Ministry Resources

60 Seconds – Diotrephes

Author: Dave Arnold

Julius von Schnorr portrayed vividly the consequences of rebellion in his picture “Saul Rejected As King.”

In the background is a medieval city which is a rather common occurrence in the paintings of European artists. In the foreground, we see King Saul in the act of rending Samuel’s mantle in an effort to detain him. The picture portrays action and strong emotion. Samuel seems to say to the bewildered and desperate Saul, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you” (1 Samuel 15:28). Thus, we see the consequences of rebellion.

In book of 3 John, we find the man “Diotrephes,” of whom it is written that he “loved to have the preeminence” (v. 9), meaning “to be fond of being first.” William P. Barker wrote of him, “Diotrephes was a troublemaker for John the elder…(he) challenged John’s authority.” Diotrephes was a man of a rebellious heart, who refused to submit to God’s delegated authority, desiring to rule the entire church. Wuest wrote, “The custom in the early Church was for a Christian Greek to discard his pagan name, and to take a Christian name at his baptism, the Christian name often being descriptive of his Christian character, such as seen in the case of Epaphroditus, whose name means, ‘charming.’ He was a charming Christian. Diotrephes had never changed his name, although he was a professing Christian.” Sadly, he refused to deal with his carnal nature of pride and ego. According to verse 10, he was given to slander and disrespect of God’s anointed. He tried to act like a little Caesar. Pride and self-pleasing led to the dethronement of Christ. The word “pre-eminence” occurs twice in Scripture. Here, and in Colossians 1:18, where Paul speaks of Christ having “pre-eminence.” Diotrephes substituted self for Christ.

A Christian scholar attempted to write a denominational article on Diotrephes. The editor told him that twenty-five church members protested the article to show their resentment against being personally attacked! In 1 Thessalonians Paul 5:14, Paul says to “warn those who walk unruly,” and in 2 Thessalonians he speaks of those who “walk disorderly” (3:6 and 11). The Greek word for both “unruly” and “disorderly” refers to soldiers marching out of order or quitting the ranks, thus being disorderly. Its original meaning was that of riot and rebellion.

Dr. G. Campbell Morgan said, “The whole truth about this man is seen in one of those illuminative sentences in which the character of a man is so often revealed in Scripture. ‘Diotrephes, who loved to have the pre-eminence.’ That is the essential violation of power, for ‘love…seeks not its own.’ This is an instance of heterodoxy of spirit and temper, rather than intellect. There is no evidence that this man was teaching false doctrine, but he was not submissive to authority. As is always the case, the un-submissive one becomes the greatest tyrant, and thus, by disobedience, he manifests his lack of love.”

Take just 60 seconds, and have something to think about all day! Stimulating articles written by Dave Arnold.

What's Next

We would love to answer any question you have or help suggest next steps on your journey.