3 John 9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
Within a few short years, the early church was already seeing many of the problems that we see today. The apostle John in our opening verse speaks of a man named Diotrephes who was refusing to show hospitality; not because he was trying to protect the truth, but because he loved to have “preeminence” among those around him.
Preeminence is the idea of marked superiority, of being the most noticeable and of the highest rank or position.
Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (NKJV)
“He” in this verse is Jesus Christ. Only Jesus is preeminent. Any human who competes for the preeminence that only Christ deserves sets themselves up directly against God. Not only are we NOT to seek preeminence, we are to follow the example of John the Baptist and pursue just the opposite:
John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease. (NKJV)
So how does one “love to have preeminence”? Let’s start in verse 10 of 3rd John…
3 John 10 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. (NKJV)
Diotrephes was “prating” against the apostles with malicious words. We don’t use the word prating much today, but NOT because it wouldn’t be applicable! It means to pout, or to talk long and idly about something. It is the idea of a constant critical griping and undermining of someone or something.
Maybe we don’t use the word “prating” anymore
because it doesn’t happen in our churches today… right?
Diotrephes wasn’t just satisfied with badmouthing the apostles, he refused to show them hospitality as well. On top of that he forbade those under his authority to show kindness to the apostles even if they wanted to, and if they disobeyed him, Diotrephes would put them out of the church. When I read this I wonder how one man rose to such a position of power in the church that he could single-handedly decide who is welcome and who is not, and who would be put out of the church for disagreeing or disobeying with what he wanted.
As a side note, this is one of the main reasons why the Biblical model for church structure is that a plurality of godly Elders are to shepherd the church. When one man has power and control over a church such as we often see today with churches who have “The Pastor” (who is the sole decision maker and final authority), then there is the very real danger of a “Diotrephes” situation occurring.
Now that may not sit well with my readers who are in a church that is modeled this way, or for my Pastor-readers who themselves are the sole and final decision maker at their church, but it does not change the plain reality of Scripture that warns us of man’s predisposition for preeminence nor does it negate the clear Scriptural model of church organization that calls for a plurality of Elders to oversee the congregation (Acts 14.23).
So we see that Diotrephes, who obviously had control and power over his church, was pouting and grumbling about the Apostles because they threatened his superiority. Not being content with merely grumbling, he refused to show them hospitality and booted out of the church anyone who did.
So what is the application for us today? For those in leadership in the church, the application is obvious. But what about the rest of us? To seek preeminence is the desire to want to raise your status and visibility among those around you. Very few people are NOT guilty of this to some degree. What are some of the ways this is manifested?
The Desire to Be First
Preeminence can come through wanting to be first, to be noticed and recognized for who and what you are. It’s the idea of being looked upon as the best, or the most successful, or the “go to guy”. It can show up in the desire to want to be publicly recognized, to have everyone know what a “wonderful” person that you are. It might be the feeling of wanting the Pastor or preacher to “casually” mention something you did to the congregation; or have the Sunday school teacher point out your accomplishment or service to those in class.
The desire to be first is any feeling, act, desire or attempt that we make to call attention to ourselves when in fact the only person who deserves attention is Jesus Christ.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are times for recognition, thanks and acknowledgment; but it is never proper for us to seek this for ourselves. We are to graciously seek it for others when appropriate and rest assured that God is all the recognition and thanks that we need.
Seeking preeminence revolves around the mentality of self-centeredness. Everything is about me. When I am seeking preeminence, I’m filtering everything that occurs, everything I do, and everything everyone else does through how it affects my rise to prominence.
SELF centeredness is exactly what it sounds like: SELF-center-edness. Of course when you are self-centered, you cannot be Christ centered. So to the degree that you or I are self-centered it parallels the degree to which we seek preeminence for ourselves; because to be self centered is to live for self, not Christ.
This applies across the board in our entire life, not just in our involvement at church.
Self Promoting Demagoguery
Well that’s a mouthful. What is demagoguery? It means a leader who makes use of popular prejudice, false claims and promises in order to gain power. A demagogue is a person who plays on people’s prejudices against each other. We see this often with politicians who use the prejudices of the masses for their own desire to be elected or retain power. They may “play” blacks against whites, women against men, or poor against rich for example. It doesn’t matter how damaging, or even untrue, their words are as long as it serves the purpose of getting or retaining power.
In a church environment this can be manifested by stirring up discontent toward certain people or leaders; by “pointing out” those things that are lacking in the church or in a certain person; or in the case of a church leader by making promises or claims for the sole purpose of bolstering your own position of power.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this only applies to church leaders. The average church member can be quite adept at building their own little powerbase for influence inside of the church. Seeking preeminence is in no way limited to the leaders of the church. Any person can be guilty of this.
My main point is this: only Jesus Christ deserves preeminence among us who claim Him. Only He is worthy to be elevated and lifted up.
Examine your life for any way that you are seeking recognition, power, influence and adoration from your fellow Christian brothers and sisters. To any degree that you are, no matter how small, then like Diotrephes who “loves to have preeminence among them”, you are seeking the preeminence that belongs only to Jesus Christ.
Let it not be said of you this day, that you are seeking to rob Jesus of that which only He deserves; but let it be said that you live your life in the same manner as John the Baptist, “I must decrease and Christ must increase”.
Lord, Help us to decrease and live lives that elevate Jesus Christ. Help us to examine our hearts today and discern anything we are doing that is seeking preeminence that belongs only to our Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Have you ever examined your life for signs of seeking preeminence? Are you involved in any little groups or factions at church that seek to gain influence and power? Do you find yourself seeking to be recognized or elevated in any way above others? Do you want to be the one who gets noticed? Do you feel superior to your Brothers and sisters and Christ? Do you withhold hospitality or kindness to someone who threatens your popularity or position of power?
Application: The seeking of power, status and recognition within the church began very quickly after the church was established. After 2000 years of practice, men have become quite refined and professional in the art of loving preeminence. Examine your life carefully and asked God to reveal to you at any ways that you may be seeking to draw attention to yourself, to achieve recognition, or to elevate yourself and status among your fellow Christians. Do not seek those things which only belong to the One who saved you.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?