On the Epistles of John, Part 13: A Flock Divided

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On the Epistles of John, Part 13: A Flock Divided

Here we shall present a commentary on the last of these three epistles of John. In my opinion, this presentation also marks a milestone for us, as it is the very last book in a series of commentaries on the New Testament which I had begun in December of 2010. Surely it is not my last New Testament Commentary, but once it is published there will be a Christian Identity commentary on the entire New Testament at Christogenea. This morning I estimated that to amount to 306 of these presentations, but I do not claim that as an exact figure. In the meantime, among many other things we have also done that same thing for the Minor Prophets and for other books of Scripture, such as Ecclesiastes and the Wisdom of Solomon. While I certainly know that at least some of my work these last 11 years can be improved, and some of the earlier presentations may have been more comprehensive, I am generally satisfied with the outcome, and I believe that over the years I have had to capitulate on very little, if anything, as challenges to my Christian profession have arisen. So in the very near future, I do hope to improve the commentary on the Revelation with which I had first begun. But I also hope one day in the near future to produce commentaries on the major prophets and also on the Book of Genesis, if Yahweh God is willing, but I would not want to stop there.

Now, turning our attention to this third epistle of John, in our translation here we have either followed or considered the readings of the 4th century Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B), the 5th century Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Vaticanus Graecus 2061 (048), and a 6th century codex known only as Uncial 0251, in which only a portion of verses 12 through 15 of this epistle are attested, as well as a part of the epistle of Jude. These manuscripts and their differences with one another and with the Majority Text, as they are presented in the critical apparatus of the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, were all considered in our translation or in the accompanying notes. Once again, there are no ancient papyri which have yet been discovered which predate the 7th century and attest to the text of either the second or third epistles of John. Here we shall add that portions of 1 John chapter 4 were preserved in a papyrus, P9, which is dated to the 3rd century. As we also stated in relation to the second epistle of John, these last two epistles are personal letters written to specific individuals, while 1 John is a general epistle, probably written to the churches at Ephesus.

In our last presentation in this commentary, which we had titled Guarding the Flock, we made some conclusions regarding the second epistle of John and the reasons for which he had written it, which we had deduced from its content. In the epistle it is evident that at least a couple of a certain noble woman’s many children had gone to speak with the apostle John, who was evidently an elder among the churches of Ephesus at that time. In response to their conversation, John wrote the woman, admonishing her to love the brethren, and also admonishing her to reject Jews or others who had not accepted Christ. So the reasons for which certain of her children had went to see John in the first place are elucidated in those admonishments. Then John told her that he hoped to see her in person, as he had many other things to say but he did not want to say them in writing. This informs us that those admonishments which he did put in writing must have been important for the woman to hear, and since he had never met her before we may discern that her children did indeed request John to address the problems for which he had admonished her.

In that epistle, we also saw John couple together two Christian concepts, by which we should realize that one is consistent with another. John admonished the woman to love her brethren, and to reject Jews and others who reject Christ. We know he is describing Jews not only from history, but also from his collective use of the term antichrist, which in his first epistle he himself had defined as those having been born in Judaea who were not true Judaeans, of whom he said “they came out from us but they were not from of us”, and who had rejected Christ for that very reason. So we must conclude that by accepting men who do not accept Christ, in turn we are not loving our brother. As Christ Himself had said, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 12, “30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

Now here in this third epistle John writes to another Christian, a man named Gaius. The name being Roman, Gaius was apparently a Roman Christian living in or around Ephesus. He must have lived close by, since John also expressed a desire to see him soon, as he wrote this epistle. There is another Gaius, a companion of Paul’s, mentioned in several of his epistles and in Acts, but this is almost certainly not the same Gaius. A third Gaius hosted Paul as he wrote the epistle to the Romans, and that seems to have been in the Troad as Paul was travelling to Jerusalem before his arrest. As we read what John had written to this Gaius, we may also find further support for our interpretation of the reasons for which John had written the epistle to the noble woman, even if we do not know the true order in which these epistles had been written.

