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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

3 John 1

Verse 1

Gaius, The Well-Beloved. The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

The elder: "Elder" is used here in the sense of a senior or aged person and not in the official sense of an elder of a local congregation. (See comments on 2 John 1:1.) John is not putting himself forth as the official elder of the whole church; rather, he is writing as an aged apostle to a dear friend in a local congregation. His authority is not that of an elder, but as an apostle who was personally appointed by Jesus Christ Himself to represent the Lord as His personal ambassador.

unto the well-beloved Gaius: The salutation of John’s letter is much like that of other first century letters. He identifies himself under the title, "the elder," or aged one, and then addresses his epistle to a Christian whose name is Gaius. The name "Gaius" is an oft-mentioned name in the New Testament (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14). It is feasible that Gaius could have held a position of leadership in a local congregation; at least, it is safe to say that he was a prestigious person of true Christian principle. "Beloved" is agapetos and speaks of the divine love. Gaius is one who is the object of love of many Christians. The Greek has it, "the beloved," which indicates that Gaius is one loved by both God and man in a special way. Here is a Christian who is held in high esteem by many Christians in the first century.

whom I love in the truth: While Gaius is one greatly loved and highly respected by many in the early church, he is equally loved by the apostle John; and John wants him to be aware of that love. It is always appropriate to let people know how you feel about them. Everyone needs to be loved and respected for who and what they are. John specifies that his love is "in the truth." The little word, en, signifies that John’s love is in the sphere of truth. His love is encompassed and surrounded by the truth of God’s word, which is a uniting force among Christians and which promotes the love that seeks the highest good of its objects.

Verse 2

Prayer For Prosperity

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

Beloved: It is well to take note of this word of endearment used by John four times in this letter. Some serious warnings, as well as sincere commendations and admonitions, are to be verbalized. John wants his dear reader to know that these commendations, admonitions, and warnings proceed from a heart that is filled with love for him.

I wish above all things: "Wish" is euchomai and refers to "a wish, prayer" (Moulton 177). Vine says that even when it is translated "wish," "the indication is that prayer is involved" (199). Some translations have "pray" instead of wish. John seems to be telling his dear friend that he is praying for him. "Above all things" is better rendered "concerning all things" (Vincent 399). "All things" includes the financial, physical, and spiritual well-being of John’s beloved brother.

that thou mayest prosper: The word "prosper" is used in Paul’s instructions to the church at Corinth concerning the matter of giving (1 Corinthians 16:2). Paul says that a Christian is to give in proportion to his income or "as God hath prospered him." Is it scriptural to pray that one be financially prospered? John seems to indicate, "yes." Here is a brother who is noted for using his financial means for the good of the cause of Christ. He keeps preachers and sends them on their way with sufficient substance for their journey. It is only fitting that John pray that the wealth of such a generous Christian be increased, not only for his good, but for the good of the church in general. "Prosper" is euodoo and literally means "to help on one’s way" (Vine 225). It is a word that speaks of success in one’s life. Is it not right to pray for success if that success is to be used to reflect and enhance the glory of God?

and be in health: The second part of John’s prayer is concerning the health of his dear friend in the Lord. Physical health is a great asset in Christian service. Many are willing to serve, but infirmity forbids. John prays that this brother be blessed with physical health that will enable him to continue his faithful care of the messengers of God who come his way. Some have suggested that Gaius was having financial and physical problems that evoked this prayer from John. There is no basis for such reasoning. John stands in awe of this brother’s generosity and vigor in promoting the cause of Christ and simply prays that his ability to continue will be supplied by the Lord.

even as thy soul prospereth: This is a strange statement indeed when it is read in the context of the twentieth century. Today we would say, "I pray that your soul will prosper like your body and pocketbook prosper!" John recognizes the superior spirituality of Gaius and puts his material and physical needs in proper relation to his spiritual well being. "Soul" is psuche, which Vincent says,

is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions. It has a side in contact with both the material and spiritual element of humanity, and is thus the mediating organ between body and spirit. Its meaning, therefore, constantly rises above life or the living individual, and takes color from its relation to either the emotional or the spiritual side of life, from the fact of its being the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions, and the bearer and manifester of the divine life-principle (pneuma). Consequently psuche (soul) is often used in our sense of heart (Luke 1:46; Luke 2:35; John 10:24; Acts 14:2); and the meanings of psuche (soul), and pneuma (spirit), occasionally approach each other very closely (400).

