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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Ambition; Blessing; Blindness; Church; Commandments; Demetrius; Diotrephes; Elder; Example; Gaius; Holiness; Hospitality; Ink; John; Malice; Minister, Christian; Pen; Presumption; Righteousness; Salutations; Self-Denial; Zeal, Religious; Scofield Reference Index - Churches; John; Thompson Chain Reference - Evil; Gaius; Good; Ink; Name; Silence-Speech; Truth; Walk; Walking; Words; The Topic Concordance - Evil; Following; Goodness; Seeing; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Ambition; Books; Faithfulness; Heathen, the; Hospitality; Joy; Malice; Missionaries, All Christians Should Be as; Missionary Work by Ministers; Presumption;
Chronological Notes relative to this Epistle.
-Year of the Constantinopolitan era of the world, or that used by the Byzantine historians, and other eastern writers, 5593.
-Year of the Alexandrian era of the world, 5587.
-Year of the Antiochian era of the world, 5577.
-Year of the world, according to Archbishop Usher, 4089.
-Year of the world, according to Eusebius, in his Chronicon, 4311.
-Year of the minor Jewish era of the world, or that in common use, 3845.
-Year of the Greater Rabbinical era of the world, 4444.
-Year from the Flood, according to Archbishop Usher, and the English Bible, 2433.
-Year of the Cali yuga, or Indian era of the Deluge, 3187.
-Year of the era of Iphitus, or since the first commencement of the Olympic games, 1025.
-Year of the era of Nabonassar, king of Babylon, 834.
-Year of the CCXVIth Olympiad, 1.
-Year from the building of Rome, according to Fabius Pictor, 832.
-Year from the building of Rome, according to Frontinus, 836.
-Year from the building of Rome, according to the Fasti Capitolini, 837.
-Year from the building of Rome, according to Varro, which was that most generally used, 838.
-Year of the era of the Seleucidae, 397.
-Year of the Caesarean era of Antioch, 133.
-Year of the Julian era, 130.
-Year of the Spanish era, 123.
-Year from the birth of Jesus Christ, according to Archbishop Usher, 89.
-Year of the vulgar era of Christ's nativity, 85.
-Year of Artabanus IV., king of the Parthians, 4.
-Year of the Dionysian period, or Easter Cycle, 86.
-Year of the Grecian Cycle of nineteen years, or Common Golden Number, 10; or the year before the fourth embolismic.
-Year of the Jewish Cycle of nineteen years, 7; or the year before the third embolismic.
-Year of the Solar Cycle, 10.
-Dominical Letter, it being the first year after the Bissextile, or Leap Year, B.
-Day of the Jewish Passover, the twenty-seventh of March, which happened in this year on the Jewish Sabbath.
-Easter Sunday, the third of April.
-Epact, or age of the moon on the 22d of March, (the day of the earliest Easter Sunday possible,) 9.
-Epact, according to the present mode of computation, or the moon's age on New Year's day, or the Calends of January, 17.
-Monthly Epacts, or age of the moon on the Calends of each month respectively, (beginning with January,) 17, 19, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 24, 25, 27, 27.
-Number of Direction, or the number of days from the twenty-first of March to the Jewish Passover, 6.
-Year of the Emperor Flavius Domitianus Caesar, the last of those usually styled the Twelve Caesars, 5.
-Roman Consuls, Domitianus Augustus Caesar, the eleventh time, and T. Aurelius Fulvus or Fulvius.
-The years in which Domitian had been consul before were, A. D. 71, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 80, 82, 83, and 84.
It should be observed that the date of this epistle is very uncertain. The above is only upon the supposition that it was written about A. D. 85.
The apostle's address to Caius, and his good wishes for his
prosperity in body and soul, 1, 2.
He commends him for his steadiness in the truth, and his general
hospitality, especially to the itinerant evangelists, 3-8.
Speaks of the bad conduct of Diotrephes; his abuse of his power
in the Church; and his slander of the apostles, 9, 10.
Exhorts Caius to avoid his example, and to follow what is good,
Commends Demetrius, 12.
Excuses himself from writing more fully, and proposes to pay him
a visit shortly, 13, 14.
This epistle being of nearly the same complexion with the former, and evidently written about the same time, and incontestably by the same person, it is not necessary to give it any particular preface; as the subject of the authenticity of all the three epistles has been treated already so much at large, not only in the introduction to them, but in the notes in general.
This and the preceding epistle are, by Dr. Lardner, supposed to have been written between A. D. 80 and 90. There are no notes of time in the epistles themselves to help us to fix any date, therefore all is conjecture concerning the time in which they were written: but to me it appears as likely that they were written before the destruction of Jerusalem as after; for it is scarcely to be supposed that so signal a display of the justice of God, and such a powerful argument in favour of Christianity and of the truth of Christ's predictions, could be passed unnoticed and unappealed to by any of the inspired persons who wrote after that event. However, where there is no positive evidence, conjecture is useless.
NOTES ON III. JOHN.
Verse 3 John 1:1. The elder — See on the first verse of the preceding epistle, and also the preface.
The well-beloved Gaius — γαιος Gaius, is the Greek mode of writing the Roman name Caius; and thus it should be rendered in European languages.
Several persons of the name of Caius occur in the New Testament.
1. In the Epistle to the Romans, Romans 16:23, St. Paul mentions a Caius who lived at Corinth, whom he calls his host, and the host of the whole Church.
2. In 1 Corinthians 1:14, St. Paul mentions a Caius who lived at Corinth, whom he had baptized; but this is probably the same with the above.
3. In Acts 19:29, mention is made of a Caius who was a native of Macedonia, who accompanied St. Paul, and spent some time with him at Ephesus. This is probably a different person from the preceding; for the description given of the Caius who lived at Corinth, and was the host of the whole Church there, does not accord with the description of the Macedonian Caius, who, in the very same year, travelled with St. Paul, and was with him at Ephesus.
4. In Acts 20:4, we meet a Caius of Derbe, who was likewise a fellow traveller of St. Paul. This person cannot be the Corinthian Caius, for the host of the Church at Corinth would hardly leave that city to travel into Asia: and he is clearly distinguishable from the Macedonian Caius by the epithet δερβαιος, of Derbe.
5. And lastly, there is the Caius who is mentioned here, and who is thought by some critics to be different from all the above; for, in writing to him, St. John ranks him among his children, which seems, according to them, to intimate that he was converted by this apostle.
