Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
widely beloved; for the addition here, while emphasizing the apostle's own affection for Gains, widens the range of affection for him. "Whom I (for my part) love," he says; i.e., he along with many others, not he in opposition to some who withheld love or entertained hate. He loved Gaius as he loved "the elect lady and her children" - in truth. This Epistle contains no statement of the Incarnation; but we know that by the apostle the Incarnation was regarded as the vital part of the truth (1 John 4:1, 2). It was the highest revelation of Godhead, which bound hearts to God, and hearts to hearts in the Christian circle. Attached to the truth himself, he could not love every one alike; but he loved Gains as a friend of the truth.
1. His well-being desired. "Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." This is the salutation thrown into an unusual form. As the foundation of the good wish, Gaius is congratulated on his soul-prosperity. This soul-prosperity is brought out, in what follows, in connection with a satisfactory relation to the truth, and specially the practice of hospitality. In the form given to the good wish, it is implied that there is a relation between soul-prosperity and other prosperity. To wish a man success in business and good bodily health is to wish him well so far; only the wish does not go far enough. For every man has an eternal interest as well as a temporal interest, has a soul as well as a body; and, if we are his true well-wishers, we shall wish him well in the whole, and not merely in part, of his well-being. To wish him success in business and good bodily health alone is as though a friend were traveling from Edinburgh to London, and we wished him well as far as York - not saying anything about the rest of the journey. The lower prosperity is not to be sought for a man apart from soul-prosperity. It might seem from the old translation that it is to be sought above all things; but there is a mistranslation, which has properly been corrected in the Revised translation. John expresses for Gains the wish that in all things relating to business and health it may be well with him; not, however, without regard to his spiritual condition. His soul was prospering; he was therefore a man for whom this might be safely sought. He was making a good use of his means in the interest of the truth, and so his health was precious. What, then, John wishes for Gains is in effect this - more means and better health, that he might have more to serve God with. The more that such a man as Gains had, the more good he would do. But we cannot safely wish for every man more means and better health. That might only mean more to serve the devil with. What some need is forget a severe check in business, to be laid down on a bed of sickness; and our wish for them may justly be that this should happen to them, rather than that they should lose their souls. From this it will be seen that a Christian may be justified in seeking the utmost success in business and the largest measure of health, provided his motive is to have more means and better health with which to serve God. This may be a greater spur to diligence than even the desire to amass wealth, being attended with the advantage that it leaves the mind free and buoyant. Let us learn the benefit of well-wishing. It was no small thing to have John as a well-wisher, both from the office which he held and his great spiritual experience; and the likelihood was that Caius would get more means and better health because of the aged apostle's wish. Let us, in our letters or otherwise, wish our friends well in their worldly affairs and in their health, not without regard to the degree in which their souls prosper, and God will see to our wishes taking effect.
2. His relation to the truth rejoiced in.
(1) Truth appropriated. "For I rejoiced greatly, when brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth." The joy of John was great because of brethren arriving and testifying to the reception of the truth by Gains. It is mentioned here as that on which his soul-prosperity depended. One of the lessons taught by the open flower in the ornamentation of the temple was receptivity. "It lies open to catch the sunshine, and to drink the rain and the dew, shuts up when the sun departs, but expands itself again when the sun's rays touch it. By reception the plant and the flower live; and by reception the soul of man lives and grows." We are to be careful to give the soul its proper nourishment, which is the truth: thoughts of God's love, thoughts of his ends in our life. If we entertain false views of God and of life, we are really taking poison into our souls. Caius felt the need of the truth to nourish anti beautify him. "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts." This Caius had; by assimilation, it had become part of his being.
(2) Truth carried out into conduct. "Even as thou walkest in truth." This was more than receiving the truth, being its proper consequent. The reception of the truth appeared (so that brethren could testify to it) in a higher style of conduct. It is under sunny skies that the finest colouring in nature is to be found. It is in good society that the finest accent is to be found. So it is those who move within the circle of the Divine thoughts, lie open to the Divine influences, that attain to the most attractive style of life. Brethren carry away a good report of them, which is cheering to the souls of veterans. Appended comment emphasizing the apostle's joy. "Greater joy have I none than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." The reception of the truth was implied in walking in the truth; therefore it was enough to note the latter. There were many to whom John stood in the relation of spiritual father (more than those who owed to him their spiritual birth); he was no stranger to fatherly joy. And what gave him joy? To hear of his children, that they were prospering in their worldly affairs, that they were enjoying good health, that they were exempted from persecution. It did cheer him to hear of their lower prosperity; but what cheered him, with more refreshing influence, was to hear of their soul-prosperity, as evidence in their walking in the truth.
