DIOTREPHES

The First Century Tyrant

3 John 9-12

Diotrephes was a first century church leader and, somehow, had achieved the confidence and control of some of his unsuspecting brethren and, perhaps, some spineless followers that felt more secure in the company of this DOMINEERING TYRANT than to PROVE all things for themselves and walk alone with God if necessary. This PREEMINENCE-SEEKING OVERLORD was prating against John and others with his MALICIOUS WORDS and was not content therewith. "NEITHER DID HE HIMSELF RECEIVE THE BRETHREN, and FORBID THEM THAT WOULD, and CAST THEM OUT OF THE CHURCH." If his own brethren in the congregation did not submit to his rulership and judgment pertaining to the rejection of other Christians, HE CAST THEM OUT.

No doubt, he had his SECOND LIEUTENANTS that assisted him in his leadership sufficiently enough that he could declare HIS JUDGMENTS, or THEIR JUDGMENTS, as the JUDGMENTS OF THE CHURCH AND OF GOD.

Those who questioned or objected to his directives were sure to become recipients of his malicious words, being charged with such things as: not keeping unity with their brethren, sowing discord, being independent, being proud, causing division, walking disorderly, being heretical etc.

The end result for them was either agree and go along with his prescribed plan or be cast out. In his heartless cruelty he would cast out some of his brethren causing tremendous devastation and heartache to them in order to hold his SELF-APPOINTED place of AUTHORITY and PREEMINENCE.

LOVE OF PREEMINENCE

In the record, the Word of God reveals the true motivation of this prideful leader, Diotrephes, as being his LOVE OF PREEMINENCE AMONG THEM. Contrary to his claims of faithfulness and spiritually, his conduct betrayed him in the eyes of those who considered him in the light of Godís Word. The Lord pulled back the curtain of this manís wicked heart and allows all who read to positively know that his conduct was evident token of his proud and covetous desires. The recognition of this same conduct in modern times should dictate to the careful observer as having the same deceitful cause.

WORTHY TO SUFFER

Gaius, to whom John was writing, and Demetrius may have been among those, that were willing to receive John and others and may have experienced the wrath of this TYRANNICAL OVERLORD. John states, "Demetrius hath good report of all men and of the TRUTH itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true." 3 John v-12.

Some of those Christians who were cast out may have been discouraged and heartbroken, finding leadership abuse to be a greater trial than had been encountered from those who were without. They will receive a reward at the judgment seat of Christ that will amply repay for the tears they shed, the burdens they carried, and the loved ones they lost. They would not have chosen these rewards at the expense of their brethren; nonetheless, they will be rewarded.

IF IT HAD BEEN YOU

If you had been in that congregation, would your doctrinal persuasion cause you to have stood with Diotrephes? Did the decision by the leader, Diotrephes, to avoid some other Christians, cause submission and obedience to him and his judgments to become the will of God to the entire congregation? Did his decision make Godís will less binding? Were those saints less responsible to obey the Lord? By the inspiration of God, John said to Gaius, "Follow not that which is evil, but that which is good." (3 John v-11). It was impossible for Gaius to be subject to Diotrephes without following the evil he fostered. Those that supported Diotrephes in such avoidance were following that which was evil rather than that which was good. Their choice was to serve the Lord Jesus Christ or to serve a clerical overlord.

UNPREPARED

Why were they not all willing to suffer such persecution as might come upon them from their own brethren for the cause of Christ and His word? Wasnít the cause sufficient enough? Were these deceived souls so BRAINWASHED that they would not stand against such TYRANNY, seeing their brethren being cast aside, one by one, thinking that their subordination to this leader constituted safety for them and their families, until the very day that time and events caused their own rejection? What would it have taken to have awakened them to the reality of such cultic practices and to take a godly stand against it? If they had stood true to God earlier, perhaps they could have prevented its development to such a regrettable extreme.

It may be that they did not prepare themselves to know what to do and felt that they had to depend on this EVER-CONFIDENT and ASSERTIVE leader. It may be that their FEAR OF MAN and their fear of being rejected caused them to feign loyalty without personal conviction from Godís word.

Regardless to the reasons Diotrephes gave for rejecting John and those with him, he was desperately wrong. Likewise his subsequent rejection of others, who were willing to receive them, was a devilish attempt to chasten and to force his brethren into submission under his clerical preeminence. Remember, he was prating against the brethren with "malicious" words, perhaps, explaining that his discipline was his FAITHFULNESS to those brethren, whom he had warned and rejected, and that his actions were the disciplinary judgment of God.

