“The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospereth” — 3 John:1-2 KJV
A very short English 101 lesson here: the word “as” in this passage does not appear in the original Greek text, rather the word in the Greek is kathos (Strong’s 2531, pronounced cath-oce’) and the most commonly accepted meanings are, ‘according to’, ‘in the same manner as’, ‘in the same way as’. The writer is both separating the physical part of man from the soulish part, but is also tying them together so that the prospering of both parts must be accomplished by, and coming from, the same source. That source is faith and no one receives anything from God aside from faith, whether spiritual salvation, physical prosperity or soul prosperity.
Man is a triune being, meaning he IS a spirit, he HAS a soul and he lives IN a body. The soul of a man is made up of his mind, his will and his emotions. When God created man, He made Him in his Own image, after His Own likeness (Genesis 1:26 KJV), but what does this mean? We see many humans who are of varying shapes, sizes and colors, with varying hair and eye colors, so does this mean that God has multicolored skin, eyes and hair? Of course not. It means that we are created in the form of God, Who, if we could see Him, he would remind us of….us. It would not be like seeing a being with an ‘other than human’ shape. He is not some monstrous alien-like being who instills fear and dread. Those who believe such nonsense are ignorant of Who and What God is and need serious study time in God’s word to exchange their ignorance for knowledge.
If you believe that the Bible is God’s word, inspired by the Holy Spirit and given by that inspiration to the many authors who were chosen to record His word, then you must consider just what John was telling Gaius and then determine what that knowledge means to you.
John’s words distinctly separate the prosperity of the body of Gaius from the prosperity of his soul, so the primary words that should be considered in the above passage should be “as thy soul prospereth”, because until we understand just what that means we have no idea how the rest of the verse, the “…..I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health…” can affect us and our wellbeing. Accordingly, we must try to understand what ‘soul prosperity’ really is and how we go about attaining it.
Man = Spirit, Soul, Body
As I stated earlier, man is a triune entity, being a spirit, having a soul and living in a body of flesh and blood. In the passage, John is stating the will of God for man’s physical body: health and prosperity, and saying that He wants the physical part of a man to be as healthy and prosperous as his soul. Unfortunately way too many Christians, and nearly all non-believers, focus only on the needs of the physical and therefore only seek after the health/prosperity of the body. In reference to the passage in Matthew 6:33, Jesus said that we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all these things (man’s physical needs) will be added to us.
The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, at least for now, and it cannot be found by looking only at the physical things we see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Paul stated, “For the kingdom of God is not meat (food) and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17 KJV).
Properly seeking His kingdom is a function of the part of the soul that we call ‘the mind’. But in order for that function to produce good results, we must follow the steps outlined in God’s word.
The Apostle Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 KJV). Now we’re getting somewhere.
Submitting our bodies must first occur before we can renew our minds, enabling us to ‘discern’ (prove) what God’s perfect will is for our lives. Now we know from 3 John 1 that God’s will is for the health and prosperity of our entire being, spirit, soul and body, and John specifically separated the body component from the soul (mind, will and emotions), showing that the prosperity of one is dependent on the prosperity of the other.
The Prosperity Gospel
Unfortunately, the ‘prosperity gospel’, as many have called it, which is the biblically questionable movement being promoted by many large ministries, has caused many in the Church to become disillusioned with, if not completely ignorant of, the entire gospel, or the REAL gospel.
That prosperity message leads most proponents to see it as a means of ensuring that all their physical needs are met, in perpetuity. There is nothing wrong with having those needs met, in fact God even stated such through the Apostle Paul: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 KJV), and that is a wonderful promise from a loving Father.
However, in Matthew 6:33, Jesus said: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. Notice that before “all things shall be added unto you”, we are told to SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
True Prosperity vs Phony Prosperity
Many people have fallen for the ‘name it and claim it’ belief that will supposedly bring any of your heart’s desires to you from a loving, and very ‘convenient’ God. For a Christian to believe that God has changed His mind regarding the words He spoke to Adam and Eve as they were fumbling around and trying to explain their disobedience to God is a serious error. The curse on this earth is still in effect and His pronouncement of the curse has not been lifted on ANY human being:
“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 KJV)
We all live ON a cursed earth, IN and AMONG a cursed world, and should NOT attempt to bypass God’s word on what that curse means for us. As the legitimate offspring of Adam and Eve, we still have the original responsibilities given to them: “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed”. (Genesis 2:8 KJV). “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (Genesis 2:15 KJV).
Here we see the wonderful goodness and grace of God in that He had planned the perfect environment for His man and they only needed to make sure it was properly tended. Had they done so, they would never have lacked anything and they would have truly lived eternally in a perfect utopia. That is the quintessential prosperity. But they failed to follow God’s word and now we are all in the same leaky, failing boat, trying to ‘become prosperous’.
I have read John’s words many times in his third epistle, trying to understand whether John was presenting some cryptic meaning in those simple words. But it appears that the meaning, as simple as it sounds, is truly… as simple as it sounds. John obviously loved Gaius and had wonderful words of praise for him because his life showed that he walked in love always. Could it be that one of the ‘hidden means’ to receiving the words of John lie in the way in which we receive all things from God? We are told many times that we must receive from God by faith, and that faith works by love. Love is first and foremost a spiritual action, and NOT necessarily an emotion. For example, the God-type of love, agape, is a love that says: “I love you not because of what you are, or even who you are, but because of Who and What I am”. That kind of love says, I love you because you are valuable and precious to me.
Obviously, Gaius was a person who lived by this kind of love and was praised by John for his charity. What else did John say in this passage that might be closely related to the prosperity of the soul? In verse three of that letter, John says to Gaius, “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; which have borne witness of thy charity before the church:”. So we see that Gaius faithfully carries out the commandments of God by walking in love and being ‘charitable’.
John understood Gaius so well, knowing that he was a man who had fully accepted the truth of God’s word and determined to live faithfully by that word. As a result, he had reached a place in his life where he had found ‘soul prosperity’. If so, he had submitted himself to God and was constantly renewing his mind (primary part of the soul) and refusing to allow himself to be transformed to any worldly image. If he walked in the kind of constant love for which he received praise from John, then his will (secondary part of the soul) was in line with God’s will. Since he practiced the God-kind of love, agapao, toward all others, his emotions (tertiary part of the soul) were not only under control, but were prosperous and would obviously serve Gaius well. In short, the way he conducted his life made him worthy of receiving John’s praise.
Soul prosperity is a state of living whereby the mind, will and emotions are so transformed to God’s will that the body, fully submitted to God, functions as a servant to the spirit and soul, refusing to conform to the world. It is a trait of a life so submitted to God that the unnecessary and burdensome demands of the world cannot cause a person to deviate from His will.
Such a state is NOT an easy one to attain, especially in today’s evil and demanding world. Can it be attained? I believe so, but it is not a ‘once and done’ act, but rather an all-consuming lifestyle. Remember, the first step is submission to God, from that point, He will direct the believer into all the steps needed to have true soul prosperity.
©Bud Hancock. All rights reserved.