“The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.” ~ 3 John 1
Explanation of the Text: A relatively short book, the epistle of 3 John is one that can be challenging to us in our relationship with others. Each of John’s letters address the topic of false teaching, but from a different perspective. Here, the discussion entails rejection of the true teachers in order to accept the false teachers. John’s writing follows that of Paul who discusses leaders being worthy of honor, noting that we should respect those who rule in the church well.
As we break down the verse we note both the author and the recipient of the letter. It is written by the elder to Gaius. As we previously noted, the elder is a phrase John uses here to refer to himself, noting both his advanced age and his authority (for more on the background see our previous devotion by clicking here). While we know much about the apostle John, we know very little about Gaius. It would profit little to speculate who he was outside of the information we have from this letter. As one commentator notes, it was a popular name during that era and we simply cannot determine exactly who was being referred to here except in name alone (1).
While verse one serves merely as a brief introduction, it is revealing of the friendship between Gaius and John and indicative of the relationship between believers. John describes Gaius as ‘beloved’ and furthers that by indicating his own love for Gaius. The term beloved is a strong term noting a deep relationship between the two. It is a love that is founded upon the truth. It is this truth that creates the strongest bond between believers.
Before wrapping up a look at this text, in my studies I cam across David Jackman’s note that I find interesting and worth noting here. He notes that in the phrase “whom I love in truth” the “I” is in the emphatic position. He suggests that John is perhaps highlighting his love for Gaius because at this time he may be unpopular and unloved within his own church because he has remained firm in opposition to the false teaching of Diotrephes, who because of his falsehood and counteractive attitude, has prompted this letter (2). It is hard to know for certain, but following the context and syntax of the letter this would make sense.
Examination & Application of the Letter: John once again reveals for us relationships with other believers. Within the letter we find accountability and encouragement that are held together by genuine love for one another. This love is something special because it is rooted in truth. Any truth finds its roots in God, thus we can say that true love between believers exists in a theological framework first. Not only is theology a framework for accountability, discipline, and discipleship, but it formulates the function and heart for the love that encapsulates those, and even more it forms our relationships with one another.
It is because of this genuine love that John can both refer to Gaius as ‘beloved’ and mention his own love for Gaius. “The logic of why Christians use this form of address for on another is summed up in 1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (3).
Loving each other is more than just obedience to a command. Yes, the Lord has commanded us to do so, because we also love Him. Yet, it must come from a heart that is humbly entranced by God. Only when we genuinely love Him can we genuinely love one another.
(1) Charles Ryrie, “3 John” in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer & Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1990), 1483.
(2) David Jackman, The Message of John’s Letters: Living in the Love of God, The Bible Speaks Today (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 191.
(3) Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John: Translated with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 702.