3 John 1:2
Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.
Can that be said of us, my brethren, which John here says of his well-beloved friend Gaius? Let Us ask ourselves, in God's sight, whether or no our souls have had any true spiritual prosperity this past year. Gaius's soul was prospering. Gaius was in both moral and spiritual prosperity. And John, and all good men, saw that Gaius's soul was in prosperity, and they rejoiced to see it. Gaius prospered in the knowledge of the truth, and in the love of the truth, and in the obedience of the truth. He prospered also in his fidelity to whatever he undertook, both to John, and to the brethren, and to strangers.
1. Has your soul prospered under the preaching of the truth? Has this, or any other pulpit, been of any real assistance and service to your spiritual life this past year? And, if so, in what has your soul's prosperity manifested itself? And if you have experienced no such prosperity, why not?
2. But in these days, you are not independent of the pulpit, indeed, but you are not so wholly dependent on it, and instructed by it, as many men are. You have money to buy books and you have time to read books. A man is known by his books. A man cannot always choose his minister. But he can always choose his books. Now, honestly, do the books about God, and about the soul and God, make you uncomfortable? As a matter of fact, do you ever open, and of your own accord and liking, such a book from one year's end to the other?
3. But I may be a great authority on the best books; I may be a great collector and devourer of devotional books; and yet, all the time, I may be an utterly unspiritual and undevotional man myself. Philo for this twenty years has been collecting and reading all the spiritual books he can hear of. Philo will ride you forty miles in winter to have a conversation about spiritual books, or to see a collection larger than his own. But Philo never thinks how wonderful it is that a man who knows regeneration to be the whole world should yet content himself with books upon the new birth, instead of being born again himself. For all that is changed in Philo is his taste for books. He is no more dead to the world: no more delivered from himself: as unwilling to enter into war with himself, and to deny his appetites, as he was twenty years ago. Yet all is well with Philo: he has no suspicion of himself. Have you been any better of what you have heard about prayer this last year? I tell you you are cutting your own throat if you come and sit and consent to sermon after sermon on secret and spiritual prayer, and still remain the same prayerless and unspiritual man you have all your life been.
4. Socrates, the wisest of the Greeks, was wont to insist that a life without constant cross-examination was no true life at all. "Know thyself," was the holiest and most urgent of the holy texts of his god to Socrates. But a greater than Socrates has preached to us, and on still holier and still more heart-searching texts. How does His dialectic prosper in your souls? To put it in the most elementary and superficial way: Do you know as much as your one besetting sin, and what it really is? Do you know about yourself what all your friends see in you with such pain and shame? and what all your enemies rejoice over and laugh at? Has Christ's cross-examination taken you down at all among the motives that move you in all you think, and say, and do? Is the holy and spiritual law of God at all within your heart?
5. Once more: Take from among a thousand things that might be set forth as sure tests of soul-prosperity — take the forgiveness of injuries. This is perhaps the very last grace to which even gracious men, and men prospering in grace, ever attain to. Caesar forgot nothing but injuries. How do you stand in this all-important obedience?
6. Just one more test of your prosperity. The "taming of the tongue," as our Lord's brother calls it. If you are prospering with that great task, then you are well on to being a "perfect man" as James has it. All the roads in the old world led to Rome. And all the prosperities of the soul point to prayer. What a year! and the beginning of what prosperity! it would be to you, if you discovered for yourself, this year, something of the power, and the joy, and the sweetness of secret prayer.
(A. Whyte, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.