We are continuing our study of 3 John this morning. This letter, unlike 2 John which is a letter written to a church, is a letter written to an individual, Gaius. This is probably the most personal letter in the New Testament. This is also the shortest letter in the Greek New Testament with only 219 Greek words. What is the longest letter in the New Testament? Romans.
If you can remember back to our study of 2 John, you'll remember that it was addressed to an "elect lady", which is a personification for a particular local church as a "lady," and the Christians in it as "her children". John was writing to warn this church that she should not admit false teachers into the church fellowship. So, she was warned, she was given a critique whereby she might know whether a teacher was true or false. Now 3 John is like a mirror image of 2 John in that it's opposite in the sense that John is writing to a man called Gaius, and Gaius is being commended for the very fact that he has admitted teachers into the church of Yeshua the Christ where he resided. Rather than a prohibition given by John to Gaius, there is in fact a commendation and a warning that he should never refuse admittance to those who are the true teachers and preachers in the church.
The contrasts between these two letters are interesting. In one they are told to refuse the false. In the other, they are told to receive that which is true. This letter revolves around three men, Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius.
Colin G. Kruse in the Pillar New Testament Commentary has this to say,
This letter, written by the elder to his friend Gaius, has essentially three functions: (i) to reinforce Gaius's commitment to the noble work of providing hospitality to travelling missionaries, something he was already doing (vv. 5–8), (ii) to draw attention to the intolerable behaviour of Diotrephes and to foreshadow the steps he intends to take in response to it (vv. 9–10), and (iii) to commend Demetrius (v. 12). [Kruse, C. G. (2000). The letters of John (pp. 1-26). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.]
The first eight verses of this epistle set forth the apostle's approval of Gaius. This little epistle begins, as all epistles, with a salutation:
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 3 John 1:1 ESV
"The Elder"—this tells us immediately who this letter is from. So, who is this Elder? Discussions of authorship of 1, 2 and 3 John are inextricably linked to discussions of authorship of the Fourth Gospel. The vast majority of modern scholars recognize the similarity among all of the Johannine writings and believe that the gospel of John and these letters of John have a common authorship. There are many similarities between them, especially in phrasing, vocabulary, and grammatical forms and doctrine.
According to Church tradition, the Apostle John wrote the fourth Gospel, 1, 2 and 3rd John, and Revelation. But if we ignore tradition for a moment and look at what the Scriptures themselves tell us we see that the Apostle John is not the author. We are told in the fourth Gospel who it was written by.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Yeshua loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" John 21:20 ESV
Here the writer mentions "the disciple whom Yeshua loved" and then states that this is the disciple who wrote this letter:
This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. John 21:24 ESV
The antecedent of "this" is "the disciple whom Yeshua loved" in verse 20. We know, then, who wrote this Gospel—it was "the disciple whom Yeshua loved." Now all we have to do is to figure out who that was. Does the Bible say anywhere that John was the "disciple whom Yeshua loved"? NO, it does not! Does the Bible explicitly name anyone who was "loved" by Yeshua? Yes. There is only one man named in the Bible who is said to be loved by Yeshua.
In John 11:1-3, 5, 36 it tells us that Lazarus' sisters said that Yeshua loved him, the inspired author said Yeshua loved Lazarus, and the Jews said Yeshua loved Lazarus. It seems to me that the Spirit of God is going to great lengths in John 11 to make it known that Yeshua loved Lazarus. Lazarus is the only man named in the Bible who is specifically identified as being "loved" by Yeshua. It is my contention that this "disciple whom Yeshua loved" is Lazarus, and it is Lazarus who wrote the gospel of John, 1, 2, 3 John and Revelation. [For a more detailed look at the authorship of John see https://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/john/authorship-of-gospel-of-john.htm]
Why does Lazarus call himself "the elder"? Some say that he is just referring to himself as an old man. But I don't buy that. I think that Lazarus is referring to himself a leader in the church by this title. The Greek for elder here is presbuteros. It is used here and in 2 John to identify the author and only in these two places in the New Testament does the word "elder" appear in the singular. Churches always had elders, always a plurality. Only here do we find it in the singular because it deals with one man who is referring to himself. The term elder is synonymous with the term "pastor" and "bishop" in the Scriptures:
Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. Acts 20:17 ESV
The word "elder" in verse 1 is presbuteros. Notice it's plural use here.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:28 ESV
The word "overseers" here is episkopos. The word "care" here is poimaino, which means to shepherd. The terms "elder," "overseer" (or, "bishop"), and "pastor" ("shepherd") are used interchangeably in the New Testament to refer to local church leaders. I think that Lazarus is using it that way to refer to himself as a church leader. If this letter was written by the Apostle John, why didn't he present himself as "The Apostle to the beloved Gaius"? Paul constantly used the title Apostle in his writings. Why wouldn't John also call himself an Apostle? I think maybe it was because he wasn't one. But he was an elder.
