to my dear friend Gaius,
whom I love in the truth.”
(3 John 1:1)
There is not much known about Gaius. We presume he may have been young, but that is not certain. We know nothing about his family. We do not know what his job profession was. We are not even sure at what capacity he served and all the ways he served. All we have are a handful of Scriptures that mention his name in passing. What we learn from these verses are telling, however, of what kind of man he was and speaks highly of his service to the kingdom.
What we do know of Gaius is that he was from Derbe, a little town in what was Asia Minor, now modern-day Turkey (Acts 20:4). Paul visited Derbe on his first journey. There is little said about this visit, but that “they preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples” (Acts 14:21). Did he meet Gaius on this journey? We are not sure. He may have met him even on his second journey as Paul passed by Derbe once again. What we do know is that Paul was responsible for the conversion of Gaius (1 Cor 1:14). Did this take place on the first journey of Paul when he had a wonderful response to the gospel? As fitting as it may be, once again, we do not know and can only speculate.
The first time Gaius is mentioned is in the first letter Paul writes to the Church in Corinth. It is believed that Paul wrote this letter in AD 53 while he was at Ephesus for three years on his third journey (1 Cor 1:14). At this time, Paul mentions Gaius only in his argument to deter the division stirring in the Corinthian church. Paul is grateful that he did not baptize any of them, save Crispus and Gaius. The reason for Paul saying that is that he did not want to be part of their division, saying they were followers of him because he baptized them. Paul wanted to draw their attention to Christ. During Paul’s time in Ephesus when he writes this letter, it becomes clear that Gaius is in his company as we see in Acts 19. Near the end of the three years that Paul was in Ephesus, a riot breaks out concerning a silversmith named Demetrius who made silver shrines of Artemis (Acts 19:23–41). Afraid that their trade would lose its good name and also fearing that the temple of Artemis would be discredited, there arose an uproar in the city. Paul was able to escape the clutches of the angry mob, however, two of his companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, were seized and taken into the theater. Not many Christians would leave the theater alive. Paul begged to go in and speak on their defense, but his companions would not allow him. Gaius and Aristarchus were held in suspense while waiting about two hours as the crowd was in confusion with most shouting praises to Artemis. It was not until the town clerk quieted the people that any sense was made of the matter. After the clerk appealed to the people that they have held these men as prisoners without having committed any crime, they may have put the town in danger of rioting. To an unexpected turn of events, Gaius and Aristarchus were released.
Facing such a moment with death looking you in the face and accepting the unlikely fact of leaving that theater alive, that would have had impacted Gaius in unspeakable ways. However, when we continue to read into Acts 20, the journey continues as Paul is about to set out for Macedonia. With no promise that the road would get smoother and no assurance that the persecution would be less, Gaius is there, once again as Paul’s faithful companion (Acts 20:4).
About three years have passed by, Paul is nearing the ladder part of his third journey—he is now visiting the church in Corinth. During his time there, Paul writes to a church that he has never visited. He has prayed for them and has thought about them much, but has never been there yet. Paul most likely was told about this growing church in Rome by Aquila and Priscilla who were residence in Rome till the expulsion during the days of Claudius. Aquila and Priscilla were forced to leave. They go and work in the church in Corinth where they meet Paul (Acts 18:1–5). Paul writes a fascinating letter to the church in Rome and in the end, he adds the most personal greetings mentioning everyone who has played a great part in his ministry, especially those who are with him ministering to his present needs. Among the many names Paul is careful to remember, he writes of Gaius, saying: “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings” (Rom 16:23). We do not know the extent of what Gaius was doing, but Paul thought his services to be hospitable and noteworthy.
There is less written and remembered about Gaius than any of us would like for ourselves; we are left with more questions than answers. But it is the small crumbs found in these Scriptures that help us to shape what would have been the character and stature of Gaius. He was a man who surrendered to being a servant, and he seemed quite fine as such. He was one who did not mind being the man behind the curtain as in a play. The men behind the curtain were not supposed to be seen, just used for the bigger picture. They were not known, but their life served to make known—this was Gaius. He was a man of such character that he did not need his name written many times in history, but was a servant to Paul, whose mission was to make Christ known to the nations. Paul’s work was strenuous, making him feel as if he had been poured out. Men like Gaius were used in mighty way to strengthen and encourage Paul. We may not have heard the name Gaius spoken much, and most have never heard his name at all. Gaius seemed to be the kind of man who would mind. When Gaius would pull the rope and the curtain would open, Gaius knew he was not seen—all eyes on Christ. We need more servants like Gaius.