The Beloved Apostle John seems to love to write and instruct in Godly, unconditional and unselfish love and here in this short third Epistle or letter, we see one written on a personal basis, to commend someone who is loving others in a practical way. Though it IS a personal letter, as I stated it IS practical also in its demonstrable way of showing true Agape love.
John focus’ on three men to deal with the contrast of TRUE Christ-like love and the value it is to others and especially when associated with Christian values. Gaius, who had a habit of demonstrating hospitality to others, many times strangers, Diotrephes, who in John’s writings is a self-proclaimed leader in the church who appears to be only interested in his “power” and prestige and Demetrius who appears to love the truth.
As with all of John’s writings, the prevailing theme is Godly love, but here, since it is also a personal note, we can read it and use it as a self-examination of where we stand in relation to these three men. To which do we most readily identify? Do we generously give of ourselves and our resources to others in need, do we love the truth as a rule or as an exception OR are we like the self-proclaimed leader who is interested in “things” rather than the eternal condition of God’s creation? Or, as the case may be, are we a mixture of all three to one degree or another as the case often is?
This letter WILL cause the person reading it to reflect on their own personal relationships AND values to the extent that we are willing to open up ourselves to meet the needs of others.
3 John 1:1-4, “THE ELDER, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
Again, John refers to himself as the Elder, and to see my comments on that, you can refer back to the introduction and the first few verses of 2 John.
As stated above in the introduction, this is a personal letter AND a commendation to someone that appears to be a very dear and special person to the Apostle’s heart. It could be that John met Gaius on one of his own journeys and was extended hospitality from him as Gaius is known and has a reputation for this.
There are just a few themes that the Apostle touches on here, but the main one of course is the theme of hospitality and the love that is demonstrated to others through that hospitality. This letter also gives us a bit of an insight into the times of the very early church. As we know from the Book of Acts and even the Gospels, as well as some of the letters from the other Apostles we realize that early Christian teachers and missionaries traveled around and depended solely upon the generosity of then Christian people in the cities and towns they visited. The traveling missionaries relied on and needed that support for many, even unto Johns time, relied on what Jesus commanded the disciples upon entering a town and John, being the last living disciple who knew Jesus personally most likely had this in mind when commending Gaius. (Matthew 10:9-15, Mark 6:7-11, Luke 10:4-12).
Now I also want to point something out in verse two that is often used to promote material prosperity in this life. Prosperity teachers LOVE to take this out of context and use it to promote there wealth messages! I have no problems with Christians earning and accruing wealth in a business sense and especially if they are liberal givers as well. God blesses some to be that way, but it is not a far cry or a stretch of the imagination to hear in many messages the LOVE of that wealth conveyed. Over my years as a preacher and a teacher I have probably heard ALL the lies used to promote wealth in the Church of Christ Jesus and yes, they are LIES from the pit of hell as far as I am concerned. I actually have peers that would debate with me on the subject and you could not dissuade them no matter what from that hellish teaching!
As I stated, I am not opposed to Christians with wealth, but I am opposed when that wealth and the security of that wealth overshadows the Love of God towards others and seems to be the reason for their very lives. If this offends some of my brothers and sisters reading this, THAT is between you AND God and I say that in sincere love, but the prosperity teaching of today only serves one purpose and that is to subtly get your eyes off of those things that are above or heavenly and unto those things that are earthly or below.
The very fact that Jesus, Himself, sent out the disciples two by two with no extra resources, and the fact that the Apostles in their writings and especially the Apostle Paul’s tells us they took this very, very seriously and then hear is the last remaining Apostle, respected as the living Elder of the Christian Church, stating to his beloved brother in the Lord, that he desires his BODY to prosper in health JUST as his soul prospers! This is another slam to the Gnostics teaching of John’s day.