I said earlier, churches always had elders, always a plurality. This is because church leadership is a team effort and not the sole responsibility of one man or the joint responsibility of everyone. The norm in the New Testament was a plurality of elders. There is no reference in all the New Testament to a one-pastor congregation.
Human leaders, even Christian ones, are sinful, and they only accomplish God's will imperfectly. Multiple leaders, therefore, will serve as a check and balance on each other and serve as a safeguard against the very human tendency to play God over other people. Within a plurality of leaders, extreme ideas are tempered, harsh judgments are moderated, and doctrinal imbalances are corrected. I believe the New Testament pattern is that the church be led by a plurality of men.
"Beloved Gaius"—beloved here is from the Greek agapētos a term which reflects affection. John often calls his readers by affectionate terms. This term "agapētos" was used by the Father to refer to Yeshua at His baptism and transfiguration. It is a common designation of the saved in John's letters (cf. 1 John 3:2,21; 4:1,7,11; and 3 John 1,2,5,11).
Everyone who has trusted Christ is both chosen and beloved.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, Colossians 3:12 ESV
All Christians are the elect of God, holy and beloved. So, Gaius is love by Yahweh and John. And so John writes this personal letter to Gaius even though there is no indication that he is the head of a house church or holds any position of authority in the church
Gaius—this was a common name in the Greek world. It was one of the most common of all names in the Roman Empire. There are several Gaius' named in the New Testament. There is Gaius of Macedonia who, together with Aristarchus, was seized by the rioting mob at Ephesus - we read of him in Acts 19:29. This is probably the same Gaius who accompanied Paul on his last trip to Jerusalem. He formed part of the group of delegates that presented the offering from the Gentile churches to the church in Judaea.
We read of him in Acts chapter 20:4. In 1 Corinthians 1:14 Paul speaks of a Gaius as one of the few people he himself baptized in Corinth, and it is probably the same Gaius Paul mentions in Romans 16:23 as his host in Corinth. As far as we know there is no relationship between this Gaius and the other Gaius' of the New Testament.
We don't know anything more about Gaius than what we learn in this epistle of John, but learn a great deal about his character in these verses alone. It is obvious that this person is well-known to John, but it is not so certain whether they had met personally or not, because the report of Gaius' conduct toward the brothers is received secondhand by the author (v. 3).
"Love in truth"—as in all of John's writings, truth is a central concept in 3 John. He mentions it in verses 1, 3 (twice), 4, 8, and 12, plus the world "true" in verse 12. Six
times in these fifteen verses we find the Greek word alētheia, meaning truth, and once we see alēthēs meaning true, for a total of seven times.
"The truth" can refer to one of two things. It could be a reference to the Holy Spirit, who is called "the Spirit of truth" in John14:17, or it is called the spirit of truth primarily because He communicates the truth.
But John may be referring to Yeshua Himself:
Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 ESV
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life"—commenting on this, Hall Harris writes, "However, the context suggests that the three ideas are not strictly coordinate. The next statement (no one comes to the Father except through me) seems to relate primarily to the first predicate, 'I am the way.' Thus, we suggest that the two remaining predicates, the truth and the life, are epexegetical or explanatory to the first: 'I am the way, that is, the truth and the life.'"
Yeshua is "the way" to God because He is "the truth" from God and "the life" from God. He is the truth because He embodies God's supreme revelation (1:18; 5:19; 8:29). The way to the Father is Yeshua. The way to the truth about the Father is Yeshua. The way to the life of God is Yeshua. For John, the concept of truth centers on the person of Yeshua.
In John 4:23 & 24, Yeshua explained that the Father seeks those who "worship in spirit and truth." In John 8:32, Yeshua said, "and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." In John 14:6, Yeshua claimed, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." Yeshua referred to the Holy Spirit as "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). He prayed (John 17:17), "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." Yeshua told the skeptical Pilate (John 18:37), "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
So, truth was a huge emphasis in Yeshua's ministry, and so in the live and ministry of John. Contrary to the current postmodern philosophy that denies absolute truth in the spiritual realm, the Bible clearly affirms that there is theological and moral truth. This truth centers on the person and work of Yeshua.
