Jude wrote to the Christians to tell them that though he intended to write a letter focusing on the common salvation that they have, he saw it necessary to write a letter that exhorts them to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (v. 3). In the letter, Jude lists several who refused the truth and disobeyed the faith delivered by faithful preachers and prophets (v. 4-19). In other words, these folks had no regard for the faith. Jude’s letter is an attempt to keep the brethren on the right track!
Mr. Strong says that “earnestly contend” has to do with struggling. Thus, Jude’s point (through the Holy Spirit) is that it is the Christian’s responsibility to struggle for the faith. It was inspired by God (II Pet. 1:20-21), but we do not keep it with us by mere will. We must work to read and apply, as a “workman” (Eph. 3:4; II Tim. 2:15). Furthermore, we must be active in spreading this truth (II Tim. 2:2, 4:2). The seed (Lk. 8:11) will not sow itself! This word is twisted by many (Gal. 1:6-9; II Pet. 3:16), and denied by a majority (Jn. 18:38). Yet, it has outlived kingdoms for millennia (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25)!
When Jude spoke of “the faith,” this is contrasted with one’s personal faith. “The faith” is God’s objective truth (“one faith,” Eph. 4:5) that was “once” or “once and for all” (ASV, CEV, ESV, ISV, NET) delivered to the saints. Since God’s word was given “once and for all,” it is unique. This word is complete or “perfect” (I Cor. 13:8-10). This “complete” word makes us complete (II Tim. 3:17; II Pet. 1:3). It feeds us (Heb. 5:12-14; I Pet. 2:2). It is our armor (Eph. 6:14-18). It is our guide (Ps. 119:105). It saves (Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 15:1-2). How can we not struggle to spread and defend this truth when it does so much for us?
Let us take heed to Jude’s exhortation and make sure we are contending earnestly for the faith. This is all the revelation we have! We’re not getting any more! Therefore, let us believe the word, obey the commands, trust the promises, and look forward to Heaven when this life is over!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Gaius, the recipient of III John, had many great qualities. One quality is revealed in John’s observation: “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers” (III Jn. 5). The “strangers” in this text are similar to the “strangers” Peter wrote to in his first epistle (I Pet. 1:1). These people were Christians unknown to the face of Peter. Similarly, John said Gaius was faithful in treating the Christians who were “strangers” well.
The blessings of being in Christ are innumerable. We could make a detailed study of all the benefits God provides His children, and we would spend months and even years covering these things in their entirety (Eph. 1:3; II Pet. 1:3; etc.). At the same time, we see innumerable blessings on earth when we consider the blessings our brethren provide. III John 5 reveals the blessings we have in our brethren.
Read III John 5-8, and learn of the generosity of Gaius toward his brethren. His acts of charity (love, benevolence, v. 6) were well-known. He had provided in such a way that these folks went forth “for his name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles” (v. 7). In other words, they had no reason to ask for money or goods from others, because Gaius provided in such a generous way that they had all needs met. Who were these people? Notice in verse seven, it was those who went forth for “his name’s sake,” i.e., Christ’s name! These were men preaching the gospel far and wide, and when they left “for his name’s sake” from Gaius’ house, they went with their needs provided that they might get to the next place! Gaius’ actions remind me of what Christ said in Matthew 10:40-42.
John concludes that since Gaius did his job, “we ought to receive such” (v. 8). In other words, “we” have a job to do in receiving these people since Gaius did his part so that they could travel. I wish I knew more about this work and the generosity shown, but this is enough to make Gaius stand out as a man who wanted the gospel preached and willingly sacrificed to make it happen. Such a blessing!
Is Gaius still around? I say “yes” without a doubt. I have been the recipient of the brethren’s generosity on several occasions. I remember moving to a place, and when I went to get the electricity turned on in my house, I learned that “Gaius” had paid the “hookup” fee usually charged new customers. There was a time when another “Gaius” gave me traveling money when I held four back-to-back meetings. “Gaius” was present in another state of the Union to give me a brand new pair of boots, and also provide presents for my young boys just because he loved the gospel preached and saw this as something he could do to give a “cup of cold water” to another. “Gaius” has come through on several occasions. I remember one who played the part of “Gaius” and provided some support when she saw a preacher and his family in need. I speak in general terms because these people with the “Gaius” spirit didn’t want to be recognized! The most important thing is that they are known to God!
It is not exclusively the person offering financial support that serves in the role of “Gaius” (though this is the context of III John 5-8). I remember some brethren who cared for me in a time when my life was literally in their hands! I have not forgotten their kindness and generosity, and I know God hasn’t forgotten, either!