MIS-TAUGHT

Some of those saints probably thought that the Lord would somehow correct the problem, beginning with the leaders. They would feel out of place to think they could please the Lord in an opposing or corrective action unless the leaders had first approved of it. Perhaps, they had been well indoctrinated in the idea, that the Lord always works through their spiritual leaders and it would be prideful on their part to walk independently in the truth that they saw. Those that submitted to Diotrephes could wait for years saying, that if it were wrong, they would simply wait on the Lord to correct it, while they refused to walk by faith or obey the truth of God. Their submission to him supported the crime and made them an accomplice instead of a restraint. It was their responsibility to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and to obey their heavenly "FATHER" instead of their "BIG BROTHER."

FEAR OF MAN

To oppose this tyrant could result in being abandoned and rejected by the dearest friends they had in the world, possibly, including some of their relatives and immediate family members. To condone or support such a system of PRIESTCRAFT was to contribute to its continued devastation, heartache, shame, and disgrace.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." Proverbs 9:10.

"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. "Many seek the rulerís favor; but every manís judgment cometh from the Lord" Proverbs, 29:25-26.

The man of God must fear the Lord (instead of man), walk by faith, and obey His word, trusting in the Lord for the result.

STRAIN AT A GNAT AND SWALLOW A CAMEL

Since preeminence and over-lordship was the driving force behind this power-hungry hypocrite, there is little doubt that he would rather be merciful and forgiving to those found guilty of extremely severe personal failures as long as they confess their sins to him and pledge their support of him, rather than condone any insubordination from anyone that had no such personal failures. For those that dared to challenge his lofty appointment, his mercy and gentleness could quickly give way to harsh warnings and cruel chastisements. Men like Demetrius and Gaius, who walked by faith in the fear of God, were cast out while the spiritually weak, the morally weak, and the compromising followers would be retained to support the rule of man. In the rule of Diotrephes, Demetrius or anyone who walked in singleness of heart toward the Lord would be deemed as a threat to his preeminence. This overlord did not want other brethren to be his equal; therefore, any possible acceptance or restoration of Demetrius to that assembly of Christians could not be expected from Diotrephes, without a compromised commitment of total submission to this "self-proclaimed superior." Without such, there could not be a future restoration of a cast-out brother to a useful place of liberty and service to the Lord. Even with a commitment of subordination, he could only be condoned under careful scrutiny until he could prove himself to be a loyal supporter of the leadership and always a follower. Any such "unity-at-all-cost" or "unity-in-error" is a miserable disgrace to God and a blatant rejection of His word as John by inspiration informed Gaius.

THE RULE OF TYRANNY

In his exalted position, along with his enslaving concept of church UNITY and ORDER, Diotrephesí word was not to be questioned and he enforced his beliefs upon others with overbearing disregard for their spiritual growth and convictions. From his POPISH prospective and his self-serving interpretation of scripture, he judged all opposition as an attack on his position and rebellion against his authority. Therefore, any attempt to correct him would be interpreted by him as WALKING DISORDERLY, SOWING DISCORD, CAUSING DIVISION, HERETICAL, etc.

1. Did God direct anyone to submit to the judgment of this local church?

2. Did God direct anyone to submit to this foremost church leader?

3. If someone would not "HEAR" this church, did the Bible instruct others to let him be as a "heathen man and a publican?" Matt: 18:17.

4. Was this church the Supreme Court in judgment matters?

5. Could one submit to this church leader without sinning against God?

6. Was this leader open to communicate with the apostle John?

Christian Brother, the Bible did not teach anyone to be in submission to Diotrephes when he was wrong to the point of walking in his sin. God holds each one responsible for his deeds.

Take another look at the text of 3 John 9-12.

1. Who caused the division and offence contrary to the doctrine of God? Rom. 16: 17-18.

2. Who was the heretic? Tit. 3: 10.

3. Who destroyed the unity of the church? 1 Cor.l:l0.

4. Who walked disorderly? Phil. 3:18-19.

5. Who did that which was evil in the sight of God? 3 John v-11.

6. Who did not keep the unity of the Spirit? Eph. 4:1-6.

Oh, child of God, hear the answer from the voice of God, saying, "BELOVED, FOLLOW NOT THAT WHICH IS EVIL, but that which is good." 3 John v-11.

