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Observe here, 1. The penman and writer of this epistle, St. John, who wrote the two former, as appears by agreement of them in words and phrases, which are peculiar to this apostle; he styles himself not an apostle, though he was so, but an elder: that word being a name of honour and dignity belonging to the chief of their tribes, agrees very well with the office of the apostles, set over the twelve tribes of the house of Israel.
Observe, 2. The person to whom this epistle is directed, Gaius: we find three persons of this name in the New Testament, to wit, Gaius of Macedonia, Acts 19:29; Gaius of Derbe, Acts 20:4; and Gaius of Corinth, Romans 16:23 whom St. Paul calls his host, and of the whole church, who being eminent for his hospitality, especially to the ministers who went out to preach the gospel among the Gentiles, taking nothing of them; this man seems to be the person who had the honour of an epistle sent to him from the pen of an eminent apostle; such as do excel in their kindness to the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, have oft-times in this life some special marks of honour and respect put upon them by God, as a token of his gracious acceptance of them.
Observe, 3. The interest which Gaius had in St. John's affections, he styles him the well beloved Gaius; and shows also what was the motive and attractive of that his love, namely, the truth, that is, the gospel of Christ, called eminently the truth; he loved Gaius in the truth, that is, in great sincerity, and for the truth, for his sincere professing and practising the doctrine of the gospel. The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth : such as love the truth are and ought to be the special objects of our love.
Observe here, 1. This holy man, Gaius who was so hospitable an host to the ministers and members of Christ, had but a weak and sickly body, and wanted health; strength of grace and dearness of respect, even from God himself, cannot prevail against diseases; such as are most holy are sometimes most weak and sickly.
Observe, 2. That though Gaius had but a weak and consumptive body, yet had he a very thriving and vigorous soul; it is a very common, yet a very sad and true, observation, that men of strong, healthy, and active bodies, have weak, lame, sickly, and sinful souls. Ah, wretched sinner! when under obligations to serve thy God best, thou forgettest him most, and prostitutest thy health to the service of thy lusts: how does the health and ease of one day deserve the service and thankfulness of thy whole life! But, alas! instead of that, thou makest him to serve with thy sins, and layest the first fruits of thy time and strength upon the devil's altar.
Observe, 3. Our apostle's wish on the behalf of Gaius, namely, that his body were as healthful as his soul was holy, that he had as much health in the one, as he had grace in the other; I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
Behold here, such an improved and well-grown Christian was this holy man Gaius, that our apostle makes the properous state of his soul the measure of all that prosperity which the one could wish, or the other desire; as thy soul prospereth, so may thy bodily health, for the service of God and of thy soul.
Observe here, 1. The commendable testimony which the brethren that came from Gaius have to St. John concerning his holy and unblamable conversation, according to the direction of the gospel. The brethren testified of thee, that thou walkest in the truth: good reports of our brethren, without detracting any thing from their worth, is a manifest duty.
Observe, 2. With what joy and rejoicing St. John received the notices of Gaius' adherence to the truth, and of his answerable walking thereunto. I rejoiced when the brethren came and testified of thee; he did not envy the grace of God so largely conferred on Gaius, but rejoiced in it, and no doubt blessed God exceedingly for it: soul-mercies are the greatest mercies, and matters of the greatest joy to gracious souls.
Observe, 3. That additional joy which St. John expresses to hear that his children, that is, those persons whom he had converted to Christianity, and begotten to Christ through the gospel, did walk in the truth, that is, in the sincere practice as well as in the outward profession of religion: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth; the faithful ministers of Christ rejoice more in the welfare of their people's souls, than in all their worldly wealth or honour.
Observe here, How our apostle at once commends the great charity of Gaius, and at the same time excites him to the farther practice of it.
Where note, 1. How charity towards Christians is here styled fidelity to Christ, because shown to them upon Christ's account: Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren. Acts of charity are acts of righteousness and fidelity? he that is uncharitable is unjust.
Note, 2. The extensive nature of Gaius's charity; it was to brethren but to strangers; that is, not only to the brethren of the church with him, but to strangers in their travels to and fro, as they came near him; but more particularly to such faithful ministers as came out of foreign parts to preach the gospel, whom Gaius had hospitably and charitably entertained.
Note, 3. How he exhorts Gaius farther to furnish and help these ministers in their travels with all things necessary for their journey; because,
1. They preached the gospel freely, taking nothing of the Gentile Christians for their pains.
2. Because it was for Christ's name sake they went abroad: to preach the gospel, say some; to avoid persecution, say others.
3. Because to entertain such, is to further, as much as in us lies, the propagation of the gospel of Christ: such as contribute towards the maintenance and support of the ministers of Christ for his sake, shall have the present comfort and future reward of co-operating and contributing their parts towards the propagating and spreading of the gospel of Christ.
Observe here, 1. The pious care which St. John took for the relief and succour of such faithful Christians as now travelled amongst them, both to avoid persecutation, and to preach the gospel; he wrote to the church on their behalf, desiring their reception, and advising their relief; I wrote to the church, that is, I wrote for them, and sent my testimonial to the church on their behalf; every one has a pen to plead for himself, happy he that has both tongue and pen to intercede for others.
Observe, 2. The opposition which St. John met with in so good a work; Diotrephes, a proud man, regarded not his letters, acknowledged not his authority, yea, slighted the apostle, prating against him with malicious words: the holiest men may meet with opposition in the holiest and best of actions, wherein the glory of God and the public good are most concerned. I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes received us not.
Observe, 3. The holy apostle's resentment of this indignity, and wise resolution thereupon: When I come, I will remember his deeds: that is, I will sharply rebuke him, and use that severity towards him which his crime deserves, according to the authority which God has given me.
Learn hence, That though private offences against Christ's ministers must be forgiven and forgotten by them, yet when an offence is prejudicial to the church, it must be opposed, and openly censured.
Here St. John advises his beloved Gaius, and those with him, not to imitate and follow this evil example of Diotrephes, (who not only refused charity towards the Christian Jews that wanted it, himself, but would not permit the Gentile Christians to receive them or relieve them,) but to follow the example of God, who is good to all; and, accordingly, he that is merciful is born of God, but he that is malicious hath no true knowledge of God, but is a mere stranger to him. Behold here the euology and high commendation which the Spirit of God gives to charitable and good men: He that doeth good is of God, he is allied to heaven, born of God, and his offspring: but the uncharitable evil man is a composition of spite, envy, and malice, born from beneath, and the devil's offspring.
Having propounded the example of God in the former verse, he propounds in this the example of Demetrius, as a pattern to them for their imitation in works of piety and charity; not only common report, and the apostle's testimony, but his own good works, did justly recommend him as an extraordinary pattern to their imitation.
Note, That the commendations, which our own good works do give us before the world, are more valuable than all the praises and applauses which can be given to us by men, yea, by the best of men. Demetrius has a good report of all men, yea, of the truth itself.
Thus our apostle concludes his epistle with an apology for the brevity of it, hoping in a short time to see him, and to speak face to face unto him; he concludes with his apostolic valediction, Peace be to thee; unto which adding the brethren's salutations, it teaches us, that kind remembrances and greetings are suitable to Christian friendship: Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 3 John 1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent