“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth,” are words which were written by the Apostle John to his dear friend and son in the faith, Gaius. Only recently had he received information from certain brethren about his condition.
The welfare of Gaius was the concern of John, for he was a true elder watching over the well-being of his children in Christ as one who had to give an account before the Judgment Seat of his Lord. This he hoped he might do with joy.
What John heard from the brethren greatly rejoiced his heart, and prompted the splendid comment, “Thy soul prospereth.” It is certain that the spiritual prosperity of Gaius not only gladdened the heart of John, but also the heart of Him who said, “The life is more than meat.” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:25 and 33).
Brother and sister, we who live in an age of material prosperity, which after all is of little account with God, might well take stock of our spiritual state as it is known to Him Who “searcheth the reins and the hearts” (Rev. 2:23). Could He possibly say to either you or me, “Thy soul prospereth”? It is this commendable prosperity that really counts both now and in the life to come. The Judgment Seat is before us, and only “treasures laid up in heaven” are secure from decay and certain of approval.
Now, what did John mean when he said to Gaius, “Thy soul prospereth”? What are the indications of a spiritually prosperous man? Some of the marks of such a person are intimated in our Scripture reading; let us look at them.
John detected the attitude of obedience in the heart of Gaius, and refers to the truth that was in him. This beloved brother not only read the Word of God, but he gave it a place in his heart and life. Like Jeremiah, Gaius could have said, “Thy Words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16). Like the Psalmist he could also have said, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart” (Psa. 119:11).
Our souls will not be blessed by the Word of God unless we “receive the Word with all readiness of mind” (Acts 17:11). Some of old were not profited by the Word when it was taught, for it was “not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. 4:2).
Gaius not only gave the Word a place in his heart, but he walked in the truth (V. 3); that is, he put into practice what he had learned. He did not hide his candle under a bushel or under a bed; he placed it upon a candlestick that all might see the light.
James, the Lord’s brother, tells us that “If any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (Jas. 1:23-25). The Lord Jesus said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). Again He said, “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
Are we obedient to our heavenly calling? Have we said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Have we “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered” us? Have we said with the Psalmist, “I will run in the way of Thy commandments” (Psa. 119:32)? We shall not prosper if we do not whatsoever the Lord commands us.
Love toward the people of God contributed greatly to the soul prosperity of this beloved son in the faith. “Beloved,” wrote John to him, “thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity (love) before the church” (Vv. 5-6). Gaius surely fulfilled the commands of the Lord: “By love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers” (Heb. 13:1).
As we consider the love of Gaius to the brethren, even to those who were strangers, we are reminded of a future scene when our blessed Lord Jesus will say to those on His right hand: “I was an hungred, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: Naked, and ye clothed Me: … Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matt. 25:35-40).
The Christian who does not love his brother, but who is like Diotrephes (3 John 9-10), will live his life in misery as did king Saul, the man after the flesh (1 Sam. 18:8-10). “He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not wither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11), are words that should search and stir every heart. The Apostle Paul declared, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal … And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3). The person who lacks love for his brother in Christ, whose heart is filled with bitterness, jealousy, and hatred cannot prosper in spiritual life.
Giving of his substance to the work of God was the constant exercise of Gaius. He probably was a man of some means, as is suggested by verse six. God was able to trust this brother in financial matters for, without doubt, he honoured the Lord with his substance and with the first fruits of all his increase. John made mention of his doing well in providing the travelling expenses of those who “went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.”
This act of Gaius reminds one of the record in the Holy Scriptures of the wise men from the East who gave to the Christ child, “gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:12). Their offering of gold, possibly paid the expenses of the journey into Egypt of Joseph and Mary when they fled with the infant Jesus from the wrath of the wicked king Herod.
Gaius was a generous person and of such we read, “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself” (Prov. 11:25). Gaius was one of the cheerful givers whom the Lord loves; consequently, God made all grace abound toward him, and enriched him in everything to all bountifulness (2 Cor. 9:7-11).
The promise that God would open the windows of heaven upon His people was made to those who bring their tithes into the storehouse (Mal. 3:10). The saint that robs God; the one who does not lay by him in store as the Lord has prospered him (1 Cor. 16:2), puts his money in bags with holes, and suffers from an inward drought (Haggai 1:6-11). May we seek to follow the example of Gaius; moreover, may we, by God’s grace, say in the language of another:
“Take my love: my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store!
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.”
In closing, let us notice that Gaius was as the Blessed Man of Psalm one, our Lord Jesus Christ. He walked not in the counsel of the ungodly. He stood not in the way of sinners. He did not sit in the seat of the scornful as did the wicked Diotrephes. His delight was ever in the law of the Lord; consequently, He was like a tree planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth His fruit in its season, and whatsoever He did, it prospered.