Thursday, November 27, 2014


3 John 9-10, “I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us.  And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.”

3 John was a personal letter from the Apostle John to his beloved friend Gaius (Cf. 3 John 1).  In it he expressed his joy in hearing of Gaius’ faithfulness (3 John 1-4), and for his support for traveling “fellow workers” (3 John 5-8).  He also addressed his concern regarding Diotrephes, a man who was working against John and hindering the progress of the gospel (3 John 9-10).

Diotrephes had a pride problem.  He liked to “put himself first” (3 John 9).  That problem lay at the root of his poor and ungodly decisions.  He like to “put himself first” as did the devil in his attempt to usurp the place of God (Cf. Isaiah 14:13).  He liked to put himself first though all that “is in the world,” including “the pride of life,” “is not from the Father (Cf. 1 John 2:16).  He like to put himself first though Jesus taught otherwise: “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).  He like to put himself first, though Jesus Himself had set a contrary example in clothing Himself with humility and washing the disciples feet (Cf. John 13:3-17).  He liked to put himself first, though such behavior is inconsistent to the true nature of God’s kind of love (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5).  He liked to put himself first though God’s shepherds are to be “not domineering over those in (their) charge” (1 Peter 5:3).  He liked to put himself first, as do too many leaders (Cf. Philippians 2:21).  He liked to put himself first and thereby was met with God’s opposition (Cf. Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).  Andrew Murray has said of pride: “Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue.  And so pride, or loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil.”

In his prideful ignorance Diotrephes refused to acknowledge the authority of the Apostle John.  The disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20) was unloved and disregarded by Diotrephes.  John had witnessed the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  He had walked with Jesus and had been sent out by Him.  The elderly apostle had faithfully served His Lord for some six decades.  He was there with Peter when the church was borne.  In the years since he had suffered much persecution and hardship for the sake of the gospel.  He had been mightily used by God in the salvation of souls and the planting of churches.  As a writer of inspired Scriptures, he was a man who “spoke for God as (he was) carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).  He possessed more experience in ministry than any other person alive on the planet at that time, but Diotrephes refused to acknowledge his authority and even “talked wicked nonsense” against him (3 John 9). 

Pridefully confused Diotrephes ruled over his fiefdom with an iron will.  Contrary to Gaius’ good example of welcoming and supporting strangers (Cf. 3 John 5-8), Diotrephes refused to welcome the brothers (Cf. 3 John 10).  Diotrephes had more interest in furthering and strengthening his own position than furthering the gospel.  If others ventured to show hospitality to “the brothers,” Diotrephes “put them out of the church” (3 John 10).  Any threat to his rule was dealt with harshly, in an unloving and unwarranted manner.

The “Apostle of Love” dealt forthrightly with the problem.  Diotrephes’ arrogance and unbiblical manner were a contradiction, in word and deed, to the message of the gospel.  He was a bad leader and a bad example.  In his pride and arrogance he was a divisive figure and a detriment to the cause of Christ.  He liked to be first, and deemed himself important, but he was a small man in the sight of God.  Diotrephes put himself first, but he had things turned upside down.  According to God’s measure, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  In his desire to be first Diotrephes gained nothing but a lasting legacy of a bad example that we should all be careful to avoid.

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