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 Vol. 6, No. 4 

April 2004

~ Page 18 ~

Do You Know a Diotrephes?

By Roy Beasley

I have been reading a book about antagonists in the church. Most churches have them. They are the troublemakers. They bring trouble to paradise. It gives a psychological profile of such people, and offers advise as to how they should be dealt with. I have made the statement that I wish I had read this book thirty years ago. It would have saved me a lot of grief. I think that every elder and every preacher and every church leader should have this book in their libraries.

But, there have been antagonists in the church from the very beginning. Diotrephes was one of them. John had this to say about him in 3rd John, verse 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 deed 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."

Diotrephes was a man with overwhelming ambition. We don't know if he was an elder, a preacher or an average member of the church. But whoever he was, he was bound and determined to have first place. He was not content to play second fiddle. He loved to put himself first. He desired to have a following. He did not accept authority. He would correspond with those today who are going to have their own way regardless of what the elders say or what the Bible teaches. They come up with their own interpretations. They manifest a "rule or ruin" philosophy.

Know anybody like Diotrephes?

John says that he "prates" against others with evil words. He was a big talker, a slanderer, a backbiter. The original language seems to suggest a bad temper, a "boiling over." "Pratting" also denotes insinuations and insinuating words. Thayer defines prating as "To utter nonsense, to bring idol or unjustified charges, to accuse one falsely with malicious words." He was guilty of hatefulness, sarcasm and perhaps even downright lying.

Know anybody like Diotrephes?

He was casting out faithful Christians. This means that he was withdrawing from them without scriptural grounds. No one dared to stand up against him without feeling the fury of his wrath. This indicates that he was one who gained some power or control of a congregation. He had a following. Also, he would not receive faithful brethren or strangers and forbade the church to do so. He wanted to isolate them from faithful brethren. He considered faithful brethren a threat. He had his own following. He trusted no one except those who agreed with him.

Know anybody like Diotrephes?

The sad thing is that the spirit of Diotrephes is still with us today and you can know it by its fruits. Sometimes it is seen among preachers. Sometimes it is found among the elders. Sometimes it is found among other members of the church.

The tragedy of it all is that usually a Diotrephes is a person who could be one of the greatest blessings to the church if it were not for his love for the preeminence. He is a person with great knowledge and ability. All we can do is to continue to love him, pray for him to repent and do what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-17 -- go to him, take witnesses, and if he will not repent, withdraw fellowship.  That's what John did.Image

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