3 John 1
In this epistle the apostle congratulates Gaius upon the prosperity of
(3 John 1:1,2),
upon the fame he had among good Christians
(3 John 1:3,4),
and upon his charity and hospitality to the servants of Christ,
3 John 1:5,6.
He complains of contemptuous treatment by an ambitious Diotrephes,
(3 John 1:9,10),
(3 John 1:12),
and expresses his hope of visiting Gaius shortly,
3 John 1:13,14.
|Salutation and Prayer.
||A. D. 90.|
1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and
be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
Here we see, I. The sacred penman who writes and sends the letter; not
here indeed notified by his name, but a more general character: The
elder, he that is so by years and by office; honour and deference
are due to both. Some have questioned whether this were John the
apostle or no; but his style and spirit seem to shine in the epistle.
Those that are beloved of Christ will love the brethren for his sake.
Gaius could not question from whom the letter came. The apostle might
have assumed many more illustrious characters, but it becomes not
Christ's ministers to affect swelling pompous titles. He almost levels
himself with the more ordinary pastors of the church, while he styles
himself the elder. Or, possibly, most of the extraordinary ministers,
the apostles, were now dead, and this holy survivor would countenance
the continued standing ministry, by assuming the more common title--the
elder. The elders I exhort, who am also an elder,
1 Peter 5:1.
II. The person saluted and honoured by the letter. The former is
directed to an elect lady, this to a choice gentleman; such are worthy
of esteem and value. He is notified,
1. By his name,--Gaius. We read of several of that name,
particularly of one whom the apostle Paul baptized at Corinth, who
possibly might be also the apostle's host and kind entertainer there
if this be not he, it is his brother in name, estate, and disposition.
2. By the kind expressions of the apostle to him: The
well-beloved, and whom I love in the truth. Love expressed
is wont to kindle love. Here seems to be either the sincerity of the
apostle's love or the religion of it. The sincerity of it: Whom I
love in the truth, for the truth's sake, as abiding and walking in
the truth as it is in Jesus. To love our friends for the truth's sake
is true love, religious gospel love.
III. The salutation or greeting, containing a prayer, introduced by an
affectionate compellation--Beloved, thou beloved one in Christ.
The minister who would gain love must show it himself. Here is,
1. The apostle's good opinion of his friend, that his soul
prospered. There is such a thing as soul-prosperity--the greatest
blessing on this side heaven. This supposes regeneration, and an inward
fund of spiritual life; this stock is increasing, and, while spiritual
treasures are advancing, the soul is in a fair way to the kingdom of
2. His good wish for his friend that his body may prosper and be in
health as well as his soul. Grace and health are two rich
companions; grace will improve health, health will employ grace. It
frequently falls out that a rich soul is lodged in a crazy body; grace
must be exercised in submission to such a dispensation; but we may well
wish and pray that those who have prosperous souls may have healthful
bodies too; their grace will shine in a larger sphere of activity.
|The Character of Gaius.
||A. D. 90.|
3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified
of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in
5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the
brethren, and to strangers;
6 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:
7 Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking
nothing of the Gentiles.
8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be
fellowhelpers to the truth.
In these verses we have,
I. The good report that the apostle had received concerning this friend
of his: The brethren came and testified of the truth that is in
(3 John 1:3),
who have borne witness of thy charity before the church,
3 John 1:6.
Here we may see,
1. The testimony or thing testified concerning Gaius--the truth that
was in him, the reality of his faith, the sincerity of his religion,
and his devotedness to God; and this evinced by his charity, which
includes his love to the brethren, kindness to the poor, hospitality to
Christian strangers, and readiness to accommodate them for the service
of the gospel. Faith should work by love; it gives a lustre in and by
the offices of love, and induces others to commend its integrity.
2. The witnesses-brethren that came from Gaius testified and bore
witness. A good report is due from those who have received good;
though a good name is but a small reward for costly service, yet it is
better than precious ointment, and will not be refused by the
ingenuous and religious.
3. The auditory or judicatory before which the report and testimony
were given--before the church. This seems to be the church at
which the apostle now resided. What church this was we are not sure;
what occasion they had thus to testify his faith and love before the
church we cannot tell; possibly out of the fulness of the heart the
mouth spoke; they could not but testify what they found and felt;
possibly they would engage the church's prayer for the continued life
and usefulness of such a patron, that he might prosper and be in
health as his soul prospered.
