casteth them out who would receive the brethren: by using his influence to have them cut off from the Christian society, whether by formal excommunication or otherwise.
3 John 1:11. Beloved, imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good: this is characteristic of St. John, to trace all conduct to its highest source. The spirit and acts of Diotrephes, and those like him, are not of God, not fruits of regeneration: he that doeth evil hath not seen God, hath no spiritual knowledge of Him. Writing to Gaius, and writing to all who might possibly be swayed by such influence as that of Diotrephes, the apostle utters a strong warning: to what extent needed by Gaius we can only conjecture.
3 John 1:12. The good to be imitated has its example in Demetrius, whose report had reached St. John concurrently with that of Diotrephes: ‘ Demetrius hath the witness of all who know him, and of all my reporters: and of the truth itself: for the truth of the Gospel reflected in his character is before yourself.’ Yes, we also bear witness: the very strong testimony to Demetrius was doubtless of the greatest importance at this juncture, and the apostle adds his own witness to that of men and to that of the truth itself: and thou knowest that our witness is true is an affecting appeal to his own personal authority, accepted, if not by Diotrephes, yet by Gaius. St. John probably knew Demetrius, who receives from him as high a commendation as is received by any individual in the New Testament. These men stand here as individuals, to whom the apostle gave his testimony, not only from the evidence of their works, but also from his sure discernment of their character. But they are also representatives of men like-minded who play their part in every age and in all communities. The apostle’s warning, commendation, and exhortation therefore are, and were meant by the Spirit to be, for all the future. And this gives our Epistle its permanent value.
3 John 1:13-14. We know not the issue of this Epistle. It was evidently written amidst circumstances which allowed no delay. Though the apostle would shortly visit the church of Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius, he sends this message for the present emergency.
3 John 1:15. Peace be to thee: the only instance of this personal formula in the New Testament. The friends salute thee: again the only instance of the brethren being called friends. Salute the friends by name: as if their names were mentioned. The familiar character of the letter may explain these peculiarities; but it must not be forgotten that these several terms carry us back to the Lord’s first use and sanctification of them. There can be no higher salutation than the PEACE which came up out of the Old Testament to receive its deeper meaning in the New. And the Epistles of the New Testament worthily end with Peace to the individual saint, and the Salutation of the Brethren who are also ‘the Friends’ of Jesus individually and by name.
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 3 John 1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/