Now, whether this Caius was one of the persons just mentioned, or whether he was different from them all, is difficult to determine; because Caius was a very common name. Yet if we may judge from the similarity of character, it is not improbable that he was the Caius who lived at Corinth, and who is styled by St. Paul the host of the whole Church; for hospitality to his Christian brethren was the leading feature in the character of this Caius to whom St. John wrote, and it is on this very account that he is commended by the apostle. Besides, St. John's friend lived in a place where this apostle had in Diotrephes a very ambitious and tyrannical adversary; and that there were men of this description at Corinth is evident enough from the two epistles to the Corinthians, though St. Paul has not mentioned their names. See Michaelis.
The probability of this Caius being the same with the Corinthian Caius has suggested the thought that this epistle was sent to Corinth; and consequently that the second epistle was sent to some place in the neighbourhood of that city. But I think the distance between Ephesus, where St. John resided, and Corinth, was too considerable for such an aged man as St. John is represented to be to travel, whether by land or water. If he went by land, he must traverse a great part of Asia, go through Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and down through Greece, to the Morea, a most tedious and difficult journey. If he went by water, he must cross the AEgean Sea, and navigate among the Cyclades Islands, which was always a dangerous voyage. Now as the apostle promises, both in the second and in this epistle, to see the persons shortly to whom he wrote, I take it for granted that they could not have lived at Corinth, or anywhere in the vicinity of that city. That St. John took such a voyage Michaelis thinks probable; "for since Corinth lay almost opposite to Ephesus, and St. John, from his former occupation, before he became an apostle, was accustomed to the sea, it is not improbable that the journey or voyage which he proposed to make was from Ephesus to Corinth."
In answer to this I would just observe, 1. That the voyage was too long and dangerous for a man at John's advanced age to think of taking. 2. That John had never been accustomed to any such sea as the AEgean, for the sea of Galilee, or sea of Tiberias, on which, as a fisherman, he got his bread, was only an inconsiderable fresh water lake; and his acquaintance with it could give him very few advantages for the navigation of the AEgean Sea, and the danger of coasting the numerous islands dispersed through it.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/3-john-1.html. 1832.
JOHN'S THIRD LETTER
The elder unto Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth.
The elder ... For another comment on the apostle's use of this title, see under 2 John 1:1:1.
Gaius ... It is impossible to make any positive identification of this man with any of the four other persons of the same name mentioned in the New Testament. See in introduction, above. Nothing whatever is known of this man, except that which may be supposed or surmised from what is written in this letter.
The beloved ... This expression is personal and intimate, contrasting sharply with the far more general "whom I love in the truth" used in connection with it; and, significantly, it was the general expression only that John used in Second John, indicating that the 2nd epistle was actually addressed to a church, and not to an individual. "Whom I love in the truth" is a broad greeting, much like, "in Christian love," and carries nothing of the personal intensity conveyed by "the beloved."
The truth ... Of this expression, Plummer noted:
We have to notice the characteristic repetition of the word "truth," which occurs four times in the first four verses ... "To walk in the truth" is nothing less than to follow in the footsteps of the Lord.
It is this and other typical words which require the conclusion that the apostle John is indeed the author of all these letters ascribed to him.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/3-john-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
This brief Epistle, written to a Christian whose name was Gaius, of whom nothing more is known (compare the notes at 3 John 1:1), and in respect to which the time and place of writing it are equally unknown, embraces the following subjects:
I. The address, with an expression of tender attachment, and an earnest wish for his welfare and happiness, 3 John 1:1-2.
II. A commendation of his character and doings, as the writer had learned it from some brethren who had visited him particularly;
(a)For his attachment to the truth, and,
(b)For his kindness shown to the members of his own church, and to strangers who had gone forth to some work of charity, 3 John 1:3-8.
III. The writer then adverts to the fact that he had written upon this subject to the church, commending these strangers to their attention, but that Diotrephes would not acknowledge his authority, or receive those whom he introduced to them. This conduct, he said, demanded rebuke; and he says that when he himself came, he would take proper measures to assert his own authority, and show to him and to the church the duty of receiving Christian brethren commended to them from abroad, 3 John 1:9-10.
IV. He exhorts Gaius to persevere in that which was good - in a life of love and kindness, in an imitation of the benevolent God, 3 John 1:11.
V. Of another person - Demetrius - who, it would seem, had been associated with Gaius in the honorable course which he had pursued, in opposition to what the church had done, he also speaks in terms of commendation, and says that the same honorable testimony had been borne of him which had been of Gaius, 3 John 1:12.
VI. As in the second Epistle, he says, in the close, that there were many things which he would be glad to say to him, but there were reasons why they should not be set down “with ink and pen,” but he hoped soon to confer with him freely on those subjects face to face, and the Epistle is closed by kind salutations,3 John 1:13-14; 3 John 1:13-14.
The occasion upon which the Epistle was written is no further known than appears from the Epistle itself. From this, the following facts are all that can now be ascertained:
(1) That Gaius was a Christian man, and evidently a member of the church, but of what church is unknown.
(2) That there were certain persons known to the writer of the Epistle, and who either lived where he did, or who had been commended to him by others who proposed to travel to the place where Gaius lived. Their particular object is not known, further than that it is said 3 John 1:7 that they “went for his name’s sake;” that is, in the cause of religion. It further appears that they had resolved not to be dependent upon the pagan for their support, but wished the favor and friendship of the church - perhaps designing to preach to the pagan, and yet apprehending that if they desired their maintenance from them, it would be charged on them that they were mercenary in their ends.
(3) In these circumstances, and with this view, the author of this Epistle wrote to the church, commending these brethren to their kind and fraternal regards.
(4) This recommendation, so far as appears, would have been successful, had it not been for one man, Diotrephes, who had so much influence, and who made such violent opposition, that the church refused to receive them, and they became dependent upon private charity. The ground of the opposition of Diotrephes is not fully stated, but it seems to have arisen from two sources:
(a)A desire to rule in the church; and,
(b)A particular opposition to the writer of this Epistle, and a denial of any obligation to recognize his instructions or commendations as binding. The idea seems to have been that the church was entirely independent, and might receive or reject any whom it pleased, though they were commended to them by an apostle.
(5) In these circumstances, Gaius, as an individual, and against the action of the church, received and hospitably entertained these strangers, and aided them in the prosecution of their work. In this office of hospitality another member of the church, Demetrius, also shared; and to commend them for this work, particularly Gaius, at whose house probably they were entertained, is the design of this Epistle.