II. The report the apostle himself gives of him, introduced by an
endearing appellation again: Beloved, thou doest faithfully
whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers,
3 John 1:5.
1. He was hospitable, good to the brethren, even to strangers; it was
enough to recommend them to Gaius's house that they belonged to Christ.
Or he was good to the brethren of the same church with himself,
and to those who came from far; all who were of the household of faith
were welcome to him.
2. He seems to have been of a catholic spirit; he could overlook the
petty differences among serious Christians, and be communicative to all
who bore the image and did the work of Christ. And,
3. He was conscientious in what he did: "Thou doest faithfully
(thou makest faithful work of) whatsoever thou doest; thou doest
it as a faithful servant, and from the Lord Christ mayest thou expect
the reward of the inheritance." Such faithful souls can hear their own
praises without being puffed up; the commendation of what is good in us
is designed, not for our pride, but for our encouragement to continue
therein, and should be accordingly improved.
III. The apostle's joy therein, in the good report itself, and the good
ground of it: I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and
3 John 1:3.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the
truth, in the prescripts of the Christian religion. The best
evidence of our having the truth is our walking in the truth.
Good men will greatly rejoice in the soul-prosperity of others; and
they are glad to hear of the grace and goodness of others. They
glorified God in me. Love envieth not, but rejoiceth in the good
name of other folks. As it is joy to good parents, it will be joy to
good ministers, to see their children evidence their sincerity in
religion, and adorn their profession.
IV. The direction the apostle gives his friend concerning further
treatment of the brethren that were with him: Whom if thou bring
forward on their journey, after a godly sort, thou shalt do well.
It seems to have been customary in those days of love to attend
travelling ministers and Christians, at least some part of their road,
1 Corinthians 16:6.
It is a kindness to a stranger to be guided in his way, and a pleasure
to travellers to meet with suitable company: this is a work that may be
done after a godly sort, in a manner worthy of God, or suitable
to the deference and relation we bear to God. Christians should
consider not only what they must do, but what they may do, what they
may most honourably and laudably do: the liberal mind deviseth
liberal generous things. Christians should do even the
common actions of life and of good-will after a godly sort, as serving
God therein, and designing his glory.
V. The reasons of this directed conduct; these are two:--
1. Because that for his name's sake these brethren went forth,
taking nothing of the Gentiles. It appears thus that these were
ministerial brethren, that they went forth to preach the gospel and
propagate Christianity; possibly they might be sent out by this apostle
himself: they went forth to convert the Gentiles; this was excellent
service: they went forth for God and his name's sake; this is the
minister's highest end, and should be his principal spring and motive,
to gather and to build up a people for his name: they went forth also
to carry a free gospel about with them, to publish it without charge
wherever they came: Taking nothing of the Gentiles. These were
worthy of double honour. There are those who are not called to preach
the gospel themselves who may yet contribute to the progress of it. The
gospel should be made without charge to those to whom it is first
preached. Those who know it not cannot be expected to value it;
churches and Christian patriots ought to concur to support the
propagation of holy religion in the pagan countries; public spirits
should concur according to their several capacities; those who are
freely communicative of Christ's gospel should be assisted by those who
are communicative of their purses.
2. We ought therefore to receive such, that we may be fellow-helpers
to the truth, to true religion. The institution of Christ is the
true religion; it has been attested by God. Those that are true in it
and true to it will earnestly desire, and pray for, and contribute to,
its propagation in the world. In many ways may the truth be befriended
and assisted; those who cannot themselves proclaim it may yet receive,
accompany, help, and countenance those who do.
|The Character of Diotrephes.
||A. D. 90.|
9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have
the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
10 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.
11 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.
I. Here is a very different example and character, an officer, a
minister in the church, less generous, catholic, and communicative than
the private Christians. Ministers may sometimes be out-shone, out-done.
In reference to this minister, we see,
1. His name--a Gentile name: Diotrephes, attended with an
2. His temper and spirit--full of pride and ambition: He loves to
have the pre-eminence. This ferment sprang and wrought betimes. It
is an ill unbeseeming character of Christ's ministers to love
pre-eminence, to affect presidency in the church of God.
3. His contempt of the apostle's authority, and letter, and friends.
(1.) Of his authority: The deeds which he doeth contrary to our
appointment, prating against us with malicious words. Strange
that the contempt should run so high! But ambition will breed malice
against those who oppose it. Malice and ill-will in the heart will be
apt to vent themselves by the lips. The heart and mouth are both to be
(2.) Of his letter: "I wrote to the church
(3 John 1:9),
namely, in recommendation of such and such brethren. But Diotrephes
receiveth us not, admits not our letter and testimony therein."
