The Aged Presbyter's Letter to a Private Church-Member
3 John 1: 1-14
The elder to the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

The eider unto Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth. As in the Second Epistle, John takes the familiar official designation of "the elder." The receiver of the Epistle was regarded by John with more than ordinary affection; for he at once designates Gaius "the beloved," and three times in the course of the short Epistle be addresses him by this designation. He was 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.

Parallel Verses
KJV: The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

WEB: The elder to Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth.

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