Meditations in 3 John


“The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.” 3 John 1

Personal letters can often shed light on historical events and times not revealed in other historical records. And reading letters can often reveal the innermost thoughts of the writers.

Certainly, that is the case in John’s letter to Gaius. Though we do not know with certainty who Gaius was – whether he is the same Gaius mentioned in Acts 19:29; Romans 16:23 and 1 Corinthians 1:14 or another Gaius who came to faith through the preaching of the apostle John we can only guess – but we do learn through John’s letter that this Gaius was deeply loved of the apostle John and continued to walk in the truth of God’s Word and hold fast to Christ Jesus as His Savior.

Again, the apostle refers to himself only as “the elder” rather than exercising authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Why? we might ask. John’s appeal was based on the truth revealed in God’s Word and taught by God’s Spirit; not upon his own authority.

Note that John addressed Gaius as well-beloved and adds, “whom I love in the truth.” John speaks of Gaius as being a recipient of the selfless (agape) love, and this is the kind of love John has for Gaius and for all who walk in the truth.

This, of course, tells us of the relationship between being beloved children of God through faith in Christ Jesus and reflecting and sharing that same kind of love for all our brethren – all who share in the same faith and belief of the truth which is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.

Since God loves us as His own children in Christ Jesus, we love those who receive God’s love and mercy through faith in our Savior.

O God, we know that You have loved us and given Your Son to die for us. Grant that we love You in return and love all those who walk in the truth of Your Word. Amen.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 3 John 2

Is there anything wrong with being in good health and prospering in this world? This was the apostle John’s desire for Gaius. John indicated that the soul of Gaius was prospering, and it was his expressed desire that he also prosper and be in good health.

As we read this letter, we see that such a wish was not for carnal gain but because Gaius was using the blessings God gave him to advance the Gospel. He was receiving those who faithfully preached and taught the truth and helping them on their way. He was a mission supporter; and, instead of receiving those who advance lies and false teaching, he received those who held to the truth of God’s Word and became a partaker in their good deeds.

If God blesses us with the things of this world, we should rejoice because He has enabled us to support the advancement of God’s kingdom by aiding those who preach and teach Christ Jesus and the truth revealed to us through God’s Word.

I thank You, O heavenly Father, for all Your blessings upon me. Move and enable me to use the blessings You have entrusted to me to aid in the preaching and teaching of the truth which is in Christ Jesus. Amen.

“For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 3-4

What joy John had when his fellow believers came and testified of the faith and love for the truth which was in Gaius! John rejoiced when he learned that Gaius not only claimed to believe the truth but also lived according to it and helped those who shared in the true faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son made man to redeem fallen mankind.

From this letter, it appears that men who studied under the apostle were sent out to strengthen believers in the truth and to carry that truth to cities and villages which had not heard of the salvation won for all by the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus. When these men returned to John, they testified of the faith of Gaius and to his support of the truth by receiving them into his home and helping them on their way.

As John wrote: “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

We too have cause to rejoice when we hear of believers who walk in the truth of God’s Word, hold fast to the salvation won for all by Christ’s death and resurrection, and who labor to share and spread the saving Gospel of forgiveness and life eternal in Christ Jesus! God also grant that we model our lives after the example of Gaius.

O Spirit of God, You have sanctified us and brought us to know the truth of our sinfulness and of the salvation provided for us in Christ Jesus. Keep us in the truth and move us to live our lives in accord with it. Amen.

“Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.” 3 John 5-8

The inspired Scriptures tell us: “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). The Bible also says: “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:1-2).

God would have us do good and share the blessings He has given us with others. And even though we live in times of fear and lovelessness, God would have us love our fellow believers and entertain strangers, reminding us of those in the Bible who had taken in angels unawares.

The apostle John commends and encourages Gaius for his kindness to the brethren – even to those he did not know – encouraging him to receive them into his home and help them on their journey, for they went forth in the name of Christ Jesus and to advance the true and saving doctrine. They went to the unbelieving Gentiles, taking nothing from them but sharing with them the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus.

John points out that Gaius, by receiving and helping such, was a fellow helper to the truth.

We may not all be able to travel abroad to help spread the truth about the salvation God has provided for sinful mankind in His only-begotten Son; but when we help those whom God has called and sent, we become fellow helpers to the truth.

Dear Father in heaven, move us to abide in Your love toward us in Christ Jesus and give us selfless love for all who hold fast to the truth of Your Word and to the salvation You have given us in the Son. Enable and move us to be fellow helpers in the ministry of the truth. Amen.

“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” 3 John 9-10

Not all was well with the local church in the city where Gaius lived. While we don’t know a lot about him, the letter of John tells us of a man there named Diotrephes who apparently tried to have his way in the church. When John wrote to the church and sent men to further the preaching of the truth, Diotrephes would not receive John’s letter or those whom John sent. Instead, he challenged the authority of the apostle and spoke against him and his apostolic ministry. And not only did he refuse to receive the brethren sent out from John, he forbade those who would have received them and excommunicated them from the church.

