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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

3 John

- 3 John

by Thomas Coke


ST. JOHN in this Epistle calls himself The Ancient, not so much in reference to his office, like St. Peter, in his first Epistle, 1Jn 5:1 as on account of his great age. It were presumption to pretend to determine who was the Gaius to whom this Epistle is addressed; for, there being at that time several believers of this name, as appears from Acts 19:29 and Romans 16:23 we can find nothing conclusive upon the subject. Neither is it certain whether this man was a minister, or a believer only; but more probably the latter, since St. John does not call him by any of the names which are usually given to ministers of the Gospel, as servant of Christ, brother, fellow-labourer, &c. which the apostle would hardly have omitted, had he been a minister. Besides, he charges him with the care of the travelling ministers who should come to him, and that he would conduct them safely to the neighbouring towns, which is rather the office of a private person than of a minister, who, being occupied with the care of his flock, could not be so much at liberty to employ himself in these offices as private persons. St. John complains, in this Epistle, of the haughtiness of one Diotrephes, who had carried his arrogance so far as to speak disrespectfully of the apostle himself, whom the whole church held in the highest esteem. It is probable, that the meekness and simplicity which appeared in every part of St. John's behaviour, offended this proud haughty man, who would have had all bend under the ecclesiastical yoke, and wanted himself to be at the head of the church.

He commendeth Gaius for his piety, and hospitality to true preachers; complaineth of the unkind dealing of ambitious Diotrephes, on the contrary side, whose evil example it not to be followed; and giveth especial testimony to the good report of Demetrius.

Anno Domini 90.

TO encourage Gaius to persevere in that holy virtuous course, by which he had obtained the love of all who knew him, St. John, in the inscription of this letter, declared his own love to him, on account of the uncommon goodness of his character and actions, 3 John 1:1.—and prayed to God to prosper him in his spiritual concerns, 3 John 1:2.—and told him what joy it gave him, when the brethren who had been assisted by him brought him the welcome news of his perseverance in the true doctrine of the gospel, 3 John 1:3.—because one of the apostle's greatest joys was to hear that his disciples walked in the truth, 3 John 1:4.—Next, he praised Gaius as acting agreeably to the gospel, when he shewed kindness to the brethren and to the strangers, who had applied to him for succour in their straits, 3 John 1:5.—And to encouragehim to persevere in these charitable Christian offices, he told Gaius, that the brethren and strangers, when they returned, bare an honourable testimony to his love, publicly before the churches over which St. John presided. And, as they were, at the time this letter was written, making a second journey among the Gentiles, he told him, if he helped them forward a second time, in a manner worthy of God whom they served, by succouring them, he would still do a good work acceptable to God, 3 John 1:6.—because these brethren and strangers, for the sake of publishing the name of Christ and the doctrine of the gospel among the Gentiles, were gone forth, as formerly, with a resolution of taking nothing on the score of maintenance from the Gentiles, notwithstanding they infinitely benefited the Gentiles by preaching the gospel to them, 3 John 1:7.—For which cause, all who had the furtherance of the gospel at heart, he told him, were bound to shew such persons kindness, that they might be joint labourers with them in spreading and establishing the truth, 3 John 1:8.

Next, he told Gaius, that he would have written the same exhortation to the church of which he was a member; but he had abstained from writing, because Diotrephes, who ruled every thing in that church according to his own humour, did not acknowledge his apostolical authority; thereby insinuating, that Diotrephes probably would have suppressed any letter which the apostle might write, 3 John 1:9.—He added, that because Diotrephes did not acknowledge his authority, he would, when he came among them, put him in mind of his deeds; his prating against the apostle with malicious words, his not receiving the brethren and the strangers who had applied to him in their straits for relief, his hindering the members of his church from assisting them, who were disposed to do it, and his casting those out of the church, who had persevered in assisting them contrary to his arbitrary orders. By this, I think, the apostle threatened to exercise his miraculous power in punishing Diotrephes for his evil deeds, 3 John 1:10.—But, beloved, said he, do not imitate what is evil in Diotrephes, but what is good in Demetrius. For he who from the heart doth good, knows God, and imitates the most amiable and spotless pattern: but he that harbours such malignant passions, and behaves in so injurious a manner, whatever high notions he may pretend to, is plainly ignorant both of the perfections and will of God, 3 John 1:11.—He then told Gaius, that Demetrius was every way worthy of being imitated, because he was praised not only by all good men, but by the gospel itself, his temper and actions being conformable to the precepts of the gospel in every respect. To these honourable testimonies St. John added his own approbation of Demetrius's character, which Gaius knew to be a true testimony, because he knew that the apostle never praised any person from flattery, and that he wrote bythe infallible inspiration of the Spirit of God, 3 John 1:12.—He told him farther, that he had many things to write to him, probably concerning the unchristian temper and conduct of Diotrephes in particular; but he would not commit them to paper, lest his letter, falling into other hands, might be shewed to that imperious man, and enrage him against Gaius, 3 John 1:13.—But he hoped to visit Gaius soon, and then would speak to him mouth to mouth freely concerning Diotrephes, and on every other useful subject. In the mean time, to testify his esteem of Gaius, he gave him his apostolical benediction, together with the salutation of all the faithful who were with him, and whom he named the friends, because they were the friends of Christ, and lived in strict friendship with each other. Lastly, he desired Gaius, in his name, to wish health and happiness to all the faithful in his church, whom he termed the friends because they also were the friends of Christ, and lived in the strictest friendship with each other, 3 John 1:14.