3 John: Gaius the Beloved


John signed his second letter referring to himself as “the elder,” and addressing his missive to “the chosen-of-God lady.” He had three important points to make to the lady:

  1. Remember Christ’s command, love one another.
  2. Be mindful of the many antichrists who are teaching Christ did not come in flesh.
  3. Do not welcome such teachers into the assembly, or give them your approval.

It is thought—and I agree—that 2 John and 3 John were cover letters sent to specific church leaders, accompanying John’s treatise, 1 John, on Jesus, light, and agape love.

If John’s second letter was to heighten awareness of Gnosticism, then John’s third letter had a much different issue to deal with.

Gaius, the Beloved One

If Paul had his Timothy, and Peter had his John Mark, then John may very well have had his Gaius!

The Elder to Gaius, the beloved one [agapeto], whom I love [agapo] in truth.

3 John 1:1 (my translation)

The name Gaius appears five times in the Christian testament, first mentioned in a heart-stopping scene of mayhem in the streets of Ephesus.

A man from Macedonia

Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together.

Acts 19:29 (NRSV)

Gaius of Derbe

Luke provided information about either another companion named Gaius, after the riot, or perhaps the same Gaius. This man had a home in Derbe, and he was one of seven traveling coworkers with Paul who went ahead of him and waited for Paul and Luke at the port city of Troas, while Luke and Paul laid low.

He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia.

Acts 20:4 (NRSV)

Not all the Greek texts are the same, for this Gaius. Some say this Gaius is the same as the Macedonian Gaius, because he came from Doberus, a town that is in Macedonia, rather than Derbe.

Gaius of Corinth

In his first letter to the assemblies in Corinth, Paul mentioned how relieved he was that he had only baptized a few people there, the household of Stephanas, and Crispus and Gaius. He was relieved because the believers in Corinth had gotten all stirred up by whose mentor was better than who—some were claiming Paul was the best, but others argued for Peter, some preferred Apollos, and some rallied around Christ.

I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

1 Corinthians 1:14-15 (NRSV)

Gaius the host

At the end of his treatise on the Christian faith, written to the assemblies in Rome, Paul devoted a full page to greeting and commending all those whom he knew there, and sending greetings from the companions who were with him. Among those the apostle wished especially to accredit was his generous host, Gaius.

It is thought Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans from the city of Corinth, so it is possible the Gaius Paul baptized and this Gaius were one and the same man.

However, it is equally possible Paul wrote from Ephesus.

Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Romans 16:23 (NRSV)

Gaius, loved in truth

The last Gaius to appear in the Christian testament is here, in John the elder’s third letter. It is possible this Gaius is one of those mentioned above.

What we can know, from the elder’s letter, is how close their relationship was, and how pleased John was with Gaius. John greeted him as ἀγαπητῷ | agapeto, one loved with agape love, and whom John did indeed agape love in truth—a word with double meaning, for John meant truly, purely, and also in the One Who is Truth, the Lord.

Beloved one [agapete], in every way I pray you to be successful and to have sound health (physically/in doctrine), just as your soul prospers.

3 John 1:2 (my translation)

Two notes: The word John used for sound health, ὑγιαίνω | ugiaino meant both well in body as well as true in doctrine. Most likely, the elder meant both, that God would keep Gaius strong for the work ahead, and keep Gaius true to the Truth.

John also used the word ψυχή | psyche, which commonly meant breath (Lat. anima), breath of life, life, and the soul, and the seat of the will, desires and affections. Again, the elder surely meant all those things when he prayed this blessing over Gaius, that his spirit would prosper in the Lord, in a healthy body and healthy life of faith, founded upon and living out good, sound teaching.

Gaius, the Faithful One

The Apostle John, speaking as elder of the assemblies that had grown up through his teaching, was well pleased in Gaius. All who knew him spoke highly of him.

For I greatly rejoiced [over] the brothers and sisters who came and testified to your faith, even as you are living in truth.

I have no greater joy [than] these, so that I hear [these things] of my children living in the truth.

3 John 1:3-4 (my translation)

Did you notice the two slightly different renderings of truth? Gaius remained both in Jesus-Truth and in the true teaching of Jesus and the apostles, indeed of the whole of the scriptures. This was made particularly evident in Gaius’ generosity to all those who came to him in the name of Jesus.

Beloved one, you faithfully do whatever you do to the brothers and sisters, [and] also this to foreigners— these [who] testified of your love in the presence of [the] assembly, whom you will do well sending forth worthily of God. For they went on behalf of the name, receiving nothing from the Gentiles [unbelievers]. 

3 John 1:5-7 (my translation)

And so, just from these few verses, we learn that Gaius was

  • As a son to John, perhaps as beloved to the elder as Timothy was to Paul, and John Mark was to Peter, someone who was a close disciple to the Apostle, and one who could be trusted with anything.
  • Universally respected and admired with great affection among the brethren and sistren of the church.
  • Fruitful in his work for the Lord, and the Lord also bore much fruit in Gaius’ life—this was made evident in his character (psyche) and spirit, and in the assemblies that met in his home.
  • Living by faith, abiding in Jesus the Truth, and in faithful obedience to the true teaching of Christ, the apostles, and the scriptures.
  • Generous in sharing hospitality with all who came to him, both those in his community and those who traveled from afar, for all who came in the Name of Jesus were welcomed into Gaius’ home.
  • Most likely, a man of some wealth, for his home was well-known as a place people could stay.

John’s final commendation of Gaius came from the good report of these itinerant preachers, who had travelled teaching in the Name of Jesus, and returned to the home church filled with praise for Gaius’ warmth and kindness, and for the success of his teaching and training.

We ourselves are therefore obligated to support such as these, so that we may become co-laborers [with them in] the truth.

3 John 1:8 (my translation)

John’s approval came with the encouragement that Gaius’ generosity was well-placed, for we become coworkers in Christ with all those we support in mission work.

John was particularly thankful for Gaius, for there was a serious matter John would need someone like Gaius to handle—a matter that was threatening to tear the church apart, and had little to do with Gnosticism.


[Patrobulus, Hermas, Linus, Caius, Philologus of 70 disciples (Menologion of Basil II) | 10-11th century, Anonymous/Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

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