This epistle is addressed to a converted Gentile. The scope is to commend his stedfastness in the faith, and his hospitality, especially to the ministers of Christ.
- The apostle commends Gaius for piety and hospitality. (1-8) Cautions him against siding with Diotrephes, who was a turbulent spirit; but recommends Demetrius as a man of excellent character. (9-12) He hopes soon to see Gaius. (13,14)
Verses 1-8 Those who are beloved of Christ, will love the brethren for his sake. Soul prosperity is the greatest blessing on this side heaven. Grace and health are rich companions. Grace will employ health. A rich soul may be lodged in a weak body; and grace must then be exercised in submitting to such a dispensation. But we may wish and pray that those who have prosperous souls, may have healthful bodies; that their grace may shine where there is still more room for activity. How many professors there are, about whom the apostle's words must be reversed, and we must earnestly wish and pray that their souls might prosper, as their health and circumstances do! True faith will work by love. A good report is due from those who receive good; they could not but testify to the church, what they found and felt. Good men will rejoice in the soul prosperity of others; and they are glad to hear of the grace and goodness of others. And as it is a joy to good parents, it will be a joy to good ministers, to see their people adorn their profession. Gaius overlooked petty differences among serious Christians, and freely helped all who bore the image, and did the work of Christ. He was upright in what he did, as a faithful servant. Faithful souls can hear their own praises without being puffed up; the commendation of what is good in them, lays them at the foot of the cross of Christ. Christians should consider not only what they must do, but what they may do; and should do even the common actions of life, and of good-will, after a godly sort, serving God therein, and designing his glory. Those who freely make known Christ's gospel, should be helped by others to whom God gives the means. Those who cannot themselves proclaim it, may yet receive, help, and countenance those who do so.
Verses 9-12 Both the heart and mouth must be watched. The temper and spirit of Diotrephes was full of pride and ambition. It is bad not to do good ourselves; but it is worse to hinder those who would do good. Those cautions and counsels are most likely to be accepted, which are seasoned with love. Follow that which is good, for he that doeth good, as delighting therein, is born of God. Evil-workers vainly pretend or boast acquaintance with God. Let us not follow that which is proud, selfish, and of bad design, though the example may be given by persons of rank and power; but let us be followers of God, and walk in love, after the example of our Lord.
Verses 13-14 Here is the character of Demetrius. A name in the gospel, or a good report in the churches, is better than worldly honour. Few are well spoken of by all; and sometimes it is ill to be so. Happy those whose spirit and conduct commend them before God and men. We must be ready to bear our testimony to them; and it is well when those who commend, can appeal to the consciences of such as know most of those who are commended. A personal conversation together often spares time and trouble, and mistakes which rise from letters; and good Christians may well be glad to see one another. The blessing is, Peace be to you; all happiness attend you. Those may well salute and greet one another on earth, who hope to live together in heaven. By associating with and copying the example of such Christians, we shall have peace within, and live at peace with the brethren; our communications with the Lord's people on earth will be pleasing, and we shall be numbered with them in glory everlasting.
3 John 1:1-14 ADDRESS: WISH FOR GAIUS' PROSPERITY: JOY AT HIS WALKING IN THE TRUTH. HOSPITALITY TO THE BRETHREN AND STRANGERS THE FRUIT OF LOVE. DIOTREPHES' OPPOSITION AND AMBITION. PRAISE OF DEMETRIUS. CONCLUSION.
1. I--emphatical. I personally, for my part. On Gaius or Caius, before Second Epistle.
love in the truth--( 2 John 1:1 this Epistle, indicating strong affection ( 3 John 1:1 3 John 1:2 3 John 1:5 3 John 1:11
2. above all things--Greek, "concerning all things": so ALFORD: in all respects. But WAHL justifies English Version (compare 1 Peter 4:8 "above all things" does not imply that John wishes Gaius' bodily health above that of his soul, but as the first object to be desired next after spiritual health. I know you are prospering in the concerns of your soul. I wish you similar prosperity in your body. Perhaps John had heard from the brethren ( 3 John 1:3 in bad health, and was tried in other ways ( 3 John 1:10 the wish, 3 John 1:2
be in health--in particular.
3. testified of the truth that is in thee--Greek, "of" (or 'to') thy truth": thy share of that truth in which thou walkest [ALFORD].
even as thou--in contrast to Diotrephes ( 3 John 1:9
4. my children--members of the Church: confirming the view that the "elect lady" is a Church.
5. faithfully--an act becoming a faithful man.
whatsoever thou doest--a distinct Greek word from the former "doest": translate, "workest": whatsoever work, or labor of love, thou dost perform. So Matthew 26:10 me."
and to strangers--The oldest manuscripts, "and that (that is, and those brethren) strangers." The fact of the brethren whom thou didst entertain being "strangers," enhances the love manifested in the act.