(6) After having returned to the writer of this Epistle, who had formerly commended them to the church, and having borne honorable testimony to the hospitality of Gaius, it would seem that they resolved to repeat their journey for the same purpose, and that the writer of the Epistle commended them now to the renewed hospitality of Gaius. On this occasion, probably, they bore this Epistle to him. See the notes at 3 John 1:6-7. Nothing more is known of Diotrephes than is here specified. Erasmus and Bede supposed that he was the author of a new sect; but of this there is no evidence, and if he had been, it is probable that John would have cautioned Gaius against his influence. Many have supposed that he was a self-appointed “Bishop” or “Pastor” in the church where he resided; but there is no evidence of this, and, since John wrote to “the church,” commending the strangers to “them,” this would seem to be hardly probable. Compare Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:8,Revelation 2:12, Revelation 2:18; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:7,Revelation 3:14. Others have supposed that he was a deacon, and had charge of the funds of the church, and that he refused to furnish to these strangers the aid out of the public treasury which they needed, and that by so doing he hindered them in the prosecution of their object. But all this is mere conjecture, and it is now impossible to ascertain what office he held, if he held any. That he was a man of influence is apparent; that he was proud, ambitious, and desirous of ruling, is equally clear; and that he prevailed upon the church not to receive the strangers commended to them by the apostle is equally manifest.
Of the rank and standing of Demetrius nothing more is known. Benson supposes that he was the bearer of this letter, and that he had gone with the brethren referred to in order to preach to the Gentiles. But it seems more probable that he was a member of the church to which Gaius belonged, and that he had concurred with him in rendering aid to the strangers who had been rejected by the influence of Diotrephes. If he had gone with these strangers, and had carried this letter, it would have been noticed, and it would have been in accordance with the apostolic custom, that he should have been commended to the favorable attentions of Gaius. In regard to the authenticity and the canonical authority of this Epistle, see the introduction at the beginning of the Second Epistle.
The elder - See the notes at 2 John 1:1.
Unto the well-beloved Gaius - Three persons of this name are elsewhere mentioned in the New Testament - Gaius, whom Paul in Romans 16:23 calls “his host,” and whom he says 1 Corinthians 1:15 he baptized, residing at Corinth, (see the notes at Romans 16:23); Gaius of Macedonia, one of Paul’s companions in travel, who was arrested by an excited mob at Ephesus, Acts 19:29; and Gaius of Derbe, who went with Paul and Timothy into Asia, Acts 20:4. Whether either of these persons is referred to here, cannot with certainty be determined. If it were any of them it was probably the last mentioned - Gaius of Derbe. There is no objection to the supposition that he was the one unless it is from the fact that this Epistle was probably written many years after the transaction mentioned in Acts 20:4, and the probability that Gaius might not have lived so long. The name was not an uncommon one, and it cannot be determined now who he was, or where he lived. Whether he had any office in the church is unknown, but he seems to have been a man of wealth and influence. The word translated “well-beloved,” means simply “beloved.” It shows that he was a personal friend of the writer of this Epistle.
Whom I love in the truth - Margin, “or truly.” See the notes at 2 John 1:1.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/3-john-1.html. 1870.
So the third epistle of John is now again, John addresses himself as
The elder [the presbyturos] unto the wellbeloved Gaius ( 3 John 1:1 ),
Probably not the Gaius mentioned in Paul's epistle to the Corinthians where he was in Corinth, and it would appear that these letters were written to those in the area of Ephesus.
whom I love in the truth. Beloved ( 3 John 1:1-2 ),
And he's talking to Gaius.
I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth ( 3 John 1:2 ).
Now there are many people who quote this scripture as a sort of promise for healing. And they twist the scriptures slightly making it really sort of God's declaration, God saying I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers. But this is a personal letter from John to Gaius. And he is greeting Gaius who is well-loved with this beautiful wish that you may prosper and be in good health. As we so often in our letters writing to someone we haven't seen for a long time, I hope that this letter finds you in good health. So to use this as a promise for healing is really not scriptural, as God's promise for healing. It is the wish of John for Gaius. Beautiful wish indeed. "I wish that you might prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers."
But it is interesting that there is a relationship made between the prosperity of the soul and the physical well being. And we are discovering more and more as we study the human body that there is a very definite direct relationship between a person's physical health and their mental well-being. We are learning how that attitude can change the body chemistry and that bad attitudes can create harmful chemicals that will attack your body physically. And there's a definite relationship between mental attitude and organic illnesses in many cases. The psychologist say ninety percent, I think, that they're overstressing their side. But there is a definite relationship between many illnesses and the mental attitude of the person. So there's a correlation made between the physical well-being with the mental, the prosperity of the soul, the mind.
There is a proverb that says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine" ( Proverbs 17:22 ). You know that they have discovered that that is scientifically correct. That laughter aids tremendously in the digestion of food. You ought to have a joke book at your dinner table. Bitterness can eat at your physical being, can create ulcers, chemicals that are harmful, destructive. So it is interesting that John would make the correlation between the physical and the emotional or mental. "I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers."
For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as you walk in truth. And I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth ( 3 John 1:3-4 ).
I can concur with what John is saying here. The greatest joy, I think, of a teacher is to hear that their children are walking in truth. You know, to come across someone that you ministered to fifteen, twenty years ago and find them walking in the truth is just a thrill, no greater joy.
In the same way, there's probably no greater sorrow than to hear that your children have turned from the truth, got caught up in some weird doctrine, some heresy. That's painful, that hurts. But "no greater joy than to hear that they are walking in the truth."
Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do to the brethren, to the strangers; Which have borne witness of your love before the church: whom if you bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, you will do well ( 3 John 1:5-6 ):
Now he's talking about Gaius's treatment of these itinerary evangelists and prophets. You've been hospitable to them. You've helped them along their way. And in this you did well. It was, and they've come, and they've told of your love. They've told of your hospitality.
Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing from the heathens ( 3 John 1:7 ).
So these itinerant prophets have gone forth in the name of the Lord and for his name's sake, but they wouldn't take anything from the Gentiles, which is in the New Testament Greek the heathen or the pagans, because in Christ, you know, they were all brothers. "There is no Jew nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian" ( Colossians 3:11 ). So the Gentiles referred to those outside of Christ.
I question some of the fund raising techniques of the churches today that go to the major corporations or they go to the businesses or they go to the world to find financing for the ministry and for the work of the church. The early prophets that went forth did not practice that. In fact, as I told you, if they asked for money they were considered to be a false prophet. That's the apostle wrote their Dedike and they said if they ask for money they're false prophets. So he is encouraging Gaius in his hospitality, the love that he had shown was good.
It had been reported and he said,
We ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers of the truth. Now I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, did not receive us ( 3 John 1:8-9 ).
Diotrephes, an interesting character. We look how his sin has been exposed throughout the years. A man who loved the preeminence in the church. He didn't want to give, you know, any place to anybody else. He wanted the preeminence. So when these prophets would come in, he wouldn't receive them. In fact, he even refused John the beloved, apostle of the Lord. There are Diotrephes still in the church today, those who are looking for a position for themselves, those that are looking for a place of power and authority, who want preeminence.