Now granted, we have no idea what kind of status, Gaius held in the community, materially, but riches and “things” were not brought up in this letter concerning Gaius. From all indications and for all intents and purposes, Gaius could be one that was just willing to share with others what little he did have. The theme isn’t to accrue wealth to disperse it, as so many are preaching today with a socialist-type message, but rather, to share what you DO have with those who have need, when the need calls for it. There was a purpose to Gaius’ giving as well. Gaius is the perfect example of the ministry gift of “giving” which the Apostle Paul described in Romans 12:8, 13 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-9. Giving in this way is a ministry gift that is necessary as a part of the overall Body of Christ and it is displayed here in John’s third letter.
Now understand something; this does not negate the responsibility of the individual in giving as your heart dictates by the Holy Spirit in your everyday giving. My wife and I are always looking for ways on a daily basis to be able to give what little we do have to help others with a need no matter whether they are Christians or not. You just have to use discernment and spiritual wisdom, for you want God’s love to be conveyed in it and you want the Lord to get the glory.
Now I have heard it preached and taught that if you are not wealthy (or healthy) then you LACK faith in the Lord and that is a sin! Wow! What a stretch to try and make that a “Spiritual Principle,” as I like to call certain things the Lord as set up and you see in the Bible. By this reasoning, those who use their faith on a daily basis to trust the Lord to meet their needs do not qualify in the faith department because they HAVE to rely on God to meet their daily needs. So much for the validity of the Sermon on the Mount. So much for the Scriptures I gave above from the Apostle Paul and especially this one; “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8.
How could I have been so blind all these years?!! Yes, I’m being sarcastic! I have HAD to deal with the consequences of that false teaching in the lives of people who started to doubt their ability to have faith in the Lord! I have had to apply SPIRITUAL healing to those who were cursed with doubt because of the hellish prosperity teaching! I thank God for His never changing Word that tells us emphatically that His Word is given “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, for every good work!” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So, God will supply your needs, but He will also supply you health as your soul is also healthy. This does not mean you don’t or won’t get sick or diseased, for that is part of life and it is also a very important part of learning how to rely on God in every aspect of His will and to be thankful in ALL things. Just be careful when hearing people preach or teach on subjects where it is so obvious they are taking things out of the context with which the Holy Spirit inspired it to be written!
John reiterates to his friend that Gaius’ reputation has reached the Apostle for it has become a testimony of his good works. So it is when we do things straight from the heart with the proper motive. We don’t have to “blow our own horn” as it were, for the works themselves will speak for themselves and even more so when those things are done with a pure motive. Gaius’ reputation for his hospitality was evidently well-known.
Then John also assures Him in his greeting that as an Elder, as an Apostle who knew Jesus personally face to face, that his joy was greatest and most complete when those that were his disciples also walked in the path of truth as preached by the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
Let me tell you this just from personal experience, John’s appraisal is very true, emphatic and words cannot express the true depth of the joy one experiences when they see their family or those THEY have discipled in Christ Jesus, walk out on their own and follow after the Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus! Too many, oh so many pastors in churches today do NOT know the greatest joy because they are so enamored with keeping their “flock” to themselves, rather than following the pattern of Jesus and His disciples and discipling those and equipping others to go out and follow after the Holy Spirit! It is no wonder the TRUE Church is so small in comparison to all institutionalized religious organizations! The church was NEVER meant to become an enclosed, selfish entity. “Bring people in,” is the cry of most preachers today, NOT “go out into the cities and streets and baptize them in the name of Jesus!”
Can you imagine, that for as big as some of these meg-churches are, if they truly followed the pattern that Jesus and His disciples laid out, rather than the example that Emperor Constantine instituted way back in 325 A.D., just how many of our cities would be Christian havens instead of the liberal, worn-down, rotting and infested, God-rejecting cities that they are today?
One day, and I don’t believe it is far off and in fact I would guarantee that some alive today are going to see the culmination of Christ Jesus’ plan to set up His Throne in Jerusalem after the Anti-Christ and his hordes are finally destroyed and chained up! A thousand year reign of what TRUE leadership, uncorrupted, holy and righteous will definitely be, Paradise on earth! Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Your Bride awaits!