Here we see, I. The sacred penman who writes and sends the letter; not here indeed notified by his name, but a more general character: The elder, he that is so by years and by office; honour and deference are due to both. Some have questioned whether this were John the apostle or no; but his style and spirit seem to shine in the epistle. Those that are beloved of Christ will love the brethren for his sake. Gaius could not question from whom the letter came. The apostle might have assumed many more illustrious characters, but it becomes not Christ’s ministers to affect swelling pompous titles. He almost levels himself with the more ordinary pastors of the church, while he styles himself the elder. Or, possibly, most of the extraordinary ministers, the apostles, were now dead, and this holy survivor would countenance the continued standing ministry, by assuming the more common title—the elder. The elders I exhort, who am also an elder, 1 Pet. 5:1.
II. The person saluted and honoured by the letter. The former is directed to an elect lady, this to a choice gentleman; such are worthy of esteem and value. He is notified, 1. By his name,—Gaius. We read of several of that name, particularly of one whom the apostle Paul baptized at Corinth, who possibly might be also the apostle’s host and kind entertainer there (Rom. 16:23); if this be not he, it is his brother in name, estate, and disposition. Then, 2. By the kind expressions of the apostle to him: The well-beloved, and whom I love in the truth. Love expressed is wont to kindle love. Here seems to be either the sincerity of the apostle’s love or the religion of it. The sincerity of it: Whom I love in the truth, for the truth’s sake, as abiding and walking in the truth as it is in Jesus. To love our friends for the truth’s sake is true love, religious gospel love.
III. The salutation or greeting, containing a prayer, introduced by an affectionate compellation—Beloved, thou beloved one in Christ. The minister who would gain love must show it himself. Here is, 1. The apostle’s good opinion of his friend, that his soul prospered. There is such a thing as soul-prosperity—the greatest blessing on this side heaven. This supposes regeneration, and an inward fund of spiritual life; this stock is increasing, and, while spiritual treasures are advancing, the soul is in a fair way to the kingdom of glory. 2. His good wish for his friend that his body may prosper and be in health as well as his soul. Grace and health are two rich companions; grace will improve health, health will employ grace. It frequently falls out that a rich soul is lodged in a crazy body; grace must be exercised in submission to such a dispensation; but we may well wish and pray that those who have prosperous souls may have healthful bodies too; their grace will shine in a larger sphere of activity.