Whether Diotrephes was an elder or pastor in the church or just a dominating member, we don’t know; but he withstood and spoke evil of the truth and its messengers.

Sad to say, congregations today often have pastors or members who seek to rule over their congregations, wishing to have everything their own way. Sometimes, that even leads to speaking against the truth of God’s Word and against those who faithfully proclaim it. How sad that men (or women) would place themselves above the Word of God and the true doctrine revealed in it! How sad when people who do not know Christ Jesus and His doctrine rise up to lead and rule in the church!

All of this reveals to us how important it is for us to use the utmost care when calling pastors and teachers or choosing church officers that we choose godly men who seek not their own gain but to advance the truth and make known the salvation Christ has won for all by His death and resurrection and offers and gives to us through His Word and Sacraments.

O gracious God, remove from us all selfish desires to rule over Your church and grant that we submit unto our Head, our Lord Jesus who gave Himself for us and who leads and guides us through Your Word. Amen.

“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” 3 John 11

Again, John refers to Gaius as a beloved brother in the Lord Jesus. And, the apostle encourages him to follow the example of those who love the truth and do good rather than that of those who reject the truth and do evil.

He reminds Gaius of that truth which he taught in his other epistles: Those who are born of God and have God’s Spirit dwelling in them cannot continue to do evil. While we cannot see faith in the heart, we can see its fruits. “He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” Thus, those who willfully continue on in their sinful ways, impenitent, are not really Christians and do not know the Father and the Son.

We, too, ought to heed John’s message and not follow the example of those who continue in evil – who reject the truth (or parts of it) revealed in God’s Word and place themselves and their own desires, views and opinions above the Word of God. Rather, we ought to follow the example of those who humbly submit to the Word of God, admit their wretched and sinful condition and place their hope and trust in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross.

O gracious and merciful Father, grant that we do not follow the example of those who reject the truth and continue on in their evil ways, but grant to us true repentance and faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.” 3 John 12

Again, we know little of this Demetrius – it was a common Greek name. But John tells us that the witness of all concerning Demetrius was good. He was a faithful witness to the truth, something to which those who held the truth could testify. And the apostle John himself, and those with him, could testify of the character and faithfulness of Demetrius.

While the letter does not specifically say it, Demetrius may have been the bearer of John’s letter to Gaius, in many ways similar to the letters of commendation ministers used to send with their members when they traveled and visited other churches of their own faith and confession so that they would be welcomed into the churches and received at the Lord’s Table.

Demetrius (and possibly others with him) may have been sent by the apostle not only to Gaius but to cities and regions beyond to preach the truth and strengthen believers in the true and saving faith. Thus, the apostle commends Demetrius and his faithfulness to the truth. And Gaius knows John’s witness is true.

What kind of commendation would we receive of our pastor and of our brethren? Would it be one of faithful attendance and devotion to Christ and His Word, or would it be one of uncertainty and question?

Sanctify us in the truth, O God, Your Word is truth. Move us to live and conduct ourselves in such a way that all can see and know of our faith in Christ Jesus and of our faithfulness to Your Word of truth. Amen.

“I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: but I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face.” 3 John 13-14a

Again John expresses his intention to come and visit Gaius, as well as the church there, soon. Face to face, he intends to address the evil deeds of Diotrephes. And, face to face, he intends to strengthen and encourage the brethren in the truth that they might stand fast in their faith in Jesus Christ, who is true God and true man and their Savior from sin, death and eternal damnation.

While writing with pen and ink (or with keyboard and computer) is a blessing, it cannot replace being able to gather together with our fellow believers and hear the Word of God explained and applied to our daily lives. It cannot replace the mutual admonition and encouragement from the Scriptures.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

Grant me the wisdom, O God, to gather together with faithful believers who hold fast to the truth revealed in Your Word and cling by faith to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May I be an encouragement for good to them, and they to me. Amen.

“Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.” 3 John 14b

The elder John closes this short letter with the words: “Peace be to thee.” Though we may think of these words speak of earthly peace and tranquility, they refer to the peace of God.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). It is that peace which was brought into being when Christ Jesus took our sins upon Himself and bore upon the cross our just punishment, making us acceptable in God’s eyes through faith in our Savior. Jesus Christ won for us this peace, and it is ours only through faith in Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Thus, John assures Gaius of this peace of sins forgiven which is in Christ Jesus.

John sends also the greetings of his friends, and those of his companions and fellow ministers, and he encourages Gaius to extend his greeting to the friends – to those who continue in the truth – individually and by name.

We certainly see the personableness of the apostle. He wasn’t looking at numbers but at individuals and all were important to Him.

So also, the Lord knows each of us individually and by name. Though He died for all, His death was also for each of us individually.

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:14, 27-30).

Thank You, dear Lord Jesus, for so loving me that You died for me and won my salvation. Keep me and all Your elect in the true faith unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

Categories ,