Read Part 1.
5. Those with the DNA of Diotrephes are a divisive presence in the Body of Christ.
Since Diotrephes always had to be first, the interest of unity in Christ took a back seat to his desire for preeminence. Mark it down, when our agenda usurps the greater good of the Body of Christ, we inevitably end up causing great harm to the unity of God’s people.
Wanting to be first means having to tear down others to make ourselves look good. That could possibly mean making others look less intelligent than us. Thinking others aren’t as gifted as us. Belittling the input of others because in our hearts, we think we have the situation figured out better than they do.
Consider for a moment how much having to be first gets in the way of God-mandated unity within the local church. Take your time and ponder the truth of the following verses and how much God prioritizes the pursuit of unity:
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom. 12:4–5)
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Rom. 14:19)
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 15:5–6)
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. (Phil. 1:27)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:1–3)
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Pet. 3:8)
If you care about unity in your local church, you’ll go to great lengths to avoid the temptation to be first in all things.
6. Those with the DNA of Diotrephes have a bad attitude toward God-ordained authority.
According to 3 John 9, Diotrephes “does not acknowledge our authority.” John didn’t just have authority; he had apostolic authority—the kind we don’t see outside the canon of the completed and sufficient Scriptures. Those with the DNA of Diotrephes have a pattern of disdain toward the leaders God has sovereignly brought into their lives.
When it comes to authority, here’s a great way to bless your church: be easily pastored. Here’s another way to say it: be easy to shepherd, teach, and even lovingly rebuke. Being a thorn in your pastor’s side will only hurt you and your church’s overall ministry. (See Hebrews 13:17 for reference.)
When Christina and I were young in the Lord, we visited a new church that used a different Bible translation, worshiped with music we weren’t used to, and had a pastor who dressed differently than what we expected. Our first few weeks there, I waited for the pastor to say something unbiblical. But as the weeks went on, I realized that he was preaching the Word. This Word began to pierce my heart. The more I heard this Word, the more I realized my own heart needed critiqued more than the pastor’s performance did.
God used that experience to teach me that I was most blessed when I found less fault with the pastor and more fault with my own heart. That’s not to say pastors shouldn’t be called out on sinful patterns or actions. They should be. But overall, we would serve ourselves and families more if we were easier to pastor, if we would be quicker to examine our own spiritual shortcomings, and in turn be a blessing to our God-ordained leadership.
7. Those with the DNA of Diotrephes make baseless accusations.
John calls what Diotrephes was saying about him “nonsense” (3 John 10), conveying that Diotrephes’s words were painful or worthless. Apparently, what Diotrephes said about John and others in leadership caused great pain. John also said that Diotrephes spoke “unjustly” (NASB). This word in Greek gives the sense of “accusingly,” as in making some sort of allegation against them.
Why would Diotrephes do such a thing? Especially to an apostle who had been personally called by Jesus during His earthly ministry? John wasn’t just anyone. He was held in high regard for his strong stand against heresies. He dubbed himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He was faithful to the Lord for decades, boldly proclaiming the gospel and standing for the truth of the Word.
But for someone with the DNA of Diotrephes, that doesn’t matter. Wanting to always be first means being willing to hurt whoever stands in the way, even if that means slandering another’s reputation. It’s easier than ever today to slander someone. With a data plan or a Wi-Fi connection, along with a free social media account, a slanderous heart can have free rein. That’s a scary thought. But it happens every day in the Twittersphere and Facebook world.
We must be careful about buying into every claim we read on social media when someone is going after another person’s character. James gives us wise counsel when he tells us we should be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). It’s also important when we hear scuttlebutt about someone to carefully follow the wisdom we read in Proverbs 18:13, “The one who gives an answer before he listens—this is foolishness and disgrace for him” (CSB). This truth hits home even more a few verses later in verse 17, “The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him” (CSB).
This would be a good time for us to consider whom we listen to. It seems as if some speakers and writers want to make every church leader sound like a district manager for the Antichrist. If we find ourselves listening to them, we should reconsider whom we choose to be influenced by. We should carefully choose not only what we say, but also to whom we’re listening (Prov. 13:20).
8. Those with the DNA of Diotrephes have an unwelcoming spirit.
Third John 10 says, “He [Diotrephes] refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and put them out of the church.” Diotrephes’s desire to be preeminent produced an unwelcoming attitude. This is in direct contrast to Gaius, who was known for his hospitality and generosity. Hospitality was a contributing factor to the church flourishing in the first century; believers were hospitable and generous, especially with their homes.
A good way to measure believers’ Christlikeness is to examine how hospitable they are to God’s people. Are they welcoming? Are they generous? Do they welcome certain people? Do they shun others for reasons such as educational background, age, their neighborhood, ethnicity, marital status, political affiliation, or personality?
9. Those with the DNA of Diotrephes get in the way of others’ service to God.
Diotrephes was so self-absorbed that he went from being unwelcoming to actually stopping those who wanted to serve God. We don’t know from the text exactly the reason Diotrephes did this, but we do know that his contrarian heart was so set against these brothers that he tried to excommunicate them. No doubt, removing them from the church could pave the way for Diotrephes to have the influence he so craved. John, however, planned on setting the situation straight when he arrived.
When we spend any time around those who love to have first place, we will notice that while they claim to be godly, they’re hindering godly activities, such as making disciples and seeing local churches thrive. So we must be on guard and not allow their poison to bring us down. If someone has to slander or act ungodly toward God’s servants to get his own way, that’s a good sign that the person is bad news.
Protect Yourself and Your Church
Ministry is not for the faint of heart. Satan is a master at scheming how to destroy the church, and he often uses Diotrephes-like people to do it. The Biblical way to identify a Diotrephes is simple: look for those who demand to be preeminent in all things, to be in the place where only God belongs—on the throne of preeminence.
Do you want to protect your church? Your family? Your relationships? Guard your heart against loving to have first place.
Reposted with permission from Baptist Bulletin © Regular Baptist Press, all rights reserved.
Mike Hess serves as national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. This article is an edited excerpt from his book No Contest: Overcoming a Competitive Spirit, published by Regular Baptist Press.