Saturday, 11 July 2020
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 3 John -9
John begins this verse with, “I wrote to the church.” Some manuscripts add in the word “something” into the verse, “I wrote something to the church.” However, other manuscripts simply say, “I wrote to the church.”
Either way, John had written a letter to the church which no longer survives. That missing letter, however, prompted John to write this new one. One more possibility is that of the rendering by the Latin Vulgate, which says, “I would have written to the church.”
In other words, John has written this letter to Gaius instead of the church because of the miscreant he next will mention. John knew that he would have either destroyed John’s letter, or spoken against it, thus ending any possible help for the missionaries.
In analyzing these various possibilities, Albert Barnes sums up his thoughts, saying, “It seems to me, therefore, that the fair interpretation of this passage is, that these brethren had gone forth on some former occasion, commended by John to the church, and had been rejected by the influence of Diotrephes, and that now he commends them to Gaius, by whom they had been formerly entertained, and asks him to renew his hospitality to them.”
Assuming another letter was, in fact, written, we can see that in having this new letter, different information, needed for the believers to see and understand God’s intent for the church, has been recorded. Therefore, nothing is lost, and the Bible is as God had determined it to be.
Regardless which scenario is correct concerning the letter, John next says, “but Diotrephes.” The name Diotrephes comes from the alternate name of Zeus and the word trepho, meaning “to nourish.” Therefore, the name means “Nourished by Zeus,” or “Cherished by Zeus.” Of this person, nothing good is said by John. Rather, his first thought about him is that it is he “who loves to have the preeminence among them.”
The term “who loves to have the preeminence” is from the word philoproteuon. This is the only time it is used in Scripture. The word is not commenting on Diotrephes’ doctrine, but it is rather speaking of his ego leading to self-promotion.
The idea here is that Diotrephes acted like an overlord. Anything he didn’t like, he would work against it. If there was any threat to his totalitarian attitude, he would quash it. He wanted to be first in all things, and so accepting the recommendation in a letter from John (who was an apostle) would be contrary to his supposed authority. As John says in finishing the verse, Diotrephes “does not receive us.”
Imagine a denomination with a hierarchy – bishops, diocese, individual churches, etc. One could think of a church within a diocese where the pastor of the church died. One of the deacons (who was locally appointed by that pastor) decided to take control of the church. When a letter is sent by the presiding bishop, he simply says to the congregation, “This guy wants us to care for HIS missionaries, paying their way and housing them. We won’t comply!”
The fact is that he simply wants to be in control and so he convinces the congregation that what is happening is not the way it should be, even though it has always been the set standard for the denomination. When the letter is rejected, the bishop must now take further action. This is the scenario being played out as described to us by John.
Life application: An easy way to grasp the attitude of Diotrephes is to think of him starting his own church and calling it Diotrephes’ Ministries. To make a real-life comparison, turn on the TV, go to a Christian channel, and see how many ministries are named for the main person.
This, in and of itself isn’t an indication of self-promotion, but the aura around the ministry is. When the highlight of the ministry is on the person, then regardless of sound doctrine, it is a ministry of self-promotion, not the glorification of Christ Jesus. These people ignore the words of Colossians 1:18 –
“And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”
As you listen to pastors, radio or TV personalities, or read websites, be careful to look for self-promotion and then flee in the opposite direction. Why spend your time and effort learning from a bag of wind who seeks self-glorification? Instead, make sure that it is Jesus (and the word which tells us of Him) who is being exalted in the ministries you listen to and support.
Heavenly Father, help us to be wise and discerning in how we evaluate Christian ministries. Is their focus on Jesus? Or, is their focus on how we can benefit from them (prosperity gospel), or how they can benefit from us (the greedy gospel). Please guide us to know which are good ministries and which are bad. Give us discernment in this, and keep us away from supporting the wrong ones instead of those which bring glory to You. Amen.