3 John 1:9-11, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.”
Oh my! To be at the brunt of the Beloved Apostle and acknowledged Elder to the Church at that time. Can you say “upstart!” Yet in his continuing discourse with his beloved friend, Gaius, the Apostle chooses to use this as a lesson in what is right and wrong; to put it a bit more bluntly, what is good and what is evil.
Evidently, the Apostle sent a letter to the church and it was either intercepted or this man, Diotrephes, took it upon himself as leader to decide whether it was worth their time or not. Now just imagine, this was back in approximately 90 A.D.. The church was still in its infancy, people were meeting in groups where ever they could to learn and to worship the Lord corporately. Even that early on, there were rivalries for leadership. Remember also, John was most likely the last Apostle to have known Jesus Christ before His death and Resurrection! Yet, to some, even back then, it didn’t elicit any respect for his knowledge and wisdom.
If you can read these accounts and look around, not just the world, but locally where you each live, and not realize that the Bible is ALIVE and relevant even today, I would like to talk to you about being spiritually reborn!
Evidently this man looked upon himself as a self-appointed dictator, deciding which direction the church under his control should go and it didn’t matter, for what ever reason, the experience and wisdom that others displayed. He definitely demonstrated a prideful arrogance, an inflated ego to be sure, apparently jealousy that others garnered more respect, all for what he apparently, for whatever reason, he considered his right. It is apparent from these brief comments from John that this man had forgotten that the “church” was established by Christ Jesus and that Jesus IS the head of the church and that the Holy Spirit is the Representative of Christ to the Church!
We can only assume that his pretext for behaving that way was in the excuse that he was contending for the truth; which by all apparent pretexts was an outright lie! For him to refuse the Apostle and other brethren traveling as well, was actually doing untold harm to the early church. It is obvious that when John spoke of false teachers and wolves in sheep’s clothing in other Scripture, he had someone like this man in mind.
As many of you who have followed my teachings over the years, you know that I, with my wife had vowed to the Lord to go where He wanted us to go and to learn all that we could from where He placed us and the Lord, took us at our word. We have been involved serving in many churches and learning. As I have stated before, learning, and especially when the Holy Spirit is involved can come in a couple of dramatic ways. You can learn how to do things the right way under the mentorship of someone led and listening to the Holy Spirit, AND, you can learn how NOT to do things under the leadership whose ideas are such that it fits into the cliché, “it is either my way or the highway.”
Let me tell you something; I respect every servant of the Lord who has had a formal education and yet I wouldn’t trade all I learned for a formal education. It is not that I am better learned, for I am not, but what I have learned has been based on real-world experience, the leading of the Holy Spirit and lots and lots of questions to Him AND prayer! We have had to rely so much upon the Holy Bible as our textbook and because of it, though my memorization skills are below par, my application of the Word is based on real-world learning. We have been under people very much like this Diotrephes and when we asked the Lord to let us remove ourselves from their “ministries” it was not until the Holy Spirit Himself gave us leave. But we learned, oh how we learned. Maybe that is why, this letter from the Beloved Apostle strikes home so much.
Sadly, due to time, apathy in the church organizations and the rise of political correctness and the misuse of Scriptures such as Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” the proliferation of this type of behavior is very prevalent in many of today’s churches. So many of these “personalities” forget that their ministry is a SERVICE to the Lord AND to others. They are not, “high and lifted up” above the sheep, but rather, they need to remember that they need to learn first from the Master, the Great Shepherd, before they can serve in the capacity of teaching (feeding) others.
A true shepherd must be firm, yes indeed, but he must temper that firmness with gentleness, kindness, compassion, mercy and graciousness. He must also approach others with the right motive; that is, is the motive coming from a love for others with the hope for each with an eternal objective, or is it with the motive of making sure they follow your set of rules. The motive in your heart WILL come out in the way you approach situations. Now, admittedly since so much is done in print and in social media today, sometimes the motive is obscured in the text, but if it follows Scriptural guidelines, then the SPIRIT should come forth as opposed to just the LETTER.