Because of the close relationship that exists between the soul and spirit of man, Bible students often have equated one with the other. The scriptures, however, make a distinction between the two (Hebrews 4:12). The soul is the human personality, which, because of its alliance with the spirit of man, can be saved eternally. In this verse, John is affirming that the inner heart-life of John is in a healthy state. His prayer is that Gaius’ material and physical state might be as good as his spiritual state. Wuest renders the verse, "Beloved, in all things I am praying that you will be prospering, and that you will be continually having good health just as your soul is prospering" (218).

Verse 3

John’s Greatest Joy

For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.

For I rejoiced greatly: This statement is similar to one made about the faithfulness of some members of a church called "the elect lady" in 2 John 1:4. John finds exceeding joy in witnessing the dedication of his faithful brother in Christ. "Rejoiced" is from chairo, which Spiros Zodhiates says is "related to charis, grace, as if joy is a direct result of God’s grace" (521). John here takes note of that gracious joy that he enjoys "greatly."

when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee: The occasion of his rejoicing is here indicated. The "brethren," who had been in the company of this fine Christian man, "testified" concerning the good life of Gaius. The verb form of "came" indicates repeated visits by these brethren with Gaius. Vincent says that it "denotes coming from time to time, and not coming on a single occasion..." (400). Repeatedly, they had informed John of what they had seen, heard, and experienced in their association with Gaius. They "testified," or bore witness, concerning him. The substance of their testimony had to do with "the truth" that was in him, or literally, "your truth." John repeatedly gives emphasis to the subject of truth in all three of his epistles. It was so important to him to impress on his reader the urgency of staying with the truth of God’s word. Gaius retains the truth in his heart so tenaciously that it is called "your truth," as Paul calls the gospel "my gospel" (Romans 2:16). The truth of God’s word should be so firmly held in one’s heart and life that it becomes his own personal possession.

even as thou walkest in the truth: "Thou" is emphatic in the Greek, indicating a contrast between the conduct of Gaius and Diotrephes, whose conduct is contrary to truth (verse 9). The tense of the verb "walkest" signifies the continuous ordering of one’s behavior. The testimony from visiting preachers is that Gaius habitually conducts his life in the sphere of divine truth. Haas says, "The noun ’truth’ refers to a behaviour that is in accordance with God’s will, and to a life lived in close relationship with God" (150). Gaius’ life is one that is "worthy of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27). It truly "becometh sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1). It is imperative that one’s life conform to his teaching. Gaius’ life was consistent with the truth, which he held firmly in his heart and taught to others.

Verse 4

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

I have no greater joy: John reveals the greatest joy of his life as a Christian. It has to do with winning people to Christ and their remaining faithful. Taylor says, " ’Greater’ in verse 4 is a double comparative and supplies tremendous emphasis to John’s joy. It is kin to Paul’s eloquent employment of ’far better’ (KJV) or "very far better’ (ASV) of Philippians 1:23" (79). John says that he has a joy that is far and away better than any other joy. What is that superlative joy that calls forth such a declaration of supreme happiness?

than to hear that my children walk in truth: The supreme delight of John’s life is to "hear" from eyewitnesses, such as those who continually came from Gaius, that John’s children in the gospel are faithful to the truth he preached and they obeyed. There is a strong implication here that Gaius was one of John’s converts, or at least, one whom he had nurtured in the Lord. To hear direct testimony to the loyalty of Gaius from those he trusts is John’s highest pleasure. To "walk in truth" is to order one’s life in the sphere of God’s word. Stott says that this...

is more than to give assent to it (truth). It means to apply it to one’s behaviour. He who ’walks in the truth’ is an integrated Christian in whom there is no dichotomy between profession and practice. On the contrary, there is in him an exact correspondence between his creed and his conduct (220).

