An unusual commendation?

We all like to be complimented.  We identify with the boy who said to his father, “Dad, let’s play darts.  I’ll throw.  And you say, ‘great shot!'”

We want people to say we’ve done a job well, that we look good for our age, that it looks like we’ve lost a few pounds, that our words are kind, that we have particular skills that are outstanding.

But in 3 John there is a commendation from the apostle to his disciple Gaius that is somewhat unusual.  In his salutation, John mentions that he prays for Gaius, and he specifically says that he prays for his health — in itself that is quite unusual, for the Scriptures rarely talk about prayers for health.  But what is even more unusual is what John prays for Gaius’ health:

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)

That is, John prays that Gaius’ physical health would be as prosperous as his spiritual health.  We would tend to pray the opposite — since one’s physical health is so vigorous, that their spiritual health would match it.  But as John looked at Gaius, he saw a man in such a state of spiritual fitness that he could only desire that his physical state would come to match the spiritual state.  An unusual commendation indeed!

What was it about Gaius spiritual condition that was so unique?  John identifies three particular aspects of Gaius’ life that were uniquely mature:

First, Gaius’ life was marked by conformity to God’s truth (v. 3).  The other believers around him were unanimous in their affirmation that Gaius was living to walk in the truth.  He not only loved the word of God, but His life was changed and shaped by the Word of God.  He lived and did what it said unhesitatingly.  His sanctification was obvious to all.

Second, Gaius was unique in his faithfulness to and love for others in the church.  As John told him, “you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church” (3 John 1:5–6).  In all his interactions with other believers — whether they are friends or strangers — he is faithful to his biblical responsibilities.  And this faithfulness is not “duty only” obligation, but it was done out of a heart of love.  When others received the benefit of his labors, they affirmed that what was done was not out of compulsion, but out of compassion and love (see also 1 Pt. 5:2-3).  He did what was needed for others in the church because he was compelled by love.

Thirdly, he was unique in his hospitality.  In a time when there was no Holiday Inn in every city and town, Christian travelers were dependent on the hospitality of strangers to take them in and care for them.  John did this well, even when there was a movement by Diotrephes not to extend hospitality to unknown believers (vv. 9-10).  But Gaius was faithful and obedient even when criticized by others for his actions.

So here is the spirituality of Gaius:  He loved the Lord and was obviously transformed by God’s Word; He loved and cared for God’s people in the church; and He was hospitable to those in need.

John’s commendation of this man — “I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” — sounds unusual to us.  Would that others would also be able to speak “unusually” of us.

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