3 John 9-15
Diotrephes and Demetrius
We are presented with two other men in this letter: Diotrephes and Demetrius. And once again we see how trouble and personality issues roiled the early Church just as it does today. We are reminded again that the devil goes to church—for different reasons, of course.
A perennial problem in churches is leadership. The Apostle Paul gives us all the guidance we need in his letters to Timothy and Titus. And though the word is not written explicitly, still the qualities Paul lists are redolent of that most important of virtues for pastors and church leaders otherwise known as humility. Well, Diotrephes presents us with the opposite of this. He likes to “put himself first,” “refuses to welcome the brothers,” and puts people out of the church who do. But worst of all, he does not recognize John’s authority—which is the APOSTOLIC authority—and even spreads lies about him. The authority—the ONLY authority—upon which your pastor and deacons may speak, preach, teach, and act upon is the apostolic authority, which means that apostolic witness provided us in the Sacred Scriptures. Thus, this man was acting out of the height of arrogance and so unfit to lead any church.
Demetrius is different. Demetrius had “received a good testimony from everyone.” Pastors, deacons, and church leaders in general must be proved before proceeding (1 Timothy 3:6, 10). Indeed, such people must receive a good testimony from “the truth itself,” meaning that he is faithful to the revealed word of truth—the Scriptures. Unlike Demetrius, we have no apostles to add their testimony, but the testimony of a church living in obedience to Christ’s commands provides the sure word of testimony today that this man is ready to lead. John even adds a common sense test: “Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.” So take a look at the life of Diotrephes and then Demetrius and then decide; it’s not that hard.
Just like the “elect lady” of his Second Letter, he would rather cut this letter off to Gaius and save the rest for blessed personal fellowship. And notice how he closes: “The friends greet you. Greet the friends, everyone of them.” Our Lord even said, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). But the faith places friendship into an entirely different category, for the sharing of the Spirit provides a bond between brethren the pagan can never comprehend.