3 John 1:1
The elder to the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
I. LET US SEE WHETHER, WITHOUT PASSING OVER THE BOUNDS OF HISTORICAL PROBABILITY, WE CAN FILL UP THIS BARE OUTLINE WITH SOME COLOURING OF CIRCUMSTANCE.
1. Three persons of the name Gaius or Caius appear in the New Testament (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14).
2. Demetrius is, of course, a name redolent of the worship of Demeter, the Earth-Mother, and of Ephesian surroundings. No reader of the New Testament needs to be reminded of the riot at Ephesus, which is told at such length in Acts 19. The conjecture that the agitator of the turbulent guild of silver smiths who made silver shrines of Diana may have become the Demetrius, the object of St. John's lofty commendation, is by no means improbable. The very words of Demetrius about Paul evince that uneasy sense of the powers of fascination possessed by the apostle which is often the first timid witness of reluctant conviction.
II. WE MAY NOW ADVERT TO THE CONTENTS AND GENERAL STYLE OF THIS LETTER.
1. As to its contents.
(1) It supplies us with a valuable test of Christian life, in what may be called the Christian instinct of missionary affection, possessed in such full measure by Caius.
(2) The Church is beset with different dangers from very different quarters. As the second Epistle warns the Church of peril from speculative ambition, so the third Epistle marks a danger from personal ambition, arrogating to itself undue authority within the Church.
(3) This brief Epistle contains one of those apparently mere spiritual truisms, which make St. John the most powerful and comprehensive of all spiritual teachers. He had suggested a warning to Caius, which serves as the link to connect the example of Diotrephes which he has denounced, with that of Demetrius which he is about to commend. "Beloved!" he cries, "imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good." A glorious little "Imitation of Christ," a compression of his own Gospel, the record of the Great Example in three words.
2. The style of the Epistle is certainly that of an old man. It is reserved in language and in doctrine. Religious language should be deep and real, rather than demonstrative. It is not safe to play with sacred names. To pronounce them at random for the purpose of being effective and impressive is to take them in vain. What a wealth of reverential love there is in that — "for the sake of the Name!" This letter says nothing of rapture, or prophecy, of miracle. It lies in the atmosphere of the Church, as we find it even now. It has a word for friendship. It seeks to individualise its benediction. A hush of evening rests upon the note. May such an evening close upon our old age!
(Abp. Wm. Alexander.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.