Typical of ancient letters (and like 2 John) 3 John begins with an identification of its author and intended recipient, followed by a thanksgiving and then a wish for the well-being of the recipient. Third John lacks a greeting such as that found in 2 John 3 (but compare v. 14) and other New Testament epistles, but such a lack does not suggest that the Elder is angry with or lacks affection for Gaius. The Elder addresses Gaius as my dear friend. While dear friend suggests cordiality, it is probably not strong enough to capture the meaning of the Greek word "beloved" (agapetos), found as an address to the readers throughout 1 John (2:7; 3:21; 4:1, 7). For love is not simply affection or attachment, but the God-given bond that unites Christians. And the Elder's statement that he loves Gaius in the truth points to the double-stranded cord that unites them: they are held together not only by love but also by the truth that they share in common.
The wish for health is also typical of ancient letters and here is really a prayer. Specifically, the Elder's prayer is that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. The word translated "soul" (psyche) refers to the whole being of a person. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is said to lay down his psyche, which certainly means more than to give his "soul" (compare Jn 10:15, 17-18). The author's confidence that Gaius is getting along well with respect to his soul would not simply point to a state of having one's soul saved, but rather to spiritual and moral health as evidenced in holding to the correct confession of Jesus and living in obedience to the commands of God and, particularly, to the command to love. In other words, "spiritual health" is to continue to walk in the truth (v. 3).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
You've successfully created your account! For the best Bible Gateway experience, consider an upgrade to Bible Gateway Plus. For less than the cost of a latte each month, you'll get reduced banner ads and a huge digital Bible study library. Try it free for 30 days!