HUMAN RULE REPLACED THE RULE OF GOD

This local church must have had its beginning by the efforts of one or more of the early disciples, being established in truth and love, yet this church had deteriorated into sectarianism and cultism. Those Christians were being forced to OWN Diotrephes as "MASTER." Matt. 23:8-10. Some of those blood-bought, heaven-bound believers, who had received eternal life and had been placed in the spiritual body of Christ, had committed their allegiance to another authority and to the required profession, "I AM OF DIOTREPHES." (1 Cor. 1:10-15). They were required to OWN Diotrephes with exclusion of all those he had cast out. They must act as though they no longer had need of those Christians (1 Cor. 12:12-27), therefore they had become sectarian. Inasmuch as their allegiance was demanded under penalty of excommunication, the infiltrated leadership had become cultic also. In reality of practice, that church had become "THE CHURCH OF DIOTREPHES." They needed not to officially adopt the title, because the very essence of sectarianism is "SUBJECTION TO MEN" or adherence to "MAN'S AUTHORITY" in the place of "GOD'S AUTHORITY." Church leaders are not the Supreme Court in judgment matters as some falsely teach. Leaders do not have the authority of God over judgment matters as VISE GODS in His absence or in His behalf. Any such claim is essentially the same as the authority claimed by the Pope of Rome and upholds the same principal as the Roman doctrine of "THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE POPE and OF THE CHURCH," disregarding any higher authority available to men on earth.

Ironically, the epistle written TO ROME declared, "LET GOD BE TRUE and EVERY MAN A LIAR" Rom. 3:4.

Again Christ said, "He that REJECTETH ME and RECEIVETH NOT MY WORDS, hath ONE that judgeth him: the WORD THAT I HAVE SPOKEN, the SAME shall judge him in the last day" John 12:48.

And again Christ said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but MY WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY." MATT. 24:35.

Church leaders (so-called rulers), who make abusive judgments will not be the judge on JUDGMENT DAY. They will pay the penalty for their sins, even as those, who followed their pernicious judgments.

THE REIGN OF DARKNESS

The doctrine of the "church being God's Supreme Court in judgment matters" is the Roman doctrine that fostered about 1200 years of the most severe abuses, persecutions, tortures, and deaths of Christians this world has ever known. Consistent to their professed supremacy, they took away the Holy Scriptures from the common man, claiming that "IGNORANCE is the MOTHER of DEVOTION," and "the HIGHEST form of service is that of BLIND OBEDIENCE."

This condition continued until the sixteenth century and only after bitter wars and the loss of many lives, was there a regaining of a degree of freedom to serve and worship the Lord according to one's own conscience and conviction.

If God's people could only perceive the HORRIBLE DANGER and the DEVASTATING HISTORY of its practice, they would immediately reject it and pray to God to protect them from its grasp. It defies the imagination for any informed person to willingly submit to such a system.

GODíS ANSWER

A study of the text would not be complete without a sober realization of God's instructions to those caught in this man's quest for preeminence. The Lord's instruction to the well beloved Gaius was, "Beloved, FOLLOW NOT THAT WHICH IS EVIL, but that which is GOOD." That was the unquestionable will of God and those Christians should not have followed or obeyed their most prominent leader, even for the sake of unity. If they did, it could only be unity in error at best. Strong religious disciplinarians often count faithful adherence to leadership as the measure to determine loyalty to God and find it very difficult to respect anyone who does not share or appreciate their views.

Thank God there were some that were willing to OBEY THE WORD OF GOD and suffer for the cause of Christ and His Word and be cast out, rather than be a MAN-FEARING "YES MAN." GOD HAD SPOKEN, thereby nullifying their responsibility to submit to a conflicting clerical demand, whether it was great or small. The truth of God had inspired and motivated the GOD-CONSCIOUS and the GOD-FEARING man into a confident obedience to GOD.

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Cor. 10: 13.

"... and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." 1 Cor. 3:8.

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" 1 Pet. 1:7.

"For this is thankworthy, that a man for conscience toward God will endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:" 1 Pet. 2:19- 21.

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye: for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified" 1 Pet. 4:12-14.

"Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed: but let him glorify God on this behalf" 1 Pet. 4:16.

"--- when they (the chief priest and the council) had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were COUNTED WORTHY to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they CEASED NOT to TEACH and preach Jesus Christ." Acts 5:40-42.

Indeed they obeyed God, rather than man, and experienced the joy of walking by faith toward God and being counted worthy to suffer for His name.

The biblical record does not record the end result of this matter or of Diotrephes. If he did not repent and if some continued to follow him, his leadership would become different from the Papal enforcement of the Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Councils of the Roman Catholic Church, only by degree. In either case, such rule enslaved the souls of all them that submitted to it. Contrarily, if this clerical overlord repented of his evil deeds or if his domineering efforts were rendered ineffective, you can be assured that the Lord brought deliverance through the faithfulness of Christians that valued the CAUSE OF CHRIST and of CHRISTIAN HOMES greater than their own personal comfort.