So John said,
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 he forbids them that would, and casts them out of the church ( 3 John 1:10 ).
I mean, this guy was a real tyrant. He wouldn't receive these itinerant ministers and if someone in the church would receive them, he'd throw them out of the church.
John's exhortation is
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. And he that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God ( 3 John 1:11 ).
Again here, John puts the emphasis upon what a person is doing. "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself" ( James 1:22 ). "Not he who has the law is justified by the law, but he who does the law is justified by the law" ( Galatians 3:11-12 ).
Having the knowledge of Jesus Christ doesn't save you. It's following Him as your Lord that brings salvation. It isn't mouthing the Apostle's Creed that will save you. It's what are you doing. You're doing good, then you're of God, but if you're doing evil, you really don't know God.
Demetrius has a good report of all men ( 3 John 1:12 ),
And probably this letter was given to Demetrius who was headed that way as a letter of reference from John and he told him to give it to Gaius, and so he is encouraging now, when Demetrius gets there to receive him. "Demetrius has good report of all men,"
and of the truth itself: yes, and we also bear record; and you know that our record is true. Now I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face ( 3 John 1:12-14 ).
So as he closed the second epistle, so he closes the third with the anticipation of seeing him, not having to write to him the things that are on his heart.
Peace be to thee. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends [my friends] by name ( 3 John 1:14 ). "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/3-john-1.html. 2014.
Gaius, The Well-Beloved. The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
The elder: "Elder" is used here in the sense of a senior or aged person and not in the official sense of an elder of a local congregation. (See comments on 2 John 1:1.) John is not putting himself forth as the official elder of the whole church; rather, he is writing as an aged apostle to a dear friend in a local congregation. His authority is not that of an elder, but as an apostle who was personally appointed by Jesus Christ Himself to represent the Lord as His personal ambassador.
unto the well-beloved Gaius: The salutation of John’s letter is much like that of other first century letters. He identifies himself under the title, "the elder," or aged one, and then addresses his epistle to a Christian whose name is Gaius. The name "Gaius" is an oft-mentioned name in the New Testament (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14). It is feasible that Gaius could have held a position of leadership in a local congregation; at least, it is safe to say that he was a prestigious person of true Christian principle. "Beloved" is agapetos and speaks of the divine love. Gaius is one who is the object of love of many Christians. The Greek has it, "the beloved," which indicates that Gaius is one loved by both God and man in a special way. Here is a Christian who is held in high esteem by many Christians in the first century.
whom I love in the truth: While Gaius is one greatly loved and highly respected by many in the early church, he is equally loved by the apostle John; and John wants him to be aware of that love. It is always appropriate to let people know how you feel about them. Everyone needs to be loved and respected for who and what they are. John specifies that his love is "in the truth." The little word, en, signifies that John’s love is in the sphere of truth. His love is encompassed and surrounded by the truth of God’s word, which is a uniting force among Christians and which promotes the love that seeks the highest good of its objects.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/3-john-1.html. 1993-2022.
I. INTRODUCTION V. 1
John identified himself and greeted the recipient of this shortest New Testament epistle to set the tone for what follows.
As in 2 John, the Apostle identified himself as "the elder." We do not know exactly who Gaius was. Early church tradition did not identify him with Paul’s native Macedonian companion (Acts 19:29), Paul’s companion from Derbe (Acts 20:4), or the Corinthian Paul baptized who hosted the church in Corinth (Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14).
"It is generally agreed that the Gaius to whom the Elder wrote this letter is not to be identified with any of the men by that name who were associated with Paul." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, "Studies in 3 John," Bibliotheca Sacra 144:573 (January-March 1987):58.]
The reason for this is that Gaius was a common name in Greek and Latin then, as the name John is in English now. [Note: J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources, p. 120.] This Gaius probably lived somewhere in the province of Asia. He was obviously someone whom John loved as a brother Christian.
John’s concern for both love and truth is evident again in this epistle (cf. 2 John). "In truth" means truly and in accord with God’s truth. Both John and Gaius held the truth as the apostles taught it.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/3-john-1.html. 2012.
THE TEACHER'S JOY ( 3 John 1:1-4 )
1:1-4 The Elder to Gaius, the beloved, whom I love in truth.
Beloved, I pray that everything is going well with you, and that you are in good health of body, as it goes well with your soul. It gave me great joy when certain brothers came and testified of the truth of your life, as indeed you do walk in the truth. No news brings me greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
No New Testament letter better shows that the Christian letters were exactly on the model which all letter-writers used in the time of the early church. There is a papyrus letter from Irenaeus, a ship's captain, to his brother Apolinarius:
Irenaeus to Apolinarius his brother, my greetings. Continually I
pray that you may be in health, even as I myself am in health. I
wish you to know that I arrived at land on the 6th of the month
Epeiph, and I finished unloading my ship on the 18th of the same
month, and went up to Rome on the 25th of the same month, and the
place welcomed us, as God willed. Daily we are waiting for our
discharge, so that up till today no one of us in the corn service
has been allowed to go. I greet your wife much, and Serenus, and
all who love you, by name. Good bye.
The form of Irenaeus' letter is exactly that of John's. There is first the greeting, next the prayer for good health, after that the main body of the letter with its news, and then the final greetings. The early Christian letters were not something remote and ecclesiastical; they were the kind of letters which people wrote to each other every day.
John writes to a friend called Gaius. In the world of the New Testament Gaius was the commonest of all names. In the New Testament there are three men with that name. There is Gaius, the Macedonian who, along with Aristarchus, was with Paul at the riot in Ephesus ( Acts 19:29). There is Gaius of Derbe, who was the delegate of his church to convey the collection for the poor to Jerusalem ( Acts 20:4). There is the Gaius of Corinth who had been Paul's host, and who was such a hospitable soul that he could be called the host of the whole church ( Romans 16:23), and who was one of the very few people whom Paul had personally baptized ( 1 Corinthians 1:14), and who, according to tradition, became the first Bishop of Thessalonica. Gaius was the commonest of all names; and there is no reason to identify our Gaius with any of these three. According to tradition he was made the Bishop of Pergamum by John himself. Here he stands before us as a man with an open house and an open heart.
Twice in the first two verses of this little letter John uses the word beloved. (The well-beloved and beloved of the King James Version's first two verses translate the same Greek word, agapetos, G27.) In this group of letters John uses agapetos ( G27) no fewer than ten times. This is a very notable fact. These letters are letters of warning and rebuke; and yet their accent is the accent of love. It was the advice of a great scholar and preacher: "Never scold your congregation." Even if he has to rebuke, John never speaks with irritation. The whole atmosphere of his writing is that of love.
