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The Second and Third Epistles of John - Lesson 6

Scripture Passage: 
3 John 1:1-8

                     The Third Epistle of John                                 3 John 1:1-8                           The Testimony of Gaius

  1. JOHN’S GREETING (3 John 1:1-2)
    1. The Elder (3 John 1:1)
      1. Various uses of the word elder
        1. It can be a reference to age (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
        2. It can be a reference to wisdom (Job 32:4-7).
        3. It can be a reference to an office of leadership (Numbers 11:16; Matthew 21:23; Titus 1:5).
        4. In the case of the Apostle John, all three apply.
      2. The purpose for using this title
        1. Both Peter (1 Peter 5:1) and John (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1) refer to themselves as an elder.
        2. Paul goes one step further and identifies himself as “Paul the aged” (Philemon 1:9).
        3. The initial idea is that these men were old for their time when they wrote these epistles.
        4. But John could also be claiming his office as an elder.
          1. This title was used of pastors but also of other high offices in the church.
          2. In using this more general title, John was expressing his humility.
        5. Consider the absence of the title “apostle.”
          1. Disciple(s)
            1. Used 241 times in the Gospels
            2. Used 31 times in the Book of Acts
            3. Used 0 times past the Book of Acts
          2. Apostle(s)
            1. Used 8 times in the Gospels
            2. Used 30 times in the Book of Acts
            3. Used 34 times in Paul’s epistles
            4. Used 3 times in Peter’s epistles (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:2)
            5. Used 1 time in Jude (Jude 1:17)
            6. Used 0 times in John’s epistles
            7. Used 3 times in Revelation (Revelation 2:2; Revelation 18:20; Revelation 21:14)
          3. Elder
            1. Though John was indeed a disciple of our Lord, he does not use that title.
            2. Though John was one of the apostles, he does not use that title.
            3. John uses the title elder or servant as found in Revelation 1:1.  Apparently the other titles were out of date and John simply used elder or servant in their place.
    2. The Wellbeloved Gaius (3 John 1:1)
      1. His identity
        1. Gaius was a common Roman name of the time.
        2. There seem to be four different men by the name of Gaius in the New Testament (see Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14; 3 John 1:1).
        3. The reference to Gaius in 3 John is several decades later than all the other references to that name. Therefore, it is not as likely that this Gaius is identical to any of the earlier men of that name.
        4. The Gaius of 3 John is evidently a solid believer known by John and many others.
        5. John identifies Gaius as…
          1. One to be loved (3 John 1:1)
          2. One to be blessed (3 John 1:2)
          3. One to be rejoiced in (3 John 1:3-4)
          4. One to be trusted (3 John 1:5-6)
          5. One to be sought out for help (3 John 1:6-8).
        6. Were it not for this one reference in this short letter, Gaius would have been a forgotten piece of history.
      2. The wellbeloved
        1. In 3 John, John refers to Gaius as “beloved” three times (3 John 1:2, 5, 11) and as “wellbeloved” once.
        2. It is partly in the nature of the Apostle John to use this terminology as we see in 1 John where he referred to the “beloved” five times.
        3. Also, it is clear that Gaius means this much to John. John has a special love for Gaius.
      3. Loved in the truth
        1. Some so-called loves are merely founded upon the lust of the flesh.
        2. John clarifies that his love for Gaius is founded and anchored in the truth.
        3. This is crucial for believers, because the feelings of the flesh may come and go.   However, if our love is anchored in the truth, it will not change.
    3. The Wish (3 John 1:2)
      1. Above all other wishes
      2. A wish for Gaius’ prosperity and health
        1. Charles Mallary (1801-1864) comments: “Though probably delicate and feeble as to bodily health, he possessed a healthful, prosperous soul. The wish expressed in his behalf by the Apostle John is quite remarkable… The apostle does not seize upon his external, temporal prosperity as the standard by which he measures out his desires for the health and enriching of his soul; but, on the contrary, he desires him to be blessed in bodily health, and other earthly advantages, as God had favored him in spiritual bounties…” – from The Nature of Soul Prosperity (page 2).
        2. The nature of the wish
          1. This is not a wish for wealth for Gaius.
          2. Gaius’ soul has prospered.  He is right with God and God has richly blessed him spiritually.
          3. Apparently Gaius had some external frailties.
          4. John wishes that the external condition of Gaius matched his internal condition.
          5. What if our exterior condition (prosperity, health, appearance) matched our inner spiritual life? What if others could judge your inner life by your outward condition? How would you look right now? What would your health be like?
        3. What is prosperity?
          1. It is connected with God’s blessings (Genesis 24:40).
          2. It is connected to obedience to God’s commands (Deuteronomy 29:9; Joshua 1:8).
      3. Only a wish
        1. John wishes prosperity and health for Gaius.
        2. A wish is a personal desire.
        3. Nine verses in the Bible refer to wishing.
          1. Evil wishes
            1. In the first example (Job 31:30), Job declared that he had not allowed his mouth to sin by wishing a curse to the soul of him that hated him.
            2. In Psalm 40:14, the psalmist spoke of those who “wish me evil.”
          2. Selfish wishes
            1. In Psalm 73:7, the psalmist speaks of those who “have more than heart could wish.”
            2. When frustrated (Jonah 4:8), Jonah “wished in himself to die.”
            3. When facing a destructive storm at sea (Acts 27:29), the sailors threw out four anchors and “wished for the day.”
          3. Spiritual wishes
            1. In Romans 9:3, Paul testified, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
            2. In 2 Corinthians 13:9, Paul and his coworkers wished for the perfection of the Corinthians.
        4. Wishes, therefore, are neutral in and of themselves. Their content and motives will classify them as sinful, selfish, or spiritual.
        5. This also proves that wishes are not necessarily associated with the will of God.  Just because something is wished does not make it so.
  2. JOHN’S REJOICING (3 John 1:3-4)
    1. The Testimony of the Brethren (3 John 1:3)
      1. The brethren testified of the truth in Gaius.
      2. The brethren testified that Gaius walked in truth.
    2. John’s Greatest Joy (3 John 1:4)
      1. Gaius was one to whom John had ministered – “my children.”
      2. What joy to know that our children walk in truth!
        1. Physical children (Proverbs 23:24 – “The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.”)
        2. Spiritual children
          1. Begotten through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15)
          2. Of whom I travail in birth again (Galatians 4:19)
    1. The Work of Gaius (3 John 1:5-7)
      1. Gaius was faithful to minister to the brethren.
      2. Gaius was faithful to minister to the strangers.
      3. The testimony of the brethren
        1. The testimony of Gaius’ charity (3 John 1:6)
          1. Borne by witnesses
          2. Before the church
        2. Note: this was a charity that could be seen, not a hidden feeling of the heart.
      4. Note: the duty of hospitality for the Christian
        1. A requirement of the pastor (Titus 1:8 – “a lover of hospitality”)
        2. A requirement for the widow indeed (1 Timothy 5:10 – “Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.”)
        3. A requirement for all believers
          1. Romans 12:13 – “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality”
          2. 1 Peter 4:8-9 – “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
      5. To encourage other believers  (3 John 1:6b-7)
        1. After a godly sort (John 1:6b)
        2. Because of their purpose (John 1:7)
          1. They go forth for His name’s sake.
          2. They take nothing of the Gentiles –
            1. The Gentiles are a reference to the lost.
            2. No charge is to be made for the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:18 – “Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge”).
            3. God’s work is to be supported by God’s people (2 Corinthians 8:1-7).
Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 27:23

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.