NOTES ON THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN
3 Jn 1:1,2
It may be quite impossible to say who this Gaius is, whether Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), Gaius of Corinth (Rom.16:23: 1 Cor.1:14), Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), or another Gaius. It was presumably a common name in those days. He was evidently one who was well known to John and beloved by him and others; the words “whom I love in truth” are similar to his words of address to the elect lady of the former epistle. It was John’s wish that his physical health and his prosperity might be equal to his soul’s prosperity (Gk. euodoomai, from eu, good, odos, way). Prosperity of soul is to be desired beyond all forms of prosperity.
3 Jn 1:3,4
Elders worthy of that name must similarly rejoice when they hear of their fellow-elders and others walking in truth and not in error. The truth in which Gaius walked is called “thy truth,” truth which this beloved brother had made his own, truth “which abideth in us, and it shall be with us for ever” (2 Jn 2). Gaius evidently had bought the truth. It is well when brethren can bear witness of each other’s steadfast adherence to the truth. There is joy in heaven (and on earth too) over one sinner that repenteth (Lk.15:7); there is joy over brethren walking in the truth (2 Jn 4) and there will be exceeding joy when the Lord sets us before the presence of the glory of God (Jud.24). To John the joy over the salvation of sinners was no greater than his hearing of his spiritual children walking in the truth. Often the former is so magnified above the latter as to make the latter of small importance. Let us hold a just balance in the things of God, for “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD” (Prov.11:1). We are sure that John’s balance in joy is correct, that there is no greater joy than that over children of God walking in the truth.
3 Jn 1:5,6
Here we have a class of brethren who moved about from place to place in the work of the Lord, after the pattern set by the Lord and His apostles. The Lord “went about through cities and villages, preaching” (Lk.8:1). “Peter went throughout all parts” (Acts 9: 32). Paul said that “from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom.15: 19). Gaius did a faithful work in his love for the Lord and His workers in caring for them, and as Tit.in Crete was exhorted to “set forward Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them” (Tit.3:13), even so John encouraged Gaius that he did well to set forward these servants of the Lord, who are described as “brethren and strangers withal,” on their journey in a manner worthy of God. This manifest love of Gaius was borne witness to before the church where John was at that time.
3 Jn 1:7,8
The difficult and often dangerous work of those days was undertaken by those men who had been called by the Lord to it, because of the love they bare to the Name, the name of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. They went out not to be supported by worldly organisations or Gentiles or by gentilish ones, such as those who had to be treated as the Gentile and the publican (Matt.18:17), that is, as persons outside the Fellowship. Those who preached the gospel and ministered the word were to be ministered to by those in the Fellowship, as Paul ordained in the churches (1 Cor.9:9-14; 1 Tim.5:17,18). John says in regard to these servants of the Lord, “We therefore ought to welcome such” (as well as set them forward on their journey worthily of God), “that we may be fellow-workers with the truth.”
3 Jn 1:9,10
Here we have a character the opposite of Gaius, namely Diotrephes, who loved to have the pre-eminence (Gk. philoproteuo – to love to be first), not perhaps, because he was chief in spiritual growth or ability, but he was a place-seeker; he loved the chief place, like the Pharisees of former times, who loved chief seats in the synagogues, salutations in the market places, and to be called “Rabbi.” Such a course was to be eschewed by the Lord’s disciples, among whom the person with the least opinion of himself was in the Lord’s view the greatest. The result of this pride of place in Diotrephes was that he refused to receive John or others of the Lord’s servants, because their spiritual power would immediately challenge his opinion of the place he thought himself to be competent to fill. He not only would not receive them, but those who would he forbade, and cast those out of the church who dared to receive them. To what lengths does impudent pride go! The church here is, of course, not the Church which is His (Christ’s) Body (Eph.1:22,23), but is the church of God (1 Cor.1:2). There were many churches of God in the days of the apostles, but there was and is but one Church, one Body of Christ. Diotrephes was not to be allowed to continue his lawless ways, for John anticipated a visit to the church where he was, when he would bring to remembrance his words and works. Such a state of things could not be allowed to continue in a church which was “of God.”
3 Jn 1:11
The English word “mimic” is derived from the Greek mimetes, “an imitator.” “to imitate” means “to strive to resemble.” “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor.4:16: 11:1). Seek to have a good ensample or pattern to work to. “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love” (Eph.5:1,2). “He that doeth evil hath not seen God,” says John. He has not seen the perfect Pattern of all good, for, as the Lord said, “None is good save one, even God” (Mk.10:18). He is essentially good, others may be imitating His goodness and be relatively good. The Lord again said, “Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father which is in heaven: … Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt.5:44-48). John’s teaching here about doing good is in alignment with that of the Lord and John’s fellow- apostles.
3 Jn 1:12
Demetrius, of whom John says but little, had the witness of all and of the truth as to his well- doing, behaviour the exact opposite of the proud evil-doing of Diotrephes.
3 Jn 1:13,14
What John had to write to Gaius about we may imagine, but we do not know. He said that it was not his will to write concerning many things. He hoped to come shortly, or immediately, and to speak with him mouth to mouth. He sends the Hebrew salutation of peace. The saints in the church where John was he calls friends (Gk. philoi), and sends their salutation to Gaius, and the saints, the friends with Gaius were to be saluted by name, personally.