What Kind Of Christian Are You? No. 4.
For Dictatorial Christians! Part B.
Reading 3 John v 1-14.
3. Diotrephes The Dictator!
(i) Think With Me About His Personal Ambition:
v 9. "He loveth to have the pre-eminence."
The word pre-eminence comes from two Greek words, which mean; "to be fond of being first" Diotrephes wants to be boss man or nothing, whereas if he had become nothing the Holy Spirit may very well have set him in the place of Spiritual Leadership within the church anyway.
He is actually treading under foot the teaching of the head-ship of the church.
Do you know there are only two places in the New Testament where the word pre-eminence is found? In this passage we are reading this evening and in
Col. 1 v 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 might have the pre-eminence."
This man thinks more highly of himself than he does of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He most certainly could not say with John, "He must increase and I must decrease."
Dr. Lee Robertson wrote an article on Diotrephes for a denominational paper. The editor contacted him some time after the article appeared and said, "Dr. Robertson we have had twenty five leading church men stop their subscription to our paper to show their resentment against being personally attacked."
Men of this calibre are the offspring of Diotrephes, they reject the authority of Christ and His church and they do so at their peril.
Beloved, the man or woman who loves the pre-eminence should ask themselves some serious questions, for example!
Here is a good searching question for a man to ask himself as he reviews his past life: "Have I written in the snow? Will my life work endure the lapse of years and the fret of change? Has there been anything immortal in it, which will survive the speedy wreck of all sublunary things?" The boys inscribe their names in capitals in the snow, and in the morning thaw the writing disappears. Will it be so with my work, or will the characters that I have carved outlast the brazen tablets of history? Have I written in the snow? Charles H. Spurgeon.
We cannot help but compare Gaius with Diotrephes of whom Paul writes in the first six verses of third John.
a. Look at the designation of Gaius v 1.
"The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth."
b. Listen to the desire for Gaius v 2.
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."
c. Love the delight he has in Gaius v 3-4.
"For I rejoice greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
d. Learn from the diligence of Gaius v 5-6.
"Beloved thou doest faithfully whatever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers, who have borne witness of thy love before the church; whom, if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well."
What a difference between these two men! Gaius does what he does for the glory of God and the extension of Christ's kingdom; Diotrephes does what he does for his own glory and self-aggrandisement. And here's a point worth considering; both will receive their reward accordingly.
(ii) Think With Me About His Perverted Actions: v 9 +10.
"He receiveth us not." "Prating against us with malicious words."
Diotrephes was not going to allow the Apostle John into the assembly, he would not allow the men John sent into the assembly and not content with that, he would not allow his own people to receive them. He would not accept the Scriptural teaching of Head-ship; he would not accept the Scriptural teaching on Hospitality, he would not accept the Scriptural teaching on Holiness, he would not accept the Scriptural teaching on Honour.
Not only that, John says he "prated against us with malicious words." The root of that word "prating" means to bubble up, like an air bubble or a water bubble. A water bubble is just water around nothing, an empty bubble. Dioterphes was a thorough going gossip, babbling malicious words. He was prepared to scandalise the Apostle John, he would spread lies about John, and he would tear his reputation apart without fear. His actions were perverted!
Every man, especially those in leadership should have an ever-deepening desire to be just the opposite of this man Diotrephes. He was indeed a rebel without a cause! He was displaying the most arrogant, carnal state of mind and heart it’s possible to reveal before men and God.
This from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
"You cannot receive Christ as your justification only, and then, later, decide to refuse or accept Him as your sanctification. He is one and indivisible, and if you receive Him at all, He is made unto you "wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." You cannot receive Him as your Saviour only, and later decide to accept or refuse Him as your Lord; for the Saviour is the Lord who by His death has [bought] us and therefore owns us. Sanctification is nowhere taught or offered in the New Testament as some additional experience possible to the believer. It is represented rather as something which is already within the believer, something which he must realise more and more and in which he must grow increasingly." End quote!
Brothers and sisters, we desperately need to understand as Paul declares in his wonderful ministry in the book of Romans, justification never occurs alone in God's plan. It is always, but always, accompanied by sanctification. Our God does not pronounce sinners righteous legally without making them righteous practically. When God proclaims someone righteous, He will inevitably bring it to pass. Romans 8 v 30. "Whom He justified, these He also glorified."
When justification occurs in the person, the process of sanctification begins.
Grace always includes both! The kind of behaviour Diotrephes is displaying has no place in the life of God's redeemed.
This from Dr. John MacArthur (p108+109 Faith works)
"All no-Lordship teaching hinges on a two-stage theory of the Christian life. Stage one, conversation, is receiving Christ as Saviour. Stage two, consecration, in surrendering to Him as Lord. In between is usually a period of time during which the "carnal Christian" lives like a pagan before he or she makes the "decision" to become a "disciple."
One needs only to listen to testimonies to see how pervasive this teaching has become in American evangelicalism: "I received Christ as my Saviour at age seven, and didn't make Him Lord until I was in my thirties."
I am convinced that such testimonies reflect people's misinterpretation of their own experiences. There are many degrees of sanctification; hence many levels of commitment to Christ. But no one who truly has trusted Christ for salvation is uncommitted in principle to Christ's Lordship, and no one who perpetually lives in conscious and purposeful rebellion against Him can truly claim to trust Him." End quote!
Our God, let me say it again, does not justify anyone whom He does not sanctify. No second or new work of grace is necessary for those who have been truly born of the Spirit. Peter puts it like this 2 Peter 1 v 3.
"According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue."
Everything has been granted to the saved of earth pertaining to life and godliness. If the positional aspects of God's truths are applicable to a life, His practical sanctifying work will also be operative in that same life.
What Diotrephes is exhibiting here is nothing like the spirit of submission and humility our God calls for from His people. It is nothing like the kind of sanctified life that flows from salvation, to be alive in Christ is to be dead to sin. Christians have died to sin. It is therefore inconceivable to Paul that we would continue to live in the ugliness of that sin from which we have been delivered. "How could we who died to sin still live in it wilfully." Only a carnal, corrupt way of thinking could argue that continuing in sin extols God's grace. This wonderful union by faith through grace with Christ guarantees a totally changed life, a change that must be made evident by how we live.
"A young woman in England many years ago always wore a golden locket that she would not allow anyone to open or look into, and everyone thought there must be some romance connected with that locket and that in that locket must be the picture of the one she loved. The young woman died at an early age, and after her death the locket was opened, everyone wondering whose face they would find within. And in the locket was found simply a little slip of paper with these words written upon it, "Whom having not seen, I love." Her Lord Jesus was the only lover she knew and the only lover she longed for."
R.A. Torrey in a sermon, "How to Be Saved."
Here is a man whose personal ambition led him to perverted actions having a detrimental effect on both the church and his own character rendering his testimony useless and a sham before the world he propertied to love and the church he said he wanted to serve. Truly, there are none so blind as those who will not see!
So much so-called "testimony" today is really autobiography and even sometimes thinly disguised self-advertisement, that we need to regain a proper biblical perspective. All true testimony is testimony to Jesus Christ, as he stands on trial before the world. John Stott.