Once the reasons for writing these two personal epistles become evident, we can come to the understanding that they are indeed a manifestation of the words of Paul of Tarsus in his speech to the elders of the churches of Ephesus about four decades earlier. In Acts chapter 20 Paul is recorded as having stopped by Miletus while on his final journey back to Jerusalem. From there, he had called for the elders of the assemblies of nearby Ephesus to come to Miletus and meet with him. When they arrived, Paul told them that they would never see him again, and for that reason, he said to them: “26 On which account I testify to you on this day today that I am clean from the blood of all. 27 For I have not withheld, for which not to report all of the will of Yahweh to you. 28 You take heed for yourselves and for all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit appointed you overseers to tend to the assembly of Yahweh, which He preserved for Himself by His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure oppressive wolves shall come in to you, not being sparing of the sheep! 30 And from among you men shall arise speaking distortions for which to draw away the students after themselves.”

Where we have distortions, the King James Version has “perverse things”, which is acceptable in this context. There in Acts chapter 20 Paul had warned of two types of heretics, the one being a wolf coming in from outside and introducing dangerous heresies, and the other being a sheep seeking renown, or more accurately, notoriety, for himself, and for that reason pulling men away from the Truth by fabricating dangerous heresies. Here in John’s two personal epistles, we have examples of each. So John warned the noble woman not to accept the wolves, and here in his epistle to Gaius he singles out the sort of man whom Paul had described, who shunned the apostles and evidently did seek “to draw away the students after” himself, since John describes him as one who “loves being the leader” when in fact we all should have only one leader, which is Christ.

So the 3rd epistle of John begins:

1 The elder to the beloved Gaios, whom I love in truth.

Just as we had seen in 2 John, the apostle does not mention his own name, but merely calls himself by the adjective πρεσβύτερος or elder. As we have already asserted, John did not refer to himself with his own name in his Gospel or in any of his three epistles, but in his Gospel he described himself in ways by which we can be certain that he is the apostle John, the son of Zebedee, who was mentioned by name in the other Gospel accounts. Then, in his first epistle he had attested in its opening verses that he is the same John as the author of the Gospel by that name. From that point, the similar content and language of the second and third epistles betray the fact that the author must have also been the same man as that of the first epistle of John.

Here John addressed Gaius, who he had apparently never met, as a man “whom I love in truth”. But the subsequent verses inform us that John’s love for Gaius is based solely upon the reports of his character which John had received from others whom he seems to know, even if he had just met them recently. Therefore it is evident, that John having taken seriously the commandment of Christ to love one another, puts his trust in that alone, that if his brethren testified on behalf of a man’s character and they loved him, then John knew that he should also love him, as Christians should love all those who are in the truth. So now in the form of a prayer, he wishes Gaius well:

2 Beloved, concerning all things I pray that you are to prosper and be healthy, just as your soul prospers.

The Greek word for pray here is the verb εὔχομαι, which is to pray but also, as it was often used in translation in the Septuagint, to make a vow or a promise. The noun form is εὐχή, which Liddell & Scott define as a “prayer or vow”. The patriarchs, as well as the Christians of the New Testament, believed that their words would indeed be upheld by Yahweh their God, so that a prayer is tantamount to a vow. Where Christ in the Gospel or James in his epistle had warned Christians not to swear, a different word is used, the verb ὄμνυμι which is to make an oath. So it seems that making a prayer or vow, one has faith in God, but swearing an oath, a man unjustly puts his confidence in himself rather than in God.

The word translated as soul here is ψυχή, which we prefer to interpret as life, as opposed to πνεῦμα which is spirit. The ψυχή or soul is the life of a man or animal, including the animating force, while the spirit of a man dwells within his body until it is no longer animated, whereby it returns to God if indeed it has come from God. Resurrection to a new life is possible through that spirit, as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. Through the truth in Christ, the soul or life is indeed prospered, as true riches are not in worldly wealth, but in the knowledge of God.

Demonstrating his agreement in Christian principle with John, in this same manner Paul had prayed for the Ephesians, as it is recorded in chapter 3 of the epistle which he had written to them, telling them that: “14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father, 15 from whom the whole family in the heavens and upon earth is named, 16 in order that He would give to you, in accordance with the riches of His honor, the ability to be strengthened through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 to administer the Anointed through the faith in your hearts, being planted and founded in love, 18 that you are quite able to comprehend along with all of the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of the Anointed, being beyond knowledge, in order that you would be filled with all the fullness of Yahweh. 20 But to He who is able above all to do beyond measure whatever we ask or think, according to the ability which is operating in us, 21 to Him is the honor in the assembly and in Christ Yahshua, for all generations for eternity. Truly.” Paul taught many of the same things that John had, but John expressed himself in much simpler terms than Paul.

