Sunday, 12 July 2020
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 -10
We just read about Diotrephes and his highhanded takeover of the church. Because of his attitude, John now says, “Therefore.” Because of what was happening, corrective action was needed. A letter would not suffice, and so he says, “If I come.” Though it is in the subjunctive mood, it appears that it is certain in his mind that he will come. In verse 14, he says, “but I hope to see you shortly.” The intent, unless he is unable to make it, is that he will come to rescue the church from Diotrephes.
John next says, “I will call to mind his deeds which he does.” As the previous verse makes it seem likely that he has already sent a letter which was ignored by Diotrephes, the only remedy left is to openly call him out for his misdeeds. John then defines them by first stating, “prating against us with malicious words.”
The word translated as “malicious” literally means “evil,” but “malicious” is sufficient to convey the appropriate meaning because it deals with his intended influence over others concerning those he is targeting. His intent is to malign others, thus gaining influence over the congregation.
In order to do this, John uses a word, translated as “prating,” which is only found here in Scripture, phluareó. It is derived from phlyō, meaning “to boil” or “bubble over.” Thus, the words of Diotephes are well placed, probably quite eloquent, and yet – like a bubble – the are empty. Diotrephes is a man of self-promotion, false accusation, and used his tongue to acquire the position of authority he desired. But there is more. John continues by saying, “And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren.”
This is probably referring to the visiting missionaries already noted by John. But it may mean any brother who showed up at the church to share in the fellowship. In order to maintain his heavy hand on those he had sway over, he would not welcome anyone else who could perceive his wicked ways and say, “This isn’t right.” He is the David Koresh or Jim Jones of the early church, ruling over those who had no understanding of his true intents. This is perfectly certain because John next says, “and forbids those who wish to.”
Those in the congregation who understood Christian compassion and the need to welcome strangers were forbidden to do so. They knew that what was happening was amiss, and so they probably came forward to say, “This just isn’t right. We need to welcome these fellow Christians.” Instead of taking the admonition to heart and welcoming them, he would turn his evil ways on those who would so dare to challenge him, “putting them out of the church.”
This is exactly what an authoritarian ruler will do. He will simply cut off the source of perceived trouble. In this, he will then have an even tighter control over those who remained. Eventually, those in the church who remain will be completely under his control. It is the classic design of cult leaders to act in this manner.
Life application: Unfortunately, even though these words seem almost impossible to believe, they occurred as early as John’s day, and they still occur in churches all around the world. This person, Diotrephes, was an arrogant and abusive person with no heart for anyone who would dare disagree with him. John says, “if I come.” However, as noted, the “if” certainly means “when.” When he does, he will make sure to get control of the situation. It was his determined purpose to set things straight and highlight the perverse nature of Diotrephes for everyone to see.
Diotrephes’ “prating” is comparable to vinegar bubbling over when mixed with baking soda. He was the epitome of the “perverse man” so often mentioned in Proverbs – “the perverse man sows strife” (Proverbs 16:28). His perverse nature went beyond mere words though. He wasn’t only content to be a backbiter, but he was an active control freak as well – not receiving true believers and even putting people out of the church who wanted to receive them. In Romans, Paul warns believers to not think too highly of themselves –
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3
We are admonished to not think of ourselves “more highly than” we ought. Diotrephes never learned this lesson and so his life and actions testify against him, even to this day. If our deeds, our words, and our hearts were open for all to see, what would others find out about us that we would be ashamed of? Think it through as you deal with those you fellowship with.
Lord, there are certainly times when we act in ways that must be displeasing to You. We can look back on our day and think of how we could have handled things differently. Give us wisdom so that our hearts will be right in all of our dealings with others. May our lives be faithful and wholesome in our service to others and to Your glory. Amen.