By Vernon Love
The apostle John wrote unto Gaius, and condemned Diotrephes for his “love for preeminence.” Then he told Gauis what he would do to him when he arrived. If you have ever met a Diotrephes, you will know why John was condemning him. Let’s look at John’s description of Diotrephes and discuss others we know who are like him.
(1) He Loved To Have Preeminence (3 Jn. 9). He wanted to be first, to be chief of all, or would be nothing at all Christ is the only one who is to have “all the preeminence” (Col. 1: 18). No one should be seeking to obtain preeminence in the local church or in the brotherhood.
(2) He Would Not Receive The Apostles. John said, “he receiveth us not.” Jesus said, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Lk. 10:16). So when Diotrephes would not receive the apostles, he was rejecting Christ and God.
(3) He Spoke Against John With Malicious Words. John said, “Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words; and not content therewith.” Diotrephes could not prove the apostles were wrong so he had to use “malicious words” against them.
(4) He Would Not Receive The Brethren. Diotrephes would not receive the brethren and would put out any one who would. Now he was some Christian! It had to be his show or nothing. No one else had better dare get in his way.
(5) Some 20th Century Examples of Diotrephes. You can spot a “Diotrephes” by his wanting his way all the time and will not yield to others. They will insist their ways are right, everyone else is wrong, and they will use ridicule to prove their point instead of the truth. They usually are the ones who either talk the loudest or the ones who talk the most.
They are also very subtle and they can manipulate brethren in many ways. Some will always have a “partner” who will chime in every time so they have more prestige f6r their view. When I was a boy in Indiana, our nii6bors had two large dogs who would -chase me when I would go by on the bicycle. However, if one would come out and bark and the other dog was not around, then he would not chase me by himself. A lot of Diotrephes are like that; if they can have a partner then they will stand for their view. If they have none who will come to their defense then they will back off.
Another way they try to get their way is to say “any way you all want to do it is all right with me.” However, they will be quick to tell you how they think it should be and if you don’t go along with their way, you will be in big trouble.
There is the “pious” Diotrephes who is the one who comes to you with honey dripping out of his mouth, trying to get you on his side so you will agree with him. If you do not go his way, look out, that honey turns to poison real quick.
The “arm waving” Diotrephes will come to you and with great gestures will try to make you think he is your friend, and wave his arms like he is on your side. What he is really doing is setting you up. He is the one who is trying to pressure you to go his way and will wave his hands to make more emphasis on his position. If he cannot get his way, then he will even try to go behind the brethren and undo what they have decided.
Another one is the fellow who comes with the statement, “They all think so and so, so what do you think?” This usually over the telephone and you need to be aware that this fellow has not talked to all the brethren but only a few. Then he will call the next one and make the same statement until he gets enough to think as he does. Often times this “Diotrephes” will have a private meeting in the church yard or vestibule and have it all set up with few of his cronies. They even have the nerve to get up and make their decision known to the church and the church has to like it or lump it. You can usually know if a Diotrephes is in the church by the way the men attend the business meeting. If some will not attend, it is usually because of the way the meeting is conducted and because some in the meeting are going to have their way or else.
Then there is the “seniority” Diotrephes who uses the argument that they have been in the church longer than anyone else, they are older than those in the church, so that means all should bow to their will.
The “politician” is the one who will try to get you to go along if the others will go along. Often times they have not gotten others to agree, they only imply they have. Usually they will be like Diotrephes in that they are not concerned too much about what the apostles have taught us to do. If they cannot get their way, they will turn upon the opposition and say many unkind things until they give in and go along with Diotrephes.
May we all examine ourselves, and strive to conduct ourselves – at all times so that’ we are “receiving the apostles,” that we are working with those we are worshipping with and never let it be said we have become imitators of Diotrephes.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 20, pp. 630-631
October 20, 1983