“I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.” (3 John 1:9)
John was the last remaining disciple of Jesus who had physically walked with Jesus. He was writing to a church in or around Pergamum. As John opens his third letter to this particular group of believers, he commends Gaius for his hospitality to fellow missionaries. However, the interesting verse comes in 3 John 1:9.
John is calling out Diotrephes for his self-seeking ambitions. I began to research just how much modern Christians know about this man. Most of the research I found was outright cruel. This poor man was the topic of many hate sermons about manipulative pastors. Therefore, I began thinking what could turn this man of God into a self seeking oppressive tyrant?
I always remember two quotes when it comes to the idea of “power.”
“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”-John Acton
“There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those to weak to seek it” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Professor Quirrel
It seems that this Diotrephes suffered from a hunger for power. As, I read through critical articles about him I found some interesting opinions about him. Such as in one article, “Diotrephes had taken a position of control over the church and did not receive these brothers or John’s ministry. Apparently, he did not want anyone else having an influence over the church because he had taken control of the church and did not want interference.” (http://www.eliezercall.com/the-heresy-of-diotrephes.html) He tasted power and authority. In this particular text, Diotrephes is rejecting John’s authority as the forefather of the current church. Also, in this time, one person did not have complete control in the dealings of the church. This complete power was not tolerated in the early church, and for this reason John seemed to be addressing this particular issue at this church because some corruption had crept into the body of believers. (Paraphrased http://www.eliezercall.com/the-heresy-of-diotrephes.html).
As I read through numerous articles, I came across this particular theme. The verse about the wolf in sheep clothes.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.- Matthew 7:15 (ESV).
Diotrephes was at least an elder in the church, but he had let the idea of his power grab a hold him. He saw no need to take order from John who was trying to dictate the happenings of the church from a distance. I imagine Diotrephes did not like the idea of taking in John’s missionaries either. Overall, Diotrephes is synoptic with power hungry self-seekers. It is a shame that the only mention of this man in the New Testament is when the writer of John criticizes his personal ambition. (http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx183.htm)
**Fun fact there are even websites proclaiming Diotrephes Syndrome.**
These websites promote the idea that Diotrephes was only a manipulative evil man who sought to destroy the church. They intend to clump any “religious person” who has ambition into this self-seeker’s shadow.