6. borne witness of thy charity before the church--to stimulate others by the good example. The brethren so entertained by Gaius were missionary evangelists ( 3 John 1:7 narrating their missionary labors for the edification of the Church where John then was, incidentally mentioned the loving hospitality shown them by Gaius.
bring forward on their journey--"If thou (continue to) forward on their journey" by giving them provisions for the way.
after a godly sort--Greek, "in a manner worthy of God," whose ambassadors they are, and whose servant thou art. He who honors God's missionary servants ( 3 John 1:7
7. his name's sake--Christ's.
went forth--as missionaries.
taking nothing--refusing to receive aught by way of pay, or maintenance, though justly entitled to it, as Paul at Corinth and at Thessalonica.
Gentiles--the Christians just gathered out by their labors from among the heathen. As Gaius himself was a Gentile convert, "the Gentiles" here must mean the converts just made from the heathen, the Gentiles to whom they had gone forth. It would have been inexpedient to have taken aught (the Greek "meden" implies, not that they got nothing, though they had desired it, but that it was of their own choice they took nothing) from the infant churches among the heathen: the case was different in receiving hospitality from Gaius.
8. We--in contradistinction to "the Gentiles" or "heathen" referred to, 3 John 1:7
therefore--as they take nothing from the Gentiles or heathen.
receive--The oldest manuscripts read, "take up." As they "take" nothing from the Gentiles, we ought to take them up so as to support them.
fellow helpers--with them.
to the truth--that is, to promote the truth.
9. I wrote--The oldest manuscripts add "something": a communication, probably, on the subject of receiving the brethren with brotherly love ( 3 John 1:8 3 John 1:10 the Spirit for the universal Church, or else it would have been preserved.
unto the church--of which Gaius is a member.
loveth . . . pre-eminence--through ambition. Evidently occupying a high place in the Church where Gaius was ( 3 John 1:10
among them--over the members of the Church.
receiveth us not--virtually, namely, by not receiving with love the brethren whom we recommended to be received ( 3 John 1:8 3 John 1:10 compare Matthew 10:40
10. if I come--( 3 John 1:14
I will remember--literally, "I will bring to mind" before all by stigmatizing and punishing.
prating--with mere silly tattle.
neither doth he . . . receive the brethren--with hospitality. "The brethren" are the missionaries on their journey.
forbiddeth them that would--receive them.
casteth them--those that would receive the brethren, by excommunication from the Church, which his influence, as a leading man ( 3 John 1:9 it, enabled him to do. NEANDER thinks that the missionaries were JEWS by birth, whence it is said in their praise they took nothing from THE GENTILES: in contrast to other Jewish missionaries who abused ministers' right of maintenance elsewhere, as Paul tells us, 2 Corinthians 11:22 ; Philippians 3:2 Philippians 3:5 Philippians 3:19 an ultra-Pauline party of anti-Jewish tendency, the forerunners of Marcion: Diotrephes possibly stood at the head of this party, which fact, as well as this domineering spirit, may account for his hostility to the missionaries, and to the apostle John, who had, by the power of love, tried to harmonize the various elements in the Asiatic churches. At a later period, Marcion, we know, attached himself to Paul alone, and paid no deference to the authority of John.
11. follow not that which is evil--as manifested in Diotrephes ( 3 John 1:9 3 John 1:10
but . . . good--as manifested in Demetrius ( 3 John 1:12
is of God--is born of God, who is good.
hath not seen God--spiritually, not literally.
12. of all men--who have had opportunity of knowing his character.
of the truth itself--The Gospel standard of truth bears witness to him that he walks conformably to it, in acts of real love, hospitality to the brethren (in contrast to Diotrephes), &c. Compare John 3:21 may be made manifest that they are wrought in God."
we also--besides the testimony of "all men," and "of the truth itself."
ye know--The oldest manuscripts read, "thou knowest."
13. I will not--rather as Greek, "I wish not . . . to write" more.
14. face to face--Greek, "mouth to mouth."
Peace--peace inward of conscience, peace fraternal of friendship, peace supernal of glory [LYRA].
friends--a title seldom used in the New Testament, as it is absorbed in the higher titles of "brother, brethren." Still Christ recognizes the relation of friend also, based on the highest grounds, obedience to Him from love, and entailing the highest privileges, admission to the intimacy of the holy and glorious God, and sympathizing Saviour; so Christians have "friends" in Christ. Here in a friendly letter, mention of "friends" appropriately occurs.
by name--not less than if their names were written [BENGEL].