3 John 1:2 shows us the comprehensive care of the good and devoted pastor. John is interested both in the physical and the spiritual health of Gaius. John was like Jesus; he never forgot that men have bodies as well as souls and that they matter, too.
In 3 John 1:4 John tells us of the teacher's greatest joy. It is to see his pupils walking in the truth. The truth is not simply something to be intellectually assimilated; it is the knowledge which fills a man's mind and the charity which clothes his life. The truth is what makes a man think and act like God.
CHRISTIAN HOSPITALITY ( 3 John 1:5-8 )
1:5-8 Beloved, whatever service you render to the brothers, strangers as they are, is an act of true faith and they testify to your love before the church. It will be a further kindness, if you send them on their way worthily of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the Name and they take no assistance from pagans. It is a duty to support such men, that we may show ourselves fellow-workers with the truth.
Here we come to John's main object in writing. A group of travelling missionaries is on its way to the church of which Gaius is a member, and John urges him to receive them, to give them every support and to send them on their way in a truly Christian manner.
In the ancient world hospitality was a sacred duty. Strangers were under the protection of Zeus Xenios, Zeus the god of strangers (Xenos, G3581, is the Greek for a stranger). In the ancient world inns were notoriously unsatisfactory. The Greek had an instinctive dislike of taking money for the giving of hospitality; and, therefore, the profession of innkeeper ranked very low. Inns were notoriously dirty and flea-infested. Innkeepers were notoriously rapacious so that Plato compared them to pirates who hold their guests to ransom before they allow them to escape. The ancient world had a system of guest-friendships whereby families in different parts of the country undertook to give each other's members hospitality when the occasion arose. This connection between families lasted throughout the generations and when it was claimed, the claimant brought with him a sumbolon, or token, which identified him to his hosts. Some cities kept an official called the Proxenos in the larger cities to whom their citizens, when travelling, might appeal for shelter and for help.
If the heathen world accepted the obligation of hospitality, it was only to be expected that the Christians would take it even more seriously. It is Peter's injunction: "Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another" ( 1 Peter 4:9). "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers" says the writer to the Hebrews, and adds: "for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" ( Hebrews 13:2). In the Pastoral Epistles a widow is to be honoured if she has "shown hospitality" ( 1 Timothy 5:9). Paul bids the Romans to "practice hospitality" ( Romans 12:13).
Hospitality was to be specially the characteristic of the leaders of the church. A bishop must be a man given to hospitality ( 1 Timothy 3:2). Titus is told to be "hospitable" ( Titus 1:8). When we come down to the time of Justin Martyr, (A.D. 170) we find that on the Lord's Day the well-to-do contributed as they would and it was the duty of the president of the congregation "to succour the orphans and the widows, and those who through sickness or any other cause are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning amongst us" (Justin Martyr: First Apology 1: 67).
In the early church the Christian home was the place of the open door and the loving welcome. There can be few nobler works than to give a stranger the right of entry to a Christian home. The Christian family circle should always be wide enough to have a place for the stranger, no matter where he comes from or what his colour.
THE CHRISTIAN ADVENTURERS ( 3 John 1:5-8 continued)
Further, this passage tells us about the wandering missionaries who gave up home and comfort to carry afield the word of God. In 3 John 1:7 Paul says that they have gone forth for the sake of the Name and take no assistance from pagans. (It is just possible that 3 John 1:7 might refer to those who had come out from the Gentiles taking nothing with them, those who for the sake of Christianity had left their work and their home and their friends and had no means of support.) In the ancient world the "begging friar," with his wallet, was well known. There is, for instance, a record of a man calling himself "the slave of the Syrian goddess," who went out begging and claimed that he never came back with fewer than seventy bags of money for his goddess. But these Christian wandering preachers would take nothing from the Gentiles, even if they would have given it.
John commends these adventurers of the faith to the hospitality and the generosity of Gaius. He says that it is a duty to help them so that we may show ourselves fellow-workers in the truth ( 3 John 1:8). Moffatt translates this very vividly: "We are bound to support such men to prove ourselves allies of the truth."
There is a great Christian thought here. A man's circumstances may be such that he cannot become a missionary or a preacher. Life may have put him in a position where he must get on with a secular job, staying in the one place and carrying out the routine duties of life and living. But where he cannot go, his money and his prayers and his practical support can go. Not everyone can be, so to speak, in the front line; but by supporting those who are there, he can make himself an ally of the truth. When we remember that, all giving to the wider work of Christ and his church must become not an obligation but a privilege, not a duty but a delight. The church needs those who will go out with the truth, but it also needs those who will be allies of the truth at home.
LOVE'S APPEAL ( 3 John 1:9-14 )
1:9-15 I have already written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who is ambitious for the leadership, does not accept our authority. So, then, when I come, I will bring up the matter of his actions, for he talks nonsensically about us with wicked words; he refuses to receive the brothers and attempts to stop those who wish to do so and tries to eject them from the church.
Beloved do not imitate the evil but the good. He who does good has the source of his life in God; he who does evil has not seen God.
Everybody testifies to the worth of Demetrius, and so does the truth itself; and so do we testify, and you know that our testimony is true.
I have many things to write to you; but I do not wish to write to you with ink and pen. I hope to see you soon, and we shall talk face to face.
Peace be to you. The friends send their greetings. Greet the friends by name.
Here we come to the reason why this letter was written and are introduced to two of the main characters in the story.
There is Diotrephes. In the introduction we have already seen the situation in which John and Diotrephes and Demetrius are all involved. In the early church there was a double ministry. There were the apostles and the prophets whose sphere was not confined to any one congregation and whose authority extended all over the church. There were also the elders; they were the permanent settled ministry of the local congregations and their very backbone.
In the early days this presented no problem, for the local congregations were still very much infants who had not yet learned to walk by themselves and to handle their own affairs. But as time went on there came a tension between the two kinds of ministry. As the local churches became stronger and more conscious of their identity, they inevitably became less and less willing to submit to remote control or to the invasion of itinerant strangers.
The problem is still to some extent with us. There is the itinerant evangelist who may well have a theology and work with methods and in an atmosphere very different from that of the settled local congregation. In the younger churches there is the question of how long the missionaries should remain in control and of when the time has come for them to withdraw and allow the indigenous churches to rule their own affairs.
In this letter Diotrephes is the representative of the local congregation. He will not accept the authority of John, the apostolic man and he will not receive the itinerant missionaries. He is so determined to see that the local congregation manages its own affairs that he will even eject those who are still prepared to accept the authority of John and to receive the wandering preachers. What exactly Diotrephes is we cannot tell. He certainly is not a bishop in anything like the modern sense of the word. He may be a very strong-minded elder. Or he may even be an aggressive member of the congregation who by the force of his personality is sweeping all before him. Certainly he emerges as a strong and dominant character.
