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by Al Maxey

Issue #779 ------- August 12, 2019
What is pleasanter than
the tie of host and guest?

Aeschylus [525-456 B.C.]

Paul's Toast to His Host
Apostolic Tribute to Gaius of Corinth

In his epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul charges the people of God to "be devoted to one another in brotherly love" (Romans 12:10). He then proceeds to list a number of qualities that visibly characterize such love for one's brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, among which we find: "contributing to the needs of the saints" and "practicing hospitality" (vs. 13). Those who truly grasp the attitudes and actions of Jesus as He walked among and ministered to the people of His day, even those who opposed Him, will seek daily, as they have opportunity and ability, to imitate His love. God is love, the apostle John tells us (1 John 4), and when we look to the Son we see the Father. That Son of God has now charged us, His disciples, to reflect that same nature. Thus, when people look to us they should see Him. Love has many expressions in human attitude and action; it has no real restrictions or limitations; it transcends time and place and culture. It can be shown anywhere and anytime by anyone. It is never restrained by either form or formality. Where divine love abides within the hearts of men, there exists no need for law. Law becomes necessary only when mankind limits or loses sight of LOVE. The purpose of law, therefore, is simply to redirect our hearts, minds and lives back to daily expressions of love for God and our fellow life-travelers. "Love is the fulfillment of law" (Romans 13:8-10), which is why Jesus reduced all commandments of the Father to these two: Love God and love each other, for "on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:35-40).

Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It also has numerous ways in which it can be expressed, as Paul makes clear in "the love chapter" (1 Corinthians 13): it is patient and kind; it is not rude, or self-seeking, or easily angered; it does not keep a record of wrongs; etc. Although not listed by Paul in this particular chapter, there are other places in the writings of both the OT and NT that make it clear that hospitality is also considered by our Lord to be one of the great characteristics and manifestations of love. Thus, as noted above, when Paul charges us to "be devoted to one another in brotherly love" (Romans 12:10), he lists "contributing to the needs of the saints" and "practicing hospitality" (vs. 13) as two of the primary expressions of that love for one another. "Hospitality," by definition, is "the act, practice, or quality of being hospitable" [Webster's New World Dictionary]. Notice especially that it is defined not only as something one does, but also indicates this is something one does because of who one is (it is an inner quality made evident by one's deeds). This same source defines "hospitable" as "friendly toward guests, new arrivals, etc." In the first century especially this was a vital quality that the disciples of Christ needed to possess and practice, for there were many of their fellow believers on the move due to persecution, as well as apostles and evangelists traveling about sharing the Good News. Many of these relied heavily on the hospitality of their fellow believers in distant locations. Paul listed this as a desired quality for elders of the church (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8), and Peter extended the quality to all believers, with a caution to those who might be reluctant: "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another ... Be hospitable to one another without complaint" (1 Peter 4:8-9).

The apostle Paul was often helped by such hospitable brethren, both men and women, on his missionary journeys, and he rarely missed a chance to make mention of those who were a blessing to him during those long and often difficult trips. In this present Reflections I would like to narrow our focus to just one of these individuals whom Paul valued highly. His name was Gaius, which is the Greek form of the Latin name Caius. It was a very common name of that time, and is found several places in the New Covenant writings. It meant "to be glad; to rejoice." Acts 19:29 mentions a man named Gaius, a traveling companion of Paul, who was seized, along with Aristarchus, during the riot that took place in Ephesus. This would have been a different Gaius, however, as the text says he was from Macedonia. Acts 20:4 speaks of another Gaius who traveled with Paul, although this one was said to be from Derbe. The apostle John addresses his 3rd epistle "to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth" (vs. 1). A few scholars have speculated that this might be the same man that we will be focusing on in this issue of my Reflections, partly because John commends him for his hospitality (vs. 5-8). Most scholars, however, believe he was a different individual. The Gaius of whom Paul spoke with such fondness, and the one we will be examining, is only mentioned twice in the NT writings according to the view of the vast majority of biblical scholars. We will take a look at each of those two passages (1 Corinthians 1:14 and Romans 16:23) so that we might get a better appreciation of this little known first century disciple of Jesus whom Paul "immortalized" by his comments.