Next, we begin to learn why John had written to Gaius:

3 For [א wants “For”] I rejoiced exceedingly upon the brethren coming and bearing witness of you in the truth, just as you walk in truth.

Here we see how John had learned of the faith of Gaius, through brethren whom he seems to have already known, or perhaps whom he had just gotten to know, and who had testified of the man’s character. But there must be a particular reason why these brethren came to tell John about Gaius, and that reason does not become evident until John mentions certain divisions among the assembly from which these brethren had come. But first, John continues by offering Gaius further encouragement:

4 Greater joy [B has “favor”] than this I do not have: that I hear of my children walking in the truth.

Just as Paul had rather affectionately called the Galatians “my little children” (Galatians 4:19), and told the Thessalonians that “we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,” (1 Thessalonians 2:11) John also considered those whom he had instructed in the Faith of Christ to be his children. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholics and other early sects reversed thatr concept and insisted that their priests or bishops should be called “father”, something which is absolutely contrary to the Scriptures, and which the apostles themselves would not have expected or accepted.

The attitude of the apostles seems to be that their students were their children because they were entrusted with their education. But it was not so that they may rule over them as fathers, and the apostles never sought to rule over the assemblies as fathers. Christ Himself had told His disciples, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 23, to “9 … call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” But in all fairness, it must be admitted that this practice is first evident in the writings of some of the so-called “Church Fathers”, such as Eusebius, where local bishops were called papa even long before the Roman Catholic Church was organized. But that does not excuse the Roman Church.

Now John expresses even further trust in Gaius:

5 Beloved, do with faith whatever you may accomplish for the brethren, and this too [The MT wants “this too”; the text follows א, A, B, C and 048] for guests.

The word for guests here is a plural form of ξένος, and customarily it is translated as stranger in most Bibles. Liddell & Scott primarily define the word as “a guest-friend, i. e. any citizen of a foreign state, with whom one has a treaty of hospitality for self and heirs” and although it was also later used of “any stranger or foreigner… the term was politely used of any one whose name was unknown, and the address ὦ ξένε came to mean little more than friend…” The word must be contrasted to other terms which are also commonly translated as stranger, such as ἀλλότριος, which is merely something of or belonging to another, or ἀλλογενής, which is someone of another race, but not necessarily someone who is not of the Adamic race, as the ancient Greeks used the term more narrowly than we do today. Throughout his relatively recent translation of the poems of Euripides for the Loeb Classical Library, David Kovacs rather consistently translated the term ξένος as guest-friend, and for similar reasons it is guest here, the only time it appears in all of the writings attributed to the apostle John.

The sort of guests to which John refers may be those who were called the uninstructed by Paul of Tarsus in chapter 14 of his first epistle to the Corinthians where teaching against speaking in unknown tongues in the assembly, he wrote, in part: “Since if perhaps you would speak well with the Spirit, he who is sitting in the place of the uninstructed, how shall he proclaim ‘Truth’ upon your giving of thanks, seeing that what you say he does not know?” Evidently Christian assemblies had places which were set aside for guests, the uninstructed, where they could observe before deciding to accept the Gospel. In the world of the apostles it was the Gospel by which the wheat were separated from the tares and Christian men were better able to identify their brethren.

However perhaps John is using the term for guests here in a narrower sense, since he also seems to be referring to those who had come to him as guests. Since he received guests from Gaius with acceptance, he is encouraging Gaius to do the same. So he continues to speak of those brethren who had come and informed John of the character of Gaius, and he says:

6 They have testified of you with love before the assembly, whom you shall do well sending forth [C has “whom doing well you shall send forward”, the endings of the verbs being transposed] worthily of Yahweh.

Here it seems that John is referring to men who had come from whatever assembly Gaius was a part, to an assembly of Christians of which John was a part, and these men attested of Gaius before that assembly, where they were guests.

To us the language is sometimes ambiguous, and here the verb translated as you shall do well is a second person future active indicative form, indicating how Gaius would fare in the future, but the verb translated as sending forth is a singular aorist participle, which indicates that the action is from Gaius, however being in the aorist tense, the action it describes is ongoing and has apparently already been initiated.

