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Bible Commentaries

Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles

3 John 1

Verse 1

Verse 1. The elder unto the well beloved Gaius.

This is a repetition of what was said in the second epistle by the writer as to himself. He calls himself here, as there, the elder. It may be an allusion to his age; in any event, it exhibits the same modesty that his brother apostle, Peter, showed in his writings. For this characteristic the apostle John was specially noted.

Well beloved Gaius.

Whether it be of importance to know something of the person to whom the aged apostle pens this letter or not, it can not be amiss to notice what the inspired text says of one having a similar name. "And the whole city was filled with confusion : and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre" ( Act_19:29 ). This was at Ephesus, the place where the writer of this epistle is sup-posed to have resided after the destruction of Jerusalem. A companion of Paul in his labors and travels would suffi-ciently indicate a character devoted to the cause of the gospel as would entitle him to the endearing words applied to him by the disciple whom Jesus loved, "the well-beloved Gaius." And, not withstanding his rough treatment at Ephesus, he continued in the company of Paul in some of his subsequent journeyings, as we learn from Act_24:4 . Before his sufferings for the cause of Christ, he is mentioned as a householder at Corinth, where of him the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes mention as follows: "Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you" ( Rom_16:23 ). The character here given of the man is in keeping with the view that the writer of the third epistle of John would doubtless have us entertain. He is one of the few Corinthians that was baptized by the apostle Paul in person. ( 1Co_1:4 .) Take the history all in all, I am inclined to believe that these mentions of the name of Gaius, however few they may be in number, refer to one and the same individual. With these references to the well-beloved Gaius, the curtain of sacred history drops upon him forever, and no further view is permitted of one so highly esteemed for his devotion to and steadfastness in the faith by our Lord's last surviving ambassador on earth. Enough, however, is outlined by his Christian character to justify John, in our judgment, for his expressions of love for him in the truth. More of like character in the church of Christ would render that church a much greater factor in accom-plishing the moral reformation of the world.

Verse 2

Verse 2. Beloved, I wish above all things.

The writer unbosomed himself to the person he addresses by showing his warm affection for him in the expression: "I wish above all things." The wish is, that he may prosper and be in health, and the extent of that prosperity and health which he wished Gaius to enjoy, he measures by the prosperity of his soul. This was a measure Gaius would easily comprehend by his own consciousness. Gaius would know within himself how unselfishly he was devoted to the Lord and his cause ; and just to the extent he prospered spiritually, he was to understand that just to that extent John wished him to prosper and have good health.

Verse 3

Verse 3. For I rejoiced greatly.

John now gives Gaius a view of how the reports the brethren brought him of the conduct and conversation of Gaius affected him. He was overjoyed to learn that Gaius exhibited all these unmistakable evidences of being a true follower of the Master, notwithstanding his evil surround-ings.

Verse 4

Verse 4. I have no greater joy than to hear.

John's life was wrapped up in his desire to have all men learn, and know, and obey the truth. For this he lived ; for this he labored ; for this he suffered. And when he heard of men and women who had taken upon themselves the name of Christ, acting in accord with the instruction they had received, it gave him great pleasure. This is the compensa-tion he sought, all the reward he seemed to care for on earth.

My children walk in truth.

How tenderly the aged apostle looked upon the children of his Master. He calls them "My children." They may have been such when age is taken into the account, or with reference to the time they became servants of the Lord, as compared to his own service, or with regard to the relation-ship, spiritually, that existed the same close, tender ties that exist between father and son.

Walk in truth.

The course of conduct enjoined by the inspired instruc-tors. The Master had said, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" ( Mat_28:20 ). First. Preach the gospel. Secondly. All who believe the gospel so preached and trustingly accept baptize. Thirdly. The baptized ones teach how they shall conduct themselves throughout their life's journey. Fourthly. Assuring them by such conduct of the reward of eternal life. All such as observe, the inspired instruction given them after becoming members of Christ's body, the church, are said in Scripture to be walking in the truth.

Verse 5

Verse 5. Beloved, thou doest faithfully.

Here, the apostle commends the conduct of Gaius. His hospitality extended not only to the brethren known to be such, but also to those who were unknown those who were strangers. The contrast of this conduct with the men of that age was marked. In this hospitable conduct, Gaius was faith-ful, zealous, unremitting.

Verse 6

Verse 6. Which have borne witness.

Persons upon whom these Christian favors had been bestowed by Gaius, the recipients of his Christian charity, had given the apostle information concerning it. It should, therefore, be no surprise to Gaius that the writer should speak of the matter in this epistle. These informants also testified before the church about this exhibition of love which Gaius had for the cause of Christ. I take it, that many of these recipients of the hospitality of Gaius had been out upon missions of one kind or another connected with the church possibly upon evangelizing tours and while the apostle not only rejoices at and commends Gaius for receiving these into his home, he also adds the additional method of helping the proclamation of the word in this, by aiding the proclaimers in going from place to place. These journeys are attended with labor and more or less expense. Gaius may aid in lessening the one or the other by his con-tributions. In this, should you thus act, you will do well.

After a godly sort.

This would be well pleasing to God. It is as God would have you do. This will meet the approbation of the Master. The meaning is this: in addition to your hospitality to brethren and strangers, if you add such additional help as you can to those who are away on missions for or on behalf of the church, thus making their labor or expenses lighter on their journeys, you will also be performing acts well pleasing to God.

Verse 7

Verse 7. Because that for his name's sake.

