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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

After addressing Gains, the Apostle expresses the interest and concern which he feels in his temporal and spiritual welfare (verses 1, 2). He congratulates him on his faith, and the charity manifested by him towards the poor and indigent Christians, and the different ministers of the gospel (3, 4, 5). He exhorts him to persevere in the same meritorious course of charity towards the visible representatives of God (6), who, having been bereft of all temporal means in his holy cause (7), have, therefore, a claim for support on all Christians whom God has blessed with the means of doing charity. Such deeds of charity will render the doers of them sharers in the merits of those to whose support they contribute (8).

He next says, he would have addressed the entire Church on the subject of almsgiving, were it not that Diotrephes refuses to recognise his authority (9); and he threatens, on his arrival, to expose his misdeeds before the assembly of the faithful (10). He cautions Gains against following so pernicious an example. He eulogises the charity of Demetrius (11, 12). He concludes the Epistle in verses 13, 14.

Paraphrase

1. The ancient Bishop (salutes) the dearly beloved Gaius, whom I love with a sincere spiritual affection.

2. I make it the subject of my prayer to God, dearly beloved, that you may prosper in all your undertakings, and enjoy health of body, as your soul prospers and progresses in sanctity, by the exercise of charity and good works.

3. It has been to me a source of great spiritual joy, to hear the testimony which the brethren, coming hither from thy country, have borne regarding thy true faith, and good works of mercy, as indeed in all thy actions thou dost display true faith and sincere charity.

4. Nothing can afford me greater satisfaction and joy than to hear, that those whom I have spiritually begotten in Christ, advance in faith and Christian love.

5. Dearly beloved, thou dost act a part worthy of a Christian when ministering to the necessities of our indigent Christian brethren, and particularly when exercising charity towards strangers.

6. Who have borne testimony to thy works of charity in the presence of all the faithful here, and in all places, and thou wilt act a meritorious part by continuing a course of charity towards such persons, not only by entertaining them at thy house, but also when they leave thee, by having them escorted out of the reach of danger, and by furnishing them with provisions for their journey, thus treating them in a manner suited to the ministers and representatives of God.

7. For, they went forth, as it were, into voluntary exile, in his behalf, and to propagate his faith, refusing to receive anything for their support from the Gentiles, whom they converted.

8. All of us, therefore, whom God has blessed with the means of exercising charity, should receive such poor Christian ministers, in order that we may share in their merits by co-operating with them, and enabling them to announce the true faith.

9. I would have written to the faithful at large of your Church, recommending to them the same, and not throw the burden of supporting the brethren on any single individual, if it were not that Diotrephes, who wishes to hold the chief place among them, refuses to recognise our authority.

10. On this account, should I come amongst you, I will expose in presence of the faithful his past misdeeds, maliciously indulging in detraction against us, and endeavouring to injure our good name by calumnious imputations. And as if he were not content with these things, he not only refuses to afford any aid to the distressed brethren, but he also prohibits others from doing so, and casts out from the assembly of the faithful, such as perform these works of charity.

11. Dearly beloved, follow not the example of this wicked man, but follow the example of the good. He that does good, is a son of God, he that doth evil, hath not seen God nor known him practically, as he ought.

12. To Demetrius testimony is borne by all Christians, and by the evidence of his good works, nay, even we ourselves bear testimony to his goodness, and thou knowest that our testimony is true.

13. I had many things of importance to impart to you, but I do not wish to do so through the medium of writing.

14. But I shortly hope to see you, and speak to you in person. Peace be to you. Our friends salute you. Salute the friends by name.

Commentary

1. “The ancient,” &c. (See 2nd Epistle, chap. 1).

2. “Concerning all things,” is understood by some to mean, above all things. However, it is better understand it to mean, in all thy undertakings, and in all thy concerns, namely, in thy family, wealth, &c., which thou renderest subordinate to the works of charity. “I make it my prayer that (in all these things) you should prosper.” “And fare well.” The Greek word for this, ὑγιαινειν, means, enjoy bodily health. “As thy soul doth prosper,” i.e., I pray that in other things you may be as prosperous, as I know you to be with regard to the health and prosperity of your soul, which progresses every day more and more in grace and virtue, owing to your charity and hospitality.

3. In this and the following verse, the Apostle congratulates Gaius, on his past hospitality, so as to refer the glory of it to God, and exhort him to perseverance in the same meritorious course. “When the brethren,” i.e., the poor Christians, and probably Christian ministers of the gospel.

4. “Grace,” in Greek, χαρἰν. The word, “joy,” differs in Greek only by a single letter (χαραν, “joy,” is the word used in the ordinary Greek reading). The Vatican MS. supports the Vulgate. “My children,” that is, those spiritually begotten by him. Hence, Gaius was either converted, or more fully instructed by him.