So here we shall amend our translation in order to better fit the perceived context:

6 They have testified of you with love before the assembly, whom you shall do well having sent forth worthily of Yahweh.

Reading this epistle which John had written only to Gaius personally, although it was preserved by his assembly, it is apparent that John is acknowledging that Gaius himself had sent these men to John. The men in turn had testified of the character and faith of Gaius to John, and John has accepted that testimony, so he is commending Gaius for sending these men to him, while assuring him that by taking such action, Gaius shall do well. Soon we shall find out why Gaius had sent these men. But now John commends the men themselves:

7 For on behalf of the Name they came out, taking nothing from the heathens.

Here the Greek word ἐθνικός (1482), which is an adjective formed from the word ἔθνος, or nation, is translated as heathen. The Majority Text has ἔθνος, where ἐθνικός is the reading found in the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B) and Ephraemi Syri (C). Here, as a Substantive since it is accompanied with a definite article, we nevertheless translated is as we would translate ἔθνος in this context, as heathen.

However the use of ἐθνικός is certainly indicative of the implication with which we may have written pagan. The word appears elsewhere three times in the Gospel of Matthew, in chapters 5, 6 and 18, but not at all in the Septuagint. Liddell & Scott define ἐθνικός merely as “foreign, heathen”, however Joseph Thayer in his Greek New Testament lexicon defines it more fully, and more appropriately, as “adapted to the genius or customs of a people, peculiar to a people, national… in the N. T. savoring of the nature of pagans, alien to the worship of the true God, heathenish; substantively, ὁ ἐθνικός, the pagan….” Thayer’s New Testament definition is correct within the context of the scope of the covenants with Israel, as the children of Israel scattered abroad had indeed adopted the customs and manners of the heathen nations. Here, John is evidently commending these men who came to him for not taking anything from the pagan Romans and Greeks, who would be considered heathens so long as they were pagan.

So for that reason, John says:

8 Therefore we are obliged to receive [the MT has “to take part with”; the text follows א, A, B and C] such as these, that we would become fellow-workmen in the truth.

The Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Alexandrinus (A) have “… fellow-workmen to the assembly.” But either way the effect is quite the same. John is attesting to having accepted these men who were sent by Gaius because they had accepted the truth of Christ, and had also separated themselves from the greater pagan society on account of that truth. Now John professes having already written another epistle to the assembly where Gaius is located, evidently an epistle which has been lost to us:

9 I [B has “You” (!); the text follows א, A, C, 048 and the MT] have written something [C and the MT want “something”, the text follows א, A, B and 048] to the assembly, but Diotrephes, who loves being the leader, does not admit us.

Here it becomes evident why Gaius had sent men to John, and why John had written to Gaius in the manner which he did. Perhaps Gaius had sent the men to John looking for his support or aid in replacing Diotrephes, and he seems to have his blessing. But whatever letter John had already written to that assembly, we should refrain from identifying as 1 John, since the circumstances and the divisions which are apparent here are not at all addressed in that epistle. There must have been another epistle which John had written, and which may have been lost on account of the fact that the leader of the assembly, Diotrephes, refused to admit it, where John wrote that he “does not admit us.” So according to John here, he refused to admit him only because of his own ego, because he “loves being the leader”.

So Diotrephes, who was ostensibly professing to be a Christian while at the same time rejecting the apostle of Christ, certainly does seem to be an example of the men of which Paul had warned, who would “arise speaking distortions for which to draw away the students after themselves.” It is also evident that Gaius sent these men to John because he was concerned that Diotrephes was leading the assembly astray, otherwise he had no cause to send the men to John. John must have received such a report from the men whom Gaius had sent, and here, informing Gaius that he had already written to Diotrephes and his assembly, John is forthcoming in explaining that he was already addressing the problems for which Gaius had sent to him.

Perhaps Yahshua Christ had men such as this Diotrephes under consideration where it says in the message to the church of Ephesus, in Revelation chapter 2, “4 But I hold against you that you have left your first love.” Yet the history of those assemblies must have been quite troubled, because earlier in that same message they were commended because they had “2… tried those calling themselves ambassadors yet they are not, and you have found them liars”. Nevertheless, Diotrephes rejected John himself, a man whom by this time must have been well known among Christians, and must have had a reputation which preceded him.