Gaius and the other "children" of John were constantly ordering their lives in accordance with divine truth: they were practicing what they preached. This realization brought the greatest joy John could imagine. There is no greater delight to a preacher of the gospel or a personal soul winner than to know that those whom he has brought to Christ and trained in righteousness continue to conduct their lives according to truth.

Verse 5

Gaius, the Preacher Supporter

Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers.

Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest: This is the second time John personally calls Gaius "beloved," intimating his deep and abiding love for his brother in Christ. He uses this term of Christian love to lead into a statement of commendation for Gaius’ faithful work and labor of generous love. Vincent prefers the rendition of "thou doest faithfully" that is found in the Revised Version, "thou doest a faithful work" (401). Other versions emphasize the loyalty and faithfulness of the work. It is worth noting that faith and works are united in this statement. A person of faith will be a person of work. There are two words for "doest" in this statement. The first is poieo, meaning simply "to do" (Thayer 526); the second is ergazomai, meaning "to labor, be active, to perform" (Thayer 247). Gaius proved his faith (James 2:18) by his "work of faith" and "labor of love" (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

to the brethren, and to strangers: The faithful work and loving labor that Gaius performed was directed toward the brethren mentioned in verse 3--those who came time and again to John to bring reports of Gaius’ activities in the work of the Lord. They are the brethren whom Gaius helped financially and in other ways as they spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. "Brethren" and "strangers" refer to the same people. Haas renders it "to the brethren, especially to strangers," explaining that the latter phrase "serves to introduce a more specific qualification" (151). John is singing the praises of this great Christian who is ready to entertain travelling preachers of the gospel even when they are strangers to him. This "faithful work" was not only exhibited toward Gaius’ friends but toward strangers and "foreigners" (Vine 80) as well. These were not Gaius’ personal acquaintances or dear friends, who would naturally be recipients of his hospitality; he knew them only because of their work’s sake, and that was enough for this loving supporter of truth. John commends such impartial hospitality on the part of this beneficent Christian.

Verse 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:

Which have borne witness of thy charity: These itinerant teachers of the word bore witness to what they had seen and experienced at the hands of this benevolent saint of God. "Charity" is an unfortunate rendering of agape, the word for divine love. Gaius is a good example of love in action. Agape love is the love that God is and that God manifested toward all mankind when He did what was in their best interest. This love seeks the highest good of its objects, with no regard for the pleasantness or unpleasantness of the recipients; its only motivation to do them good. Gaius is commended by John for demonstrating the divine love towards these worthy traveling preachers, who, in turn, praised him for his loving deeds.

before the church: This testimony was given before the church, or probably in the assembly of the congregation where John worshipped. "Church" is ekklesia and refers to "an assembly of Christians gathered for worship" (Thayer 196). Ekklesia is a collective noun used at times in reference to the universal church (Matthew 16:18) and at other times in reference to the local congregation (1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1). These witnessing brethren reported before the assembly of the local congregation the actions of the charitable Gaius.

whom if thou bring forward on their journey: There is no doubt in John’s mind that Gaius will do as he wishes, for he has already so indicated. He, however, suggests that Gaius must perform a special task on the behalf of the preachers he is sending. The task is indicated in the words, "bring forward," an expression used to denote the action of a church or of individuals in supporting the work of preachers. "Bring forward on their journey" is propempo in the Greek and means "to send forward, bring on the way, accompany or escort" (Thayer 541). This expression recalls the practice in New Testament times of accompanying the traveller on a portion of his journey when he leaves a given place, plus giving him food and money for the journey. Wuest quotes Robertson: "From Homer’s time...it was customary to speed the parting guest, sometimes accompanying him, sometimes providing money and food. Rabbis were so escorted..." (220). This custom was prevalent in the early church as we can see in Romans 15:24 and Titus 3:13. It is easily seen that this entailed more than a friendly farewell: it involved meeting the needs of the missionaries, including hospitality extended in the homes and financial aid as they continued their journey. Hospitality is a subject often mentioned in the New Testament. Peter urges, "Use hospitality one to another without grudging" (1 Peter 4:9). (Compare Hebrews 13:2; 1 Timothy 5:9; Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8.) While hospitality is under consideration here, there is a greater responsibility imposed by John. He insists that when hospitality has been extended, there is the further need to provide for the needs of the preacher as he goes to other fields of labor.

