Saturday, March 30, 2013
3rd John Part 1
1:1-3 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
John’s third epistle, an intimate letter written to a man named Gaius who is apparently attending a house church John is familiar with or had seeded, is something of a portfolio of three men. The first of whom we find in verse 1. John writes that Gaius is beloved, that his soul (or spiritual health) prospers, and that he walks in the truth; or perhaps said health prospers BECAUSE he walks in the truth.
John may be intimating that Gaius is in poor health, or it may simply be a salutation to pray that his physical health excelled like his spiritual health did. Verse 2 is a good verse to focus upon for cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or “Christian” sects like the Seventh Day Adventists; both of whom who teach that physical and spiritual life are indivisible. When one perishes, so too does the other. Yet John the apostle treats the two as differing matters. He knew quite well from the report of other Christians that Gaius’ spiritual health was sound; the apostle then made inquiry regarding his physical health. This verse subtly dissects the reality that the body and soul are two separate things, and the latter is certainly capable of surviving the death of the former.
Paul goes one step farther when he writes “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1st Thessalonians 5:23. As God is a triune being, and He created man in His image, one aspect of this image in which we have been created is our own apparent triune character. We have a body, a soul (the seat of our personality, intelligence and emotion) and a spirit; the part of man which makes us capable of communing with God. The writer of Hebrews casts further clarity into the reality that there is a genuine difference between the soul and spirit of man when he writes “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” Hebrews 4:12.
The soul of man is not just his breath or consciousness that fades and vanishes when physical life abates. Early in Scripture we read “and so it was as [Rachel’s] soul was departing (for she died), that she called [her son’s] name Ben-Oni,” Genesis 35:18. Solomon, the wisest man of his day, wrote “Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,” a euphemism for death, Ecclesiastes 12:6. The next verse reads: “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it,” Ecclesiastes 12:7. This verse is a companion verse to Genesis 2:7, which reads: ”And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Upon death the soul departs to be with God, Luke 16:22-25; 20:37-38. The body decays until it is raised immortal, a fitting house for our eternal soul to dwell in, Daniel 12:2-3; 13; Job 19:26-27; Psalm 16:9-10.
John rejoiced over the testimony given regarding Gaius. The truth is in him, and John attests to this based on the witness of the saints who dwelt with Gaius for a time and watched him daily walking in the truth. These witnesses may very well be itinerant evangelists like Titus or Timothy who came to this local house church, of which Gaius was a member and had been lodged and cared for by him. Gaius apparently had the spiritual gift of hospitality, and cheerfully brought in traveling Christians who practiced the same truth Gaius espoused and were servants of the Christ whom he loved. It is written: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels,” Hebrews 13:1-2. John saw the tangible evidence of Gaius’ salvation and rejoiced. It was the practice of justification before men that James had written of, and has so frequently been used to teach quite the opposite of what the apostle intended, James 2:14-26.