5. “Faithfully,” i.e., a thing worthy of a Christian instructed in the true faith, “Whatever thou dost,” i.e., in thy charitable ministrations towards the “brethren,” i.e., the Christian converts, “and that for strangers,” and particularly towards such as come to thee from other regions, and are the most friendless and unpitied.

6. These Christian strangers whom thou hast befriended and aided by your charity, have announced thy praises publicly here, in presence of the assembled faithful, and they do the same wherever they go. “Whom thou shalt do well,” not only to entertain at thy house, but also “to bring forward on their way,” by having them escorted out of the reach of danger, and furnished with the necessary viatic for the journey. “In a manner worthy of God.” In a manner befitting in us to treat those who are engaged in God’s service, and have renounced everything for him; or, in the same respectful way in which we would treat God himself, whose visible representatives they are, “he who receives you receives me.”—(Matt. 10:40).

7. “Because they went forth in his name.” You should treat them with the respect due to the visible representatives of God; because in going forth from their home and in suffering the loss of everything else, it was on his account, and for the advancement of his holy cause. “Taking nothing of the Gentiles,” i.e., declining all remuneration, as did St. Paul (1 Cor. 9 &c.), lest they should obstruct the spread of the gospel and give the Gentiles any pretext for charging them with mercenary motives. If we understand the word “Gentiles” to refer to the unconverted Gentiles, then, the word will mean, that the poor ministers of the gospel did not wish to receive any support from the Pagans, lest they might be scandalized at the want of charity in the Christian converts, who permitted their ministers to be in distress; or, the words may mean, that the Gentiles robbed them of their possessions.

8. “We, therefore,” i.e., all who are blessed with means; he joins himself, either because he had alms for distribution; or, he speaks in the first person as is often usual with those addressing others, even when the matter may apply solely to those to whom the the discourse is addressed. “Ought to receive such,” i.e., help and relieve them, “that we may be fellow-helpers in the truth,” i.e., share in the merits of the preachers of the faith. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, receives the reward of a prophet,” (Matt. 10:42). It is likely these poor ministers of the gospel were the bearers of this Epistle.

9. “I had written perhaps to the Church.” This he says, to excuse himself for throwing the burden of supporting the poor Christian ministers on one individual. In the ordinary Greek, the reading is absolute, ἔγραψα τῃ εκκλησιᾳ—I have written to the Church. In many Greek manuscripts is found the reading, ἔγραψα αν—“I had perhaps written.” Both readings may be easily connected in this way: I have written to the Church, but in vain, and would have written perhaps on the same subject. The Vatican MS. has, ἔγραψας τι τῃ εκκλησιᾳ. “But Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence, does not receive us.” Some say, this Diotrephes was bishop of the Church in question; others, with Venerable Bede, that he was a heretic who had great influence in that particular Church; a man probably of consideration amongst them. It is conjectured by many that he was one of the “Judaizantes,” who endeavoured to unite with the gospel the ceremonial law of the Jews. Against the opinion of Bede, it may, however, be fairly objected, that St. John does not speak of expelling him from the Church, as he certainly would have done, if this haughty man were a heretic; so strong were the feelings of the Apostle with regard to such persons (2 Ep. verse 10).

10. St. John threatens to expose publicly his misdeeds. “With malicious words prating against us.” He wished to lessen the authority of the Apostle, and by calumnious rumours to damage his character. And still more, he refuses to give the poor distressed Christian ministers any support; and prevents others from doing so, and even excludes from the Church such as exceed his prohibition. This, probably, was a sort of unjust excommunication, and a fearful abuse of power. These are the heads of the charges, which the Apostle will bring against this wicked man.

11. He tells Gaius not to follow the bad example of this man, but to follow rather the good example, of which he gives an instance, next verse, in the case of Demetrius. He that doth good is of God, &c.—(Vide 1 Ep. 3:10, 4:7 and 8).

12. “To Demetrius testimony,” of his charity and hospitality, “is given by all” Christians coming hither; or, by all men, whether Christians or infidels, who admire his charity; “and by the truth itself,” that is, by the public notoriety of the fact; and by ourselves, “yea, and we also,” &c.; “and thou knowest that our testimony is true.” Similar are his words in the gospel (21:16). The Greek reading for “thou knowest,” is, οιδατε, ye know; οιδας, “thou knowest,” is found in the three chief MSS. Who this Demetrius was, cannot for certain be known.

13. See verse 12, of 2nd Epistle; σοι, “to thee,” is omitted in the ordinary Greek; but it is found in the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS.

14. “But I hope speedily to see thee, and we will speak mouth to mouth,” i.e. I shall speak to thee in person. “Peace,” i.e., the secure possession of all spiritual blessings, “be to thee.” “Our friends salute thee,” i.e., wish thee the abundance of all graces and blessings. “Salute the friends by name,” i.e., convey our regards and Christian love to all the Christians who are with thee, severally and individually, which is expressive of greater respect.








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