after a godly sort: This expression is literally rendered "worthily of God" (Berry 519). There are at least two meanings that might be attached to this expression. It could mean that Gaius is to support these brethren in the same manner he would support the God of heaven Himself. On the other hand, it could mean that he is to treat these preachers in the same way God would treat them. In either case, it requires the very best treatment that he can possibly give. A good lady once kept an humble preacher in her home. When sincere appreciation was expressed to her for the good service she had rendered, she replied, "When I keep a preacher in my home, it is the same to me as keeping the Lord Himself. It is the greatest pleasure I have." This good lady was treating the preacher in the same way she would treat the Lord. Perhaps this is the idea that John has in mind as he says, "Send them forth worthily of God."

thou shalt do well: "Well" is kalos and literally means "beautiful...pleasing" (Thayer 322). We sometimes speak of a "beautiful job done" when someone does exceptionally well. If Gaius does well by these travelling messengers of God, it will be considered as "beautiful" and well-pleasing to God.

Verse 7

A Preacher’s Motivation

Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

Because that for his name’s sake they went forth: This phrase presents the motivation behind the activities of these men who left their homes and families and went forth to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. They did it "for his name’s sake." "Name" stands for the Person of Christ Himself and all that His name implies. They did it for the name of Christ and in the name of Christ and in order to proclaim the name of Christ. Taylor says, "Name here stands for the whole of him and for the all of His cause" (80). "They went forth" is in the aorist tense and portrays a calculated setting out on a mission for the name of Christ. Such men are worthy of support and encouragement from Gaius and the whole church wherever they go. The principle set forth here was true in the first century and is equally true today. It is the responsibility of Christians to send forth worthy servants of the Lord to proclaim the good news of salvation to a lost and dying creation.

taking nothing of the Gentiles: "Gentiles" is ethnikos and refers to the pagan world of John’s day. Other translations render it "heathen," "non-Christians," or "people of the world." It was the practice of these travelling preachers to accept no financial support from the non-Christian world. These sincere messengers did not risk the appearance of commercialization that seems to be the order of our day. Careful note should be taken of the policy of these early preachers not to solicit sinners for support. This policy does not mean that they would arrogantly refuse offered support from non-Christians; it simply means they did not seek the support of those outside the church.

Verse 8

Sharing in the Cause

We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.

We therefore ought to receive such: "The pronoun is used in an intensive way here. It is, ’As for us, in contradistinction to the pagans’" (Wuest, III John 221). The emphatic use of "we" suggests that John is contrasting the obligation of Christians in the support of preachers with that of the world. Since they must not solicit the world for support as they go forth to preach, "we" must accept the responsibility for sustaining them. "Ought" is opheilo, which reflects moral obligation. It is used elsewhere by John to denote a debt which is owed. Christians owe a debt to those who commit themselves to the task of spreading the gospel. "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14).

’Receive’ is hupolambano, made up of hupo, ’under,’ and lambano, ’to take,’ thus, ’to catch hold from underneath and lift up,’ thus, in the language of today, ’to underwrite,’ that is, assume responsibility for the expenses of someone (Wuest, III John 221).

