3 John 1-4
To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (NIV)
The Elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (KJV)
Here is a very simple example on how to do a proper exegesis with an epistle. First, if you haven't done so, please study the guide on understanding Epistles.
You will notice that our passage is the opening part of a personal letter. Here the author starts with a salutation to introduce himself as the Elder and the recipient as Gaius. But for some reason he skipped the greeting part of the letter (see 2 John 3). The author in verse 2, follows the standard form by expressing a prayer for Gaius before the main body of the letter. In verses 3-4, the author informed Gaius of what he heard about him and how he feels about it. That's it. Verses 1-4 are pretty clear if you will read it carefully. The author considers Gaius a convert since the author considers him one of his children. Remember, to find the theme and purpose of the letter, you should read the whole letter.
Verse 2 has always been the more prominent verse in that it has often been interpreted as a promise from God that Christians should be rich and healthy. It became a key verse for a doctrine that guarantees health and wealth for Christians. But is it true? Does Gaius interpreted it as such? Does the elder intend it to be a promise from God of wealth and health?
Going back to guidelines for proper interpretation, the guarantee of health and wealth is not the intended meaning of the original author, nor would Gaius take it as such. "Health and success" are themes that are commonly included in personal letters during that time. Verse 2 only confirms that theme and is a standard part in the beginning of the letter.
To put so much weight on verse 2 is to neglect the proper way of reading the letter. None of the original reader would do this, and neither should we. If we claim that such an interpretation is only revealed to us in this generation, we are saying that the Bible changes its meaning in time. That cannot be accepted.
Remember, the Bible still means what it meant originally, this is the only way the Bible will become meaningful and protects its message. Verse 2 was intended to be a "wish" or "prayer" of the author to Gaius and it still the same today. I can accept if you will pray for others to be rich and healthy because of this verse, but not if you will tell me that this verse is God's guarantee that Christians should be materially rich and physically healthy.
What do you think? Please do not hesitate to send your comments or questions whether you agree or disagree.
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