I could go on with sweet memories of modern-day “Gaius’.” I imagine that if I asked other men to write of their experiences, we would all rejoice at the multitudes of examples of dear brethren. John made mention of Gaius’ sacrifice and the blessing he was to others for a few reasons. First, he wrote this by inspiration, which means the Holy Spirit wanted these things revealed (Jn. 14-16; II Pet. 1:21-22). Second, these verses are written to encourage Gaius. His sacrifice was not forgotten nor unappreciated. In fact, it was the opposite (Prov. 27:2)! Third, Gaius’ example was other brethren’s motivation to do the same (III Jn. 8)! Read III John 8 carefully in this context and see that John says because Gaius did what he did, “we” have work to do on our end!
Just as Gaius was a blessing in the first century, we also can take up the mantle and be a blessing to others. Remember, we who are Christians (Mk. 16:16) are family (Rom. 8:16-17). We are one body (Eph. 4:4), and need to help encourage each other (Rom. 14:19; I Thess. 5:11). This encouragement comes in moral support and prayers, without a doubt. There are also times when physical needs must be provided (Jas. 2:15-18). Do we have the “Jerusalem spirit” when it comes to generosity (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35)? I pray so! We live in some hard and strange times, and we need men to preach and spread the gospel far and wide because only the gospel will save (Rom. 1:16)! Getting our priorities straight is what will help us through the times ahead (Matt. 6:33). We also need folks like Gaius, Phoebe, Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, Barnabas, Timothy, Mary (there were several), Luke, Apphia, Archippus, Philemon, etc., who are ready to do the Lord’s will, support the preaching in all ways they can, and help get the gospel to the lost.
Gaius was a blessing to brethren and strangers in the first century. Who are we blessing in the twenty-first?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
When John wrote his third epistle, he addressed it to “the well-beloved Gaius” (v. 1). This man stood out for reasons that become apparent in the first eight verses of the book. Evidently, he also served as a contact for John to write to the brethren since a direct approach had not worked (v. 9)! Can you imagine what happened when Gaius presented John’s letter, and the brethren were made aware that John knew what Diotrephes had been doing (v. 9-10)?
In this study, let’s focus on the blessing John states in verse 2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” What is John saying? He is saying I pray that your physical health and prosperity might match your spiritual health and well-being. Evidently, from observing his health and physical surroundings, one might not think Gaius was blessed, but on the spiritual side, he was blessed more than most (see: I Sam. 16:7).
This statement hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it. John wished that Gaius could have a healthy body as he has a healthy soul (III Jn. 2). On how many people today could we wish what John did? Is not the opposite true in our country? We have healthy bodies, and we financially prosper while we have emaciated souls! As I thought specifically about the Lord’s church in this nation, it is evident that some focus on physical health and prosperity to their spiritual detriment. Some have become like Laodicea, thinking that physical health means spiritual health. They have become like the friends of Job who equated physical health with God’s blessing. “If you are suffering, you have done something bad, but if you are not, then you are OK” is too many people’s mantra. We have forgotten II Timothy 3:12. We have forgotten I Peter 4:16. We have forgotten John 15:18-20.
Too many equate bodies in the seats of the church house with spiritual strength. Please don’t misunderstand. While it is true that a body in the pew equals a soul hearing the truth, we also must understand that many of the things men do to get bodies in the seats (including compromising the truth) are not conducive to spiritual health!
It is time for some vigorous examination (II Cor. 13:5)!
- How strong is your soul?
- How often does it get fed (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14)?
- How often does your soul get exercise (Heb. 5:14; Phil. 1:9-10; I Thess. 5:21)?
- How often has your faith been tried (Jas. 1:3, 12)?
Here is a question we do not hear mentioned often: How many enemies do you have and why? “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you” is Jesus’ warning (Lk. 6:26)! Through the years, several have noted that we can often tell as much about a man by the enemies he has as by his friends! I think that is true. A man needs some enemies, but he needs the right kind of enemies (I Pet. 5:8). He doesn’t want God for an enemy (Jas. 4:4)!
Friend, reread III John 2 and consider your spiritual health. It is time to look into God’s mirror (Jas. 1:25) and make the necessary changes. Take the time to read III John 3-8 and be another Gaius! Get your soul right, and the material things will fall into place (Matt. 6:25-33). If John wrote his letter to you, would he say, “I pray your soul would prosper and be in health even as your body”?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The final words of the epistles interest me. I think about these men and think, “If I was writing a letter to these churches or individuals, what would I say at the end of the letter to leave a lasting impression?” Of course, these letters are inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:20-21), but still, each letter must end. II Peter 3:18 is the end of Peter’s message “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:1). How fitting that after telling these people they need to be reminded of the truth, after warning them about false teachers and preparing for the end of the world, Peter says essentially, “While we are on earth, keep growing!”
