3 John 1:4

For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, etc. In these and some subsequent verses we have some aspects and evidences of the spiritual prosperity of Gaius.

I. ASPECTS OF SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY. "Brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth."

1. Truth appropriated in mind and heart. Our interpretation of the words, "thy truth," would be superficial and inadequate if we simply said that they express the sincerity of Gaius. The expression involves this, that he was true in religion and in life; but it means that his religious beliefs were correct - that he held the truth concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ. On these subjects pernicious errors had arisen in the Church. Some denied the Godhead of our Saviour; others denied the reality of his manhood. "The first stumbled at his pre-existence and incarnation, because he suffered indignity and anguish; the other, admitting his Divine nature, thought it beneath him actually to suffer, and therefore denied that his body or his sufferings were anything else but illusory appearances" (Binney). Against each of these errors St. John wrote. And by the expression, "the truth," he generally means the apostolic doctrine concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ. "This truth Gaius held; held it as his life; it was 'in him,' as filling his intellect and affections; in his understanding as a source of light, in his heart as the object of love." The apostle, as we have learned from his former Epistles, attached the utmost importance to correct religious belief.

2. Truth manifested in life and conduct. "Thou walkest in truth." His practical life was in harmony with his professed creed. The truth he held was not merely a form of sound words, but a living force in his character and conduct. His faith was not a mere speculation or opinion, but a thing of deep feeling and firm conviction. The faith that does not influence the life towards harmony with itself is not faith in the scriptural sense; it is assent, or opinion; but it is not Christian faith, or saving faith. Our real faith moulds the life into conformity with the truth believed. St. John quite as earnestly insisted upon practicing the truth as upon holding it. "He that doeth good is of God; he that doeth evil hath not seen God" (verse 11; and 1 John 3:7, 10). Let us, like Gaius, hold the truth, make it our own; and also live the truth, walk in it day by day. Cultivate a true faith and a holy life.

II. TESTIMONY TO SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY. " Brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth," etc. These brethren were probably those who had been commended to the Church by the apostle, rejected through the influence of Diotrephes (verse 9), and then entertained by Gains. They probably presented this report on their return to the Church of which St. John was pastor, and from which they had been sent forth (verses 5, 6).

1. It is a pleasure to good men to testify to the excellence of others.

2. It is gratifying to a good man to receive the commendation of good men. "A good name is better than precious ointment." "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."

III. THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY UPON THE GOOD. "Greater joy have I none than this, to hear of my children," etc.

1. The tender relation here mentioned. "My children." It seems that Gains had been converted through the ministry of St. John. He was the spiritual child of the apostle; his "true child in faith;" his "beloved child," as St. Paul says of Timothy. This relationship is very close, tender, and sacred (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14, 15).

2. The great joy here spoken of. "Greater joy have I none than this," etc. Every genuine Christian rejoices to find men walking in the truth; but the apostle had the additional joy which arose from the dear and holy tie by which he and Gains were united. The success of a young man in temporal things is a great joy to his parents. To Christian parents it is a far greater joy when their children give their hearts to God, and walk in truth. And to the Christian minister, and the Sunday school teacher, the spiritual prosperity of those whom they have led to the Saviour is a source of deep and pure rejoicing. Such prosperity is a proof that we have not laboured in vain; it is a distinguished honour conferred upon us by God; and it gives a foretaste of the grand final reward, "Well done, good and faithful servant," etc. To hear of or to behold such fruits of our Christian work both humbles and rejoices us. Christian brethren, let us aim both to appropriate and to exemplify Christian truth. - W.J.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
This is little more than a repetition of a declaration made by the apostle in the foregoing epistle. He is addressing there a pious mother, and he congratulates her on the spiritual prosperity of some of her family. Here he is addressing a beloved friend, and he congratulates him on the prosperity of his soul in nearly the same words.

I. TRUTH. "What is truth?" said Pilate to our Lord with a mixture of incredulity and scorn, as though truth were a thing nowhere to be discovered; and the same question has been asked by the wise men of the earth with the same feelings from Pilate downwards to our day. The real Christian knows where it is to be found, for he has found it. His God has not only made him feel its importance and enkindled in him a desire for it, he has shown him the thing itself, revealed, communicated His truth to him: so that the man has it; has it in his hand whenever he takes up his Bible; has it in his mind and heart, for he has read his Bible, and by God's help has understood and believed it. That is the truth the apostle speaks of in this text. It is the revelation which God has made to us concerning spiritual and eternal things in His holy Word, and more particularly the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which forms so main a part of that revelation.