When John says that he loves Gaius "in truth" he means in accord with God's truth. Both John and Gaius held the truth as the apostles taught it.
Nothing is as important as divine truth because it is by divine truth that we come to know Yahweh. It is by divine truth that we come to know Christ, the Holy Spirit, and salvation.
The church today suffers from a great deficiency in discernment. The church is so doctrinally ignorant today that it lacks the ability to sort out the truth from error. If we are to oppose false teachers and false doctrines, we have to know the truth—it's as simple as that.
How do you learn the truth? You learn it by carefully studying God's word. In our current culture, everyone who takes a stand for God's truth will be slandered for being unloving. We live in an age that says doctrine divides. We must beware of anybody who tells us not to preach or listen to doctrine and realize that the doctrine concerning Christ is everything. If we don't have it right, we're lost!
Kruse writes, "Following the opening greetings in Greco-Roman letters there often followed an exordium in which the writer established rapport with his readers. Very often this included a prayer or wishes for the good health of the recipients, and positive statements about their character and behaviour. This letter follows that model. [Kruse, C. G. (2000). The Letters of John (pp. 1-26). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.]
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 John 1:2 ESV
"I pray"—this follows a typical Greek letter opening. It is a prayer/wish for the recipients' prosperity and health. It was a way to greet a loved one.
Here's the first thing that I want you to notice: Gaius was spiritually healthy. I like the way the Complete Jewish Bible translates this verse:
Dear friend, I am praying that everything prosper with you and that you be in good health, as I know you are prospering spiritually. 3 John 1:2 CJB
This is a typical opening prayer in the Greco-Roman world of the first century. The "health wish" was a standard feature of the first-century epistolary format. It was never meant to be a proof-text for "health, wealth, and prosperity" preachers. Bible texts removed from context can be used to assert anything. The text cannot mean today what it never meant in its own day.
John's wish, his prayer for Gaius, is to know that he is prospering spiritually and that he may physically prosper as his spirit prospers before the Lord. John is saying: "I long that your health would mirror your spiritual wealth."
Let me ask you something believers. What if John was praying this prayer for us? And the Lord granted it. Would we like your physical condition to correspond to our spiritual condition? Would it be a blessing, or would we need to call the paramedics? Some folks would die, and some would end up in the hospital!
An individual, Amy Carmichael for example, (a missionary to India) spent most of her later years in bed and had physical problems her whole life, very serious physical problems. If her physical condition was as her spiritual condition, she would have been an Olympic athlete. John Calvin, who was of frail physical existence most of his life, also would have been extremely strong and robust in physical health.
It's sad that this verse has become a proof text for the health-wealth gospel. They ignore the fact that the apostles and many of the prophets, not to mention Yeshua Himself, were poor and persecuted. The proponents of this false teaching brazenly appeal to the greed and selfishness of their spiritually naïve audiences. They twist verses like Isaiah 53:5 to justify their view of "blanket" coverage for the physical healing of every Christian who has enough faith.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 ESV
A clearer understanding of this important passage can be gleaned through a deeper evaluation of its underlying Hebrew text. What does the text of Isaiah 53:5 mean when it says, "with his wounds we are healed"? The Faith Movement interprets it to mean primarily the physical, while the majority of Christian scholarship has always interpreted it to mean primarily spiritual. For example, Gordon D. Fee, Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is quoted in the SCP Newsletter, Spring 1985, concerning this text, as saying, "It is also questionable whether the Bible teaches that healing is provided for in the atonement. Scores of texts explicitly tell us our sin has been overcome through Christ's death and resurrection, but no text explicitly says the same about healing, not even Isaiah and its New Testament citations."
Charles Fillmore of the Unity School of Christianity twists the Scripture to fit his prosperity doctrine. Look at Fillmore's rendition of Psalm 23:
"The Lord is my banker; my credit is good. He maketh me to lie down in the consciousness of omnipresent abundance; He giveth me the key to His strong box; He restoreth my faith in His riches; He guideth me in the paths of prosperity for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk in the very shadow of debt, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thou preparest a way for me in the presence of the collector; Thou fillest my wallet with plenty; my measure runneth over. Surely goodness and plenty will follow me all the days of my life, And I shall do business in the name of the Lord forever."
This is blasphemous and anyone familiar with the Scripture knows that attitudes like the above are dangerous,
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 ESV
Notice what he says we are to be content with: food and clothing. The Greek word for "food" is diatrophe. It means "nourishment, that which is needed to sustain life." The Greek word for "clothing" is skepasma. It means "covering, it is a broad term which may include the idea of shelter." Are you content with the basics of life? I know that none of us lack these things.
