Dealing with a Diotrephes
By Paul R. Blake
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 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” (3John 9-10).
Many congregations have one; you know, a man who loves to be a big duck in a little pond. A Diotrephes is a professed brother who is convinced that he is right in every matter and insists on having his way. He may use unchristian means and methods to accomplish his purposes, and will stand in the way of any growth or progress that threatens his power and control in the local congregation. He is often the cause of discouragement in seasoned members, the diminishment of the faith of new members, and the decline in membership in the local church. Frequently, such men become immovable objects in a congregation around whom the rest of the church feels helpless to defy his selfish and self-willed spirit. What can be done with such men?
There are three ways to deal with these brethren. I would first suggest giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere, but also sincerely mistaken. In which case, faithful brethren should patiently teach and encourage them until they come to a better understanding of what is written. This may take some time, but it is certainly worth it in the long run when all of the Christians in a local church work together in peace. The course takes the high ground of love and morality. This is the Lord’s way and can lead eventually to growth.
The second way to handle this is to wait until such brethren prove that they are not acting out of tender consciences and a weaker understanding, but are instead driven by a lust to hold onto power fighting growth and progress to keep it. The way disciples like this must be answered is as follows: “We want to grow in soundness, in the faith, and in strength and number here. We would like for you to come along with us. We are going to move forward; please come with us or move out of the way.” That way is painful and has the potential to be disruptive for a time. However, congregations that have done this have healed and grown after a period of recovery. This is also the Lord’s way and will eventually lead to growth.
The third way is to surrender to the threats of obstructionist brethren. It is the way that brings a temporary peace by sacrificing the congregation’s prospects for future growth. It certainly avoids conflict in the present, but at what cost? First, it sets a precedent; do not think for one moment that a Diotrephes won’t use bullying tactics again. After all, it worked once; what is to prevent them from using it to get their way any time they disagree with the rest of the congregation? Second, it creates an unhealthy environment. If you do make converts in the community, into what kind of congregational atmosphere are you bringing them? It won’t be long until they discover that they are now members of a divided congregation that is only pretending to be united. And third, obstructionist brethren will ensure that the congregation will not grow.
Perhaps it will continue as it is for a time, but without positive forward movement and growth, eventual decline in number is inevitable. This is not my opinion, good brethren and dear friends; this is based on considerable experience. Jesus, John, and Paul chose to confront their Diotrephes. We should grow the courage and faith to do the same.
He Cleanses Us from All Sin
By Kent Heaton
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1John 1:7). Doubt would have us believe that because we are sinful creatures that God will not forgive us of all our sins. There are many sins we can easily see how the Lord would forgive but there are some sins that we cannot trust that forgiveness would be granted. These are major failures in our life. We knew better and yet we followed the path of rebellion. Looking at the manner of our life we reflect upon our training from godly parents who sought to instill in our hearts a love for God and see a path of destruction rebelling against the teaching of His word. How can He forgive such a rebellious heart and give us grace from a life that was wasted on the crumbs of unrighteousness? Hearts often grapple with the guilt of a life wasted and the enduring mercy of a long-suffering Lord. For some they never gain peace from the guilt of sin that burdens the heart and pardon feels like a distant reward never to be enjoyed. Life is dull and lifeless. Exhausted from the worry of the mistakes of yesterday the Christian life becomes empty. Ironically the burden of guilt is something that expresses the incredible love of God that is willing and able to forgive all sins and He will forgive every sin when a man comes to Him with a full heart of repentance. There are no limitations with the mercy of God. He has a name for every star in the heavens and He knows every part of our lives including all the terrible things we have done. Yet in the face of this knowledge the Lord God of love and mercy grants a cleansing from all sin through the blood of His only begotten Son.
The Bible is filled with imperfect people who needed the grace of God. All of the characters of scripture failed God. Some are recorded with great failures in life like David and Peter. The chapter of faith in Hebrews 11 is a testimony to the incredible measures of faith of the men and women who trusted in the mercy of God. Contained in this list is a former prostitute who became part of the lineage of Jesus Christ and the seemingly uncontrollable Samson. It is easy to see why Enoch, Moses and David are in the list but Rahab and Samson? Forgiveness. The Lord God of mercy and grace granted forgiveness to all those who served Him and loved Him. One of the reasons the Holy Spirit tells the story of so many people in scripture is to show the longsuffering and majesty of God’s forgiving love. There were many people who rebelled against the Lord and felt His wrath in their disobedience. The nation of Israel was granted many times the extended love of God and many did not change their lives – but many did and found salvation. Jesus did not die because we deserved anything. His death was measured by the enormity of our sin and He paid the price to redeem us from all of our sin. Every sin. Each sin. The big ones and the little ones. He gave His life to take away all of my sin and make me clean. There is nothing His blood cannot remove in my life. David committed adultery, deceit, caused a man to get drunk and murdered Uriah and then lied about the whole affair – and because of his penitent heart God forgave him.
Eternal life is granted through the forgiveness of all sin by the grace of a loving God who is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness relenting from doing harm to those who seek Him. No sin is left when God forgives. Our Father takes away all the sin that has plagued our life and buries them in the bottom of the sea and removing them as far as the east is from the west. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from ALL sin. If God is willing to take away our sin we should have the faith to let Him. Satan wants to remind us of our failures but God wants us to see our victories in His grace. Sin does not have to have dominion over us any longer because God has shed His love in our hearts and granted the joy of cleansing through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. When God forgives it is total. Praise the Lord for His abundant mercy.