Our example should always be Christ Jesus. God’s own Son, Who was with Him from the Beginning, the Word, made flesh to dwell among men. The Bible says that everything that was made was made by the Word, yet He didn’t come down to stand on a pedestal above everyone else. He made Himself to be lower than Who He truly was to teach that very same thing. A true shepherd, called to serve the sheep of the Lord, has no business placing themselves on a pedestal ABOVE the sheep! Yes, an under-shepherd called by the Great shepherd must teach, must feed the sheep, but not to lord or master anything over them, but to lead them by example and word into truth.
Diotrephes either forgot that or didn’t know it from the start, but rather seen an opportunity in this new and growing “religion” to make a mark or to carve out a spot for himself and no one, no matter the experience or knowledge was going to tell him any different.
Now notice, according to the Apostle, this man didn’t just REFUSE other true believers, but he excommunicated his own people, as it were, from his church if others did receive these other traveling ministers and teachers! What other, than a self-styled dictator is that?! It appeared that he was exceptionally power-hungry, mad with keeping control of things within the “church.” John even goes so far to say that this man was openly MALICIOUS with his speech towards those who were called and others in authority! Because of social media and the use of camera-phones and such, we see this very thing happening all too often all around us.
Yet the Apostle makes it clear, that if he is able to travel and visit his friend Gaius, he will most certainly remember this other “upstart” and more or less remind him of his place! These types of people do NOT like to be confronted openly and especially with the Word of God. They have no excuses and no place to hide behind their lies and deceit. Their power or what they perceive as power comes from doing things in secret and in the dark and especially with others who have the same agenda. Their continuing in what they surmise as power continues in the form of fear and intimidation. Isn’t it amazing, as I bring it up often lately, that even after two-thousand years, human nature has NOT evolved even a little. Now I say that meaning, without the creative power of the Holy Spirit to make us a new creation.
Here is where John uses that example as a lesson to all readers and it is a confirmation to other Scriptures that God, through His Holy Spirit can turn anything into something good for the believer. “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.” He who does evil has not seen God. In other words, he has absolutely no idea Who God truly is! True believers do and it is evident in what they do as a form of loving to one another and even to those who despise them.
In this letter, John gives us two extremes and there is no doubt which is which. Gaius, whose life is actually based in service to others and especially to those doing the Lord’s work, and Diotrephes, who desires the spotlight all to himself, refusing to even acknowledge those doing the Lord’s work, all under the guise of being “religious.” Again, I have to say it, how like what we see so much today. Big, mega-ministries, and I use the term “ministries” lightly, always wanting more, more people, more money, more power, more prestige, all in the NAME of “religious” works, but all the while instead of sending out, instead of encouraging others in good works, instead of sending out to make disciples, bring them in so I can make disciples! Yet they hold up the same Bible you and I read and try to emulate, they say some of the same “Christianese” speak that we use in our conversations about our Lord, yet always with a twist, or emphasis on more, more, more! And sadly that more is hardly or ever about more souls in the Kingdom of God.
To some today, some of this just seems normal. There are so many denominations, so many independent churches or religious organizations, how is one to know what is true and what isn’t?
We know from the Word of God, a changed heart, a changed and reborn spirit, results in changed behavior. Maybe not immediately, as the Holy Spirit changes people gently, but there is a change. No more is a born-again person always thinking about just themselves. They start to consider and thing about others. That is the indication of the spirit of man being changed by Something greater than themselves. The “religious” person will talk the talk, but their actions, their lifestyle will reflect no difference.
I have used this Scripture so much and here again, even though a “religious” person might be saying all the right things, they can’t keep it up for long, for what a person TRULY loves, that is what they will want to talk about and there is a VAST difference between religious things and the deeper things of the spiritual.
Now again, really look at what this Scripture is saying and especially in the light of what the Apostle John has revealed so far in this letter:
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45.
What is the treasure in your heart? What is the motive behind what you do? It WILL display fruit; good fruit or rotten, evil fruit. It is a Spiritual Principle that cannot be denied. Those who have served the Lord for years will always recognize the truth in Luke’s Scripture.
Are we, those of us who claim to be Christians, true followers of the teachings AND examples of Jesus Christ; are we being only religious, or has something changed deep within causing us a love for one another to grow and a desire to learn more spiritually? Only the individual and God, the Father can TRULY answer that, but, our actions might give a hint!