3 John 1:2
Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.
I. PROSPERITY OF SOUL IS THE CHIEF AND MOST VALUABLE PROSPERITY. Sin is the disease of the soul; and when the power of it is subdued, and the principles and habits of holiness implanted and cherished, by the Divine and almighty Physician, then the health of the soul is restored and it becomes prosperous. It is in some measure healthful and prosperous when it is filled with useful knowledge; when it is able to discern those things that differ; and hath a clear understanding of the Divine will, and the various motives by which obedience to it is enforced. But knowledge is only the foundation of religion. Health of soul chiefly consists in piety and righteousness; in an ardent love to God, a high delight in the exercises of devotion; in a sincere faith in Jesus Christ, and a regular and circumspect conversation, founded upon the principles, and conducted by the rules, of His gospel.
II. A PERSON MAY HAVE A PROSPEROUS SOUL, AND YET WANT EXTERNAL PROSPERITY. Their souls are ill lodged; and the tabernacles in which they dwell do not appear to suit the dignity and worth of the inhabitants. This is sometimes owing to disorders conveyed to them from their parents. It is frequently owing to the ill-judged indulgence of their parents. "Many" (as Mr. Baxter observes, who was himself an instance of it) "struggle all their days with pain and sickness, through the folly of their mothers; who breed them up delicately, and deny them nothing which they like and crave, how injurious soever to their health." Sometimes they are made to "possess the iniquities of their youth"; particularly impurity, intemperance, idleness, or ungoverned passions. In many cases the immediate hand of God is to be acknowledged in the weaknesses and languors of our frame. He exerciseth His servants with this painful discipline, to make their hearts better, to quicken their diligence and excite their sympathy and concern for the good of others.
III. WE MAY VERY PROPERLY WISH AND PRAY THAT OUR FRIENDS MAY ENJOY TEMPORAL PROSPERITY, ESPECIALLY HEALTH. Much of the comfort of life depends upon health. Where that is enjoyed, we can discharge those active services which our several relations and connections demand, and can enjoy the bounties of providence with relish and pleasure. If an instrument be out of tune, the most skilful hand can produce no harmony. If the body be disordered by pain and sickness, the soul cannot act by it with ease, freedom, and cheerfulness. It needs great strength and prosperity of soul to behave well, amidst wearisome days and nights, and months of vanity. Therefore it is reasonable and proper that we should pray to that God who raised this curious frame and hath all nature under His control, that we may prosper and be in health. And if we hope for His interposition, it should be our care to avoid everything that would injure the health, and to take proper methods to restore and confirm it, when it is impaired.
IV. IT IS HAPPY FOR OUR FRIENDS WHEN WE CAN WISH THEM TO BE AS PROSPEROUS AND HEALTHFUL AS THEY ARE GOOD. Application:
1. To those who have no prosperity, neither temporal nor spiritual.
2. To those who have temporal, but no spiritual prosperity.
3. To those whose souls prosper, but they want temporal prosperity; who, like Gaius, have sickly constitutions, but healthy souls. The instance in the text shows how unreasonable it is to conclude that your souls do not prosper, because the outward man doth not.
(J. Orton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.