Love in Action
1From the elder # 1 Or “presbyter.” This was obviously a self-designated term for the apostle John. He was an elder because of being the only living apostle who was chosen by Jesus. to my dearly loved brother Gaius, # 1 Gaius was a convert of John’s and a close friend who likely had a leadership position in the church (location not given). Church tradition states that he was one of the seventy whom Jesus sent out and was later ordained by John as the bishop of Pergamum. See Apostolic Constitutions (7.46.9; Funk 1, 454). However, there was also a Gaius who became the bishop of Ephesus. There are four mentions of Gaius in the New Testament, although it is unlikely that they were the same person (Acts 19:29; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14). The name Gaius means “joyful or happy.” The Latin form of Gaius can be translated “lord.” whom I truly love: # 1 Or “continually love in truth” (reality).
2Beloved friend, I pray that you are prospering in every way # 2 The Greek word eudōomai means “to be brought along to a smooth and prosperous journey” or “to be continually prospered [unto success] in every way.” The Aramaic can be translated “as much as succeeds you.” See Josh. 1:8. and that you continually enjoy good health, just as your soul is prospering. # 2 John is praying that Gaius’ physical health would match his spiritual health. God is concerned for both our physical health (he gave our bodies an immune system) and our souls (emotional and spiritual well-being). If physical health and soul “prosperity” were not the will of God, why would John pray that for Gaius?
3I was filled with joy and delight when the brothers arrived and informed me of your faithfulness to the truth. They told me how you live continually in the truth of Christ. # 3 Although the words Jesus, or Christ, do not appear anywhere in the text of 3 John, they are clearly implied. 4It is the greatest joy of my life to hear that my children are consistently living their lives in the ways of truth!
Financially Supporting Missionaries
5My beloved friend, I commend you for your demonstration of faithful love by all that you have done for the brothers on their journey, even though they were strangers at the time. # 5 These are traveling missionaries and itinerant speakers who were shown hospitality by Gaius. True hospitality is a lost art in some churches today and needs to be valued anew. 6They have shared publicly with the congregation # 6 This would likely have been the church where John was ministering (Ephesus, Pergamum, or another unnamed location). about the beautiful acts of love you have shown them. # 6 As translated from the Aramaic. Now, if you would be so kind, send them on their way with a generous gift, in a manner that would honor God. # 6 Or “equal to God’s value of them.” Apparently, these missionaries had reported to John, returned to the area where Gaius was living, and then continued on with their missionary journey. The Aramaic is quite different: “You outfitted them like a plank billboard for God”; that is, “The gifts you gave them made them an advertisement for God.” 7You see, it was their passion for the glory of the name of Christ that launched them out, and they’ve not accepted financial support from unbelievers. # 7 Or “from the gentiles.” 8They are deserving of all the support we can give them, because through our giving we can partner with them for the truth. # 8 By giving to those who preach the gospel and nurture the people of God, we are partnering with them in their ministry.
9I have already written you once about this, # 9 This refers to a lost letter, possibly destroyed by Diotrephes. So the letter we now have is actually 4 John. but Diotrephes, # 9 Diotrephes was most likely an elder in the congregation who saw himself as the most important one, pushing himself forward with a controlling leadership style. He refused the apostolic authority of John and would not accept guest speakers who may have been sent by John. His name means “nourished by Jupiter.” Leaders must view other leaders not as threats but as coworkers. Love is not controlling or tyrannical. It is clear in the New Testament that the local church must have God-appointed ministry in the congregation from pastors, prophets, teachers, evangelists, and apostles (Eph. 4:11). Additionally, there were itinerant ministers that—if proven authentic—were to be received by the local church authorities and given both opportunities to minister and generous gifts to send them on their way. who loves to be in charge and recognized as first among you, does not acknowledge our authority. 10So if I come, I will address what he’s doing—spreading his malicious slander against us. # 10 Or “with evil words talking nonsense about us.” And not content with that, he refuses to welcome our brothers, # 10 These would be the itinerant ministers, missionaries who visited their assembly to minister in the region. and he stands in the way of those who want to receive them and show them hospitality by throwing them out of the church!
11Delightfully loved ones, don’t imitate what is evil, but imitate that which is good. # 11 The Aramaic gives an entirely different slant to this verse. It can be translated “Beloved, don’t treat him with malice but with blessing” (good deeds). Whoever does good is of God; whoever does evil has not seen God. # 11 This last clause is asyndetic in order to add emphasis.
12As for Demetrius, everyone speaks very highly of him, # 12 It is possible that Demetrius was one of the “brothers” (v. 3) who was now coming to visit the church and that he was the one who carried this letter to Gaius. This letter served the purpose of being a “letter of recommendation” of Demetrius and his ministry. and even the truth itself stands by his side. We too wholeheartedly endorse him, and you know that our recommendation is reliable.
13Although I have many more subjects I’d like to discuss with you, I’d rather not include them in this letter. # 13 Or “I’d rather not write with ink [pen] and paper.” 14Instead, I hope to visit you and speak with you face-to-face. # 14 The Aramaic can be translated “mouth to mouth.”
15Peace to you, my friend. Your friends here send their loving greetings to you. Please greet each one of our friends there by name.