Of course, neither was Paul of Tarsus without divisions, which he evidently suffered on many occasions. So in 2 Timothy, which was written while Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he had warned his younger fellow-worker that “all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.” Later on in that same place in 2 Timothy, Paul commended Onesiphorus for “how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus”. Ephesus was in Asia, it was the capital city of the Roman province known as Asia, and while Paul wrote those words near the end of his life, that was still nearly 40 years before John had evidently written this epistle, if we are correct in our belief that John’s epistles were not written until after his release from Patmos upon the death of Domitian in 96 AD. But the paths of Paul and John had never crossed in Ephesus, because ostensibly, while Paul was ministering in Asia John was still in Antioch. Paul attested as much in his epistle to the Galatians, which was written during or soon after his visit to Antioch, as it was recorded in Acts chapter 18. From there it is evident that John continued in Antioch, while Paul went through Galatia and on to Ephesus.

This same thing seemed to be happening much earlier in Corinth, so Paul had asked, in the opening chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, “11 It has been disclosed to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of the house of Chloe, that there is contention among you. 12 Now I say this: that each of you say, ‘so I am of Paul’, ‘but I am of Apollos’, ‘but I am of Kephas’, ‘and I of Christ’. 13 Have the Anointed been divided? Has Paul been crucified on your behalf? Or have you been immersed in the name of Paul?” The people were becoming followers of men, choosing favorites from among the apostles, rather than being faithful followers of Christ. So in Romans chapter 16 Paul had warned “17 Now I exhort you, brethren, to watch out for those who cause dissension and scandal contrary to the teaching which you have been instructed in, and turn away from them. 18 Indeed such as they do not serve Yahshua Christ our Prince, but rather their own belly, and through smooth speaking and fine language they seduce the hearts of the innocent.”

Then in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, Paul was speaking from his own experience where he said “18 Indeed in the first place, of your gathering in the assembly I hear of divisions arising among you, and to some degree I believe it. 19 For there must also be sects among you, in order that those approved will become evident among you.” So later in 2 Timothy he informed his colleague that Hymenaeus and Philetus had taken to teaching heresies, that Demas had forsaken him, that Alexander the coppersmith treated him unjustly. In his first epistle to Timothy, written before Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, he had already warned him of Hymenaeus and Alexander. Writing in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, just before his departure from Ephesus in 56 AD, Paul said “32 If like a man I have fought with beasts in Ephesus, what good is it to me if the dead are not raised? ‘We should eat and we should drink, since tomorrow we may die.’ 33 Do not be deceived, ‘bad associations corrupt good character.’” Paul had written 1 Timothy shortly after that first epistle to the Corinthians. So we see some of the many divisions with which Paul was confronted during the course of his ministry, and especially at Ephesus, and here we have an example of that same thing in the later ministry of John at Ephesus. For those same reasons, Ephesus also seems to have been a hotbed of controversial and heretical opinions which constantly troubled the apostles.

But there is no real indication that any of these men, either Phygellus, Hermogenes, Hymenaeus, Alexander, Demas, or even Diotrephes here, were actually wolves, and not merely sheep gone astray. In fact, Paul hoped that Hymenaeus and Alexander would “learn not to blaspheme”, which indicates that they were not wolves. So we cannot really dismiss any of these men as Jews, devils or tares, because there really is no proof that they were. Rather, we must realize that we also are men who are prone to sin. As a digression, Διοτρέφης is a Greek name which means nurtured by god, and for that reason he seems to have begun life as a pagan.

Now John expresses his hope to visit that assembly from which these men had come, where it is also apparent that he would be able to confront Diotrephes, although John did not mention that explicitly:

10 For this reason, if I should come, I shall mention his deeds which he does, babbling about us [C has “to us”] with evil words. And not being satisfied with these things, neither does he admit the brethren and those who are willing to [C has “and those who are admitting them”], he forbids and ejects from the assembly!

Here it is also evident that John already had some experience, or perhaps had at least heard evil reports about Diotrephes from others, for which reason he had written him even before receiving the friends of Gaius, as he had attested that Diotrephes had already rejected him. So not only does Diotrephes slander John, and evidently his companions as well, but he won’t even accept them, and he rejects from his assembly anyone who would accept them. So now John makes an appeal to Gaius:

11 Beloved, you must not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He doing good is from of Yahweh. He doing evil has not seen Yahweh.