II. WALKING IN IT. The term "walking" in Scripture, when used as it is here, is always expressive, not of an act or two, but of a continued course of acting. To walk in the truth, then, means more than for a man once in his life to discover and embrace the truth; it implies besides this a daily familiarity with it, having it constantly before his mind, and his mind and his life being as constantly influenced and acted on by it.

1. That we hold fast Christ's truth; having had our minds enlightened to discover and opened to receive it, that we retain it in our mind, and this in its pure, simple, unadulterated form.

2. A continued profession of Christ's truth.

3. To live in the habitual practice of it.

III. THIS APOSTLE'S JOY WHEN HE HEARS OF HIS FELLOW-CHRISTIANS THUS WALKING. He expresses this, you observe, in very strong terms. He does not say that he has no joy equal to this, but he does say that he has none above it: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." And this strong language plainly shows us two things.

1. The loftiness of his own character. This favoured, this honoured apostle, with all his remembrances of the past and all his glowing anticipations of the future, with heaven almost opening upon him, says he gets as much happiness from the holy walk of others as he does from any other source. We know where he learnt this. We see the Master's spirit shining forth again in the disciple. What was self to the blessed Jesus when the good of our lost souls was at stake?

2. The high importance of this holy walking in the truth. Such a man, we are sure, would never have rejoiced in a trifle.(1) It is important, first to ourselves.(a) It is the best test we can have of our belonging to Christ, of the sincerity and reality of our faith in Him.(b) Our enjoyment of the gospel, our spiritual comfort and happiness, depends on it.(c) Our sanctification or holiness depends altogether on the permanency of the place Christ's truth has within us.(2) Our continued walking in the truth is important also to our fellow-men. Every undecided, wavering professor of Christ's gospel among us diffuses a bad influence around him — he does mischief in the world though he may not aim to do it; while every consistent follower of the truth does good in the world, though he may scarcely see it.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

I. To WALK IN TRUTH implies —

1. Sincerity of principle, honesty of intention, in opposition to all dissimulation or guile.

2. Decided attachment to evangelical doctrine.

3. Habitual regard to personal holiness.

4. Progress in Christian excellency.

II. Why this walking in truth should occasion the JOY OF CHRISTIAN MINISTERS.

1. In your Christian walk we witness the reality of your personal religion.

2. Walking as Christians secures your personal happiness.

3. When you walk as Christians, we have evidence of ministerial fidelity — that the truth is spoken to you; that the way of truth is marked down and recommended.

4. In your walk as Christians, we observe the fruit of our efforts for your good.

5. When you walk as Christians, we behold the increase of the Redeemer's cause in the world.

6. Walking as Christians, we see in you the partners of the felicity we hope for in a future world.CONCLUSION —

1. If such as "walk in truth" are our joy, it is evident who are our grief — All they who walk not in truth; who "walk in darkness"; who "walk disorderly"; who "walk in the flesh"; who "walk after their own ungodly lusts."

2. By your walking, not in truth, but in unrighteousness, the cause of God is dishonoured, his enemies triumph, his friends are painfully affected.

3. Let us all look well to ourselves, and take heed to our own spirit and conversation.

(T. Kidd.)

I. THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY — it was truth; not only truth in the bare sense of the term, but truth in its highest sense, unmistakable truth, infallible truth, the truth without which we cannot be happy neither here nor hereafter. You may be without much knowledge in reference to geology, or astronomy, or botany, you may be without much knowledge of these things, and not suffer much; but in reference to this, if you have it not, you are a fool indeed, and if you have it, you are made wise unto salvation. It is necessary, for us while here, and for our well-being hereafter.

II. THE MANNER OF THAT MINISTRY. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." I say that the apostle's ministry was characterised by great earnestness and affection. There is no minister that will ever be useful without it.

III. THE JOY AND SATISFACTION OF THE APOSTLE'S MINISTRY. The subject-matter of this joy of the apostle's was to hear that his children walk in truth.

1. To walk in the truth is to maintain evangelical truth.

2. To walk in truth is constantly to keep and to enjoy the truth. It gives us solid peace, it is "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding."

3. Once more, when spiritual children walk in truth they are consistent Christians. Walk is not the position of a lazy Christian.

