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Thursday, November 9, 2023

Diotrephes Loves To Have the Preeminence

In the third book of John, we read about a man by the name of Diotrephes as follows:  

“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.” (3 John 1:9-10 NKJV) 

The English Standard Version reads in 3 John 1:9 as follows: 

"I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority." 

Diotrephes was a Christian man whose faith failed.  In that he had the power to put brethren out of the church one suspects that he was an elder who had gained preeminence over time above the other elders.  He had become so emboldened that he would not even accept the apostle John. 

The desire for power is one of the ugliest of all the various kinds of lusts mankind is subject to.  The desire to be boss, to rule over people, to be seen as top dog, the main man, to set rules and regulations for others, to strut our stuff, and to be bowed down to is not only a sin but it also turns people against us.  It has the exact opposite effect of that desired.  However, once a man gains such power his power in itself may be such as to shield him from the knowledge of the truth as to how people feel about him and relate to him.  We tend to not confront people who have power over us. 

If, by chance, such a person does get a hint of the truth such power-driven people feel so superior to others that the opinion of others is of no account to them.  Whatever you say makes but little difference to me seemed to be the attitude of Diotrephes.  I run the show here and I am the man.  I know best.  This is the arrogance of power.  

Too often we see such attitudes in politicians.  They know what is best, you are a nobody, and they are going to take care of you whether you want them to or not.  Unfortunately, as in the case of Diotrephes, we sometimes find such men in the church too. 

Such men may be elders in the church, preachers, teachers, deacons, or just any member whose desire it is to separate himself from the rest of the brethren.  He feels superior to others.  He ought to run things for he knows better; he has better insight and understanding.  

These men can generally be spotted a mile away but they cannot see themselves as others do.  Such men can rip a church apart.  A proud heart, the writer of Proverbs says, “stirs up strife” (Pro. 28:25 NKJV) and that is as true in the church as elsewhere.  In the business world, no one wants to work with or for them.  They are very capable of destroying their marriage and alienating their family.  And it is not just men but women can be guilty as well. 

Spend some time around a high school and you will soon learn by observation that this attitude of superiority starts early in life.  If you are in the right crowd you are superior to others not in that group.  

In Acts chapter 8 there was a man by the name of Simon who was converted by Phillip.  Before his conversion he had practiced sorcery in the city of Samaria and had astonished the people of Samaria, the Bible says, “claiming that he was someone great.” (Acts 8:9 NKJV)  In verse 10 of Acts 8, the Bible says, speaking of the people of Samaria with regards to Simon, that they “all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God.’” (NKJV) 

When Peter and John arrived Simon saw that the Holy Spirit could be conveyed to others by the apostles laying hands upon them.  Simon reverted back to his days before his conversion, desired this power, and sought it by means of offering to Peter and John money in exchange for the power they had in doing this.   You know the rest of the story.  He was condemned for this.  Peter says to Simon, “Your heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent … and pray … .” (Acts 8: 21 -22, NKJV) 

Simon seemed to have the same problem Diotrephes had, the desire to be seen as special among God’s people, to be the man.  

In Acts 20 Paul calls the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet with him and tells them what the future would bring.  He says, in part, “From among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:30, NKJV)  Elders in the church desiring power, the praise of men, desiring their very own flock.  Forget about the church being God’s, make it mine.  It is MINE!  That would be their attitude.  History teaches Paul's prophecy was fulfilled with such an attitude ultimately culminating in the office of the Pope. 

What causes men to be this way?  Their inability, or unwillingness, to see themselves as frail, feeble human beings dependent on God for their very next breath, their very next heartbeat. 

In talking to Adam after Adam’s sin God says to him, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 NKJV) 

In Ecclesiastes 3:18-19 the inspired writer says, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.  For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other.  Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals … .” (NKJV) 

Mankind needs to see and understand his real state of being as delineated in the passages just quoted.  If we understand what we are we will not exalt ourselves.  The same teaching is found in the following passages. 

The Psalmist says, “For when he dies he shall carry nothing away; His glory shall not descend after him.” (Psalm 49:17, NKJV)  And again, (Psalm 49:20), “A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, Is like the beasts that perish.” (NKJV) 

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him … .” (Psalms 8:3-4 ESV) 

The man who desires preeminence has difficulty seeing himself as he is, a man of sin.  He may fain humbleness or humility but does not feel it in his heart.  He feels, for all practical purposes, that he has risen above sin, that is any sin that in his/her mind is in any way serious.  Thank God that he can now show everyone else how to do the same seems to be the attitude. 

This is an exceedingly dangerous sin in that it is very difficult for such a person to ever be made aware of their sin.  Who will tell them the truth about themselves?  After all, is it not true it is a kind of judgment thing?  Who will tell the man or the woman the truth?  It may be as clear as it can be that the individual is such a person but who will tell them to their face? 

The pride of life is what drives such people.  Pride as any Bible reader knows is condemned over and over again in the Bible.  Since this is common knowledge I will quote only one such passage, Mark 7:21-22, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishnessAll of these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (NAS)  “God resists the proud.” (1 Peter 5:5 NKJV) 

Paul teaches the way we are to live when he says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom 12:10, NKJV)  This passage is clearly violated by such people as we have been discussing.  What does it mean to be kindly affectionate to one another?  Does it mean to lord it over them and make yourself out to be superior to them?  Does it mean to belittle them in your heart?  I think not.  Neither do such people give preference to the other.  They give preference to themselves. 

Paul again, just a few verses later, says, “Be of the same mind toward one another.  Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.  Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Rom. 12:16, NKJV)  The Diotrephes of the world have set their mind on high things.  They have become wise in their own opinion. 

The Bible, however, teaches that “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”  (James 4:6 NKJV)  The writer of Proverbs says, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD.” (Prov. 16:5 NKJV) 

Peter tells us, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time”. (1 Peter 5:6, NKJV)  Jesus was the one who took the towel and washed the disciple's feet and said we ought to be willing to do the same, that is serve our fellowman and one another. 

Jesus said, in speaking to the twelve, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:25-28 NAS) 

The message of this article is not that men should flee from taking proper leadership roles in the church, business, education, or any other worthy endeavor.  It is a message to consider seriously who and what every man is – a man just like every other man.  If we will do that pride will flee. 

“For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14, NKJV)  As James says let us not boast in our arrogance.  (James 4:16).  Rather let us know that we all can become full of ourselves, we can become people full of pride and arrogance, and let us fight against becoming that with all our might.  Let us be the kind of men and women that the righteous love and that God will honor on the last day.  Pride can easily overtake us without our being fully aware that it is happening.  May we all guard against it.

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