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Demanding preeminence

Does Diotrephes attend your church? Consider the words of the Apostle John in 3 John 1:9-10 NIV, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.”

Diotrephes was an egotistical pest in an established church when the Apostles were serving as overseers. Probably a converted Gentile, he became a negative force among the membership. In this brief verse, we learn that Diotrephes demanded to be foremost in the church, stood against being accountable to the overseers, spread hateful gossip against the leadership, and refused to support any efforts to help the church increase attendance. He preferred that the church would remain stagnant and submissive to his control.

The Apostle John states in 3 John 1:9, in the King James version, that Diotrephes “loveth to have the preeminence among them.” This was not a compliment. At the best, Diotrephes was out of order. But the Scripture infers that his actions were deeper than just innocent error. In today's terminology, preeminence means prominence, superiority, or domination. But this Bible word meant pride and violent jealousy.

Over the years, the term “The Sin of Diotrephes” has emerged referring to those who are involved in church ministries that desire to dominate and control the church. They often act in pride and arrogance while commanding support among influential members. Their ambitions for control, swathed in a spirit of greed, lead them to crush opposition, even if it comes from accredited leadership.

Diotrephes was a kingdom builder, but he was not building Christ’s Kingdom. The church had become his personal enterprise. His selfish ambition and wanton covetousness reminds us of the works of Satan when he challenged God for supremacy.

Several years ago a candidate for Minister of Music met with me for an interview. This candidate had amazing skills, excellent references, and noteworthy accomplishments. After meeting in my office, we walked into the Sanctuary to finish our deliberations in prayer. The candidate stepped onto the platform and said, “This is where I want to rule and reign.” Fail. That platform belonged to the Lord, alone.

Proverbs 6:16-18 lists the things that God abhors. Diotrephes checked every box! It is important that the Sin of Diotrephes be taught and avoided. Too many churches have been crippled by those who defy God by pampering themselves.

Give Christ preeminence (Colossians 1:18). Pray for your church and leadership. Support your pastor with a spirit of humility, while seeking unity, revival, and winning lost souls to Jesus.


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