“…Who Loveth to Have the Preeminence”

Jerry C. Brewer

Solomon wrote, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). That is no less true of man than any other thing “under the sun.” Men remain the same, and many are as wicked as one of whom the apostle John wrote:

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrophes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church (3 John 9-10).

Sadly, the church in our day is often subjected to the spirit of Diotrophes because, like him, men have a far greater love for themselves, their own ideas, their desires, and their prominence than they do the blood bought church of our Blessed Lord. Brother Guy N. Woods made this comment on Third John 9:

The word ‘preeminence,’ (philoproteuon, present active participle,) is derived from philoprotos, a fondness for being first; and is, alas, a disposition too often discernible in our ranks today. The spirit manifested by this man Diotrophes is wholly foreign to the New Testament and opposed to the teaching of the Lord Himself. All self-serving and personal aggrandizement must be eschewed and avoided if we would measure to the standard of primitive Christianity (Commentary On Third John, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, 1966, p. 363).

Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Men in whom the spirit of Diotrophes rules and reigns are not the servants of Christ, but of Satan. It is Satan who says, “Do what you want. Follow your own will, not Christ’s.” The first requisite of following Christ is denial of one’s own will and bending it to His. No Diotrophes, whether ancient or modern, does that.

A Diotrophes has no higher ambition than the imposition of his own will on brethren and ruining the Lord’s work in the process—even if it means destroying a congregation. Brother woods further commented,

The extent of Diotrophes’ lordship over the congregation is seen in the fact that (1) he prated (pluaron, to babble, to accuse idly and falsely) against John and his associates with wicked words, (not merely idle, but actually evil words); (2) he refused to receive the brethren who came from John; (3) he forbade others in the congregation to do so; (4) those who refused to bow to his will he expelled from membership in the congregation. This does not mean that Diotrophes was able to actually sever faithful members from the body of Christ; the Lord added them to the church (Acts 2:47), and it was obviously beyond the power of this ungodly man to turn them out of the body of Christ; but, exercising dominion over the congregation, and having imposed his will and way over the saints here, he could and did expel them from membership in it. He was an ambitious, unscrupulous, church boss, opposed alike to apostolic authority and missionary work, a servant of Satan and an angel of the devil (ibid p. 364).

This same scenario is often played out in congregations across our land today and it will surely kill them. What is the remedy? First, if a congregation has elders, they need to stop the gainsayer (Titus 1:9). The man needs to be urged to deny himself and repent. If he happens to be one of the elders, he needs to be charged “before two or three witnesses” and rebuked “before all” (1 Tim. 5:19-20). Second, if a congregation has no elders, the men must not allow themselves to be led about as sheep by a Diotrophes, but stand upon the word of God and put a stop to his self-serving activities. If they refuse to do so, they are partakers “of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).

The spirit of Diotrophes, “who loveth to have the preeminence”, has not died—and will not die, so long as men are men, for “there is no new thing under the sun.”

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Author: Editor

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