The author of this book is the same apostle John that wrote the gospel of John, 1 and 2 John and the book of Revelation. This letter is believed to have been written between 85 and 90 AD. What this book really does is give us a little glimpse into early church life. Let’s look at it together and see how it applies to our lives today.
1 The Elder,To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:
This is again John writing and he only refers to himself as the elder here, just like in 2 John. This Gaius is believed to be a specific person. However his exact identity is unknown as Gaius was a common name in the Romans culture. Again this is someone that John loved in the truth.
2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
That is such a sweet prayer. This is someone that John loves. In the opening two verses he calls him beloved twice and talks about how he loves him in the truth. The last part of this first verse tells us that his soul prospers, that is to say he is spiritually healthy. Can the same be said about us individually? Are you spiritually well? If someone were to pray that your physical health matched your spiritual health would that be a blessing or a cursing for you? I know in my life there are spiritual exercises that I could be doing more, but overall I would say I am healthy, but always see room for growth and improvement. The common thing we as american Christians say is that we never pray enough. The other trap we can get into is thinking that what we are doing as serving the Lord counts as us spending time with Him and then we start to let that time of devotion slid with Him and it becomes all about serving. John is not promising good health and wealth to this guy. He is wishing the best for him, that is all. It is a reality that we all need to grasp that just because our soul is well and we are serving the Lord does not mean we get to escape all physical ailments. I believe that God does protect us and that when we get to heaven we may have the opportunity to see all the things that the Lord protected us from and we did not even know it. Maybe we will never get to see, but I know that the Lord does protect us. I also know that the story of Joseph and Job are true and given to us as examples. Both were men of God, and both did suffer great in this life. Please do not serve the Lord because of the good that comes your way, but because He is God.
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.
It is so good when we get reports back that someone we have poured into and invested in is walking this out. If you have information like this please share it with the person that has discipled them. It blesses those teachers beyond what you would think of imagine. Do we walk in the truth? Or do we just know the truth? It needs to be about walking in it. About daily living in the 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.
Can what John said of Gaius be said of me? Can it be said of you? You do faithfully whatever you do. God has grown my faithfulness beyond what i can express, but I still have days where being faithful to the duties in front of me can be a chore. On those days I know that I did not do everything 100% faithfully. As I mentioned in 2 John back in John’s days the priests and ministers would travel and teach on their way. They were completely dependent upon the hospitality and gifts of fellow believers. Gaius was someone who would take this messengers into his home and send them off on their way ready for the journey. When we do this we are fellow workers of the truth. Sometimes in today’s culture we are only faithful with the things that seem to be big and important to us. If we think it is going to matte in the long run then we are more likely to be faithful in it. Whereas if we deem it as being somehow less we do not think that we need to put as much effort into it. The truth is whether we see something as big or small a task given to us by God is very much important and demands our faithfulness and effort. One thing that we are all asked to do and John is highlighting here in this verse is to be hospitable. We are all at different stages in life and have different resources at our disposal. There is no set way in what hospitality much look like. It simply involves giving of your time and resources to go out of your way to help someone else feel at home.
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
Here John gives us an example of what not to be like. Diotrephes thought himself the be better then and higher above all the other elders. He likes to have the high seat and tell people what to do. This kind of person is not one that you want in leadership. That is why John is going to go to him when he sees him. This guy would not welcome the traveling minister into his home, was not hospitable to them, and was encouraging others to be the same way.
11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but[ he who does evil has not seen God.
Unfortunately there will be evil examples in our lives. The good news is that there will also be examples of righteousness in our lives. We need to discern which is which and only follow the example of the righteous. It can sometimes be tricky to tell because that first example of unrighteousness that we may want to follow is likely only going to deviate from the truth slightly. The way that we are going to know righteousness apart from evil is by looking into the source that defines both. We need to be women of the Word. we need to be in it daily looking for God to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Then we need to choose to be obedient to what He reveals.
12 Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.
Why Demetrius is specifically mentioned here we do not know for sure. The likely reason is the Demetrius was the one that brought the letter to Gaius. Whether it was for that reason or some other one thing we know is true, Demetrius was an example of righteousness. Those who knew him spoke well of him. The truth itself spoke well of him. That means that looking at his life and lining it up with the truth of scripture he passed. I partly wonder if both Demetrius and Diotrephes were known to Gaius and John mentions both the help Gaius negotiate righteous character versus evil character?
13 I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.
Again John has many more things that he wants to talk about with them, but writing them in pen and ink was not the way to go about it. There are times that face to face conversations are what is appropriate.