Gaius was justifiably concerned about the disruptive influence of Diotrephes. He was concerned because Diotrephes’ behavior was affecting him personally where he lived. He was being discouraged in fulfilling his personal ministry to support missions. Diotrephes was not only behaving with a sectarian spirit, he was disrupting the mission function of the universal body of Christ. While Gaius sought to live the gospel by supporting the preaching of the gospel, he was being threatened by Diotrephes who sought to discourage others from supporting traveling evangelists.
We must notice carefully how John established the foundation upon which he would eventually judge Diotrephes’ behavior to be both divisive, disruptive and evil. John made the following statement in order to encourage Gaius, as well as identify the organic function of the body: “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you” (3 Jn 3).
There were traveling evangelists moving among the early disciples in their ministry to preach the gospel to the unbelievers. Those who had visited Gaius eventually made their way to John. They reported to John that Gaius gave them accommodation, as well as supported them financially to go on to the next point of preaching. Therefore, John wanted to encourage Gaius with the following introductory comment: “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren [evangelists] and especially for strangers” (3 Jn 5).
John’s introduction in the letter was directed specifically to encourage Gaius in the midst of his turmoil with Diotrephes. He wanted to encourage Gaius to continue with his personal responsibility to evangelize the world through those whom he supported.
The reason for this encouragement was obvious. Since the evangelists went forth (1) for the sake of preaching the name of Jesus, (2) while they took up no contributions from those to whom they preached, it was necessary that (3) local brethren partner with them financially in order that they continue to preach the gospel (3 Jn 7,8). John encouraged Gaius to continue “doing well” in supporting these evangelists. Diotrephes, however, was disrupting the flow of traveling evangelists among the disciples. He was trying to stop the supply line of finances to support missions.
In order to identify the disruptive efforts of Diotrephes, the Holy Spirit gives us a list of characteristics that identify the personality and behavior of the one who would seek to call disciples after themselves, and thus hinder the preaching of the gospel (At 20:30). This would be the leader who would disrupt God’s system of the function of the organic body to reach throughout the world with the message of the gospel. From 3 John 9,10, the following is a summation of both the character and behavior of Diotrephes to disrupt the mission responsibilities of the body:
- Diotrephes loved to be first among the disciples. He craved notoriety.
- Diotrephes did not receive (support) the apostles or anyone who might challenge his position of authority. He was so locally focused on his ministry that he could not see lost souls beyond his locality.
- The deeds of Diotrephes were contrary to the purpose of the church because his efforts resulted in the loss of souls, for he discouraged both the missionaries and those, as Gaius, who would support them (3 Jn 11).
- In order to convince others not to receive and support the traveling evangelists (missionaries), Diotrephes slandered those who would threaten his lordship over those whom he dominated. Through slander he hoped to recruit a group of oppositionists who would stand with him in opposing any transient evangelist who might be passing through their area.
- Diotrephes did not receive (support) the brethren who were traveling about preaching the gospel, and thus he discouraged others from doing so.
- Diotrephes intimidated any person of the group over which he lorded in order that they also not receive (support) any apostle or evangelist whom he could not dominate.
- Diotrephes lorded over those whom he seized control by threatening them with excommunication from his group.
[Next in series: January 6]