The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
3 John 1:2
I. Of what, in the language of the world, is commonly designated prosperity, perhaps the two main elements are wealth and power. There is a wealth, a power, of the soul. (1) There is, in no exclusively metaphorical sense, a riches of the soul. Money, property, worldly goods, are not more real possessions than thought, knowledge, wisdom. Nor are the outward comforts and luxuries, the gratifications of sense and appetite, that may be procured by the former, more literally a man's own, what belongs to him, what makes him richer, than are warm affections, a fertile imagination, a memory stored with information, and, above all, a heart full of God's grace. (2) Power. We may be inwardly as well as outwardly powerful. In the little world within the breast there are stations of rank, dominion, authority, to which we may aspire, or from which we may fall. There is an inward slavery, baser than any bodily servitude; there is an inward rule and governance of a man's spirit, an object of loftier ambition far than the possession of any earthly crown or sceptre.
II. Note the reasons for which this soul-prosperity should be regarded in our desires as the standard or measure of outward prosperity. (1) Destitute of inward grace, it is neither for a man's own good nor for that of his fellow-men that he should be possessed of outward wealth or power; (2) and if a man's soul be right with God, the possession of these outward advantages is both safe for himself and profitable for others.
J. Caird, Sermons, p. 218.
References: 2.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 463. 4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1148.
3 John 1:6This short letter opens for us a window into the past, and shows us a little incident in the inner life of an unnamed Church. Some travelling evangelists, apparently from Ephesus, the residence of the Apostle, had gone forth armed with what he modestly calls "somewhat which I have written," and had found their way to a city where they had been hospitably welcomed by a certain Gaius or Caius. But in that little community there was an ill-conditioned dog-in-the-manger, who, in his touchy self-importance, thought that he was somehow aggrieved by the Apostle's recommendation, and sought to revenge his insulted pre-eminence upon the innocent evangelists, refusing to receive them because he would not receive the Apostle, and even going so far as to threaten excommunication to their sympathisers. So the evangelists went back to Ephesus and told their story, and the Apostle appears to send them once again to the same place, and gives them this letter, partly in order to express his satisfaction with the work of Gaius and partly in order to prepare the way for their future reception. The words of my text are the gist of the Epistle in so far as it concerns the evangelists and their host. They seem to me to suggest three general thoughts: (1) the motive and aim of the missionary worker; (2) the standard for the missionary helper; (3) the honour common to them both.
I. The motive and aim of the missionary worker: "For the sake of the Name they went forth." Now I need not remind you how in Scripture the name is more than a collection of syllables. It is the expression of the nature of the person or thing to which it is applied. In reference to a person it tells us not only who, but what, he is; and, in fact, we may say it is tantamount, or all but tantamount, to the whole revelation of Jesus Christ, the sum of all we know about Him—His nature, His character, His work. Here, then, is the one motive, as for all Christian life, so eminently for missionary work. Every other will fail us; it is far deeper than compassion for souls; it is the parent of compassion for souls. For the sake of the Name, and for that alone, let us see to it that we do our little bit of work, whatsoever it may be. As long as our Churches live by that Name, so long will there go forth man after man driven out to carry it. Let them falter in their allegiance to the supernatural, Divine, sacrificial elements of the Name, and the missionary impulse will become spasmodic spurts, and will die like water out of a pipe when the pressure is slacked off. Only he who can with all his heart say, "There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved," is worthy to be His chosen vessel to bear it to the Gentiles.
II. The standard for missionary helpers. And so mark here the standard for missionary helpers. I have read my text with the alteration which you will find also, I think, in the Revised Version, which substitutes for "after a godly sort" the literal and most pregnant rendering "worthily of God." That is the standard. It bids us consider what He is. The dignity of the recipient should in some measure be expressed by the preciousness of the gift. It bids us consider what He has given us, and how He has given it. "He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me." Worthily of God—He is in His servants; treat them as you would treat Him if He stood before you.
III. The honour common to workers and helpers. Here is this great thought, that workers and helpers alike may have the joy and the confidence of believing that the truth works with them, and they with it. Think of the honour this lays upon us and the greatness with which it invests our work. Some great artist will strike out the outline of some immortal picture and labour upon it, and then he lets all the anonymous little painters that belong to his school and are animated by his spirit come with their feebler brushes and lay a tint or two on. Jesus Christ lets us, His scholars, work upon His great picture, permits us to co-operate with Him; His truth cannot reach its ends—namely, that men should recognise it—without our co-operation. "Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord"; and some eyes that are too bleared to gaze upon the unveiled sun may be drawn to a belief in and a love for it if they see its tints spread out in prismatic beauty even by the misty vapours of our poor individuality. We are fellow-helpers with the truth, and that should make us know that our work is grave. Think of the confidence that should inspire us in doing our service. We are working with the strongest thing in the world in the line of the Divine purpose; we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth; and when the net result of all the activities, furtherances, and antagonisms is summed up it will be found that the only thing that lasts is that truth and the work of the men that helped it. To oppose it is like fighting against the western gales or trying to counteract gravitation. Let us fling our work into the line of the Divine purpose, and be sure of this: that the truth will help us if we help it.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, October, 1892.
Reference: 8.—W. M. Punshon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 81.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;
Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:
Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.
We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence 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.
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.
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.
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. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.