3 John 1: 9, 10
I wrote to the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, receives us not.…
I wrote unto the Church: but Diotrephes, etc.
I. THE CHARACTER OF DIOTREPHES BRIEFLY STATED. "Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them." We do not know who or what this man was beyond what is stated in our text. Whether he was pastor, elder, deacon, or other office-bearer in the Church, we cannot tell. Whatever he was in other respects, we know that he was ambitious of the highest place and of the greatest power in the Church: he would be first and chief of all, or he would be nothing. An evil and dangerous character in any one. "Before honour is humility." "A man's pride shall bring him low; but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit." "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord." "Pride goeth before destruction," etc. "Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister [or, 'servant']; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant [or, 'bondservant']; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto," etc. The chiefship is to be given, not to him who loveth to be first, but to him who most humbly and faithfully serves others. "For every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." "Humility is the surest path to exaltation." "The highest honour is won by the deepest humility." He who will be first of all, or nothing, will in the end be last and lowest of all.
II. THE CHARACTER OF DIOTREPHES ILLUSTRATED IN HIS CONDUCT,
1. He rejected the highest commendation. "I wrote somewhat unto the Church: but Diotrephes... receiveth us not." He would not recognize the authority of St. John, and rejected the letter of commendation which the apostle had sent to the Church. Neither would he receive the missionaries, and that probably because St. John commended them, and he would acknowledge no one to be greater than himself in the Church to which he belonged. He was determined "that not the apostle, but himself, should rule the Church."
2. He defamed the fairest reputation. "Prating against us with wicked words." Here are two evils, and one worse than the other.
(1) Loquacity. "Prating" - running on with speech. "The reproaches were mere tattle, worth nothing, irrelevant." "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." "Be slow to speak." "If any man bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain." Beware of the slavery of the tongue, and the sin of gab.
(2) Slander. "With wicked words." The holiest man is exposed to the venom of the tongue of the slanderer. Arrogance leads to terrible extremes; it dares to calumniate the most beautiful-spirited apostle. When a man has done wrong to another, he finds it necessary either to confess the wrong or to say false and wicked things against him he has wronged, hoping thereby to justify himself. So Diotrephes prated against St. John with wicked words. Therefore beware of the first wrong step. The slanderer frequently assails the best of men. Our Lord was thus attacked. "A gluttonous man and a wine-bibber." "He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the demons casteth he out the demons."
"No might nor greatness in mortality
Can censure 'scape; back-wounding calumny
The whitest virtue strikes: what king so strong
Can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue?"
"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
Thou shalt not escape calumny."
(Ibid.) Be not dismayed if you are thus assailed. Loathe this sin.
3. He prohibited the exercise of a sacred privilege and duty. "Neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth," etc. He would neither receive the missionaries himself nor allow others to do so. "The dog in the manger" is the best exponent of his spirit and conduct. He prevented some from doing two things which are at once duties and privileges:
(1) exercising hospitality to the "brethren and strangers;"
(2) aiding them in their work of evangelization.
How terribly evil was the course he pursued! He injured the apostle, the missionaries, those who would have received them, those to whom they were sent, the whole Church, and the Church's Lord; and yet he was a member of the Church, and the chief man in it! He went so far as to expel from the Church those who would have entertained the evangelists. "And casteth them out of the Church."
III. THE CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF DIOTREPHES CONDEMNED. In this letter they are justly censured. And further rebuke is referred to: "If I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth," etc. There is nothing vindictive in this. The apostle would vindicate his own authority and the commission of the missionaries, enlighten the Church, and rebuke Diotrephes. "There are awkward men in the Church; men who, if they have any grace at all, have so much of the devil in them still that their grace has but little control over them. Good men should resist such persons. It may be very pleasant to talk of dealing with them in a spirit of charity, and being gentle with them, and forbearing and kind. Up to a certain point this is perfectly right. There is a work which compassion has to do; there is a sphere in which pity may be called into active exercise; at the same time, we are to mark those who cause divisions and offences, and to avoid them; and there is a certain class of men on whom pity has no effect, and compassion is lost; and the only thing which can be done is to 'deliver them over unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme'" (Dr. Joseph Parker). One masterful, power-loving man in a Church may work incalculable mischief and injury; therefore
(1) let us guard against the presence or growth of such a spirit in ourselves;
(2) let us take heed that we afford no encouragement or countenance to such a spirit in others. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.