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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
3 John 1

 

 

Verses 1-8

Fellow helpers to the truth

3 John 1:1-8

The name ‘Gaius’ appears in the New Testament four times. It was as common in the Roman Empire as John Smith is among us. The Gaius addressed here is not the brother Paul baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14) but is a beloved brother who was converted under the ministry of John.

The second epistle written to the elect lady used the words ‘truth’ and ‘love’ frequently. These are natural companions which cannot be separated. In this epistle, the emphasis is on truth and deeds, which are really the same, for ‘faith worketh by love’ (Galatians 5:6).

3 John 1:1. John calls himself an ‘elder’ on account of his age and office and addresses the epistles to ‘the beloved Gaius.’ This indicates the character of Gaius.

1. He was beloved of the Lord, as are all believers (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

2. He was loved by the apostle.

3. He was loved by the brethren, who knew him, being a person of great faith, integrity and liberality.

We should strive not only to believe grace but to be gracious, not only to be sound in doctrine but to be a loving and lovable person.

3 John 1:2. John is certainly not putting success in temporal affairs (in the business of life or good health) above all things. A better translation is ‘Beloved I pray that in all things thou mightest succeed and be in good health, even as thy soul prospereth.’ Success in anything depends on the blessing of God (1 Samuel 2:6-7; John 3:27). Success and prosperity are wonderful powers in the hands of a wise and gracious man and are a great blessing to the church of which he is a member. Health of body (for many obvious reasons) is one of God’s best gifts. The state of the body exercises a great influence on the mind and soul. John wishes that Gaius’ earthly career and condition may be as bright as his spiritual career and condition.

3 John 1:3. The brethren came to John from the place where Gaius lived, testifying of the truth of the gospel and the gracious spirit that dwelt in him. They told John that Gaius was truly a man in whom Christ was formed, and that he walked before God and men in a fashion which gave glory to God.

These men and John did not envy the gifts and grace of Gaius, but rather rejoiced together in the truth and blessings of God found in him (2 John 1:4). We weep when professing believers do not walk in the truth of grace and we rejoice when they do!

3 John 1:4. ‘I have no greater joy. Nothing makes me happier than to hear that those to whom I have preached the gospel, and to whom I have been the means of God to bring them to a knowledge of Christ, are believing and walking in the truth!’ We can give no better gift to our friends, nor greater inheritance to our families, than to preach the gospel to them. They can bring no greater joy and satisfaction to our hearts than to receive the truth and walk therein (Acts 3:2-6; Philemon 1:20-21).

3 John 1:5. John commends Gaius for his hospitality and charity to the brethren of his acquaintance and fellowship also to strangers who crossed his path. He was a kind and generous man, who cared for and ministered to the needs of his friends and opened his heart and home to strangers (Hebrews 13:1-2).

This he did ‘faithfully.’ He did not do it in a hypocritical and pretentious way (to be seen of men and gain applause from them), but he served from a principle of love (Matthew 6:1-4).

3 John 1:6. These traveling preachers, who were strangers to Gaius before they came to his town, testified before the church at Ephesus of his love, friendship and care of them. They were greatly moved by his spirit of grace and love and could not refrain from praising the grace of God in him.

We do well to aid God’s children and to help make their journey through this world to be more pleasant — especially those who are traveling missionaries (Matthew 10:42; 2 Kings 4:8-10).

3 John 1:7-8. These traveling preachers and missionaries have gone out from home and family for Christ’s sake and are not supported by the Gentiles and heathen to whom they preach, taking nothing from them. So we ourselves ought to support such people (to welcome and provide for them) in order that we be fellow-laborers and helpers in the truth. It is a great privilege to preach the gospel and an equal privilege and blessing to provide for those who preach it, for in doing so we also minister the gospel.


Verses 9-14

Follow not that which is evil

3 John 1:9-14

3 John 1:9. The apostle John wrote a letter to the church of which Gaius was a member. It was a letter of instructions, counsel and apostolic orders. But Diotrephes, who was evidently an officer in the church (perhaps an elder or even a pastor — in those large churches there were oftentimes more elders and pastors than one: see Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1), refused to accept his instructions and counsel.

This man Diotrephes coveted more than was his due. His pride led him to seek pre-eminence and recognition and to lord it over God’s people. There is an honour and authority which belongs to officers of the church (to preside, govern and lead according to the word), but this may be carried to far, as it was by this man! Everything in a church ought to be done by pastor and people in love, meekness and with mutual consent, with each seeking the glory of Christ and the good of all (Philippians 2:3-8; Romans 12:3; Romans 10:1; 1 Corinthians 4:6-7).

3 John 1:10. ‘When I come to visit the church again I will call attention to what he is doing, expose him to the church and reprove him for his deeds’ (Galatians 2:11).

Diotrephes had some uncomplimentary things to say about the apostle. This is not unusual, for true ministers of the gospel are prated against not only by men of the world, but also by professors of religion. Usually what is said against them is silly, idle and empty stuff, as the word ‘prating’ indicates. For want of real charges they take up any little matter and rail against them in order to hurt their character, spoil their usefulness and render their ministry ineffective, and all of this railing and prating is only to exalt themselves in the eyes of the people (1 Timothy 5:19; 2 Corinthians 10:10).

Not satisfied with speaking against the ministry of John, this man refused to receive the preachers and missionaries sent by John. He threatened to cast out of the church (which was an abuse of church discipline) those who received these missionaries.

3 John 1:11. ‘Beloved, do not imitate evil of any kind; but do not imitate the particular evil of Diotrephes, such as pride, ambition, love of pre-eminence and inhospitality to preachers and other believers. Do not imitate the evil of a critical spirit and a careless criticism of those who minister the word of God (Titus 3:1-2; Jams 4:11; Ephesians 4:31-32). Follow and imitate that which is good, such as love, forgiveness, kindness and humility’ (Galatians 5:22-26). It is not only important that we learn grace in doctrine, but that we learn grace in heart and spirit. He who manifests the grace and spirit of Christ in attitude and action is of God, and he who does not has evidently not experienced the grace of God and does not know God at all (1 John 4:6-8; 1 John 4:20-21).

3 John 1:12. The man Demetrius was different from Diotrephes and therefore John makes mention of him to Gaius. His example is to be followed — not the example of Diotrephes. Demetrius was kind, considerate and gracious. He had a good reputation and report, not only among the brethren but also of those without. He was loved and respected by all.

Trouble-makers and those of a critical spirit usually find many followers. This is unfortunate, yet natural to the flesh (John 5:43). But let those who are wise mark the man of a Christ-like attitude and a loving spirit and follow his example.

‘I John, bear record to the character of Demetrius, and you know that my word is true and dependable.’

3 John 1:13-14. ‘I had many things to say to you when I began to write, but I prefer not to put them on paper. I hope to see you soon and we will talk together face to face. Peace be to you! Our friends here send you greetings. Remember me to our friends there (to everyone of them personally) by name.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 3 John 1:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/3-john-1.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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