Loving to Have the Preeminence


By Don Ruhl


A. T. Robertson, a famous Greek Scholar and Baptist preacher, once wrote an article about Diotrephes, the man who is rebuked in Third John, and 25 Baptist deacons resigned from various churches, because they thought that Mister Robertson was writing about them.

Perhaps this attitude of loving to have the preeminence is more prevalent than we think.

John wrote,

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church (3Jo 9, 10).

What was the problem of Diotrephes? He was a man who loved to have the preeminence. As brother Troy Cummings once described Diotrephes, he was a man who was going to rule or ruin. He would either have his way, or he would wreak havoc in the congregation.

There seems to be such extremes in the church, even within the local congregation. There are men who do not want to do anything, especially anything having to do with leadership. On the other extreme men like Diotrephes desire to have the preeminence.

Why can we not find men who are humble, but who want to lead?

Diotrephes’ problem was also that he would not receive the apostles. Likewise, we ought to suspect someone who will not receive the writing of the apostles. The apostles were the official representatives of Jesus Christ. They taught what He wanted taught. When they issued a command, it was not from their own authority, but it was coming from Jesus Christ, and its accuracy was assured by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore he who rejects the teachings of the apostles rejects Jesus Christ.

If John managed to make it to the congregation, then he would call to mind the deeds of Diotrephes, that is, the malicious words of this power-hungry man. They needed to be pointed out. We must be made aware of those who seek the preeminence, and we must see the evidence. Not only did Diotrephes speak malicious words, but also he did not receive the brethren.

These may be the very brethren whom Gaius was receiving. Those who wanted to receive those brethren; Diotrephes would forbid them and even have them disfellowshipped.

A man like this has no idea what it means to have the mind of Christ, and to seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace that Jesus Christ be glorified in all things.


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