This seems to be the church of which Gaius was a member. A gospel
church seems to be such a society as to which a letter may be written
and communicated. Gospel churches may well expect and be allowed
credentials with the strangers who desire to be admitted among them.
The apostle seems to write by and with these brethren. To an ambitious
aspiring spirit apostolical authority or epistle signifies but little.
(3.) Of his friends, the brethren he recommended: Neither doth he
himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth those that would, and
casteth them out of the church,
3 John 1:10.
There might be some differences or different customs between the Jewish
and Gentile Christians. Pastors should seriously consider what
differences are tolerable. The pastor is not at absolute liberty, nor
lord over God's heritage. It is bad to do no good ourselves; but it is
worse to hinder those who would. Church-power and church-censures are
often abused. Many are cast out of the church who should be received
there with satisfaction and welcome. But woe to those who cast out the
brethren whom the Lord Christ will take into his own communion and
4. The apostle's menace of this proud domineerer: Wherefore, if I
come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth
(3 John 1:10),
will remember to censure them. This seems to intimate apostolical
authority. But the apostle seems not to hold an episcopal court, to
which Diotrephes must be summoned; but he will come to take cognizance
of this affair in the church to which it belongs. Acts of
ecclesiastical domination and tyranny ought to be animadverted upon.
May it be better agreed to whom that power belongs!
II. Here is counsel upon that different character, dissuasion from
copying such a pattern, and indeed any evil at all: Beloved, follow
not that which is evil, but that which is good,
3 John 1:11.
Imitate not such unchristian pernicious evil; but pursue the contrary
good, in wisdom, purity, peace, and love. Caution and counsel are not
needless to those who are good already. Those cautions and counsels are
most likely to be accepted that are seasoned with love. Beloved,
follow not that which is evil. To this caution and counsel a reason
is respectively subjoined.
1. To the counsel: Follow that which is good; for he that
doeth good (naturally and genuinely doeth good, as delighting
therein) is of God, is born of God. The practice of goodness is
the evidence of our filial happy relation to God.
2. To the caution: Follow not that which is evil, for he that
doeth evil (with bent of mind pursues it) hath not seen God,
is not duly sensible of his holy nature and will. Evil-workers vainly
pretend or boast an acquaintance with God.
|The Character of Demetrius; Conclusion and Salutation.
||A. D. 90.|
12 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.
13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen
write unto thee:
14 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.
Here we have, I. The character of another person, one Demetrius,
not much known otherwise. But here his name will live. A name in the
gospel, a fame in the churches, is better than that of sons and
daughters. His character was his commendation. His commendation was,
1. General: Demetrius has a good report of all men. Few are well
spoken of by all; and sometimes it is ill to be so. But universal
integrity and goodness are the way to (and sometimes obtain) universal
2. Deserved and well founded: And of the truth itself,
3 John 1:12.
Some have a good report, but not of the truth itself. Happy are those
whose spirit and conduct commend them before God and men.
3. Confirmed by the apostle's and his friends' testimony: Yea, and
we also bear record; and that with an appeal to Gaius's own
knowledge: And you (you and your friends) know that our
record is true. Probably this Demetrius was known to the church
where the apostle now resided, and to that where Gaius was. It is good
to be well known, or known for good. We must be ready to bear our
testimony to those who are good: it is well for those who are commended
when those who commend them can appeal to the consciences of those who
know them most.
II. The conclusion of the epistle, in which we may observe,
1. The referring of some things to personal interview: I have many
things to write, but I will not with ink and pen, but I trust I shall
shortly see thee,
3 John 1:13,14.
Many things may be more proper for immediate communication than for
letter. A little personal conference may spare the time, trouble, and
charge, of many letters; and good Christians may well be glad to see
2. The benediction: Peace be to you; all felicity attend you.
Those that are good and happy themselves wish others so too.
3. The public salutation sent to Gaius: Our friends salute thee.
A friend to the propagation of religion deserves a common remembrance.
And these pious persons show their friendship to religion as well as to
4. The apostle's particular salutation of the Christians in Gaius's
church or vicinity: Greet thy friends by name. I doubt they were
not very many who must be so personally saluted. But we must learn
humility as well as love. The lowest in the church of Christ should be
greeted. And those may well salute and greet one another on earth who
hope to live together in heaven. And the apostle who had lain in
Christ's bosom lays Christ's friends in his heart.