3. Practice of hospitality.
(1) Commended. "Beloved, thou doest a faithful work in whatsoever thou doest toward them that are brethren and strangers withal." The truth binds the whole walk; it specially bound Gains in the practice of hospitality. While just, he made a free use of his means. The objects of his hospitality were brethren, as it appears, missionary brethren, and missionary brethren who were strangers to him, and therefore had no claim on him beyond their Christian position and calling. He had opportunity of rendering them service beyond simply entertaining them; and, whatever service he rendered, he did it as the truth required, i.e., handsomely.
(2) Witnessed to. "Who bare witness to thy love before the Church." It was love that moved Caius to serve the missionary brethren; and they were mindful of services rendered. On their return to the Church over which John presided, in giving an account of their missionary labours, they told, in presence of the Church, how well they had been treated by Gains. Thus the things which were lovely became also the things of good report.
(3) Encouraged. "Whom thou wilt do well to set forward on their journey worthily of God." The missionary brethren were returning to their labours his way; the apostle, therefore, bespeaks for them a good reception. Let him follow up his former kindnesses, and set them forward on their journey, by providing the necessary rest, and also, as is suggested by what follows, by making some provision against their future needs, lie was to do this worthily of God, i.e., as representing to them the Divine solicitude. They were deserving. "Because that for the sake of the Name they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles." The Jews "besought Jesus earnestly for the centurion, saying, he is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him: for he loveth our nation, and himself built us our synagogue." The missionary brethren were worthy that Gaius should assist them by setting them forward on their journey. It was for the sake of the Name that they went forth, i.e., "not for their own occasions and earthly interests," but that the Name of Christ might be magnified. They went forth from the home Church (which was limited in its resources) to convert the Gentiles. That they might not hinder their aim by the appearance of being mercenary, they chose (so far as it was necessary) to labour with their own hands, rather than take from the Gentiles. The accomplishment of their aim, in the formation of a Gentile Christian Church (to be cared for by others while they went further on), was work to which the building of a sacred house was secondary. It was work fitted to exalt the Name, showing the power of Divine love over the hardness of men's hearts and the evils of Gentilism. They, then, whose missionary zeal was kindled by the Name must not be overlooked. They were representatives of the truth. "We therefore ought to welcome such, that we may be fellow-helpers with the truth." We are to think of Gains, in accordance with his known character, taking the burden (so we may translate) for these men - making them happy while in his house, and contributing not only for the journey, but for the end of the journey, so that with disengaged hands they might begin their mission; and thus, while not proclaiming the truth himself, earning the praise of being a "fellow-helper with the truth." There is an obligation lying on us to take the burden for the missionaries. While, in the interest of the truth, they go forth as bearers of the truth to the heathen, we are, by our contributions, to leave their hands and minds free for their proper work; thus, while not bearers of the truth ourselves (from want of opportunity and qualifications), having an interest in the truth, and having the satisfaction and honour of being" fellow-helpers with the truth."
1. His resistance of John's authority. "I wrote somewhat unto the Church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not." The particular Church is not named; but we must understand it to be that to which Gaius belonged, so that we have a new element introduced. Gaius entertained the stranger missionaries in the face of opposition The opposition came from Diotrephes. The occasion was a letter from John. This letter has not been preserved; we must think of it as containing a request to the Church to give a favourable reception to the missionaries. The request was only reasonable; but Diotrephes opposed it, not because he disliked John's teaching, or the teaching of the missionaries, but simply because he wished to assert his personal authority. He belonged to the class of these who love to have the pre-eminence; who are bent, not on the peace and prosperity of the Church, but on their being first in the Church, even at the expense of its peace and prosperity. And this ambitious member or office-bearer of the Church succeeded for a time; he tasted the sweets of ecclesiastical power, in getting a majority to agree with him against the apostle. We come here upon the design of this letter to Gaius.
2. His coming defeat, "Therefore, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating against us with wicked words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth, and casteth them out of the Church." Diotrephes did not gain his victory without working for it. His works, however, were not such as could bear to be remembered. His punishment would be, on the coming of John, to have his works brought to remembrance. Their true valuation would be his dethronement from power. What he did was to speak against John and his friends. While his words were null, they were mischievous. Not content with speaking, he had recourse to action. He set the example of shutting his door against the missionaries; and when some (one being Gaius) chose to be guided rather by the apostle's letter, he at once vetoed them, and, on their non-submission to his authority, excommunicated them. But this working, meantime triumphant, would soon, and very simply, be put a stop to. "Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short?"
