July 31st 2010

Loving To Be First

9th in a series based on 3 John

“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.”
3 John 9 (NIV)

Not everything goes smoothly in church.

Here we find that one of the leading members, some speculate a longstanding elder, Diotrephes, refused to have anything to do with the Apostle John. Note that John said he had written previously to the church—was this the first biblical epistle of John? In it he had warned against false teachers who refused to preach that Christ was fully God and man (see 1 John 4:2). Did Diotrephes reject the humanity and divinity of Christ?

It seems certain that Diotrephes undermined the ministry of John and Gaius and the brothers who were sent out as missionaries. It is unlikely that he wanted the church to be hospitable to them and for the church to work together in support of them.

One of the noteworthy points is that, although there may have been administrative and/or doctrinal disagreements, the main problem was much more personal. It was to do with position and power. Diotrephes liked to be first, and to be seen to be so, in the congregation. John, Gaius, the brothers, and the church members who looked to them were a threat to him.

Pastoral supervisors sometimes are presented with similar problems today. From time to time, but thankfully not very often, a congregational leader opposes openly the work or the teachings of the church. Sadly, as John pointed out about Diotrephes, the underlying issue can be one of influence and status. Sometimes it is also about money, which, the Bible explains, was the case with Judas Iscariot.

John was so concerned that he mentions the danger of Diotrephes to Gaius, and thus warns church members via his letter. It may have been that the believers involved had been deceived by Diotrephes into thinking that John was the problem.

Please pray for the unity of our fellowship and congregations, and that people like Diotrephes do not gain the pre-eminence.

Father, thank you for scriptures like 3 John 9 and for the warning they bring to us. Please protect our congregations from people who love to be first. In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson 

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