1 Corinthians 1:14

In this verse Paul states, "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius." From this passage, with respect to the person known as Gaius, we know little beyond the fact that he was one of the few individuals in the city of Corinth that was personally baptized by the apostle. Indeed, Paul goes out of his way to stress the fact that baptizing believers in water was not a top priority with him (unlike some who have turned this act of faith into a sacrament). He reflects, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel" (vs. 17). Paul is most certainly not suggesting here that immersion in water has no place or purpose in the faith-response of believers. It most certainly does, and Paul, in some of his other writings, clarifies that point. What he is declaring, though, is that his divine calling was to share the good news ("gospel") of what the Father has done for us through His Son. That act is His free gift to mankind; it is a demonstration of His love and grace. Whoever puts his or her faith in that act of grace will be welcomed into the loving embrace of the Lord, for we are "saved by grace through faith," and not of anything we ourselves might do. We then devote our lives to serving Him as His beloved children. The symbolic (not sacramental) act of being baptized in water is an evidentiary act of faith that is a testimonial to the fact that we are saved by grace through faith. It is a commanded testimonial, and those whose faith is genuine will not hesitate to comply. NOT in order to BE saved, but because they ARE saved! Because Paul understood this, he had no difficulty acknowledging that baptizing people was not a top priority with him, and that he didn't even keep a record of such. The Lord had called him to proclaim a Person, not a practice; a Savior, not a sacrament. For a deeper study of this perspective voiced by Paul in this passage, as well as in other locations in his writings, I would urge a careful reading of my articles: "The Gospel Paul Preached: Informing the Ephesian Elders of the Primary Purpose of His Preaching" (Reflections #640) and "Begotten Through the Gospel: A Reflective Study of 1 Corinthians 4:15" (Reflections #643).

It is also important to note that Paul realized there was a very real problem in the church at Corinth. A factional spirit, a spirit of partyism, was rearing its ugly head among the disciples, and it was threatening to tear the body of believers apart. Groups were forming around individual leaders; people were taking pride in those who taught them and guided them in their spiritual development. Chloe's people had reported to Paul "that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,' or 'I follow Christ'" (1 Corinthians 1:11-12). Yes, even the "Christ followers" were falling into the folly of factionalism. I dealt with this deadly divisiveness in a study titled "Following the Fourth Faction: Examining the 'I am of Christ' Party within the Universal One Body" (Reflections #542). Although Paul felt strongly about the priority of sharing the Gospel, and that baptizing believers, while important as a witness to saving faith, was not as high a priority, he also was well aware that, because of the party spirit at work in this body of believers, it was to his advantage to personally baptize very few individuals, "so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name" (vs. 15). Paul was not the central figure in the Gospel, Jesus was. Paul was not crucified for them, thus to elevate Paul in any way, even as the one who baptized them, was to miss the whole point of the Gospel message (vs. 13). Thus, Paul rejoiced that he had baptized so few individuals there (vs. 14, 16).

On the other hand, there must have been some good reason for mentioning the names of the three men that he did: Crispus, Gaius, and Stephanas (and his household). Why these men? Why did they stand out in his memory? Why were they given special recognition? There must have been some point Paul sought to make to his readers in Corinth. I believe it was because these were individuals of significant spiritual influence in the church at Corinth, and thus good examples of those in possession of the proper spirit, rather than a party spirit. In view of the difficulties being experienced in that location at that time, and by virtue of the fact that Paul was presently absent, he sought to provide them with the names of those who would serve as proper guides to the type of individuals the Lord was seeking to be His disciples. Stephanas is mentioned in only one other place in the NT: 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 - "You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition." In contrast with the quarrelling and the division being promoted by some, Paul points the brethren to a different example; one worthy of imitation! As for Crispus, Acts 18:8 informs us that he was the chief ruler of the synagogue in the city of Corinth, and when the Gospel was proclaimed in his hearing he and his entire household believed. While many of the Jews "opposed Paul and became abusive" (Acts 18:6), Crispus dared to take a stand for Jesus as the Messiah. Again, what a powerful example and model for imitation in the face of factionalism! As for Gaius, more about him when we deal with the passage in Romans 16:23, although suffice it say here that he was a man of prominence and distinction in the city of Corinth; thus he was well-known and respected far and wide, as we shall soon see.