1. His unlikeness to Diotrephes. "Beloved, imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: he that doeth evil hath not seen God." While there is evil working in Churches, there is also good working. The evil is there for us to avoid; the good is there for us to imitate. We need to learn to "discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." The Johannine principle of discrimination is simple. He that is associated with the working of good has his life derived from God; he that is associated with the working of evil (whatever his profession) is not in the way of receiving first impressions of God in his true nature, or is not placed so as to make a commencement in the Divine life.
2. Threefold testimony to his excellence. "Demetrius hath the witness of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, we also bear witness; and thou knowest that our witness is true." Demetrius had the witness of all men. We are to regard the language as hyperbolical, not limiting the "all" to the Christian circle, nor to the few who in the strictest sense could be witnesses, but the many who spoke well of Demetrius are made" all," the more to impress us with their number. Demetrius had a witness greater than of numbers: he had the witness of the truth itself. Though there had been not a man to he a witness to him, the truth (to personify it) could have been produced as a witness. Though no man had owned him, the truth would have owned him. Apart from the personification, the idea is that there was a close correspondence between what Demetrius was and what the truth demanded. But to judge of this correspondence requires a competent witness, with opportunity and also with correct intuitions of the truth; and so, in the third place, John comes forward to vouch for Demetrius - a witness than whom none could be more satisfactory to Gaius. We are not told who this Demetrius was; but it is not an improbable conjecture that he was the bearer of the Epistle. If so, then it is to be noted how, by a happy turn, he supplies him with the necessary recommendation. Conclusion.
1. Reason for not writing more. "I had many things to write unto thee, but I am unwilling to write them to thee with ink and pen: but I hope shortly to see thee, and we shall speak face to face." It is interesting to note how the writing materials are here, not "paper and ink" (2 John 12), but "ink and pen." He could have put his pen to the writing of many things; for Gaius and he had much in common in their sympathies. He had written meantime to counteract, so far as he could by writing, the dangerous influence of Diotrephes. He hoped soon to see Gaius. When he saw him, and they spoke face to face, he would have more opportunity and freedom to disburden himself.
2. Salutations. "Peace be unto thee. The friends salute thee. Salute the friends by name." John was at peace with Gaius; he wished the whole world to be at peace with him. They had common friends. Friends with John (whom the bearer would name)saluted Gaius. Friends with Gaius, he (the receiver of the letter) was first to name singly, and then to salute in this form, "John sends his salutation to thee." - R.F.
I. THE APOSTLE PRAYS THAT HIS FRIEND GAIUS MAY HAVE TEMPORAL PROSPERITY AND PHYSICAL HEALTH. From the expression of this desire in so brief a letter, we may infer that St. John regarded these things as of great importance.
1. Secular prosperity is desirable. Non-success in business is to be deprecated. For our own sake, for the sake of our families, and for the sake of our usefulness, prosperity in temporal things is desirable. Wealth is a wonderful power; and in the hands of a wise man it is a great boon both to himself and to others.
2. Physical health is desirable. Health of body, for many obvious reasons, is one of God's best gifts to man. It is important also for other reasons which are not obvious to all. The state of the body exercises a great influence upon the mind and soul. It is the organ and agent of both; and, if it be unhealthy, our impressions of the outward will be untrue, and our influence upon the outward will be limited and feeble. Our spiritual feelings and expressions are considerably toned and coloured by our physical condition.
II. THE APOSTLE INDICATES THE REMARKABLE SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY OF HIS FRIEND CAIUS. This is clear from his making his spiritual prosperity the measure of the desired bodily health and temporal prosperity. The next verse also contributes evidence of this prosperity of soul. It was seen in his growing acquaintance with the truth and his growing conformity to the truth. "Brethren... bare witness unto thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth." Perhaps Gaius himself needed this assurance of his spiritual prosperity. "The words of the apostle seem to imply," says Dr. Binney," that the health of Gains was somewhat enfeebled. This might affect his feelings, and render the actual prosperity of his soul, while visible to others, unperceived by himself; his excellence was obvious to all who knew him, though bodily infirmity or mental depression concealed the truth from his own consciousness. On this account he was addressed by John in the words of encouragement - words delicately but strongly conveying the apostle's confidence in his spiritual state, and assuring him, at the same time, of his constantly sharing in his supplications and prayers." This spiritual prosperity is more important than material progress and success.
