Saturday, May 18, 2013
3rd John Part 4
1:9-10 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
John informs Gaius that he had written a letter already addressed to the entire house church to which Gaius had previously belonged, but a man named Diotrephes refused to submit to the authority of the apostle. Apparently John must have been commending these itinerant preachers and asked the church to accept them and support them, but Diotrephes would have none of it.
Here we come to the second person highlighted in 3rd John: Diotrephes. There is scarcely anything said about the man other than what is recorded in these few verses, yet John gives a good enough character sketch of the man to perceive the spirit Diotrephes labored under. Whether the man was saved or not only he and God know, but he was a proud and arrogant man, wanting to have the sole authority in the house church. He strove to accomplish this by severing any outside influence with John, traveling evangelists or any other Christian outside their pail, effectually creating a cult with Diotrephes as its head.
Since John’s authority and letter were rejected by Diotrephes, probably brought back to the apostle by these traveling evangelists, John considered coming in person to have words with Diotrephes. Not only was this rogue elder (if he even was one) refusing apostolic authority to direct the doctrines of the newly established church, he “prated” against them unjustly with wicked words, NASB. To “prate” can also mean to “babble, prattle or talk gibberish.” In other words, John considered Diotrephes to be ranting nonsense about him. We are commanded to “hold fast the pattern of sound words,” which the apostles of the Lord were inspired to give the church in terms of direction and correction, 2nd Timothy 1:13. Paul instructed Timothy to preach the word in any season with all long suffering and doctrine, 2nd Timothy 4:2. Sound doctrine was the pillar that deterred a saint from turning aside to fables. It was a desire to reject Biblical doctrine that opened the door to error, 2nd Timothy 4:3. Imagine! Christ’s own bride no longer holds an interest in what the Head of the church and its Savior has to say!
It is an evangelist’s task to see that the various churches, all member of Christ’s body, teach no other doctrine than what has been delivered to us through the Scriptures, 1st Timothy 1:3; 2nd Timothy 4:5. Those who contradict must be steadfastly contested by the systematic defense of sound doctrine, Titus 1:9. Sound doctrine brings conviction to the hearer, Acts 24:25. Though no local church is answerable to another church in the sense that one man controls them all, no church should become an island of doctrinal isolation with a single man at the helm, dispensing doctrine as he pleases with none to contradict. We are all members of the body and capable of teaching one another; no true Christian church should be above the correction or exhortation of a Christian who perceives error in their teaching.
Diotrephes turned away the evangelists who came to this house church and forbade anyone else from doing so. How he attained such influence in the church we can’t be certain, but he apparently possessed a domineering attitude that might have been mistaken for the spiritual gift of leadership. The spirit that dominated Diotrephes was well known to the apostle Paul when he wrote “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wrangling of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself,” 1st Timothy 6:3-5. Diotrephes wanted the preeminence and opposed any who presented a danger that might undermine his authority. He failed to recognize that the only authority we have as Christians is derived entirely from the Holy Spirit as He delivers from Christ whatever the church needs for edification.
To add insult to injury, Diotrephes excommunicated any Christians who wanted to take in these evangelists. John reported that Gaius was a man known for this behavior, so it is easily presumable that Diotrephes excommunicated him as well for his charity. This is why John reminds Gaius “do not imitate what is evil, but what is good,” 3rd John 1:11. This also explains why John had to in turn write Gaius a personal letter rather than a letter addressed to the entire house church. John wanted to reinforce that Gaius had actually been excommunicated for doing what was right, a mark of commendation. We read: “and who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled,’” 1st Peter 3:13-14. If Diotrephes was a saved man he was setting an awful example as a Christian, especially since he was a man in authority in that local church.