Those whom I desire you to help on their journey went forth to sound the praises of the Master, the love of God to the world, that those who should be hearers might become the sons of God. Now, these went forth on this mission of love without calling upon the unconverted for assistance in the performance of the duties thereof. They went forth in the name of Christ, and for his cause ; hence, could not call upon the Gentiles for aid or assistance. The meaning is not that the Gentiles had tendered aid which was rejected, as some suppose.

Verse 8

Verse 8. We therefore ought to receive such

Since it is not prudent for those who go out upon evan-gelizing tours to ask for aid from the Gentiles, we who are members of Christ's body, the church, ought to receive such and aid them to the extent of our ability. We thus become fellow-helpers in spreading the truth.

Verse 9

Verse 9. I wrote unto the church.

That is, John wrote a letter to the church of which Gaius was a member. This letter has not come down to us; it is presumably lost.

But Diotrephes.

Here is the first mention of this man ; nowhere else is he mentioned on the sacred pages. The same character he seems to have exhibited is frequently met with in others, even in our own day.

Who loveth to have the pre-eminence.

Diotrephes assumed to be a leader. He was ambitious of prominence ; he attempted to lord it over God's heritage he, as far as in his power lay, controlled. He was enabled to assume the exercise of this authority by virtue of being a church official. Men assuming dictatorial powers are generally unscrupulous.

Receiveth us not.

This man Diotrephes refused to be governed by the suggestions contained in John's letter, which, probably, among other things, suggested hospitality and aid to those journeying in the cause of the gospel. Against this, Dio-trephes rebelled.

Verse 10

Verse 10. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds.

Here, in my judgment, the apostle asserts authority. The founder of the Christian faith had selected John as one upon whom authority was conferred to establish the king-dom and publish all the laws necessary for its government; and while he remained on earth he was the superior of Diotrephes, or of any other, as to the proclamation of ways to be pursued in Christian conduct.

Remember his deeds.

I will arraign him, call him to an account; no sug-gestion of deposition or excommunication, but that of cor-rection.

Prating against us with malicious words.

Diotrephes justified his course by uttering words against John, possibly denying that John was an apostle ; possibly asserting that John assumed to be an apostle when he was not. He thus calumniated and maligned his character, and thus impeached his Christian integrity. While it was John's duty to forgive, it was equally his duty to correct in love, and hence he said he would remember his deeds, if he came, herein intimating that it might not prove necessary for him to come.

Not content therewith.

Diotrephes was not satisfied in disregarding the con-tents of John's letter, and rebelling against his authority, and prating against him, but he went so far as to refuse to receive and extend hospitality to those engaged in the work of the church, and proceeded further, and did forbid other members of the church in receiving such into their homes. He even carried his foolish idea of control to such an extent, having for the time being official authority, as to cast out of the church such members as did extend hospitality to the traveling proclaimers of the word, after he had forbidden such to be done. That is to say, that he, to the extent of his ability, denied to some Christian fellowship on this account.

Verse 11

Verse 11. Beloved, follow not that which is evil.

The course pursued by Diotrephes he regarded as evil. His desire was that the saints should pursue an exactly opposite course that which is good and he proceeds to give the all-important reason.

He that doeth good is of God.

He is begotten of God. God is good, and that which is begotten of him must necessarily be good.

But he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

That is to say, possesses no right knowledge of God, for God is good, and one who knows God must of necessity do good if he seeks acceptance with God. Doing evil, the reverse of what God desires, shows a fearful lack of knowledge of God, of his character, and of his requirements.

Verse 12

Verse 12. Demetrius hath good report.

Here the apostle brings into view a very different char-acter to Diotrephes. He calls him Demetrius. He says the testimony concerning him from all sources is good. His benevolence, his meekness, his humility, meet with univer-sal commendation. The gospel itself commends him, in that his acts are conformable to its precepts ; and lastly, I praise him. My testimony to his perfect Christian character I freely give ; and you, Gaius, to whom I write, and all others, know that my testimony is true. Have I not given instruc-tion how all the saints shall conduct themselves to meet with God's approbation ? Was not this a duty imposed upon me by the Master? Have I not told you that, in giving these instructions, I was guided, so I might not mistake, by the Spirit of the living God ? Since, therefore, Demetrius has unerringly followed these commands, I praise him praise that I withheld from that opposite character of Diotrephes.

Verse 13

Verse 13. I had many things to write.

John thought of other things concerning the church its members, Diotrephes, Demetrius, and all but forebore writing with pen and ink, lest it fall into improper hands.

Verse 14

Verse 14. But I trust I shall shortly see thee.

Here he expresses the hope that some time in the near future he can meet Gaius, when he can, face to face, talk over the things about which he forbears to write, and since having the hope of so meeting, it would be needless to write.

Peace be to thee.

John's loving benediction.

Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

The friends here salute thee. Everywhere else the New Testament writers use the words brethren or saints. A friend is close in intimacy, a brother is nearer, while the relationship indicated by the word "saint" carries with it a holy association. On this closing verse, Macknight says : "This appellation is singular, being nowhere else found in the Scripture, but it applieth excellently to the primitive Christians, as it denoteth in the strongest manner the love which in the first age subsisted among the true disciples of Christ. Let it not then be pretended that the gospel does not recommend private friendship." Here we part with the beloved John. We can only praise the Lord for the lessons of love he has left upon record, and so live here on earth that the study of the blessed theme of love may be resumed in company with the Master and the beloved disciple in heaven's blest abode.

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Bibliographical Information
Caton, Nathan Thomas. "Commentary on 3 John 1". Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ntc/3-john-1.html. 1916.