Author: Ron Graham
This lesson is a very old one. I first preached it way back in the 1960s. It seemed to adapt well to this series, and I'm going to enjoy bringing it to you.
The lesson is found in John’s short letter to Gaius (which people call the 3rd epistle of John) . We are looking at verses 1-8. In this reading, you will note four wonderful things that are said of this good man Gaius:
As we look at these things we will appreciate Gaius as a man of faith, hope, and love.
"To the beloved Gaius, whom I truly love" (3John 1:1) .
We hear a lot said about our solemn duty to love others, and so we ought. We should even do as Jesus said, "Love your enemies and do good to them" (Luke 6:27) . It is necessary to love. "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1John 4:8).
Gaius was a man of such excellent love that everybody who visited him bore witness of his love before the church (3John 1:8). But I want you to notice that our present text (verse 1) turns this fact (that Gaius was a loving man) inside out. It does not describe Gaius as "The loving Gaius" —meaning that he loved others. Rather, it puts Gaius into a different perspective of love: "The beloved Gaius" —meaning that others loved him.
"Be in health, even as your soul prospers" (3John 1:2)
Jesus once said, "What shall it profit, if one should gain the whole world and yet lose one's own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
Why spend your life in pandering to your body only to have death leave you destitute because you neglected your soul? "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose shall those things be which you have provided?" (Luke 12:20).
Our souls will prosper, enriched in faith, hope, and love. if we make room in our lives for earnest prayer, diligent searching of the scriptures, and fellowship with the saints.
We may suffer great loss and harm to our mortal selves, yet maintain our souls in perfect beauty, health, and prosperity. In the world we may be lepers, but in spirit we are pure and whole through the power of Christ, and, like Gaius, made ready for glory and immortality that is our HOPE (Philippians 3:20-21, 1Corinthians 15:51).
"You walk in truth; I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3John 1:3-4).
If John had no greater joy than to hear that Gaius walked in truth, John must have thought truth the be-all and end-all. You will recall, "Now abide faith, hope, love, these three, and the greatest of these is love" (1Corinthians 13:13) . Is there anything greater still? Yes, truth. Truth is the greatest of all. For faith, hope, love, are nothing if they are false. They must be true to be great, and therefore the truth on which they stand is greater than they.
It is surprising how many Christians have a faith, hope, and love, based apparently on their own feelings and whimsies. They seem to be ignorant of that source of truth, the word of God, which Jesus recognised when he said to his Father, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17) . In another place he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6) . We are warned, "Whoever runs ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, does not have God" (2John 1:9).
To walk ignorant of God's truth is to walk as fools, to stumble blindly into all kinds of harm, to have a figment of faith, hope, and love, instead of the real thing. Let us therefore be careful that we, like Gaius, walk in TRUTH.
"You do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren" (3John 1:5)
From the following verses we gather that Gaius was especially hospitable to journeying preachers. He may well be the same Gaius whom Paul called "my host and the host of the whole church" (Romans 16:23).
But the exact nature of Gaius's ministry is unimportant. What matters is the faithfulness with which he performed that ministry. Gaius was a person who did his best, a person on whom you could rely. He was among those "good stewards of the manifold grace" (1Peter 4:9-10).
Sometimes we feel that what we do for the brethren is insignificant, even though we do all we can. You will notice that John did not say, "Oh Gaius, you do such wonderful things for the brethren!" He said, "You act faithfully in whatever you do for them". Perhaps Gaius couldn't do much else than share his home and his table with fellow Christians and give them some respite. But he did his best, and he did it consistently and unselfishly. That's what made him a "faithful" brother.
In Gaius, faith translated itself into action. Faith is dead without acts of faith (James 2:20) . Likewise, hope is dead without acts of hope; love is dead without acts of love. Gaius was a doer, and in his deeds his faith, hope, and love, these three, were perfected.
The beloved Gaius: We have seen that Gaius was a man of such excellent love that everybody who visited him bore witness of his love before the church (3John 1:8). But I asked you to notice that in (verse 1) John turns this fact (that Gaius was a loving man) inside out. John does not describe Gaius as "The loving Gaius" —meaning that he loved others. Rather, John puts Gaius into a different perspective of love: "The beloved Gaius" —meaning that others loved him.
Where the virtue lay: Where did the virtue of loving-kindness lie, that caused people to love Gaius? Did all the virtue lie in those who loved Gaius? In other words, was Gaius beloved in spite of himself, or without any condition in himself moving others to love him, so that all the virtue lay in those who loved him? No, quite evidently Gaius was beloved because he possessed virtues that made him a loveable person, and not least among these virtues was his own loving kindness. Thus the impulse of love sprang as much from the one loved, as it did from the ones loving him. In some cases we urge people to be more loving toward others, when we might do better to urge the others to be more loveable!
Making an effort to be loveable: If this distinction is in danger of being too subtle, it is also in danger of being too simple. There are many in the world who are loveable, and deserve to be loved, yet they are tragically unloved. Not all who are unloved are to blame. Likewise, there are some in the world who are unloveable, but cannot help themselves. Not all who are unloveable are to blame. The general fact remains however, that in the church, the impulse of love springs as much from the one loved as it does from the ones loving. People do not become "beloved" only because others are making an extra effort to be loving toward them. People become "beloved" because they make the effort to be loveable.
The blame for a lack of love: When a lack of love is perceived in the church or in a Christian household, we too readily treat the unloved as victims, blaming others for lacking in love toward them. That may well be justified. However, it is often the case that the lack belongs more to the "victims" who have made themselves unloveable. Perhaps you have felt guilty for "not having enough love" toward someone who was being quite obnoxious. In reality you probably had enough love, but your love was frustrated, abused, despised. The solution, and the responsibility, in such cases lies not so much with you, that you should show more love, rather the onus lies with the obnoxious person that he or she should become more loveable.
Becoming loveable through faithfulness: Another quality in Gaius that made him “beloved” was his faithfulness. Now the term "faithful" when applied to a church member, has rather lost its meaning. It is used these days as a label for coming to church regularly, or conforming to some particular doctrinal viewpoint. But faithfulness goes much deeper than that. To act faithfully means that you act in such a way as not to be a let-down. You are someone on whom the brothers and sisters of Christ can depend through thick and thin. You are not the sort of person who will interfere in things when it takes your fancy, but make excuses or disappear when you are asked to make a sacrifice.