III. THE APOSTLE MAKES THE PROSPERITY OF HIS SOUL THE MEASURE OF THE PHYSICAL HEALTH AND SECULAR PROSPERITY DESIRED FOR GAIUS. This is profoundly significant. Unless our spiritual prosperity be at least commensurate with our temporal prosperity, the latter ceases to be a blessing. All the worldly wealth which a man possesses which is more than proportionate to the wealth of his soul, he will do well to get rid of at once, or by Divine grace bring the wealth of his soul into proportion with it. Without this correspondence we cannot use wealth aright, riches will injure us, the material will crush the spiritual in us. When outward riches are more than proportionate to his godliness and grace, they are a curse to their possessor. But when there is a proportion between the two, wealth is a blessing worthy an apostle's prayer. What astounding revolutions would take place if this prayer were universally realized! What transformations in health! Many now hale and strong would become weak and sickly. Many now diseased and feeble would become sound and vigorous. What transformations in circumstances! Many pampered sons and daughters of riches and luxury would come to poverty and want. Many of the indigent would pass from the abode of penury to the palace of ease and plenty. "A terrible wish this," says Binney, "if it were offered for and were to take effect upon many a professor: it would blast them in body and ruin them in circumstances; it would render them, like the Church that thought itself rich and increased in goods, ' poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.'" Shah I offer this prayer for you? If this prayer were realized, the physical would bear the true proportion to the spiritual, and the temporal to the eternal. Learn how far secular wealth is desirable. - W.J.
I. ASPECTS OF SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY. "Brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth."
1. Truth appropriated in mind and heart. Our interpretation of the words, "thy truth," would be superficial and inadequate if we simply said that they express the sincerity of Gaius. The expression involves this, that he was true in religion and in life; but it means that his religious beliefs were correct - that he held the truth concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ. On these subjects pernicious errors had arisen in the Church. Some denied the Godhead of our Saviour; others denied the reality of his manhood. "The first stumbled at his pre-existence and incarnation, because he suffered indignity and anguish; the other, admitting his Divine nature, thought it beneath him actually to suffer, and therefore denied that his body or his sufferings were anything else but illusory appearances" (Binney). Against each of these errors St. John wrote. And by the expression, "the truth," he generally means the apostolic doctrine concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ. "This truth Gaius held; held it as his life; it was 'in him,' as filling his intellect and affections; in his understanding as a source of light, in his heart as the object of love." The apostle, as we have learned from his former Epistles, attached the utmost importance to correct religious belief.
2. Truth manifested in life and conduct. "Thou walkest in truth." His practical life was in harmony with his professed creed. The truth he held was not merely a form of sound words, but a living force in his character and conduct. His faith was not a mere speculation or opinion, but a thing of deep feeling and firm conviction. The faith that does not influence the life towards harmony with itself is not faith in the scriptural sense; it is assent, or opinion; but it is not Christian faith, or saving faith. Our real faith moulds the life into conformity with the truth believed. St. John quite as earnestly insisted upon practicing the truth as upon holding it. "He that doeth good is of God; he that doeth evil hath not seen God" (verse 11; and 1 John 3:7, 10). Let us, like Gaius, hold the truth, make it our own; and also live the truth, walk in it day by day. Cultivate a true faith and a holy life.
II. TESTIMONY TO SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY. " Brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth," etc. These brethren were probably those who had been commended to the Church by the apostle, rejected through the influence of Diotrephes (verse 9), and then entertained by Gains. They probably presented this report on their return to the Church of which St. John was pastor, and from which they had been sent forth (verses 5, 6).
1. It is a pleasure to good men to testify to the excellence of others.
2. It is gratifying to a good man to receive the commendation of good men. "A good name is better than precious ointment." "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."
III. THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY UPON THE GOOD. "Greater joy have I none than this, to hear of my children," etc.
1. The tender relation here mentioned. "My children." It seems that Gains had been converted through the ministry of St. John. He was the spiritual child of the apostle; his "true child in faith;" his "beloved child," as St. Paul says of Timothy. This relationship is very close, tender, and sacred (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14, 15).
2. The great joy here spoken of. "Greater joy have I none than this," etc. Every genuine Christian rejoices to find men walking in the truth; but the apostle had the additional joy which arose from the dear and holy tie by which he and Gains were united. The success of a young man in temporal things is a great joy to his parents. To Christian parents it is a far greater joy when their children give their hearts to God, and walk in truth. And to the Christian minister, and the Sunday school teacher, the spiritual prosperity of those whom they have led to the Saviour is a source of deep and pure rejoicing. Such prosperity is a proof that we have not laboured in vain; it is a distinguished honour conferred upon us by God; and it gives a foretaste of the grand final reward, "Well done, good and faithful servant," etc. To hear of or to behold such fruits of our Christian work both humbles and rejoices us. Christian brethren, let us aim both to appropriate and to exemplify Christian truth. - W.J.
I. HOSPITALITY EXERCISED. "Beloved, thou doest a faithful work in whatsoever thou doest toward them that are brethren and strangers withal."