The idea seems to include more than just room and board when one visits but an ongoing support of that person in his work.

that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth: Not only is it a moral obligation that we owe to these preachers to underwrite their work but also we should recognize the possibility of having a share in the work they do. Everyone cannot leave his home and go forth to preach, but everyone can participate through supporting those who do. Vincent prefers to translate this phrase "fellow-workers with the truth" (403). "Fellow-helpers" is sunergoi and speaks of those who cooperate with one another in a given work. The work here is the preaching of "the truth." By contributing to the livelihood of these preachers, Gaius and others could play their part in this notable work.

Verse 9

The Church Boss

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

I wrote unto the church: The American Standard Version translates this clause, "I wrote somewhat unto the church," which is in agreement with the best texts, according to Vincent. Vincent further says that this expression suggests "the apostle did not regard the communication as specially important" (403). The implication is that John had written this relatively unimportant letter to the church where Gaius is a member. Some suggest that it was simply a letter of recommendation for the itinerant preachers.

but Diotrephes: We are here introduced to an unseemly person in the first century church, whom John is bold enough to name. Wuest gives significance to fact that "Diotrephes" literally means "Zeus-nursed" (222). Early Christians often discarded their pagan names and took on more appropriate names that suggested Christian principles. Diotrephes did not bother to do so, thus giving some insight into the character of this man. He was proud of his name in spite of its pagan implications.

who loveth to have the preeminence among them: This clause says much about the personality of this person. He "likes to put himself first" (RSV). Paul said that "in all things (Christ) might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18). Diotrephes would usurp this authority that belongs rightfully only to Christ. Here is a leader in the church who "lords it over God’s heritage" in direct contravention of Peter’s instruction to the contrary (1 Peter 5:3). He is a church boss, a dictator, and an unlawful ruler over God’s people. Bruce says, "The language suggests a self-promoted demagogue rather than a constitutional presbuteros or episkopos (elder or bishop)" (152).

receiveth us not: John had written a letter to the church where Gaius worshiped, like the one he wrote to the church he calls "the elect lady" (2 John). Some think this letter is 2 John, but there is no evidence to support this idea; in fact, the evidence would seem to prove otherwise. This letter was probably destroyed by Diotrephes to keep the church from coming under the influence of John or his emissaries. "Receiveth" denotes acceptance. Diotrephes did not accept the authority of John nor would he accept the preachers whom John was seeking to introduce.

Verse 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.

Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth: "If" does not speak of uncertainty on John’s part, but rather expresses the fact of his coming. Other translations have, "when I come." This is a promise from John to Gaius that he is coming to face Diotrephes with his wrongful actions. "I will remember" means more than to remind, as Haas says, it means "to expose, or bring to light" (155). John intends to prove before the church the kind of tyrannical boss they are submitting to and expose him for all he is. "His deeds which he doeth" speaks of his habitual evil behavior. John is determined that this egotistical leader will answer for his actions.

prating against us with malicious words: "Prating" means to talk "nonsense about, to gossip, to speak idly and irresponsibly" (Haas 155). The language Diotrephes uses against John and those with him is nonsensical, ridiculous, and irresponsible; in addition, it is "malicious" or pernicious. "Malicious" is poneros, which is used of the devil who is bent on the destruction of everyone and everything. The malicious prating of Diotrephes against John is designed to destroy his reputation and discredit his name.

and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would: Refusing to acknowledge John and the others and maliciously gossiping about them is bad enough, but Diotrephes goes even further. Not content with just destroying the influence of good men, he wants everyone else to do the same. He does not accept the traveling preachers and forbids any of the other members to do so. "Forbiddeth" is koluei and means that he "hinders, or prevents" (Wuest, III John 223). "Would" is boulomenous, which speaks of "mature consideration" (Wuest, III John 223). There are those in this congregation with good judgment who want to accept the authority of John and extend hospitality and support to the itinerants, but Diotrephes stops them from doing so. This action truly indicates the power this man wielded over this congregation. It is an excessive power that would destroy any effective work in any congregation.

and casteth them out of the church: "Casteth them out" simply means that Diotrephes drove these members away from the congregation in which he exercised this inordinate authority. He did not have the right from God to do so but was rather acting on his own in expelling these members. "Them" refers to those who, after careful thought, decide to receive these emissaries from John. Their decision countered with that of the "church boss," and he expels them. God forbid that any man should hold such control in a congregation of the Lord’s people! "Casteth out" is present tense, indicating that this was the regular practice of this overbearing despot.

