Encouragement For and From Gaius
1 The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: 2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, 7 because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 1:1-8)
Encouragement FOR Gaius, 1-4
Love For Gaius
As in his previous letter John labels himself as “the Elder” (1:1a). He is old and the last of the apostles. This title alone is needed to identify himself to his friend Gaius. The letter is a personal correspondence to a saint named “Gaius.” Several other men are named Gaius in the New Testament (Acts 19:29: 20:40; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14). This Gaius is not to be identified with any of them. After all, the name was vary common in the Roman Empire at this time.
In contrast to Diotrephes who loved to be first, John loves Gaius. By calling him “beloved” four times in this short letter, John is clearly demonstrating a much closer relation to Gaius than merely greeting him with a “dear Gaius” which would not come close to capturing the love John is expressing. The phrase “whom I love in truth” was used in John’s second letter to the “chosen lady.” It does not merely express a sincerity of love for Gaius, instead it focuses on the common relationship both men have by believing and practicing the Truth. John loves him because they both love the Truth.
Prayer For Gaius
The next part of John’s greeting to Gaius is expressed in a common wish found in letters of the first century. John prays that Gaius is blessed by God with three blessings. First, that he “may proposer in all things” (1:2a). This is not a desire for his financial or material prosperity, it is a general desire to see him possess advantageous conditions in day-to-day life. Second, John desires Gaius to “be in health” (1:2b). This does not imply that he had been in poor health since this was a very common part of the greetings of the letters in the first century. John’s final desire for his beloved brother was the continued prosperity of his soul (1:2c). Spiritual health is more important to faithful saints than physical soundness. The soul is made sound by exercising it unto godliness (1 Tim. 4:6,7); by hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matt. 5:6); being able to grow and eat meat and not just the milk of the Word (Heb. 5:12f); by keeping oneself clean from the defilements of this wicked world (Js. 1:27); and by finding rest for our souls in Jesus (Matt. 11:28-30).
Rejoicing Over Gaius
As in the previous letter John here says, “I rejoiced greatly” (1:3a). He had received good news about Gaius when visited from other brethren who had come to John “and testified of the truth that” (1:3b) was in him. This was the greatest of joy the apostle could receive. Notice, Gaius was walking in the truth. He believed, practiced, and supported the truth in his everyday life.
Some have taken Gaius to be a convert of John, because he refers to him in verse four as one of his children. However, it is more likely that this is a fatherly feeling toward a younger brother on whom he had an influence. John was apt to use “children” to refer to the saints to whom he was writing. John speaks as an elder brother and apostle who had been a spiritual father to many.
Encouragement FROM Gaius, 5-8
Hospitality is to Be Maintained
In verses nine and ten it is learned that Diotrephes was turning brethren away. He may have also been pressuring Gaius to fall in line and do the same. John encourages Gaius to continue faithfully receiving and doing whatever he could to assist the brethren sent to him. “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers” (1:5). Some of these brethren Gaius knew. Some of them were strangers to him in that he had not known these brethren. Hospitality is from the Greek word philoxenos meaning literally, “love of strangers.”
Hospitality is a Demonstration of Love
John says these same brethren whom Gaius loved enough to welcome and assist “have borne witness of your love before the church” (1:6a). When they came to the congregation where John was they gave a report of their activities. They were able to testify that at least one brother in the congregation where Diotrephes was rejecting brethren was a man named Gaius who received them. Throughout the centuries Gaius’ act of love has been preserved as a monument to his hospitality. There is no telling how many other men and women have been encouraged to demonstrate their love by receiving and helping preachers of the Gospel
Hospitality is To Be Done In a God-Like Fashion
John continues to describe the encouraging efforts of Gaius: “If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well” (1:6). Places where brethren could find shelter and rest in the ancient world were lacking. A McDonald’s or Starbucks could not be found on every other street corner. They were dependent upon such men as Gaius who would give them a place to rest, feed them, and even send them out with the necessary supplies to complete the journey to their next location. Gaius was “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). He did as Titus was so instructed: “send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing” (Tit. 3:13). The phrase “a manner worthy of God” in verse six “means ‘worthy of God, as befits God.’ We are never more ‘godlike’ than when we are sacrificing to serve others” (Weirsbe 543). His kindness toward others was akin to the kind of kindness God Himself would bestow.
Hospitality Is Given For Good Reasons
John gives several good reasons why Gaius should continue to show hospitality to these brethren. The first reason he needs to assist them is “because they went forth for His name’s sake” (1:7a). They were not mere tourist passing by on vacation or on a business trip. These brethren are on a mission to teach the Gospel in the name of Christ. They are on the road and in need of a warm welcome from him, because they are carrying out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15). The second reason Gaius would receive these workers for the Lord is that the Gentiles will not be called upon to assist them. It was the habit of Paul to be supported by himself or brethren or churches and not charge and beg support from the lost souls he was trying to reach with the Gospel (Acts 20:34; 1 Thess. 2:6-9). The Gentiles were very familiar with the itinerant philosophers who would travel from town to town taking whatever they could from those to whom they were peddling their new doctrines. Even some false teachers among the brethren were “teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain” (Tit. 1:11b). Likewise, these itinerant preachers were “taking nothing from the Gentiles” (1:7b). Since the Gentiles or lost souls are not going to be called upon for hospitality, it is fitting that the saints “ought to receive such” brethren (1:7c). Hospitality is a commandment to all the saints. Paul commanded Timothy to appoint qualified men to serve as elders and these men must be “given to hospitality” (1 Tim. 3:2). He also told him that a widow indeed was one who practiced hospitality (1 Tim. 5:10). “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Heb.13:2). “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). The finally reason Gaius and other Christians are commanded to show hospitality is “that we may become fellow workers for the truth” (1:8). This is the opposite point made by John in his second letter. No one was to assist a false teacher lest they follow in spreading the false teacher’s lies against the Truth (2 Jn. 1:10,11). Gaius is following in the spreading of the Truth because he helped those who were faithful teachers of the Word. Because Gaius loved the brethren enough to bless them with his hospitality, he was blessed by God in return. Helpers of those who do the work in the Kingdom of God will receive the same reward as those doing the teaching and preaching. Jesus said to His disciples, “he who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” (Mt. 12:41).
– Daniel R. Vess