1. The persons towards whom it had been exercised.
(1) "Strangers." We mention this first because it is involved in the Greek word for "hospitality," φιλοξενία, i.e., kindness to strangers. Entertaining our friends is not properly hospitality. This virtue, says Barnes, "springs up naturally in countries thinly settled, where the sight of a stranger would be therefore peculiarly pleasant;... and where the population was too sparse, and the travelers too infrequent, to justify inn-keeping as a business. From these causes it has happened that there are, properly speaking, no inns or taverns in the region around Palestine. It was customary, indeed, to erect places for lodging and shelter at suitable distances, or by the side of springs or watering-places, for travelers to lodge in. But they are built at the public expense, and are unfurnished. Each traveler carries his own bed and clothes and cooking utensils, and such places are merely designed as a shelter for caravans. It is still so; and hence it becomes, in their view, a virtue of high order to entertain, at their own tables and in their families, such strangers as may be traveling." But these strangers were also:
(2) "Brethren." They were fellow-Christians. Hospitality should not be limited to them, but it should be shown to them first and chiefly. The New Testament teaches that kindness should begin at home (1 Timothy 5:8; Galatians 6:10). The apostles were to "begin at Jerusalem." Christian people have sometimes supplied the wants of the drunken, the indolent, and the wasteful, and neglected their own sober, industrious, and thrifty poor in their need. It seems to us that in such ministries the rule should be - our own home first, our own Church and congregation next, other Christian brethren next, and then the irreligious.
2. The person by whom it had been exercised. Gains. But St. John in the text sets forth the exercise of hospitality as specially becoming in Christians. He speaks of it as "a faithful work," i.e., a work worthy of a faithful man or a Christian. Hospitality is frequently in the sacred Scriptures enjoined upon Christians as a duty (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). St. Paul mentions it as one of the duties of a Christian bishop (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). At the last judgment, one reason for the reward of the good is that they exercised hospitality, and one of the charges upon which the wicked will be condemned is the neglect of hospitality (Matthew 25:34-46). Accordingly, we find that the "primitive Christians considered one principal part of their duty to consist in showing hospitality to strangers. They were, in fact, so ready in discharging this duty, that the very heathen admired them for it. They were hospitable to all strangers, but especially to those who were of the household of faith. Believers scarcely ever traveled without letters of communion, which testified the purity of their faith, and procured for them a favourable reception wherever the name of Jesus Christ was known" (Calmer). We also find that the hospitality of Gains was hearty; for the brethren whom he had entertained testified to his love (verse 6). "There is," says Washington Irving, "an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease." As occasion requires it, hospitality is still a Christian duty.
II. HOSPITALITY ACKNOWLEDGED. "Who bare witness to thy love before the Church." The evangelists, when they returned to the Church from which they had been sent forth on their work, gave an account of their mission, and in so doing testified to the hearty hospitality of Gains. This report of Gains differed from that of a minister of whom I have read. This minister "had traveled far to preach for a congregation at -. After the sermon, he waited, expecting some one would ask him to dinner. At length, the place becoming almost empty, he mustered courage, and walked up to an old gentleman, and said, 'Will you go home and dine with me today, brother?' 'Where do you live?' 'About twenty miles from here, sir.' 'No;' said the man, colouring, 'but you must go with me.' 'Thank you; I will, cheerfully.' After this the minister was never troubled about his dinner." Gratefully to testify to kindness like that of Gaius must be a delight to those who are worthy recipients of it.
III. HOSPITALITY ENCOURAGED "Whom thou wilt do well to set forward on their journey worthily of God." This refers to a second visit to Gains, in which they probably brought this letter with them. To set them forward was to enable them to proceed onward by furnishing them with necessaries for the journey. Here is an admirable rule for regulating the exercise of our hospitality - "worthily of God;" Alford, "In a manner worthy of him whose messengers they are and whose servant thou art." We should show kindness as becometh the followers of him "who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not." "It would," says Barnes, "be particularly expected of Christians that they should show hospitality to the ministers of religion. They were commonly poor; they received no fixed salary; they traveled from place to place; and they would be dependent for support on the kindness of those who loved the Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. Matthew 10:9-15). The exercise of this duty is often richly rewarded in the present. Certain and splendid is its reward in the future (Matthew 10:40-42; Matthew 25:34-36). - W.J.