This is tough for our culture that has been corrupted with the health-wealth gospel; we're not content with little or much. We are far, far beyond food and clothing. We eat for entertainment, and we possess every kind of gadget imaginable. And still we need more! We're like Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid who sings, "I've got gadgets and gizmos a plenty, I've got who's-its and what's-its galore, you want thing-a-mabobs? I've got twenty, but who cares, no big deal, I want more!" We've got it all, but we want more!
We have developed a concept of life that says, "The whole of life is a process of man meeting his needs." Where does that come from? It is based upon the concepts of Freud and humanism that teach that we exist to satisfy ourselves and that there is no God. Everyone is out to meet his own deeds. The big problem is that we don't know what our needs are. It should be clear that we are way beyond food and clothing. Our culture is defining our needs.
The word "pierced" means "to pierce through from one end to another, as a piece of meat on a spit."
Now let me just add here that we, as Christians, should never make the mistake of assuming that a person's illness or physical condition reflects something that is sinful in his life. Now sometimes it does. First Corinthians 11 tells us that many were weak and sickly among them because of their sin and getting drunk and feeding themselves around the Lord's Table. It was a judgment from God. But we are not to judge the sickness of others as coming from sin in their lives.
What John means by saying that things are going well with his spiritual life is spelled out in the next two verses.
For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:3 ESV
This is why the elder can say that he knows that Gaius's spiritual life is good.
"For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth"— "came and testified" are both present participles which imply that 1) members of the church that Gaius was a part of traveled regularly to Ephesus and reported to John, 2) returning missionaries reported Gaius' generosity. What had happened was some traveling preachers had come to wherever Gaius was. Gaius had opened his home to these traveling preachers, traveling proclaimers of the gospel. He had given them hospitality and taken them in.
"Came and testified to your truth"—this is literally "your truth." John puts it in an emphatic position in the original text. These individuals came and they brought a report to John of Gaius' truth—his faithfulness to the truth of the message of the gospel as it was heard at the beginning and his rejection of the new teaching being spread abroad by the secessionists.
"Walking in the truth"—"walking" here is peripateō which means to walk around, with reference to conduct, behavior, or way of life. The idea is for him to move through life conducting himself within the framework of the truth. Gaius was literally controlled by the truth. The phrase here refers to the conduct that results when an individual has "truth" abiding within. John put it this way in 1 John:
whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6 ESV
To "abide" means to "remain," "to dwell," to "keep close to Christ," to "follow Christ," to "do what Christ says," to "obey Christ commands" or to "walk in the truth." Yeshua told his disciples,
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10 ESV
What John is saying in 1 John 2:6 is that we cannot claim to abide in Him unless we behave like Him. The behavior and conduct of the historical Yeshua is put forward here as a model for believers to emulate, and this presupposes that the readers of this letter had some information about Yeshua's earthly life and ministry upon which to base their imitation. It is reasonable to assume that the primary source for such knowledge was the Gospels.
The abiding Christian walks in the commandments. We cannot really say that we love God if we do not walk in the commandments. Love expresses itself in following the divine guidelines. It is foolish for us to say that we love God but then do not keep his commandments.
Let's talk about "walking in the truth." The abiding Christian lives his life imitating Christ in all that he does. Believers, this is why we are here. We are to be showing Christ to the world by the way we conduct ourselves. This is why Yahweh created us. The most fundamental reality of human existence is that we're made by God in His own image to be His representatives in His created world. In the very first chapter of the Bible, we see that Yahweh created us to bear His image:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 ESV
What is with the plurality language here? Who is the "us" and the "our"? Whom is God talking to? This is a reference to God's heavenly supernatural family, His divine council. From Philo onward, Jewish commentators generally held that these plurals were used because Yahweh was addressing His divine council. The early post Apostolic Fathers such as Barnabas and Justin Martyr saw the plurals as a reference to the Trinity. I think that is how most Christians see these plurals. But recent scholars tend to agree with ancient Jewish opinion.
F. M. Cross notes: "In both Ugaritic and biblical literature, the use of the first-person plural is characteristic of address in the divine council. The familiar 'we' … has long been recognized as the plural address used by Yahweh in His council" (Cross, Canaanite Myth, 187).