Verse 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.

Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good: Once more, John uses this term of endearment as he admonishes his good friend, Gaius, to pursue the right course in human behavior. "Follow" is mimeomai, which means "to imitate" (Wuest, III John 223). This is the word from which we get "mimic."

John urges his friend to refrain from copying the example of those who are evil and rather imitate the example of those who are good. John realizes that it is natural for one to imitate others since everyone needs a fitting model for life. Diotrephes, in spite of his meanness, was a model for some to follow, however bad that model was.

Some people are drawn to men of influence and power, regardless of how they achieve their position. John admonishes his brother to choose the right model in life. He says, "Do not imitate that which is morally and spiritual inferior but that which is morally and spiritually beneficial."

He that doeth good is of God: Every Christian should choose good models for life, thus proving that he has God as his source. In the first epistle, John gives several proofs that one is of God and born of God (2:28-29; 3:4-10; 5:18). Doing righteousness, hearing the apostles, loving one another, and refraining from habitual sinful practices are evidences that one belongs to God and has his origin in God. All of this list comes under the heading of "doing good."

but he that doeth evil hath not seen God: The one who habitually does good, testifies that he has his origin in God; the one who regularly practices evil testifies that he has not really seen God by an eye of faith. No one has ever seen God with his physical vision (John 1:18), but every Christian can see Him with an eye of faith. "Hath not seen" is "in the perfect tense, indicating an event in the past affecting the present" (Haas 156). (See the comments on 1 John 3:6.) The person who truly sees God with his spiritual vision will refrain from all that is morally and spiritually substandard.

Verse 12

The Dedicated Preacher

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.

Demetrius: We are now introduced to Demetrius, a Christian of the first century who is the antithesis of Diotrephes. Evil reminds one of Diotrephes; good reminds one of Demetrius. Little is known about Demetrius. He just seems to appear in this verse and disappear. There is no evidence that he is the person by the same name mentioned in Acts 19:23. In fact, it is very unlikely. Some think he might be Demas, since Demas is short for Demetrius (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:10), but there is no evidence to support this conclusion, either. It is reasonably supposed that Demetrius is the bearer of this letter and is thereby introduced to Gaius. This verse serves as an introduction and a recommendation of Demetrius to Gaius.

hath good report of all men: One of the facts known about this man is that he has a good reputation. "Report" speaks of testimony or witness. The literal translation is: "unto Demetrius witness hath been borne" (Vincent 404). "All men" who had been witnesses of the life and character of Demetrius were ready to testify to his worthiness as a man of God. Stott says, "The perfect passive memarturetai conveys the idea that the testimony of all men to Demetrius in the past remains valid in the present" (229).

and of the truth itself: "The truth," that is, the word of God, is said to testify to the merits of this good man’s life. The life of Demetrius was consistent with the truth that he preached and that the church knew. The truth, laid side by side with the life of Demetrius, testified to the rightness of his character.

yea, and we also bear record: Demetrius has even more witnesses to testify on his behalf, John and those with him. Some think John is using the editorial "we" in this passage, but it still makes good sense to understand "we" to include those with John. The scriptures seem to approve the presence of two or three witnesses to the truthfulness of any charge or affirmation. John gives the witness of "all men," the witness of God’s word, and his own witness along with his fellows. This testimony should confirm Demetrius in the mind of Gaius beyond all question.

and ye know that our record is true: John uses the same language in the close of his Gospel: "This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony (witness) is true" (John 21:24). "Know" speaks of absolute knowledge. Gaius knows absolutely, beyond all question, that John’s testimony concerning Demetrius can be relied upon. It is "true," reliable, and trustworthy.