I. MISSIONARY WORKERS. "For the sake of the Name they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles." Notice:
1. The motive of these Christian missionaries. "For the sake of the Name they went forth." In all that we do we are actuated by some motive or motives. Christian work is no exception to this rule. In Christian propagandism there may be various motives; e.g., zeal for a cause or society, or for the spread of certain doctrines or forms of Church government, etc. Each of these is allowable in its place; but neither of them is the highest and best motive of Christian service. The most devoted workers in Christianity have a nobler motive than any one or all of these. "Go into a large manufacturing establishment. If you will notice carefully, you will perceive a large shaft running the whole length of the building. To this are attached wheels, and bands go from these wheels to other wheels, and in these is inserted short shafting, and to it are attached augers, saws, knives, and chisels; and by these an immense amount of mechanical work is done. But what is the cause of all this motion? Where is the secret power which makes all this machinery do the work of five hundred men? The answer is easily given. It is steam. Let the steam go down, and this whole machinery would become as still and silent as the grave" (C.M. Temple). And the grand motive power for working the machinery of Christianity is love to the Lord Jesus Christ; not zeal for doctrines, however sound, but love to a Person; not the desire to build up the Church, still less to extend a denomination or sect; but a passionate attachment to the living Lord of the Church. Christ himself is the life of Christianity. The great motive of the noblest Christian work is supreme love to him. "The love of Christ constraineth us" is the explanation of the best and bravest work which is done for men. There is no motive like love; and love to a person will always prove a stronger motive than love to a cause or a creed. When Christ is received into the heart he awakens its highest, holiest, intensest love. This love is the mightiest inspiration in Christian service. It can dare most, do most, endure most. The bravest workers go forth "for the sake of the Name" of Jesus Christ.
2. The policy of these Christian missionaries. "Taking nothing of the Gentiles." The apostles held and repeatedly asserted the principle "that they which proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). Our Lord taught the same truth: "The labourer is worthy of his food" (Matthew 10:10). But there were cases in which it was not expedient to enforce this principle. The gospel should be proclaimed without charge to those who know it not; for they cannot be expected to prize it before they are acquainted with it. Therefore these early missionaries, by "their own deliberate purpose," took nothing of the Gentiles to whom they went. If they had done otherwise, they might have been suspected of mercenary motives. We should always be able to say to the heathen, both at home and abroad, "I seek not yours, but you." "I coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel." But when the heathen are heathen no longer, but have learned to appreciate the gospel, we may say unto them, "If we sowed unto you spiritual things," etc. (1 Corinthians 9:11, 13, 14). In these respects the apostles and the early missionaries are an example for succeeding ages.
II. MISSIONARY HELPERS. "We therefore ought to welcome such, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth." This brings out the duty of the Church to missionary workers.
1. To support the missionaries. "We ought to receive such;" Revised Version, "to welcome;" Alford, "to support." The word signifies not only "to welcome," but "to aid and strengthen." And this should be done in a worthy manner - "worthily of God." Workers for Jesus Christ should be treated with kindness, generously entertained, and encouraged in their work. They need this from the Church. Without it they may "wax weary, fainting in their souls;" and in that case the work will suffer.
2. To cooperate with the missionaries. "That we might be fellow-helpers to the truth;" Revised Version, "that we may be fellow-workers with the truth;" Alford, "that we may become fellow-workers for the truth." The idea is that, by supporting the missionaries, Gains would become a fellow-worker with them in promoting the cause of the truth. This is stated as a reason why he should show kindness to them and help them. It is also clearly implied that it is the duty of the Christian to be a fellow-worker in the cause of the truth. Knowing the truth ourselves, we are morally bound to make it known to others. But there are many who cannot do this themselves by preaching or teaching. Then, according to St. John in our text, they should do it by encouraging and supporting those who can preach or teach. "In this way," says Binney, "Gains was enabled to do much; far more, in fact, in the way of preaching, than if he himself had been the most eloquent of preachers; for by aiding many, and helping them on their way and in their work, he was virtually speaking, at the same moment, by many mouths, and in the eye of God might be regarded as converting many souls in several places and at the same time, and when otherwise occupied himself - when he was engaged in his worldly business, at home in his family, asleep in his bed, at rest or on a journey, in sickness or in health, living or dead." Christians, behold your duty and privilege, to be either missionary workers or missionary helpers, - W.J.
I. THE CHARACTER OF DIOTREPHES BRIEFLY STATED. "Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them." We do not know who or what this man was beyond what is stated in our text. Whether he was pastor, elder, deacon, or other office-bearer in the Church, we cannot tell. Whatever he was in other respects, we know that he was ambitious of the highest place and of the greatest power in the Church: he would be first and chief of all, or he would be nothing. An evil and dangerous character in any one. "Before honour is humility." "A man's pride shall bring him low; but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit." "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord." "Pride goeth before destruction," etc. "Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister [or, 'servant']; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant [or, 'bondservant']; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto," etc. The chiefship is to be given, not to him who loveth to be first, but to him who most humbly and faithfully serves others. "For every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." "Humility is the surest path to exaltation." "The highest honour is won by the deepest humility." He who will be first of all, or nothing, will in the end be last and lowest of all.
