3 John 1-8
O Good Gaius
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). His name was Gaius; beyond that, we only know that he was a kind and hospitable man—not a bad epitaph for one’s tombstone. John had heard from others of Gaius’ faithfulness and hospitable behavior towards the “brothers” who had relayed this information to him. We do not know if these brothers had been sent by the Apostle (here called, “elder”) or if they were traveling missionaries known to John. Either way, Gaius had proven himself a model of Christian charity by receiving the brothers. Hospitality was considered a great virtue in the ancient Mediterranean world and still is. We could learn from them.
But it was not only that Gaius was hospitable to the brothers; John commends him because the brothers had informed him that Gaius was “walking in the truth.” We are reminded here as we were in John’s Second Letter that love must be grounded in the truth of the gospel, or it is not love at all. And I must confess that as a father and grandfather, verse four has become one of my favorites: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Amen.
From the best we can tell, the brothers whom Gaius received were missionaries or evangelists who went from place to place. Though John’s letters were probably written toward the end of the first century, it is interesting that a second-century manual for churches known to us as the Didache also deals with traveling “prophets” and “teachers” and how to discern the genuine from the phony by their teaching and behavior. We learned from Second John that anyone who denied our Lord’s coming in the flesh was not to be received; that is, even hospitality has its limits as elders are charged to protect the flock from false teaching. But here it seems that Gaius received legitimate brethren.
Whether or not to receive wandering preachers is generally not an issue for churches today. Indeed, it is incumbent upon pastors and deacons to know the doctrine of the man who fills the pulpit. But it is just as necessary that these same men see that the church has a ministry of hospitality to brethren and even outsiders who may need such help. I might suggest the book of former lesbian, Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, of how one minister’s hospitality towards her helped bring her to repentance and saving faith. Also her, The Gospel Comes with a House Key.