"These were so few in number that they could never constitute a party on the ground of their baptism through the agency of Paul" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 46]. With respect to Crispus and Gaius, especially, "the prominence and importance of these two may explain why Paul baptized them" [Dr. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. The fact that Paul felt it important to mention that he "made an exception" in the case of these men "by personally baptizing them," when that was far from his custom, strongly suggests that their respective conversions to the Lord were "notable events" due to their "prominence" in the city [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 169]. As a rule, "Paul left it to others to baptize, while he set himself to more useful work, and filled up his time with preaching the gospel. This, he thought, was more his business, because it was the more important business of the two" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. "Since the commission of the risen Lord to Paul was to evangelize (cf. Acts 9:15; Galatians 1:16; 1 Timothy 2:7), Paul plays down his role as baptizer, while introducing the overarching theme of the first major section of the epistle: the superiority of the cross of Christ to all human wisdom" [Dr. Carl Holladay, The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 30]. As a final thought on this section, consider the following: "Paul does not get involved in either the beliefs or the practices of any of the groups in Corinth, but attacks the spirit of partisanship which he feels could ultimately divide the church. His larger concern was the quarrelsome spirit to which their differences had given birth. ... He was not calling for uniformity of thought and action, but for oneness of spirit. ... Too often we have seen the fellowship of congregations torn and permanent scars inflicted over matters so trivial that in years to come the participants would have a hard time even remembering which side they were on in the argument" [Dr. Kenneth L. Chafin, The Communicator's Commentary: 1-2 Corinthians, p. 36]. Paul was well aware of what was ultimately important to salvation, and what was merely peripheral in nature, and so he focused on the former rather than the latter. Oh, that more of us could break free of our sectarian indoctrination and do the same!

Romans 16:23

As Paul closes out his theological masterpiece which he penned to the saints in the city of Rome while residing briefly in the city of Corinth near the end of his third missionary journey, he leaves us with a very powerful and personal series of greetings to men and women who impacted him greatly during his years of sharing the Gospel with both Jews and Gentiles. This is found in Romans 16. I have devoted a number of my reflective studies to some of the names found on this list. For those who might be interested, consider the following: Reflections #201 ("Andronicus & Junias/Junia: A Reflective Analysis of Romans 16:7"), Reflections #299 ("Our Sister Phoebe: Deaconess of Cenchrea"), and Reflections #635 ("The Beloved Persis: A Study of Romans 16:12b"). In this current study we will be focusing on Romans 16:23 where we find the following statement: "Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you." This is the same Gaius, by the way, who was mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:14, but here we are told a little more about him, which certainly helps us to appreciate him all the more.

Before looking at Gaius, we should make note of the other two individuals mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:23. "Of Quartus we have no account whatever, except the usual legend that he was somewhere a bishop, a legend in which no confidence can be placed" [Moses E. Lard, Commentary on Paul's Letter to Romans, p. 466]. Erastus, however, is a different matter, for he was noted by Paul as being an important official in the city of Corinth. I dealt in some depth with him, and the whole issue of whether disciples of Christ should or could be involved in political or governmental matters, in my study titled: "Church and State: May Disciples of Jesus Christ Participate in the Political Process?" (Reflections #211). Notice the following thoughts about Erastus from that article:

Returning our focus to Gaius, we find the apostle Paul saying (and this would have been about a year after his remarks in 1st Corinthians about baptizing Gaius), "Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you" (Romans 16:23). This man is declared to be Paul's "host" while he is in the city of Corinth. Further, Paul states that Gaius is also "host ... to the whole church." Gaius was a prominent man in the City of Corinth, and it appears that personal knowledge of him extended even to the city of Rome, which fact speaks well of him. While Paul was in Corinth writing his epistle to the church in Rome, he was staying with Gaius, one of the few men he had baptized in Corinth. The Greek word Paul uses here, and which most versions of the Bible translate with the English word "host," is "zenos," which literally means "strange, foreign, alien." In time it came to refer to a person who was a "stranger, foreigner, alien," and then later "a person who helped or rendered aid to strangers; one who 'hosted' or 'sponsored' or 'rendered aid' to such persons." It was in this latter sense that Paul refers to Gaius: he was apparently a person of means who chose to use some of his resources to aid those who came to his area and who found themselves in need of assistance. The Expositor's Greek Testament concurs: "such boundless hospitality implies means" [vol. 2, p. 723]. Thus, Paul was welcomed into the home of Gaius while he was in the city. Paul also tells us that Gaius rendered this same gracious aid "to the whole church." This could mean that the local believers met in his home for worship, or it could mean that he hosted all traveling disciples in his home when they were passing through the area, or it could mean both. In short, he was a man who certainly demonstrated the spirit of hospitality.

As you may remember, the Gaius mentioned by the apostle John several decades later, had this same spirit of hospitality (which has led some to speculate that this was the same Gaius of whom Paul spoke). John referred to him as "beloved ... whom I love in truth" (3 John 1), and stated this Gaius was "walking in the truth" (vs. 3). He then wrote to him, "Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth" (vs. 5-8, ESV). Whether this was the same Gaius mentioned by Paul decades earlier has long been debated by biblical scholars. We simply don't know. What we do know, however, is that both men clearly possessed the same devotion to the Lord, to His people, and to "strangers" as they passed through the area where these men lived. This was a far different spirit than that possessed and displayed by Diotrephes, "who will have nothing to do with us. ... He refused to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church" (3 John 9-10). I would refer you to my study titled: "The Diotrephes Despotism: Lobos Lording It Over Lambs" (Reflections #183).

Paul is grateful to God for Gaius, for he was welcomed into his home for as long as he needed a place to stay. "His house was open to any traveling Christian from abroad; he practiced the hospitality enjoined in Romans 12:13, and was very likely thus known to some of the Romans" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, p. 925]. It was in his home in Corinth where Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome. Who knows but what Paul may even have discussed his thoughts with Gaius, using him as a "sounding board," while writing this epistle to the Romans. What a rare privilege that would have been! "During Paul's three months in Greece (Acts 20:2-3), he most likely used Corinth as his base of operations. His host is none other than a wealthy convert named Gaius, whom he personally baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14). As Priscilla and Aquila did in Rome (Romans 16:3-5), Gaius allows his home to be the place where Christians met for worship, instruction, and fellowship" [Charles Swindoll, Swindoll's NT Insights on Romans, p. 340]. "He received and lodged the apostles who came from different places, as well as the messengers of the Churches. All made his house their home; and he must have been a person of considerable property to be able to bear this expense; and of much piety and love to the cause of Christ, else he had not employed that property in this way" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 165]. "He was evidently a man of position and means" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 427]. Maybe Moses E. Lard summed it up best: "He appears to have been a man of wealth and great liberality. He entertained not only Paul and his companions, but on stated occasions the whole church. He must have been a noble and lovely man" [Commentary on Paul's Letter to Romans, p. 466]. Any definite further knowledge of Gaius is lacking, although there is a church tradition that states he would later become the bishop of Thessalonica [The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, p. 624]. Thank you, Lord, for the example of this godly man. May many more like him be raised up in every generation!


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Readers' Reflections

From Hugh Fulford in Tennessee:
(in response to Reflections #777 and the many
Readers' Reflections in Reflections #778)

Well, Al, my views of the church are still those of the New Testament. I have no reason (or plans) to abandon those views. You may feel free to pass that succinct bit of information along to your readers.