II. THE CHARACTER OF DIOTREPHES ILLUSTRATED IN HIS CONDUCT,
1. He rejected the highest commendation. "I wrote somewhat unto the Church: but Diotrephes... receiveth us not." He would not recognize the authority of St. John, and rejected the letter of commendation which the apostle had sent to the Church. Neither would he receive the missionaries, and that probably because St. John commended them, and he would acknowledge no one to be greater than himself in the Church to which he belonged. He was determined "that not the apostle, but himself, should rule the Church."
2. He defamed the fairest reputation. "Prating against us with wicked words." Here are two evils, and one worse than the other.
(1) Loquacity. "Prating" - running on with speech. "The reproaches were mere tattle, worth nothing, irrelevant." "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." "Be slow to speak." "If any man bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain." Beware of the slavery of the tongue, and the sin of gab.
(2) Slander. "With wicked words." The holiest man is exposed to the venom of the tongue of the slanderer. Arrogance leads to terrible extremes; it dares to calumniate the most beautiful-spirited apostle. When a man has done wrong to another, he finds it necessary either to confess the wrong or to say false and wicked things against him he has wronged, hoping thereby to justify himself. So Diotrephes prated against St. John with wicked words. Therefore beware of the first wrong step. The slanderer frequently assails the best of men. Our Lord was thus attacked. "A gluttonous man and a wine-bibber." "He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the demons casteth he out the demons."
"No might nor greatness in mortality
"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
3. He prohibited the exercise of a sacred privilege and duty. "Neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth," etc. He would neither receive the missionaries himself nor allow others to do so. "The dog in the manger" is the best exponent of his spirit and conduct. He prevented some from doing two things which are at once duties and privileges:
(1) exercising hospitality to the "brethren and strangers;"
(2) aiding them in their work of evangelization.
How terribly evil was the course he pursued! He injured the apostle, the missionaries, those who would have received them, those to whom they were sent, the whole Church, and the Church's Lord; and yet he was a member of the Church, and the chief man in it! He went so far as to expel from the Church those who would have entertained the evangelists. "And casteth them out of the Church."
III. THE CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF DIOTREPHES CONDEMNED. In this letter they are justly censured. And further rebuke is referred to: "If I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth," etc. There is nothing vindictive in this. The apostle would vindicate his own authority and the commission of the missionaries, enlighten the Church, and rebuke Diotrephes. "There are awkward men in the Church; men who, if they have any grace at all, have so much of the devil in them still that their grace has but little control over them. Good men should resist such persons. It may be very pleasant to talk of dealing with them in a spirit of charity, and being gentle with them, and forbearing and kind. Up to a certain point this is perfectly right. There is a work which compassion has to do; there is a sphere in which pity may be called into active exercise; at the same time, we are to mark those who cause divisions and offences, and to avoid them; and there is a certain class of men on whom pity has no effect, and compassion is lost; and the only thing which can be done is to 'deliver them over unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme'" (Dr. Joseph Parker). One masterful, power-loving man in a Church may work incalculable mischief and injury; therefore
(1) let us guard against the presence or growth of such a spirit in ourselves;
(2) let us take heed that we afford no encouragement or countenance to such a spirit in others. - W.J.
3 John 11, 12
I. MAN IMITATES. It is implied here that Gaius would imitate either the good or the evil - either Demetrius or Diotrephes. The propensity to imitation is one of the strongest in human nature. It is this which makes example so much mightier than precept. This propensity is one of the earliest to be called into exercise in human life. The tender infant is stirred by it almost before it knows anything. Very frequently we imitate others unconsciously. The extent of our conscious and intentional imitation is very small as compared with our unconscious and unintentional imitation. This tendency plays a most important part in human education. Without intentional imitation instruction would be impossible, as in reading, writing, etc. And unintentional imitation has great influence in the growth of habit and the formation of character. A very important thing is this tendency to imitation.
II. MAN SHOULD IMITATE ONLY THE GOOD. "Beloved, imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good," etc. Many and forcible reasons may be assigned for this; e.g., that the opposite course must inevitably lead to ruin; that this course ennobles and blesses him who pursues it. But let us confine ourselves to the reasons assigned in the text.
1. Because the good-doer is of God. "He that doeth good is of God;" i.e., he that doeth good truly and naturally, in whom well-doing is not the exception, but the rule of life, is of God. He is "begotten of God" (1 John 3:9). He proves that he is a child of God by his likeness to his Father in character and conduct. He is inspired by God both as to his inner life and as to his outward practice. Notice how practical is the apostle's idea of true personal religion. The godly man is the man who does good; his good works are the evidence of his godliness. We should imitate the good because of their intimate and blessed relation to God.