The plural language is important. Whom is God talking to? His heavenly family. And with His heavenly family He discusses creating us, His human earthly family. God wanted us to be like His heavenly family. So, what does it mean to be created in His image? Whatever else it might mean, it includes man and woman, and it is equally possessed. We also know that it is not incremental or partial. One either has it or he doesn't. It is passed on generationally. Notice Genesis 9:
"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. Genesis 9:6 ESV
This is many generations after the flood and man is still said to be made in God's image. This is after the fall, so the image includes all people, believers and non-believers. We see here that it is wrong to murder/abort because we, mankind, are made in the image of God.
What does it mean, then, to be created in God's image? The image is not an ability we have; it is a status. God intends us to be His representatives on earth.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 1:28 ESV
The first phrase, "be fruitful and multiply," means to develop the social world (e.g., build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws). The second phrase, "subdue the earth," means to harness the natural world (e.g., plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music). This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures and build civilizations.
What does image mean? Our text might be better read, "Let us make man (as) in our image, after our likeness." As in English, the Hebrew preposition for "in" can be used in different ways. If I say that the spare tire is in the trunk, I'm using "in" for a location. But if I say that I hit a curb and my tire is shredded in pieces, I'm using "in" to indicate a result. If I say that I drove someone somewhere in the car, I'm using "in" for instrumentality. Or I could tell someone that I work in ministry, I'm using "in" to denote function or role. I work as a pastor/teacher. The same is true in Hebrew. So, in this text in Genesis 1, "in" is better translated as "as." "Let us make man as our image." Denoting function or role. We are to be God's agents, His representatives, on earth.
This image was marred in the fall. So now only believers can truly bear the image of Yahweh. And we can only do this as we live godly lives. The representation idea is seen in Exodus 20.
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Exodus 20:7 ESV
The word "take" here is the Hebrew word nasa which means to lift, bear, carry. To bear the name is to be God's representative. We see this in 2 Timothy 2.
But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." 2 Timothy 2:19 ESV
Christians, because we name the name of Yeshua, we are His representatives, and we are to depart from iniquity. We are to live lives of holiness. People are to see Yahweh in us.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 ESV
"Be imitators of God"—"be" is a present imperative and has the idea "to become." They are to develop continuously into imitators of Yahweh. The Greek word for "imitator" is mimetes. It is the word from which we get our English word "mimic" (to mimic or to copy something). What it denotes is an actor, an actor who spends time and energy in studying a character with the view to reproducing it.
Speaking about the image of God, N.T. Wright states "It seems to me that God has put humans like an angled mirror in His world so that God can reflect His love and care and stewardship of the world through humans and so that the rest of the world can praise the creator through humans."
Paul knew the importance of example in teaching others. He told the Corinthians that he was their father in the Gospel and then added:
I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 1 Corinthians 4:16 ESV
Why does he want believers to imitate him? It is because he is imitating Christ.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
Paul was imitating Christ who was the perfect image of Yahweh. Paul tells the Thessalonians:
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV
Paul was living out this command that he is giving believers. He was imitating Christ. Notice what he told the Philippians.
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 ESV
Basically, Paul is saying, "Do what I do." Can you say to others, "Follow me as I follow Christ"? The constant call to the Christian is to be like Yahweh. It is Yahweh's purpose that each of us reflect the image of our Father.
All humans are God's imagers, but since the fall, only believers who have the Spirit can really do this well. This means that we need to be doing a good job at this because lost man totally bears God's name in vain.
What does this look like practically? As Christians, as children of the heavenly Father, we have a duty to imitate Christ. We are to walk in truth/Christ. If He is compassionate, we as His image bearers are to be compassionate. If He is loving, we are to be loving. If He is holy, we are to be holy. If He is kind, we are to be kind. If He is forgiving, we are to be forgiving.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV
We are to display Him in all that we say and do. This is what it means to "walk in the Truth." And this is what Gaius was doing. He was imitating Christ.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4 ESV
Gaius was a child of John in the sense that John was his spiritual father? "My" here is in emphatic position in the Greek. It literally is, "My own children, I have no greater joy." He says, "This is my highest joy." I understand this. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my own children walking in the truth. Whether you're talking about physical children or spiritual children, anybody who's been a part of the ministry that God has given to me, there is no higher joy, there is no greater joy than to know that they know the truth, believe the truth, and walk in the truth.
Notice that John doesn't say, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are "prospering financially." His focus is on their spiritual lives.
So, let me ask you Berean. Are you walking in the truth? Do people see Christ in your actions and responses? Do they see Christ in your marriage? Do they see Him in your work ethic? If you are abiding in Christ, you will walk as He walked.