The Letters of John have a kind of telescopic effect, each letter focusing further in. First John addresses the general Christian community, 2 John addresses a particular church and its concerns, and 3 John addresses an individual leader named Gaius. Though we know very little about this man, 3 John provides us with important lessons about the Christian faith.
We learn, for example, that “the elder” was delighted to hear about Gaius’ faith (v. 1). Notice that the letter commends Gaius not just for doctrinal correctness (“faithfulness in the truth”) but also for a total life of faith (“how you continue to walk in it”). Here was a man who lived out his faith toward others. Gaius’ displays of Christian love were so wellknown because “some believers came and testified” (v. 3) about it.
We are not given many details, but it appears that Gaius had demonstrated love by hosting other Christians who were traveling through the area. In an Empire where Christianity was a minority religion and often viewed with suspicion, hospitality was a true blessing to traveling Christians. These individuals may have been strangers to Gaius (v. 5), but he received them in great love, and a report had made its way back to the elder.
Gaius clearly took his faith seriously, and the letter uses the occasion to praise Gaius in his work and to encourage him to remain steadfast in it. John reminds Gaius that these strangers had gone out “for the sake of the Name” (v. 7), that is, as traveling missionaries. Of course, such people would receive “no help from the pagans” (v. 7), which is why it was all the more important “to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth” (v. 8).