2. Because the evil-doer has no true knowledge of God. "He that doeth evil hath not seen God," By doing evil we must understand not an occasional and exceptional action, but the general tenor of life and conduct. He that doeth evil is one the general characteristic of whose works is evil. Such a one has not seen God. The beholding of God is spiritual. And the vision of God and the doing of evil are incompatible; because:
(1) Purity of heart is essential to the seeing of God, and, where purity of heart is, sin cannot be the general characteristic of the conduct. "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
(2) When a man has seen the Lord, he cannot live in the practice of sin. He who has seen and appreciated the highest beauty cannot live in constant and willing fellowship with extreme deformity. And he whose soul has seen anything of the supremely Perfect and the infinitely Beautiful cannot look upon sin with approval; it must appear loathsome unto him. This consideration tends to strengthen faith in the full and final salvation of every regenerate man. He who has tasted the high joys of Divine vision and communion can never be content with the pleasures of sin or satisfied with the things of this world. Do not imitate the evil; for the practice of it darkens and destroys the vision of the soul; it excludes from the highest and divinest knowledge, even the knowledge which is the soul's life. "This is life eternal, that they should know thee, the only true God," etc.
III. GOOD EXAMPLES ARE GENERALLY AVAILABLE. It is very seldom that we are unable to point to some known example well worthy of imitation. To such a one St. John calls attention. "Demetrius hath the witness of all, and of the truth itself; yea, we also bear witness; and thou knowest that our witness is true." Diotrephes was a beacon to be shunned; Demetrius, an example to be imitated. He was probably a member of the same Church as Gains, and well known to him; and therefore the apostle does not state what his chief excellences were, but from his being named here we infer that they were those which Diotrephes had not. Where the latter was wanting, Demetrius excelled. Good character is not always accompanied by good reputation, but in the case of Demetrius it was. He had a good reputation of:
(1) St. John: "We also bear witness."
(2) Gains: "Thou knowest that our witness is true."
(3) All who knew him; or, perhaps, of all the brethren mentioned in verses 3, 5, 10: "Demetrius hath the witness of all."
(4) "And of the truth itself." Alford says, "The objective truth of God, which is the Divine rule of the walk of all believers, gives a good testimony to him who really walks in the truth. This witness lies in the accordance of his walk with the requirement of God's truth." That truth, like a "mirror, seemed to place in a clear light his Christian virtue and uprightness, and thus to bear witness to him." The most precious testimony is that of the truth itself. When that is in our favour, we may thankfully rejoice. So manifold and excellent was the testimony borne of Demetrius. In most places and societies there are some who are worth imitating. Let us imitate them in so far as they embody the truth. There are seasons in our experience when good human examples are specially valuable. Sometimes the Perfect Example seems to tower far above our imitation, and we despair of ever copying that with success. In such moods the excellent human example is peculiarly precious. It is not so very much higher than our own level of attainment; it encourages us; and, when our despondency has passed away, we are able to aspire once more for conformity to the Supreme Exemplar. - W. J.
I. THE APOSTLE'S HOPE. "I hope shortly to see thee, and we shall speak face to face." He hoped for communication by speech, which, as compared with writing, is:
1. More easy and rapid.
2. More expressive.
3. More pleasurable.
The sainted apostle mentions this in closing his former private Epistle. "That your joy may be fulfilled."
II. THE APOSTLE'S BENEDICTION. "Peace be unto thee." A very comprehensive benediction. It comprises:
1. Peace in our relation to God. This peace is a consequence of the forgiveness of our sins and our reconciliation unto God. "Thy sins are forgiven... go in peace." "Being justified by faith, let us have peace with God," etc. The peace also which flows from confidence in God as regards the possibilities of the future (see Matthew 6:25-34). "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee."
2. Peace in our relation to men. The absence of jealousy, revenge, bitterness of spirit, etc. The practical recognition of the claims of others upon us. And the exercise of good will, kindness, etc.
3. Peace in our own being. The accusations of conscience silenced by the removal of our guilt through the mercy of God.
"I feel within me
4. Perfect peace in heaven. Here our realization of this peace is variable. Doubts assail us; fears depress us; sickness and sorrow darken and disturb, if they do not distress us. Serenity of spirit is not always ours. But hereafter "God shall wipe away every tear from our eyes," etc. (Revelation 21:4).
III. THE APOSTLE'S GREETING. "The friends salute thee. Salute the friends by name." - W.J.