In this study, I want us to focus on the first part of Peter’s statement in II Peter 3:18. Growing in grace is something that all Christians need to do. Perhaps some folks think God’s grace is reserved for the non-Christian who needs to be saved. Actually, the saved and the unsaved need God’s grace. In the case of the Christian, Peter says we must “grow” in that grace. What do these words mean?
The word “grace” comes from the Greek word “Charis” which means, “good-will, lovingkindness, favor .... is used of kindness of a master towards his inferiors or servants, and so esp. of God toward men .... kindness which bestows upon one what he hasn’t deserved .... pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners pardon of their offenses, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ” (Thayer’s, p. 666). Some have shortened the definition of grace to mean simply “unmerited favor.” The word “grow” means what we think it means, the original word means, “enlarge or increase” (Strong’s). Mr. Thayer adds to the definition of “grow” by including “augment, become greater.”
Thus, there is a call and command for Christians to increase, enlarge, or become greater concerning God’s favor. The Christian needs to grow closer in relationship to God rather than farther away (Jas. 4:8). The Christian is the one who should realize how much he indeed relies on God’s grace or favor. We are sinners that have been forgiven (Acts 2:38), and now we must grow and continue to resist temptations daily (Jas. 1:14-15, 4:7). Therefore, if you feel like you’re getting farther from God instead of closer to Him, check your growth! Are you growing in the right direction? Let us increase in this grace, and understand that we will not get to Heaven without it!
How do we “grow in grace”? Peter says we need to stand in the true grace of God (I Pet. 5:12). The word “stand” in this text is not a one-time event, but an ongoing effort. We need to beware of the dangers of falling from grace (Gal. 5:4). We also need to spend time in God’s book (Eph. 3:4, 5:17; II Tim. 2:15) that we might know what God wants and be encouraged to grow as we need to grow! Don’t forget II Peter 1:5-11 and what we need to do to make our “calling and election sure.” These are necessary actions that we might grow in God’s grace.
Don’t believe the lie where people charge, “You people in the church of Christ don’t teach about grace.” The truth is, when you preach the gospel of Christ, I don’t know how you can keep from teaching on grace! Every aspect of the gospel is a product of God’s grace, His unmerited favor! It is a fact that God’s grace justifies (Titus 3:7; Rom. 3:24), it produces redemption (Eph. 1:7), and we who are Christians need to “grow in grace”! How are you doing in this area?
- Jarrod M. Jacob
Peter asks his readers a crucial question in I Peter 3:11-12. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” His question is one that has been asked multiple times since then. Since this world will be consumed by fire one day, then how should we act now?
Peter told the Christians in his first epistle to be “obedient children” and to “be holy in all manner of conversation” (I Pet. 1:14-15). These are two great characteristics that ought to describe Christians today! Our obedience to God and our being holy are two things that will not be burned up when this world burns!
Jude 21 adds that we ought to keep ourselves “in the love of God.” This is another characteristic that needs to be seen in us and something that cannot be taken away! It is interesting to note that Jesus connects our love for Him with our obedience (Jn. 14:15, 23-24, 15:14). So, as Peter teaches us to be obedient, Christ says our obedience is an outgrowth of our love for God. This is how we know it is genuine and not merely “rote” action!
What manner of persons ought we to be? How about being “stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58)? Such a determination will keep our hands, and our minds occupied! I believe a lot of the fuming and fussing in the brotherhood can be linked to the fact that Christians are not staying busy in the Lord’s work! When we try to bring lost souls to the Lord as well as encourage the saved to remain strong, we will have a full plate! Let us be this kind of person and see how this work transcends the fires of II Peter 3:10!
I Peter 2:2, and II Peter 3:18 encourage us to grow! We need to be the kind of people who are not stagnant in our spiritual lives. We need to grow and to continue in this growth so long as the Lord gives us breath! Spiritual growth provides us with many challenges, regardless of how long we have been a Christian. Whether as “newborn babes” (I Pet. 2:2), or as mature people (Heb. 5:12-14), there is plenty to do and plenty of growth possible in the Lord’s kingdom!
Peter’s question in I Peter 3:11 is rhetorical, but when examined, it makes for a good reminder. Friend, are you a Christian (Acts 11:26; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38)? If you are, how is your spiritual growth? If you are a Christian, then you should have an appreciation for what is on the horizon (II Pet. 3:10). We don’t know a day or hour, but we can be prepared, and we can help others get ready! Look again at this short list. Are you prepared? Are you growing? If not, why not? Make the time to be prepared while you still can (II Cor. 6:2)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs