There are a few things that strike me in reading 3 John. First off, this and 2 John are much more like real letters than the other letters of the New Testament which are, in some cases, much more like theological statements or sermons. 3 John covers a variety of topics in a short span just as we would if we were writing a letter to a friend today.
We do not know who Gaius was any more than we can be certain who John the Elder was. However, that does not keep us from benefitting from the contents of this letter.
The first thing that strikes me is the statement: “I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.” If someone prayed for your physical health to match your spiritual health, would you be in good shape, or on the point of death? This is an important factor to consider. Many people today spend much more time focused on improving their physical health while many focus little if at all on improving their spiritual health. Both are important. We need to care for our bodies and our souls. However, between the two, I think soul health should take priority over body health.
Secondly, John the Elder says, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” John was speaking of his spiritual children. This raises the question: do we have spiritual children, that is, people whom we have led to faith in Christ. If not, perhaps we need to pray for such an opportunity to lead someone to faith. Sometimes we do not know, until many years afterwards, the critical spiritual role we have played in someone’s life. However, if we are planting the seeds of God’s Word then we can count on the fact that those seeds are going to bear fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, John’s words also apply to our biological children. Nothing could give me greater joy than to know that my physical children are walking in the truth of the Lord. Again, all I can do is plant the seed, and water it, and pray for it to grow. Once, we have done the first two steps, for most of our lives the best thing we can do for our children is to pray for their spiritual growth.
Thirdly, John encourages the recipient of this letter to show hospitality to missionaries. Without such hospitality, the Early Church would not have survived, for of course they had no buildings or institutions to support missionaries. This raises the question of whether we are doing the same in our day, for it is no less important today. Many missionaries would not survive without the financial and prayerful support, and the hospitality of other believers. I know that personally I cannot do much financially to support other missionaries for Christ. But what little I can, I do with joy.
Finally, I like the fact that John says, “I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.” In our high tech age we need face-to-face ministry more than ever before. A high tech age can be a low touch time. But we all need physical touch to survive. We need personal face-to-face ministry. To whom might you and I offer personal, face-to-face encouragement this week?