Demetrius is most likely the leader of the wandering preachers and probably the actual bearer of this letter. John goes out of his way to give him a testimonial as to character and ability, and it may well be that there are certain circumstances attaching to him which give Diotrephes a handle for his opposition.
Demetrius is by no means an uncommon name. Attempts have been made to identify him with two New Testament characters. He has been identified with Demetrius, the silversmith of Ephesus and the leader of the opposition to Paul ( Acts 19:21 ff.). It may be that he afterwards became a Christian and that his early opposition was still a black mark against him. He has been identified with Demas (a shortened form of Demetrius), who had once been one of Paul's fellow-labourers but who had forsaken him because he loved this present world ( Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:10). It may be that Demas came back to the faith and that his desertion of Paul was always held against him.
Into this situation comes John, whose authority is being flouted; and Gaius, a kindly soul but probably not so strong a character as the aggressive Diotrephes, whom John is seeking to align with himself, for Gaius, left on his own, might well succumb to Diotrephes.
There is our situation. We may have a good deal of sympathy with Diotrephes; we may well think that he was taking a stand which sooner or later had to be taken. But for all his strength of character he had one fault--he was lacking in charity. As C. H. Dodd has put it: "There is no real religious experience which does not express itself in charity." That is why, for all his powers of leadership and for all his dominance of character, Diotrephes was not a real Christian, as John saw it. The true Christian leader must always remember that strength and gentleness must go together and that leading and loving must go hand in hand. Diotrephes was like so many leaders in the church. He may well have been right, but he took the wrong way to achieve his end, for no amount of strength of mind can take the place of love of heart.
What the issue of all this was we do not know. But John comes to the end in love. Soon he will come and talk, when his presence will do what no letter can ever do; and for the present he sends his greetings and his blessing. And we may well believe that the "Peace be to you" of the aged Elder indeed brought calm to the troubled church to which he wrote.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
J. N. S. Alexander, The Epistles of John (Tch; E)
A. E. Brooke, The Johannine Epistles (ICC; G)
C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles (MC; E)
ICC: International Critical Commentary
MC: Moffatt Commentary
Tch: Torch Commentary
E: English Text
G: Greek Text
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/3-john-1.html. 1956-1959.
3 John 1:1
Walking Thru the Bible
The third letter, like the other two, deals with their love for the Lord, His Word, and their love for one another from a very practical point of view. All of John’s epistles draw a sharp line of distinction between truth and error, light and darkness, and love and hatred.
Recipient of 3rd John: This is a very personal letter addressed to "Gaius, the beloved whom I love in the truth" (v.1). We do not know which Gaius this may be (cf. Acts 19:29; 20:4; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14). Some early writers mention a Gaius, not referred to in the scriptures, who had been ordained a "bishop" of Pergamos by John but we do not know that such is reliable.
Message: The letter focuses on showing hospitality and giving support to those traveling evangelists who were faithfully preaching the truth. Gaius had received them with hospitality while Diotrephes, a self-assertive leader in one of the churches, had refused to receive them. Whether Gaius and Diotrephes were members of the same congregation or sister congregations is unknown
Traveling preachers, perhaps sent by John, had visited the church and a leader there named Diotrephes had spoken against the Apostle John and had stood against those who had received them.
The only reason given for his conduct was that he "loved to have the preeminence." John condemned this haughty and selfish ambition and the envy and jealousy it stirred up in his heart as reflected in his wicked treatment of both John and other brethren.
Rejection of Apostolic authority and instruction is a destructive attitude and alienates a man from God (I John 4:6).
Outline of the Book:
John expresses his love for Gaius (1) and assures him of his prayers (2), tells him his joy over his standing for the truth (3-4), commends him for his hospitality and fellowship toward faithful brethren (5-6), encourages him to continue to do so in spite of Diotrephes (7-9).
John informs Gaius of his intended visit to deal with Diotrephes (9-10), commends Demetrius to him (11-12), and gives assurance that he intends to visit him and talk with him face to face and tell him many things he could not write (13-14).
This third letter, as John’s other epistles, was evidently written toward the end of John’s ministry in the area of Asia Minor in the decade of the 60’s or 70’s. It gives us a view of life in a congregation of that period.
1. These two epistles together serve to warn us against fellowshiping false teachers and supporting them in their error.
2. They also encourage us to extend hospitality and support to those who preach the truth.
3. There is a sever warning for leaders who let their position go to their head and seek the "preeminence" instead of supporting faithful preachers preaching the truth.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
vs 1-4 Address and Commendation
Elder . 1) Term used as a title for the Apostles. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, i.e., "The ancient ones." EGT p.160 "The second generation of Christians used it of their predecessors "the men of early day.’"
Papias uses it this way of Apostles in the 2nd century where we would say "the Apostle John" he said "the elder John."
2) Used in Jesus; day for city officials.
3) Used for synagogue rulers.
4) Used in the N.T. for overseers, bishops, of the church, indicating they were oder men.
Gaius -- EGT p. 163 A common name. Three in the N.T. 1) Gaius of Macedonia, Acts 19:29; 2) Gaius of Derbe, Acts 20:4; 3) Gaius of Corinth, Romans 16:23, 1 Corinthians 1:14.
The name is so common this Gaius may be altogether a different one.
Well beloved --
In truth -- a fellowship in Christian knowledge and faith.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/3-john-1.html. 2021.
Ver. 1. The elder unto the well beloved Gaius,.... The elder is the writer of the epistle, the Apostle John, who so styles himself on account of his age, and office, as in the preceding epistle. The person to whom he writes is "the well beloved Gaius"; not that Gaius, who was the Apostle Paul's host, Romans 16:23, for though their characters agree, being both hospitable men, yet neither the place nor time in which they lived. The Apostle Paul's Gaius lived at Corinth, this is in some place near to Ephesus, for the apostle in his old age purposed to come and see him shortly; the other was contemporary with Paul, this with John; there were thirty or forty years difference between them: besides, the Corinthian Gaius was baptized by Paul, and was doubtless one of his spiritual children, or converts, whereas this Gaius was one of the Apostle John's spiritual children, 3 John 1:4; nor does he seem to be the same with Gaius of Macedonia, Acts 19:29, or with Gaius of Derbe, Acts 20:4, who seem to be two different persons by their country, though both companions in travel of the Apostle Paul; for which reason, as well as the time of their living, neither of them can be this Gaius, who was a settled housekeeper, and resided at some certain place. His name is a Roman name, and the same with Caius, though he seems to have been a Jew, as he might, it being usual with the Jews in other countries to take Gentile names. His character is, that he was "well beloved"; that is, of God, as it appears he was from the grace bestowed on him, from the prosperous estate of his soul, and from the truth that was in him, and his walking in it; and of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the same reasons; and also of all the brethren and saints that knew him; he being a person not only truly gracious, and of faithfulness and integrity, but of great liberality and beneficence, which must gain him much love and esteem among them; and he was well beloved by the Apostle John; and so the Syriac version renders it, "to my beloved Gaius": though his love to him is expressed in the following clause,
whom I love in the truth; as being in it, or for the sake of it, or truly and sincerely; Acts 20:4- :.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/3-john-1.html. 1999.
|Salutation and Prayer.||A. D. 90.|
1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
Here we see, I. The sacred penman who writes and sends the letter; not here indeed notified by his name, but a more general character: The elder, he that is so by years and by office; honour and deference are due to both. Some have questioned whether this were John the apostle or no; but his style and spirit seem to shine in the epistle. Those that are beloved of Christ will love the brethren for his sake. Gaius could not question from whom the letter came. The apostle might have assumed many more illustrious characters, but it becomes not Christ's ministers to affect swelling pompous titles. He almost levels himself with the more ordinary pastors of the church, while he styles himself the elder. Or, possibly, most of the extraordinary ministers, the apostles, were now dead, and this holy survivor would countenance the continued standing ministry, by assuming the more common title--the elder. The elders I exhort, who am also an elder,1 Peter 5:1.
II. The person saluted and honoured by the letter. The former is directed to an elect lady, this to a choice gentleman; such are worthy of esteem and value. He is notified, 1. By his name,--Gaius. We read of several of that name, particularly of one whom the apostle Paul baptized at Corinth, who possibly might be also the apostle's host and kind entertainer there (Romans 16:23); if this be not he, it is his brother in name, estate, and disposition. Then, 2. By the kind expressions of the apostle to him: The well-beloved, and whom I love in the truth. Love expressed is wont to kindle love. Here seems to be either the sincerity of the apostle's love or the religion of it. The sincerity of it: Whom I love in the truth, for the truth's sake, as abiding and walking in the truth as it is in Jesus. To love our friends for the truth's sake is true love, religious gospel love.
III. The salutation or greeting, containing a prayer, introduced by an affectionate compellation--Beloved, thou beloved one in Christ. The minister who would gain love must show it himself. Here is, 1. The apostle's good opinion of his friend, that his soul prospered. There is such a thing as soul-prosperity--the greatest blessing on this side heaven. This supposes regeneration, and an inward fund of spiritual life; this stock is increasing, and, while spiritual treasures are advancing, the soul is in a fair way to the kingdom of glory. 2. His good wish for his friend that his body may prosper and be in health as well as his soul. Grace and health are two rich companions; grace will improve health, health will employ grace. It frequently falls out that a rich soul is lodged in a crazy body; grace must be exercised in submission to such a dispensation; but we may well wish and pray that those who have prosperous souls may have healthful bodies too; their grace will shine in a larger sphere of activity.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 3 John 1:1". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/3-john-1.html. 1706.
THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN again calls us to weigh the Lord's admirable wisdom in its address, "The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius," as we have, I trust, been satisfied of the same in the second Epistle's address to "the elect lady and her children." Without the third Epistle we should have an immense loss; for here too we may meet the unbelieving slight already noticed in a scribe of this age by a direct assertion of its living value. A precious and needed supplement is supplied especially for these evil days. If we had only the second without the third Epistle of John, we should have the negative side without the positive the evil warned against rather than the good enforced. Both are most needful. What would have been the effect of the second Epistle of John, if that alone of the two had been ours at the present moment? I have sought to show how admirable it is matchless for its own purpose and impossible to supply its place from any other part of scripture, yet in thorough accordance with it all. It is admitted that the principle of the Epistle is found all through the New Testament; but the strength of the application, the incisive edge of its holy jealousy for Christ, is only to be found there. Yet, supposing we had not the third of John, what would be the too sure effect? I am persuaded we should be in danger of becoming painfully narrow; we should be in constant dread of an antichrist in those that surrounded us; we should do little but search with suspicion, lest each new comer to the house should not bring the doctrine of Christ.
Now we are not called to be thus on the watch for another's evil. We ought never to be suspicious. It is not faith, but flesh that expects iniquity. On the other hand, if a man comes and does not bring the doctrine of Christ, it is not to be branded as suspicion or want of love if one regard him as antichrist. It is according to the truth we love, and is the wisdom that comes from above; nay, it is real obedience and loyalty to Christ. But to allow doubts and questions of one who neither in himself nor in his associations makes light of Christ's glory is inexcusable. Here comes one bearing the Lord's name, not without a Barnabas who knows and can commend him: to indulge in surmises, if without the least evidence of this or that about him, is clearly not according to Christ. It is here, I think, that we may learn more of the value and special function of this third Epistle of John, which is as decided in the cherishing of warm affections towards the faithful servants of the Lord, as the second Epistle was peremptory in its warning against the allowance of the profession of Christ's name, to shut our eyes to the fact that there are men who abuse that name to overthrow His person and truth.
The third Epistle accordingly is not addressed to a lady and her children. This would not suit its object. Too often, as we know, ladies and their children want no exhortation to go forth with sufficiently warm affection after preachers. This is notorious. There are few more common snares in the church of God than the undue influence which some exercise, if they do not seek, over females and young people. I do not speak of such as seek the conversion of souls, but of those whose zeal goes forth in unedifying questions which form parties, chiefly through the medium of women and children. Undoubtedly this has always been the case. If you search through the history of the church, you will invariably find that where men have wrong purposes in view, they do not seek intelligent men, those who can take and keep their ground, still less those to whom God has given grace as faithful servants of independent judgment: they shrink from these, and avoid a conference which might be profitable, getting into holes and corners, where they can at leisure indoctrinate their little coteries with the doctrines that they bring in privily.
Of all this and more we have had sorrowful experience. It is not a thing we have merely read about others in bygone days. We have seen and known it ourselves: its grief we have bitterly felt; and we ought to mention this snare, and could not refrain, if indeed we have love for the children of God and jealousy for the glory of Christ. Undoubtedly then it remains true that there is the solemn fact of Satan's enmity, and of his using those who bear the name of Christ to overthrow His glory, as far as he can. It is the Holy Ghost who warns of this, though the word and experience prove how mighty He is in behalf of the love and glory of Christ. For indeed there are men faithful and true to that name; and we are as much bound to go forth with loving desire and succour, to cheer and help them in every way, showing honour to them, as again we are responsible that no circumstances, no past reputation, no present amiability, no ties of flesh and blood, no consideration of any human sort, shall weaken our solemn separation from and abhorrence of that which overthrows Jesus.
