Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in
health, even as thy soul prospereth.
Ultra-evangelicals* who reject that the Bible teaches prosperity often use the argument: “Prosperity is only in the Old Testament, not in the New Testament”. A book could be written on the error of such a belief. 3John2 is one of the ‘many’ NT passages which give evidence for Biblical prosperity.
First, the Greek word for “prosper” in this verse is used only 4 times in the NT, two times in 3John2 alone. According to Strong’s Concordance, the definition of the Greek word is: to help on the road, i.e. (pass.) succeed in reaching; fig. to succeed in business affairs:—(have a) prosper (-ous journey).
As is the case with any word, the context dictates which of the word’s definitions should be used. But in 1Corinthians 16:2, where this word is used in the context of money, teaches money is definitely part of this word’s definition.
Now on to 3John2, where the context obviously dictates this word refers to prosperity in different areas; which as a side note, teaches one of the incredible powers of prosperity…it is God-designed to affect all-areas of life!
To any honest person, the short interpretation of 3John2 is both easy and obvious; the passage speaks to:
This teaches God promises increase/growth/prosperity to Christians in these three areas.
John wrote to Gaius, and intended these three areas to apply only to him! In other words, the promises of this passage do not apply to all Christians, because the context restricts its application to Gaius!
The word “wish” in the KJV means ‘to pray’**. For God to answer prayer, it must be prayed according to a covenant of God. In other words, God does not answer just any and every plea from mankind, but only that prayer which is prayed according to His word in covenant, i.e. His will(1Jn5:14,15). Praying ‘according to the will of God’ is also known as: “Praying according to the ‘purposes of God’”; “Praying Biblically”; “Praying scripturally”; “Praying according to God’s word”
Therefore, before praying for Gaius, John had to ‘know’:
a.Prayer is God’s will (Mat6:9; Eph6:18;1Tim2:8)
b.That which is prayed, must be according to the will of God, which
means according to His covenant promises (1Jn5:14,15)
c.Prayer must be in the name of Jesus (Jn16:23,24)
Therefore, because all scripture is divinely inspired, before John prayed, he perfectly understood that not only was it God’s will for him to pray for Gaius, but that what he prayed for Gaius had to have been previously rooted in God’s covenant promise for ‘mankind’. I emphasize ‘mankind’, because no covenant exists that applies only to Gaius!!!
In other words, God makes covenants with mankind, and through faith humans access those covenants. Or, God can make a covenant with a man, but it cannot be restricted only to that man---for example, Abraham (Gal3:29). I repeat, God makes covenants for mankind…not for single individuals!
If covenants do not direct man’s prayer, it becomes impossible to ever know what is appropriate to pray for, as prayer then becomes a quagmire of feelings, beliefs, or philosophy—not God’s word! For example, God has two fundamental wills for mankind:
God’s general will includes His will for mankind! For example, it is God’s general will for all men to be saved (2 Pet3:9). Because this is true, any human can come to Christ for salvation, and not be rejected (Jn6:37, 1Jn5:11,12).
The other side of the coin is that God also has a specific will, which means unique for every person(2Tim1:9). For example, God can call a missionary to China as part of his unique purpose. Yet, God does not call every person to be a missionary; nor does He call every missionary to China.
In the case of Gaius, John prayed God’s general will for him. How do I know? The Bible repeatedly reveals the three areas of John’s focus in 3John2, as general inheritance promises for all believers:
1.Prosperity (Ps35:27; Josh1:8; Ps1:3)
2.Health (Mat8:17; 1Pet2:24; Jms5:14,15)
3.Soul prosperity (Jn14:26; Ps119:99; Is54:13; Phil2:5; Pro9:10;
Therefore, these three promises cannot only apply to Gaius, when they are listed as promises for other believers! I repeat, these three promises are part of God’s general will for all mankind!
Furthermore, John had to previously believe the three promises of 3John2 were covenant promises for all men because he also wrote 1 John 5:14: “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” Therefore, would not John have to believe the promises of prosperity, health, and soul prosperity are within the meaning of the word “anything”? Yet, if in fact John did not believe these promises were part of “anything”, why use the word “anything”?***
On the contrary, “anything” cannot include sin, because sin is not a promise to man…in any covenant! For example, one cannot pray for another man’s wife—i.e.adultery! Why? Because adultery is not a promise, but a condemnation of God(Ex20:14).
Furthermore, one cannot pray for things outside of God’s purposes. For example, it is God’s will for man to fly, but it is not God’s will for man to grow wings from his back. Therefore, because man has no promise to possess wings from his back, he cannot pray for them.
In conclusion, Good news!! Rejoice and be glad, for it is God’s will to YOU to prosper, and be in good health, even as YOUR soul prospers!!!
*I use the phrase “ultra-evangelicals” to identify that group of Christians/theologians who ‘rabidly’ hold to their rejection of prosperity, healing, and gifts of the Spirit, etc., in spite of Bible evidence.
**See the ESV; NAS; and NIV for verification.
***1John 5:14 is part of what I call “Unlimited Promises”; which means the promise in the text is open…or based upon the will of the believer. A few others include Mat7:7,8; Mk11:23,24; Jn16:23,24; Jn15:7. To declare prosperity cannot be part of an unlimited promise is unBiblical!