Gaius is a common Roman name that appears several times in the New Testament. There are three men named Gaius specifically identified in Scripture:
The name Gaius was very common in the Roman world during the time of the New Testament. It is estimated that as many as one in five men may have been named Gaius. This can make it confusing when we encounter the name in the Bible, as it is not always clear which Gaius is being referred to. However, through careful study we can differentiate three men named Gaius who appear in the New Testament writings:
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- Gaius was a very common Roman name in NT times, with possibly 1 in 5 men having this name.
- There are 3 specific men named Gaius mentioned in the New Testament.
- Gaius of Macedonia traveled with Paul and was seized at Ephesus during the riot.
- Gaius of Corinth hosted Paul during his stay and was baptized by him.
- Gaius of Derbe was a companion of Paul on his third missionary journey.
In this post, we will look at each of these three Gaius figures in turn. We will examine what the Bible tells us about them and their interactions with the Apostle Paul. Understanding who these men were can provide us greater insight into the early church and the spread of Christianity in the first century.
Gaius of Macedonia
The first Gaius we encounter in the New Testament is Gaius of Macedonia. He is mentioned in Acts 19 during the riot in Ephesus:
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia…there accompanied him into Asia Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia (Acts 20:1-4 NKJV).
In this passage, Luke lists Gaius among those accompanying Paul from Greece to Asia as he returns from his third missionary journey. Gaius is specifically said to have been from Derbe, one of the cities Paul visited on his first missionary journey in what is now central Turkey.
Some additional details about this Gaius can be found in Acts 19 during the riot in Ephesus:
Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together (Acts 19:29 NKJV).
Here we learn Gaius of Macedonia was seized by the mob along with Aristarchus since they were known as Paul’s companions. Gaius was likely either converted and/or met Paul on the apostle’s second missionary journey when he passed through Macedonia. He then joined Paul in his travels, which eventually brought him to Ephesus where the riot broke out.
This Gaius was a faithful companion of Paul who endured persecution and danger because of his commitment to the gospel. Paul trusted Gaius to travel with him at a time when safe travel was difficult and fellow Christians were scarce. Though we have no specific details about Gaius’ background or conversion, his inclusion among Paul’s delegation indicates he played an important role in the early church.
Gaius of Corinth
The second Gaius we read about in the New Testament resided in Corinth. He is mentioned in Paul’s letters to the Romans and Corinthians:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-5, 6-7 NKJV).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul extends grace and greeting to the church in Rome as those Gentiles now belonging to Christ. It seems evident that Gaius was among those Gentile believers converted in Corinth. In the opening chapter of Romans, Paul says the faith of those Roman Christians is “being reported all over the world” (Romans 1:8), likely meaning they already knew of Gaius and his faith.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul provides more direct details about Gaius of Corinth:
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed…The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen (1 Corinthians 1:4-7, 16-17, 20-24 NKJV).
Paul notes that Aquila and Priscilla, who were believers he met in Corinth, send their greetings to the Corinthians along with the church gathered in their house. Scholars conclude this house church was likely led by Gaius since Paul later refers to him this way:
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. You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people 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 (1 Corinthians 16:15-18 NKJV).
From these details, we can conclude Gaius was an early convert of Paul’s in Corinth who showed great devotion and generosity in service to the church. His home hosted one of the first house churches in the region. Though not an apostle or church leader, Gaius was likely a key figure in the establishment and growth of the Corinthian church.
Gaius of Derbe
The third Gaius mentioned in the New Testament is Gaius of Derbe. He joined Paul on the apostle’s third missionary journey:
He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek…Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:1-3, 6-10 NKJV).
This passage indicates Gaius was from Derbe and joined Paul and Timothy on what would become his second missionary journey. Gaius traveled with them through Galatia and over to Macedonia in response to Paul’s vision. He continued with Paul on to Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth before accompanying the apostle on his return trip to Jerusalem by way of Ephesus and Caesarea. Though not mentioned often, Gaius’ inclusion in the missionary team indicates he played an important support role in Paul’s early ministry.
In summary, the name Gaius was very common in the Roman empire during New Testament times. At least three men with the name are specifically identified in the Bible as companions of Paul and promoters of the gospel. Though they shared a name, each of these men appears to have come from a different location and background.
Gaius of Macedonia joined Paul’s team during the second or third missionary journey and endured persecution with the apostle in Ephesus. Gaius of Corinth was an early convert who generously opened his home for one of the first church plants. And Gaius of Derbe traveled with Paul across Greece and Asia Minor, helping spread the message of Christ to new cities and regions.
The New Testament Gaiuses remind us that the growth of the early church depended not just on the apostles but on countless nameless and faithful men and women who contributed in small yet vital ways. As we strive to live for Christ today, we do well to follow the examples of service, generosity, and loyalty demonstrated by these first-century brothers. Though little known and oft forgotten, their impact resounds through the centuries.