1:1 From the elder, to Gaius my dear brother, whom I love in truth. 1:2 Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, just as you are living according to the truth.1:4 I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth.
(NET translation http://www.bible.org/
‘The elder’ (John hence the famous article for you Greek scholars) writes regarding his ‘dear friend’ and we find the conclusion of verses 1-4 is that John has no greater joy. There are some great lessons about the quality and characteristics of John’s joy that by comparison is not always what we find in ourselves.
1. John’s joy is Consistent (vs. 1): John has seen the character of Gaius and (‘in’ dat. of respect) respect for Gaius’ truthfulness it leads John to love him. It is not general truth of the word that leads John to love Gaius, rather it is the truthful consistent character of Gaius. If you are looking for joy you will find it in the truthfulness of God’s word and those who are following it. Looking for inconsistencies will only lead you to less joy in others and ultimately yourself. God’s word is consistent which means there is always something to have joy about.
2. John’s joy is Concise (vs. 2): Notice the priority of John’s prayer for Gaius. His hope is that the external body and circumstances go well JUST AS (or in the same manner) that Gaius’ spiritual life in the body of Christ is well. John is not uncertain about what matters. His prayers are broad overview strokes of what sounds right. When you have a concise joy, you no longer pray for what seems like the right thing. You ask for what matters in light of what matters.
3. Johns Joy is Corroborated (vs. 3): This is probably one of the greatest examples of true joy. Notice what is happening here. John is rejoicing exceedingly because people are testifying to Gaius’ character. Not that he gave them money, or preached the roof off, or is clever in presentation, ‘super authentic,’ etc. Rather these strangers (as vs. 5 unpacks) in some manner came to understand that ‘real’ Christianity is a love for the Saints (Jn. 13:34.) And this love is best seen when you care for those people do not look like you. Perhaps John rejoices greatly because he knows this is something we would never do on our own. (I think it has something to do with his ‘can we bring down fire from heaven on them’ question but I’ll save that for another entry.)
This culminates with John saying something I find rather ironic: ‘I have no greater joy than this.’ Similar wording can be found in 1 John 1:4. Paul uses similar concepts when he says ‘make my joy complete.’ What is interesting is you would EXPECT the one who has physically seen the Risen Savior to be the guy with a whole lot of joy. Yet it is this very person who says that his greatest joy is when those are walking in the Truth. John saw the truth but his joy is complete when they are living the truth. This leads us to the last concept:
4. Johns Joy is not a Concept. (vs. 4) John demonstrates that his joy is not a principle. He is not in love with a concept or intellectual point by which he uses from time to time. He does not administer joy to a circumstance in order to make it be something he hopes it should be. John’s character gives us an important truth to hold to:
If your beliefs, principles (rules, laws, expectations, etc.) do not have an object then you are only in love with that principle.
Perhaps the clearest example to see this is the ‘Christ-like Love.’ With no object we attempt to interject love at our convenience at best. And in most cases it is something that is only talked about (‘we should love err’body because…’) When that love has a proper object every moment unfolds where no greater joy can be the result. Why else would John find so much great joy in only hearing that two strangers are caring about one another? His object of joy is in Jesus and His truth. Therefore whatever would bring joy to Christ would bring joy to him also.
There are a few immediate results of seeing this text properly which ultimately our proper understanding results in application:
1. Joy is perhaps best found in others maturing just as much as our own. In order to see and understand their maturity (internal before external acts) it would mean that you have to be maturing yourself.
2. Your prayer life demonstrates what matters to you. I think John 17 is perhaps the better test for where the characteristics of our prayers should be. If you do not find yourself praying for others, (in spirit AND for them while they are present) this is something to be concerned about. Perhaps prayer has become a principle with no object.
3. Lastly, when people discuss our character and it always is relegated to your style as opposed to content, there may be a principle with no object you are holding to. You can’t change people but there may be a lesson for yourself in their perspective. Recall that the brothers who did not know Gaius testified to the truthfulness of his character. Gaius’ principle of HOSPITALITY had Jesus the Christ as the object. Otherwise it may be possible that Gaius would have concluded to not help those he did because they were strangers. (which means that convenience was really the object of his hospitality.)