This third Epistle then is addressed to Gaius no doubt a truly hospitable and gracious man. We all know too well that men are apt to be somewhat selfish. Women, as we must be aware, are even by nature characterised by affection. Men, if they have what one looks for from them, ought to have a little judgment; but then their judgment may be warped by selfishness, though no doubt this may be often concealed, perhaps from themselves, by pleas of prudence and so forth. Women, as a class, have warmer and quicker affections,
Here then the wisdom of God is very observable. The kindest of men require to be stirred up, and need to be exhorted strongly as to what they owe to those who go forth in the name of the Lord Jesus. With women this is hardly to be pressed. On the contrary, as a general rule, they rather call for a little cooling down. But as for men, I have rarely seen the man that was not in want of an occasional admonition or encouragement in this kind of love. Do we not recognize in a new form the wisdom of our God? "The elder unto the well-beloved Gains, whom I love in the truth." He was already a large-hearted man, but he was none the worse for being somewhat cheered on. There is a danger of being disheartened in these labours of love. There are many difficulties and many disappointments, and there is no man who may not sometimes need a word from God to keep his courage up, and his confidence in the Lord, that the springs of his love may flow fresh and strong.
Here we have the fact that to the "well-beloved Gains" the apostle writes with this intent. He loved him also in the truth. Whether it was the elect lady and her children, or the well-beloved Gaius, it is all the same thing. It was not because of his hospitality, but "whom I love in the truth." No doubt the apostle did much value his generosity and care; but even in matters wholly different from those of his second Epistle, the distinguishing feature which presses on his soul was this: "whom I love in the truth." "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." He was not indifferent even as to the bodily well-being of Gains. The Holy Ghost thus inspires him to write it. It is not a private letter, nor was it an uninspired codicil added to what was inspired; but here it stands in a genuine apostolic epistle, written by John the elder to his brother. He wished that he might prosper and be in health, even as his soul prospered. "For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." It was sweet to the apostle to hear such a testimony to the steadfastness of Gaius in the truth, as it was to hear of all he loved.
"Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and this* strangers." The common text and our English version seem a little peculiar in the phraseology here, conveying the idea that these strangers were not brethren. This clearly was not the intention. He has before his mind brethren that were strangers. It was not merely brethren that lived in the place where Gains was: this might be a manifest token of happy friendship. But there was a greater proof of love and hospitality in the kindness he practised to stranger brethren, to Christians whom he did not know. "Which have borne witness of thy love before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey worthily of God, thou shalt do well: for on account of the name they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to take up such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth."
* The reading of the most ancient and best MSS. and Versions is τοῦτο (and not as in Text. Rec. εἰς τοὺς ) ξ .
This was a special claim on brethren. They did not throw themselves on man, on the world, on nature, but on Christ only. It was for His name's sake they went forth. They looked nowhere else; and the apostle says, "We therefore ought to take up such" not ye but " we." How beautifully he who lay on Jesus' bosom puts himself along with Gaius! Had the apostle been placed in the same circumstances as Gains, no doubt he would have done so; but his place as apostle did not absolve him from the practical manifestation of love to servants of the Lord who might be in a position altogether different from his own. That this is the case is most evident, because in the verse but, one before he says "thou;" in the verse after he says "I." Unquestionably then, when he changes the "thou" either to "we" or to "I," he means what he says.
Thus we find that if there was sorrow expressed in the second Epistle at finding the deceivers and the antichrist seeking an entrance among the simple, in the third Epistle there is the joy of welcoming these faithful brethren who went forth for Christ, and his loving hospitable heart who is thus praised by the Holy Ghost, and his name indelibly recorded in the scriptures of truth with theirs as fellow-labourers.
But the bright picture has its shade. "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not. 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."
We have another evil designated very clearly here. Diotrephes is the scriptural example of the clerical tribe, as contra-distinguished from the ministry of Christ There is no service, because there is no love. He is the representative of the spirit which opposes the free action of the Holy Ghost, setting itself even against apostolic authority in order to gain or maintain his own individual pre-eminence. Self-importance, jealousy of those over us, impatience of others equally called to serve, scorn of the assembly, yet sometimes humouring the least worthy for its own ends such are the characteristics of clericalism. I do not mean in clergymen only; for there are men of God incomparably better than their position tends to make them; as on the other hand this evil thing is nowhere so offensive as where the truth that is owned wholly condemns it.
If Diotrephes had been called to serve the Lord, of which there is little appearance, were there not hundreds and thousands not less truly called to the same work as servants of Christ by a title from Christ not less real than what he held himself? Was he not bound to respect the title of others? You cannot plead the title of Christ for yourself without maintaining the authority of Christ for another. He who does so honestly and truly could not possibly claim an exclusive title. This was precisely what Diotrephes did, and it is the distinctive point of the clerical system. It is not a question of ministry, nor even of what people call "stated ministry." Who doubts stated ministry? At the same time who can deny that God uses servants of His who are not stated? I believe that He maintains His own title in the church of God to raise a man up to say a word, and it may be an important word, who might not be called on to speak again, only used for a particular purpose. God of old reserved such a right, and certainly He has not given it up now.. no doubt there is a variety of ways in which He employs those who may not have any well defined place in the church of God. To abolish all these to a dead level for himself to lead and govern was the unchecked desire of Diotrephes. It is nothing more, if not less, than we often see now. Supposing persons have large gifts, the more can they afford to give the fullest scope to the lesser gifts; nor is there any surer sign of weakness in one's work than any unwillingness to accredit the work of others. He that values his own call on the Lord's part to serve Him is bound by all means to hold in His name the door open for every one that is called to labour. But so Diotrephes did not. Did he profess to desire only what edified most, and so set himself against lesser gifts? He dared to rise up against the apostle himself. The truth is, he cared for himself, and loved to have the pre-eminence. We have no reason to gather that he loved anything or anybody else. Such was the man who had ventured to oppose John; and, as we see, the apostle says he would remember him. The Lord did not forget it.
But he could not close the Epistle with anything so painful. Turning to a happier theme, he says, "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."
How the key-note of the first Epistle is heard right through the last! If there were self-exalting men with and without gift, office, or influence, others there are of a different mind. "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."
Then with the salutation he closes. "I had many things to write to thee, but I wish not with ink and pen to write to thee: but I hope to see thee, and we will speak mouth to mouth soon. Peace be to thee. The friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name." There are minute differences of interest between this conclusion and that of the second Epistle, but I avoid details and pass on.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on 3 John 1:1". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/3-john-1.html. 1860-1890.