Another standard feature of ancient letters is the thanksgiving (2 Jn 4; Rom 1:8-9; 1 Cor 1:4-5; 2 Cor 1:3-4; and so forth). While such expressions of thanksgiving are common, naturally their content will vary with the individuals and situation. Here we learn something about the occasion of 3 John. Christians who have come from Gaius' region or congregation have reported to the Elder and his church of the faithfulness of Gaius. These Christians may be itinerant preachers of the Johannine community who themselves experienced the hospitality for which Gaius was known. They may even have experienced Diotrephes' refusal of hospitality (v. 9). At any rate, word has come to the Elder of Gaius' faithfulness to the truth.
On the surface, it may seem to be an exaggeration to speak of hospitality as a mark of faithfulness to the truth and living according to the truth.Hospitality means more than providing an occasional dinner or offering a room for a night, although it may certainly include these things. The hospitality of which the Elder speaks means financial assistance and support to missionaries of the Christian gospel so that they may fulfill the vocation to which God called them. Gaius was offering help to preachers of the gospel, thereby supporting the propagation of the truth as well as implying his affirmation of their work. Such support is the obligation of Christians, who together are named by the Name of Jesus. Just as missionaries have gone out for the sake of the Name, so those who support the missionaries do so for the sake of the Name. Together they further the cause of Jesus. They work together for the truth: some by preaching, some by supporting the preacher. Support of the Christian mission is not the responsibility or concern of pagans or un believers. But for the Christian it is both a Christian duty and an act of Christian love.
By his support of these itinerant preachers, Gaius was living in obe dience to the truth, which mandated love for one another based on the command and example of Jesus Christ. Gaius' generosity put into practice the admonition of 1 John 3:16-17 that Christians give of their material possessions for each other. Even though he had not previously known these fellow Christians, that they were fellow believers, themselves faith ful to the truth, was adequate reason for extending hospitality and sup port. Once again the strength of the bond of love between fellow be lievers comes to expression.
The Elder's response to this situation is to rejoice. For the faithfulness to the truth that Gaius demonstrates and that the Elder praises is not merely intellectual assent to a body of beliefs, nor a disembodied com mitment to an abstract truth. It is rather wholehearted allegiance to God's truth as manifested in concrete actions to specific individuals. Such com mitment elicits the greatest of joy (compare 2 Jn 4). Anyone who has been teacher, guide, mentor or parent to another can resonate with the Elder's expression of joy that his children, those in his care and for whom he is responsible, are living according to the truth. The somewhat stern and anxious tone of the Elder is softened by this expression of joy and gratitude for all that Gaius is doing for [fellow Christians].
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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