The elder, to Gaius, the beloved whom I [also] love in truth. 2 My dear friend, I pray that all goes [very] well with you and that you may be in really good health, even as your life flourishes.
3 When some [of the] brothers came and brought word of your faithfulness to the truth, how you are walking in that truth, I was simply overjoyed. 4 I can have no greater joy than this, to hear that [those of my own household], my children, are walking in the truth. 5 My dear friend, what you have done for these brothers you have done faithfully, and they were strangers to you; 6 and they have given their account [to us] of your love before the church: how your desire was to send them on their way in a God-worthy manner; 7 for indeed they began their journey for the sake of Christ, taking nothing from the [local] Gentile community [from out of which they came]. 8 We therefore now ought to be in support of such people, so that we may become [their] co-workers in the truth.
9 I have written about this to the church; but Diotrephes, the one enamoured with his number one position, refuses to entertain our request. 10 So when I come, I will make known his effort to spread false charges against us, and not content with those, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and even prevents those who want to do so by expelling them from the church.
11 My dear friend, don't imitate evil but imitate that which is worthy. What is worthy is from God; whoever practices wrong has not seen God. 12 Everyone testifies favourably about Demetrius, and the truth itself confirms this. We also add our testimony [for him], and you know that our testimony is true. 13 I have on hand many things to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; 14 instead I hope to see you very soon, when we can talk together face to face. 15 Peace to you. The friends [here] send you their greetings. Greet the friends [there], each by name.
As we read and ponder John's letters, we witness a remarkable turn around. We gain great encouragement from John's conversion. What he has penned for us speaks loudly of the way his life was turned around. Part of this, it seems, involved John mastering the common Greek [KOINE] language. When these letters, and his gospel, are read as the words of a disciple who had to deal with a multi-lingual environment, then we begin to see how the mastery of other than native Jewish and Aramaic languages became part of that same life over which Jesus issued His parting directive. His disciples would "go into all the world" taking with them the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:7-8). They were to live this Gospel and so they would also proclaim it by their words. John's letters and his Gospel certainly indicate a proficiency in getting the message out in the lingua franca of his time in the eastern Mediterranean region of the then Roman Empire.
John's repeated emphasis upon love [AGAPE] reminds us of that unforgettable event on the shore of Lake Galilee sometime after Jesus' resurrection and recorded for us in John 21. And we have there John's account of Peter's restoration. I summarize it to highlight the terms used for love [AGAPE, PHILIA].
Do you love [AGAPAS] me, Peter. Yes you know Lord, I love [PHILOO] you! Feed my lambs.
Do you love [AGAPAS] me, Peter. Yes you know Lord, I love [PHILOO] you! Feed my young sheep.
Do you love [PHILOO] me, Peter. You know all things you know that I love [PHILOO] you! Feed my young sheep.
Something very important for our understanding of the Gospel is presented here. This love [AGAPE] is central to the New Testament. We recall the supper Jesus shared with His disciples on the night he was betrayed. John tells us Jesus' own description of the ministry given Him by His Father. It was to serve those He has chosen as friends [PHILOUS] (John 15:10-17).
We have an interesting issue here: New Testament studies usually assume that the events recounted in the four gospels were transacted in the local, that is the Aramaic, language. And yet, this New Testament letter, along with all the other New Testament documents, confessed by the church of all ages to be the Word of God written, are all written in common Greek [KOINE]. Can we rely on these Greek words which clearly interpret what was said between Jesus and His disciples during His time with them?
And does this question have any relation to what we read in John's letter to his good friend Gaius? Gaius has welcomed a group of fellow Christians. He has extended hospitality to them. Then he had sent them on their way. They are a group of fellow Christians who, by their life, have demonstrated that they walk in the truth of the Gospel. Though they were strangers [v.5 XENOUS] to Gaius, he had welcomed them. Presumably, this put him on a collision course with Diotrephes. But John emphasizes that it is indeed a Christian's duty to assist such people and to become active participants in their work. John says to his friend that whenever those who are living out of the Gospel come our way we, in turn, should be going out of our way to become co-workers with them.
Presumably, these travellers had left their former community in obedience to the call to follow Jesus Christ. They had not taken out any sponsorship from the community from which they came, and presumably it was a Gentile [ETHNIKOON] community. We don't have the details but we do know their leaving and their coming to Gaius was because they were walking in the ways of the Lord, walking in the truth. So the principle is enunciated as a principle of love [AGAPE] to those strangers who Jesus had made His friends [PHILOI]. Has made our friends. To confirm this interpretation see the final greeting. Love [AGAPE] is the attitude of the follower of Jesus the Messiah; He shares with us His status as our Friend and so we are His friends [PHILOI].
The friends [here] send you their greetings. Greet the friends [there], each by name.
John has been turned around by this friendship. By contrast, he explains why Diotrephes is acting unworthily. Impelled by his own pre-eminence, this man expels those who welcome strangers. John doesn't suggest that Gaius should seek the expulsion of Diotrephes but tells his friend what he proposes to do when he comes. Is John hoping that this man will have a change of heart? It would seem so. He will make a plain statement rejecting this unworthy approach to those who are indeed our friends because that is what Jesus considers those who love Him and keep His directives to be. John obviously understands how he was put right by his Loving Friend when he advocated policies that were unworthy. John directs his friend's attention to Demetrius whose life is a beacon of truth and integrity.
So does this letter say anything about the issues of language? It does. The friends Jesus gives us may be strangers, and they may speak in a language that is unknown to us. Love [AGAPE] means that we don't expect these friends [PHILOI] to learn our tongue. Rather, the Spirit of Pentecost prompts us to hear their language. The earliest Christ-followers were of Jewish descent, and the church of Jesus Christ dates its Holy-Spirited birthday to Pentecost. Then Jews of the diaspora, to their amazement, began to hear the Good News of God's Kingdom in their own local languages. The coming of the Holy Spirit gives divine authorisation to learn other languages than our own. We begin to understand how the task of committing the writings of the New Testament to Greek [KOINE] is simply what we might expect of Jesus' disciples who were "on the way", keeping His directives and sharing His love. The good news of God's Kingdom is that, through His people, Jesus Christ, the Ruler of the Princes of the Earth, is reaching out with His love and mercy to all the peoples of the earth with all their languages.
John accompanied Peter to Samaria (Acts 8:14) after Philip, in response to Jesus' parting command (Acts 1:8), took the Good News there and a believing community was born. So much for John's earlier request that Samaritans be blasted with denunciation from heaven (Luke 9:51-56). So much for John's concern that the man tackling an evil spirit in Jesus' name become part of their "official" group (Mark 9:38-41). John "the one Jesus loved" had been turned around by Jesus' love [AGAPE]. That was what it is all about.