In reference to Diotrephes, John said, "Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth ---" (v 10). Thus he inferred that he would expose him and his deeds as surely as he had already begun to do in his letter. He had already identified the exact sins of abuse on fellow Christians, had named Diotrephes as the person responsible, had revealed his motivation as the love of preeminence, and had given specific instruction not to follow this evil.

The apostle John didnít exercise lordship over others, misusing a doctrine of "obedience to rulers," and neither did he justify Diotrephes for any such abuse. In other words, John said, His deeds are evil! Donít submit to this church leader! Donít obey him, regardless of his claim of being a church ruler! Receive the brethren and donít cast them out! Walk in the truth and donít forget the deeds of Diotrephes! Diotrephes is wrong! And those that support him are wrong! The number of followers had nothing to do with determining the truth or the error!

The risk of spreading the knowledge of this scandalous event did not prevent John from insisting upon open rejection of such clerical demands. Neither should Gaius disobey Godís word through the apostle John to escape a humiliating scene or to avoid persecution. The truth must be honored, evil must be denounced, and abused brethren must be defended and delivered. If the Lord be God, serve HIM!

"Ye are bought with a price: BE NOT ye the SERVANTS of men" 1 Cor. 7:22-23.

"For it is written As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" Rom. 14: 11-12.

"--- for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" Matt. 4:10.

God has called His children to bow in humble submission to the SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY of our MASTER and LORD, the authority which makes us free indeed from the clerical demands of those who desire to have the preeminence and free from the enslavement of the doctrine and commandments of men.

CONCLUSION

The motivation and method of administering church discipline in the foregoing text is from the same root cause that has caused men to lust after authority and power throughout the history of man. Christ told His disciples, "Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so SHALL IT NOT BE among YOU: but whosoever of YOU will be great among you, shall be your minister (one who serves): And whosoever of YOU will be the chiefest, shall be servant (bond servant) of all." Mk. 10:42-44.

The study text was the only biblical record in which a church leader, not only would not receive other Christians but also, cast out those who would have received them (sometimes called a domino marking). This practice was clearly condemned in the text by the apostle John and in no case was the "domino marking" taught.

Currently, extreme domination, including the "domino marking," is cruelly enforced upon the congregation of a Joshua, Texas church, formally led by Jack Langford and currently led by Tom Collins and Jeff Grove. The leaders demand submission to themselves as those, who rule over them under the threat of excommunication. Those, who challenge their abusive discipline, are denounced with malicious words and are "marked to be avoided," effectively casting them out of the church. They are automatically "avoided" by associated congregations in other locations. Those in the congregation, that do not observe their "shunning" discipline, are likewise "marked to be avoided" in the "domino marking" fashion. This cultic discipline, fostered by the leadership, is not a normal "withdrawal of fellowship" from church attendance or participation. It requires everyone, including their descendant children, to avoid them, even in such things as family visits and common meals. Children have refused to attend their parentís funerals unless their leaders are in charge of the funeral. The leaders have supported children in preventing their parents from attending their weddings and from seeing their children. The leaders require the descendant children to dishonor their godly parents in direct violation of God's word (Eph. 6:2 and Mk. 7:6-13). Parents are required to observe the same extreme discipline against their children and grand-children as well. The avoidance is said to be the last admonition and any additional admonition is deemed a "marking offence," thus all communication is stopped. Reconciliation can come only by first giving broken confession and submission to the leaders. And they call this, "Christianity."

Proponents of this article have made numerous but unsuccessful efforts to communicate constructively with the leaders of the Joshua, Texas church mentioned above and with the leaders of associated congregations about their abusive domination. The apostle Paul said, "Not for that we have dominion over your faith." (2 Cor. 1:24.) The Scriptures were given for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God (every Christian) may be perfect (mature) (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Scriptures teach the common Christian even as the church leader. Each person is responsible to walk in the truth as the word of God directs him. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5). Church leaders are not "rulers" in the church to which every one must "submit" and "obey" in blind obedience, or else be cast out! Christians do not have to be "right" with the preacher to be "right" with God! "To his own MASTER, he standeth or falleth." (Rom. 14:4). By faith he pleases God (Heb. 11:6); by faith he is justified and has peace with God (Rom. 5:1). In faith he walks by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Therefore his faith must be in God and his obedience to God, not in Pope, priest or preacher.

M. D. - P. O. Box 37122, Fort Worth, TX 76117 millindun@sbcglobal.net

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