The Apostle John sends a short letter (3 John) to a Christian named Gaius. Not much more is known. We don’t know when the letter was written, who Gaius was, or where he lived. John doesn’t give us much detail. In fact, he intentionally leaves out much detail stating in verse 13 that he had much to write, but he is not going to put it to paper, but rather speak face to face.
So what was the purpose of John’s letter here? Well, I think it is twofold. There is a sense that there was great trouble in one of the churches. John mentions Diotrephes who was a church leader who had doctrinally gone astray and denied the authority of the Apostle John to bring correction. It is assumed that Gaius had some knowledge of the situation because he was either involved with that congregation, or he was a Christian leader that lived in a nearby town. John is writing Gaius to encourage him and to keep him walking in the truth.
Jesus told us (John 13:35) that His followers would be known by their love for one another. The underlying question that follows that statement is, What does that look like? John gives us a peek at the answer. John begins with words of endearment. John speaks words of love to a man who repeatedly demonstrates love. He speaks to “beloved Gaius” whom “I love in truth.” Then John praises Gaius for the good works that he has had reported to him. Gaius gave strong support to Christian missionaries that traveled through his area. It is likely that they were welcomed into his home, fed, given a place to sleep, and perhaps even sent on their way with some provision. John says that Gaius sent the missionaries on their journey in a manner worthy of God. Can there be any higher praise? John commends this and says that we should all give such support so that “…we may be fellow workers for the truth” (verse 8).
John also greatly emphasizes the importance of the truth. In fact, John uses the word 7 times in the 13 verses of this letter. Diotrephes had denied truth, John’s authority as an apostle and was speaking evil against John and fellow believers. He refused to welcome fellow believers or missionaries and also prevented others in his congregation from doing so by throwing them out of the church if they lent any support to those passing through. This undoubtedly caused a great commotion and confusion in the area. There was a storm in the church. John brings focus and calm to Gaius by emphasizing truth.
I have been in situations where not only a congregation was in turmoil, but a whole denomination. Perhaps some of you have experienced something like that too. The rumor mill runs at full speed. People are emotional and distressed by the situation. Friends you have known and loved for years suddenly stop attending. It is hard to navigate through those situations. John shows us what our focus should be. Our focus should be on two questions: What is truth? and What is love? Both love and truth point us directly to God and will keep us on the right path.
John’s message to Gaius was, “You are expressing love to fellow believers in this time of turmoil, keep it up.” He also said, “You are focused on the truth, remain there.” You see, truth and love don’t change because of the outside circumstances. They remain constant. They are always the right thing to do. Gaius was in an established pattern of expressing love to those who came to him. John told him to continue in that love. Gaius was also established in what was truth prior to this situation of upset. John reminded him to remain focused on that truth so he would not be lead into imitating the evil coming from Diotrephes. It is important that we are well established in patterns of love and truth before difficult times come because those practices help keep us directed to Jesus and the Father.
John’s letter here was given not just to Gaius, but to us as well. It is God’s desire that we too remain focused on the right things when the storms of trouble come. And, they do come don’t they? I pray that these words will come to your remembrance at those times. Be established in love and truth, and when trials come – remain in love and truth.