This leads me to believe that it was Gaius’ intent to try to replace Diotrephes, and that he sought John’s blessing or assistance, and that is why he sent his friends to John. In any event, here we are led to believe that Gaius had sent these men to John to appeal for his assistance against Diotrephes, and John is willing to help, even by coming to face Diotrephes himself, while encouraging Gaius not to reward evil with evil in imitation of the heretic. But now this all seems to be only a glimpse of what had been a wider and ongoing drama caused by Diotrephes, so once again John indicates that he knew about this situation before the delegation came from Gaius, where he wrote that:

12 Demetrios is attested to by all and by the truth itself.

Rather than “by the truth itself”, the Codex Alexandrinus (A) has “the assembly itself,” The Codex Ephraemi Syri (C) has “the assembly itself and the truth.” Our text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B) and the Majority Text, which more often agrees with the Alexandrinus.

Continuing the verse:

But we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.

This Demetrius seems to be another man in the assembly of which Diotrephes is leader, as we may expect that Gaius would know to whom it was that John was referring. He is not one of John’s own party, as John said “and we also bear witness”, so Demetrius must be someone who was independently familiar with the deeds of Diotrephes, while also having been known to John. So perhaps John was already involved with this Demetrius in this matter, and perhaps that is why John had written the assembly of Diotrephes earlier, as he had attested here. We may also imagine that Demetrios being an ally against the heresy of Diotrephes, that is why John is commending him to Gaius, so that Gaius would know that he has other allies within his assembly. So this is further indication that the flock of Diotrephes is becoming divided over his heresies.

But just as John had written in the letter to the noble woman, thus he does here. He has said what is important to say, and he hopes to see Gaius soon, whereby he could speak with him at greater length:

13 I have many things to write to you [the MT wants “to you’; the text follows א, A, B, C and 048], but I do not wish [A has “I have not desired”] with ink and a pen [literally “reed”] to write to you.

After seeing this very similar statement made in both of his surviving personal epistles, it is evident that John did not like to write at any length, and only wrote what things he had necessity to write. For that reason alone, much importance should be assigned to the things which he did write. So with this statement here we find support for our interpretation of the letter to the noble woman.

Perhaps it was only because of his advanced age that he did not want to write, as John seems to have been about 16 at the beginning of the ministry of Christ, and in that manner he would have been about 82 when Domitian died and he was released from exile in Patmos so he could return to Ephesus. So here we can imagine that John is at least 82 years old, unless he was older at the start of the ministry of Christ. Although it seems unlikely that he was much older than 16. At the Passover supper, John was the apostle who had leaned on the breast of Yahshua, whom Yahshua had loved. In the wider Greek and Roman society, the world in which the apostles were raised, such physical contact between adult males would have been found disagreeable, while it was acceptable between boys and men, and even older boys who had not yet had their first beard. Of course, pederasty was also acceptable along those same lines, as Greek society was always decadent in that regard. But the relationship between John and Yahshua Christ was one of a son to a father.

Now John repeats something else which he had also said to the noble woman:

14 Now I hope to see you soon, and we shall speak face to face.

The phrase face to face is from Greek words which literally mean mouth to mouth, the Greek idiom of the time which John had also used in this same manner in his epistle to the noble woman. Now in closing, John uses another term which he did not use in his other epistles, and here we may perceive that the circumstances had warranted it:

15 Peace to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

The Codex Alexandrinus (A) has brethren rather than friends here. But the use of friends by John in this context seems to have been for the reason that he sought to distinguish brethren who are friendly to him from brethren who are not friendly to him, as he described Diotrephes and those who followed him. So the flock to which Gaius had belonged was divided, and John evidently would not greet those who were joining Diotrephes in the division.

If the apostles of Christ could not avoid sects, or heresies, and the taking of sides and the forming of parties, all of the dirty deeds of church politics, we should not consider ourselves any better, and we ourselves will not be able to avoid those same things. As Paul had said, “For there must also be sects [which are heresies] among you, in order that those approved will become evident among you.” But at the same time, we must watch that we are not the cause of such divisions, and that is only possible if we cleave to the Gospel of Christ.

This concludes our commentary on the epistles of John.

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