(H. Allen, M. A.)

I. First, then, one of THE PARENT'S highest joys is his children's walking in truth: he has no greater joy.

1. And here we must begin with the remark that it is a joy peculiar to Christian fathers and mothers. No parents can say from their hearts, "We have no greater joy than to hear that our children walk in truth," unless they are themselves walking in truth. No wolf prays for its offspring to become a sheep.

2. Let us, then, remark next that the joy mentioned in the text is special in its object. "I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children walk in truth." There is the point, their practical religion, their actual exemplification of the power of the gospel upon their lives. This proves that the teaching was well received, that the feeling was not mere excitement, that the profession was not a falsehood or a mistake, but was done in truth.

3. It is a healthful joy, in which we may indulge to the full without the slightest fear, for it is superior in its character to all earthly joys. Now, when our children walk in truth and love to God, it makes us rejoice that another heart is consecrated to His service. We may well rejoice in the salvation and in the sanctification of our sons and daughters, because this is the way in which the kingdom of Christ is to be extended in the world.

4. I will tell you why this is peculiarly the great joy of some Christian parents — it is because they have made it a subject of importunate prayer. That which comes to us by the gate of prayer comes into the house with music and dancing.

5. This joy is quickening in its effect. All who have ever felt it know what an energy it puts into them. Have you some of your children converted while others remain unsaved? Then I charge you, let what the Lord has done for some encourage you concerning the rest.

6. Once more, this high joy of which we have spoken is very solemn in its surroundings, for it involves this alternative — "What if my children should not walk in truth?" Well, that means for us during this life many sorrows, nights of sleeplessness and days of anxiety.

II. You may view the text as specifying THE PASTOR'S greatest reward. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." No minister ought to be at rest unless he sees that his ministry does bring forth fruit, and men and women are born unto God by the preaching of the Word. Those who are the preacher's children are often known to him; they were to John, else he could not have spoken of them as "my children," and could not have had joy in them as his children. From this I draw the inference that it is the duty of every one who receives spiritual benefit, and especially conversion, from any of God's servants, to let them know it. Put on Christ publicly in baptism, according to His command: unite yourself with His Church, and commune with the people among whom you have been born unto God. It seems from our text that John was in the habit of hearing about his spiritual children: "I have no greater joy than to hear" — mark that — "than to hear that my children walk in the truth." That implies that, if you make a profession of your faith, people will talk about you. John could not have heard if others had not spoken.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sketches of Sermons.

1. He longs to behold in them a holy consistency, a high state of heavenly affections, and a careful attention to the duties of morality.

2. In them he expects to find a steadiness that bids defiance to temptation, and cannot be diverted from its purpose, either by the allurements of sense or the terrors of persecution.

3. As a parent wishes to see in his children a gradual advancement towards maturity both in their bodily and intellectual faculties, so does a minister long for his people's progress towards perfection.


1. Because it is by this only that the ends of their ministry are answered.

2. Because by this only can God be glorified.

3. Because without this they can have no hope of ever meeting their people in the realms of bliss.

(Sketches of Sermons.)


1. Solicitude.

2. Endearment.


1. It is the greater joy arising out of the greater subject. Man's salvation is God's greater work.

2. It is the greater joy on account of the greater influence. The converts were exposed to sharp temptations, and subjected to fiery persecutions.

3. It is the greater joy on account of the greater prospect.

(T. Davies, M. A.)

Demetrius, Diotrephes, Gaius, John
TRUE, Greater, Joy, News, None, Obedience, Truth, Walk, Walking
1. He commends Gaius for his piety,
5. and hospitality,
7. to true preachers;
9. complaining of the unkind dealing of ambitious Diotrephes on the contrary side;
11. whose evil example is not to be followed;
12. and gives special testimony to the good report of Demetrius.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
3 John 1:3-4

     5197   walking
     8102   abiding in Christ
     8289   joy, of church

3 John 1:3-5

     5914   optimism

The Books of the New Testament
[Sidenote: The Author.] The author describes himself as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" (i. 1). Few books of the New Testament are so well attested as this Epistle. The external evidence for its authenticity is strong, and stronger than that for any other Catholic Epistle except 1 John. It seems to be quoted in Didache, i. 4. The letter of Polycarp written about A.D. 110 shows a complete familiarity with 1 Peter. He evidently regarded it as a letter of the highest authority. His contemporary
Leighton Pullan—The Books of the New Testament

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