Verse 13

The Closing Words

I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:

This is almost the same statement that John wrote to the "elect lady" in 2 John. This brief letter does not reflect all that John would like to say to Gaius. Evidently, he would like to say much more about the need for supporting the itinerant preachers, the abuses of Diotrephes, and the blessed attributes of Demetrius. In fact, the tense of "write" indicates that John feels an obligation to write more, but he goes on to say that he "would rather not" (Haas 157). In 2 John, he said "paper and ink;" here he says "ink and pen," both of which mean to write a letter. The writing materials of ancient times were crude by any stretch of the imagination. Papyrus was the crude writing paper, soot mixed with oil was the ink, and the pen was just a reed used as a writing instrument. Writing a letter, especially a long epistle like 1 John, was a long and arduous task. John chose not to use that method to convey all of his thoughts to his Christian friend.

Verse 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.

But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face: "Trust" is elpizo; "to hope, expect" (Moulton 133). John hopes to see Gaius very soon. This longing is not a simple wish, but a true hope. Lenski says that "shortly" should be "immediately" (592). John’s hope is that there will be little delay in his arrival in Gaius’ hometown. Much is to be accomplished, including a confrontation with Diotrephes as well as enjoying the company and hospitality of his friend. It will be better for John to speak to Gaius "face to face" or literally, "mouth to mouth." Even in this day of typewriters, word processors, and computers, it is always easier and far more effective to engage in a face-to-face exchange. Misunderstandings are avoided, or at least minimized, and problems can be ironed out immediately without so much time passing while imaginations run wild. John’s hope, as he pens this short missive, is to sit down face to face with his friend and discuss these urgent matters.

Peace be to thee: This is an oft-used greeting and salutation in the New Testament (2 John 1:3; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; 1 Peter 5:14). The Jews often greet one another with "shalom," or "peace." There is no sweeter word in the English language than the word, "peace." What solace, what calmness, what serenity is suggested by the very mention of the word! John desires the "peace that passeth all understanding" for his friend in the gospel. Does Gaius need it? With a troublemaker like Diotrephes to deal with, peace from God is his greatest need.

Our friends salute thee: Gaius has mutual friends where John is, and they send greetings. What a blessing Christian friendship is! Friendship implies a relationship of mutual love, affection, and obligations. Friendships in the church have a double chance for survival. If natural affection does not hold the friendship together, there is always the divine love that can be applied, and the bond is made secure. Paul had Christian friends to refresh him at Sidon (Acts 27:3). There are no friends more willing than those in the family of God.

Greet the friends by name: John has friends in the church where Gaius lives, and he wishes Gaius to convey his regards to his friends "by name," that is, "name by name" or "one by one." John’s love for these brethren is such that he does not want any one of them to be left out in his greeting. Jesus said that the shepherd "calleth his own sheep by name" (John 10:3). As an apostle, John serves as an undershepherd, who also calls the same sheep by name. This reference indicates the close association of John with his fellow Christians.

What a rewarding experience it is to read this personal note of John to his friend in the Lord, Gaius. He makes us aware of the problems they faced in the first century as well as the blessings of true friendship in the gospel. While there were the trouble-makers like Diotrephes, there were the committed servants like Gaius and Demetrius, who never let the apostle down. Reading this brief epistle makes it easier to relate to a great man like the apostle John. He was a man of "like passions" as we with the same needs and the same problems we have to face.

This little book also gives us an insight into the workings of the first century church with its elevated ideals and its equally elevated problems. The greatest joy, love, and peace known to man were enjoyed by this early fellowship of believers; yet, the most deplorable persecution, opposition, and adversity were also experienced daily by this band of Christians. In our times of deepest pain and sorrow, we can relate to these early Christians who suffered so much; in our times of highest joy and gladness, we can relate to the joy that motivated them to heights of greatness in the Lord’s vineyard.

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Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 3 John 1". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/3-john-1.html. 1993-2022.