The third epistle encourages the believer to the exercise of hospitality, whether towards the known brethren or strangers, and to all benevolent care in furthering their journey when departing, provided that they come with the truth and for the truth's sake without salary or provision. Gaius received them, as it appears, and was helpful to them both in his own house and on their journey. Diotrephes, on the contrary, did not love these strangers, who went about, it is said, without a formal mission and without any visible means of subsistence. They had gone forth for the Lord's sake and had received nothing from the Gentiles. If they in reality came out of love to that name, one did well to receive them.
Again the apostle insists on the truth, as characterizing real love: "Whom I love in the truth," he says to Gaius. He rejoiced when the brethren (those, I imagine, whom Gaius had received into his house and helped on their journey) testified of the truth that was in him, as in effect he walked in the truth. The apostle had no greater joy than that of hearing that his children walked in the truth. In receiving those who went forth to preach the truth, they helped the truth itself; they were co-workers with it. Diotrephes would have nothing to do with this; he not only refused to receive these itinerant preachers, but excommunicated those who did so. He claimed authority for himself. The apostle would remember it. It was their duty to do good. "He that does good is of God."
He goes so far, with regard to the truth, as to say, that the truth itself bore witness to Demetrius. I suppose that the latter had propagated it, and that the establishment and confirmation of the truth everywhere — at least where he had labored — was a testimony with regard to himself.
This insistence on the truth, as the test for the last days, is very remarkable; and so is this preaching itinerary by persons who took nothing of the Gentiles when they came forth, leaving it to God to cause them to be received of those who had the truth at heart, the truth being their only passport among Christians, and the only means by which the apostle could guard the faithful. It appears that they were of the Jewish race, for he says, "receiving nothing of the Gentiles," the apostle thus making the distinction. I notice this, because, if it be so, the force of the expression "and not for ours only" (1 John 2:2) becomes simple and evident, which it is not to every one. The apostle, as Paul does, makes the difference of us, Jews, though one in Christ. We may also remark that the apostle addressed the assembly, and not Diotrephes, its head; and that it was this leader who, loving pre-eminence, resisted the apostle's words, which the assembly, as it appears, were not inclined to do.
Gaius persevered in his godly course, in spite of the ecclesiastical authority (whatever may have been its right or pretended right) which Diotrephes evidently exercised: for he cast persons out of the assembly.
When the apostle came, he would (like Paul) manifest his real power. He did not own in himself an ecclesiastical authority to remedy these things by a command. These epistles are very remarkable in this respect. With regard to those who went about preaching, the only means he had, even in the case of a woman, was to call her attention to the truth. The authority of the preacher lay altogether in that. His competency was another matter. The apostle knew no authority which sanctioned their mission, the absence of which would prove it to be false or unauthorized. The whole question of their reception lay in the doctrine which they brought. The apostle had no other way to judge of the authority of their mission: there was then no other; for, had there been any, that authority would have flowed from him. He would have been able to say, "Where are the proofs of their mission?" He knew none but this — do they bring the truth? If not, do not salute them. If they bring the truth, you do well to receive them, in spite of all the Diotrephes in the world.
1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
2 Beloved, I desire that in all things thou shouldest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers.
3 For I rejoiced exceedingly when the brethren came and bore testimony to thy holding fast the truth, even as thou walkest in truth.
4 I have no greater joy than these things that I hear of my children walking in the truth.
5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully in whatever thou mayest have wrought towards the brethren and that strangers,
6 (who have witnessed of thy love before the assembly,) in setting forward whom on their journey worthily of God, thou wilt do well;
7 for for the name have they gone forth, taking nothing of those of the nations.
8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may be fellow-workers with the truth.
9 I wrote something to the assembly; but Diotrephes, who loves to have the first place among them, receives us not.
10 For this reason, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he does, babbling against us with wicked words; and not content with these, neither does he himself receive the brethren; and those who would he prevents, and casts them out of the assembly.
11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He that does good is of God. He that does evil has not seen God.
12 Demetrius has witness borne to him by all, and by the truth itself; and we also bear witness, and thou knowest that our witness is true.
13 I had many things to write to thee, but I will not with ink and pen write to thee;
14 but I hope soon to see thee, and we will speak mouth to mouth. Peace be to thee. The friends greet thee. Greet the friends by name.
Two men in the bible named Gaius (see also Rom. 16:23) were known for their hospitality, and that is probably why John Bunyan, choosing a name for his innkeeper in Pilgrim’s Progress, called him “Gaius.”