From a Reader in Ottawa, Canada:

Al, I am very grateful for the careful thinking that goes into your Reflections. There is no means by which I can pay you back for what I have learned from your mind-coaxing, carefully-crafted commentary guided by the Holy Spirit. As always, "Many Thanks" will have to suffice for the present.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I appreciate you so much for the work you are doing to guide our fellowship away from pattern theology, and I just had to write and tell you that what you are doing is becoming contagious! Our minister has stepped out on that brittle limb of our fellowship and is preaching a series of lessons on the things he had been brought up to believe and that he is no longer going to teach and preach. He has the blessing of the great elders at our congregation. He is talking about such things as the role of women in the church, instrumental music, the Holy Spirit, and the like. I've often thought that I was alone at times in my convictions, and I suspect you have felt the same. It isn't true! God will get His message out even if the rocks have to tell the story.

From a New Reader in Florida:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I read with great interest your study on 1 Samuel 4-6 titled "Five Golden Emerods: A Tale of Rodents and 'Rhoids" (Reflections #135). This is my first exposure to your writings, which I found on the Internet. Would it be possible to get that entire article mailed to me in a printed version on paper? Also, would you please put me on your mailing list to receive your Reflections? Thank you so much!

From a Minister in New Zealand:

Al, Thank You for your latest Reflections: "A Greek Imperative Inquiry: Examination into Mood Expression" (Reflections #778). I find this type of article, drawn from your knowledge and study of NT Greek, very helpful. It also confirms for me how we all need to read from various versions of the New Testament to "capture" a better understanding. Miles Coverdale realized this over 500 years ago. Regarding Hugh Fulford and others like him, I agree with some of your readers' comments that we don't want to give some of these legalists too much "oxygen," as they probably thrive on it. There are too many people out there who don't even know Jesus. My spiritual mentor (Larry Deason) used to say, "Jesus is the answer; now, what is the question?!" Too many people have been converted to the "Church of Christ" church, yet have never had a personal relationship with Christ Himself. Too many have put their faith in their own obedience, and not in Him. So sad! Again, Al, many thanks for your work.

From a Reader in Texas:

I loved your latest article on the Greek imperative mood. You mentioned the phrase "Don't let me catch you doing that again!" This was one of Mama's favorite threats, back when I definitely had no plan to grow up to be like my "old-fashioned" Mama. But, when I became a Mom myself, at the age of 18, Mama's words started coming out of my mouth! I almost repeated word-for-word her threat ("Don't let me catch you..."), until I remembered that back then I followed it to the letter: I made sure that she didn't catch me doing my "evil deeds." I was not a great Mom, but somehow my five kids succeeded greatly in life in spite of me! Thanks, Al, for helping me get turned around in my life!!

From a Reader in Georgia:

I am more and more convinced as I grow older that the study of the Bible is a lifelong event. When do we ever get to the point of saying, "I know it all perfectly"? I think the answer is: Never! I think many people get frustrated by the variances in the translations of the Bible, and the teachings of those who have uncovered seemingly "hidden truths" that contradict longstanding thought, and the complexities of understanding the Greek language. I'm glad you wrote this latest article, Al, and that you have brought to light the need to put forth some real effort into the study of the Bible. It is more complex than it is sometimes presented to be. Blessings, brother!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Al, Thank You for your recent article on the Koine Greek and the use of "mood." What scares me is: I actually understood most of the article!! Have you done any analysis of the Greek "tenses" in relationship to "moods"? In particular, I am interested in how the "subjunctive" mood affects the "present active indicative," as far as "continuous action" is concerned, in passages such as Matthew 19:1-10.

From a Reader in Unknown:

Please remove me from your mailing list for your Reflections. Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1; 3 John. You use the Word of God to suit your own needs, and your teachings seek to refute the Word of God. You say we are saved by grace through faith, but this is refuting what Jesus said in Mark 16:16 - "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved." THIS is how you are saved. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you" (Hosea 4:6). We should not question or reject God's knowledge. It doesn't matter how much book learning we have, but rather how much actual Bible learning we have and strive for.

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