I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. —3 John 9-11
[Matthew Henry 3 John 1:10]
This passage of scripture reminds me of the
farewell letter I
wrote to my church, which the senior pastor refused to read or
circulate to the membership, preferring instead to tell the lie
that I left without saying good-bye in order to shore up his
other lie that I had stolen from the church and should be kicked
out. This pastor had run two pastors out of the church previous
and two more subsequent to my
departure. What confuses me
is this: why do these people even come to church? Why are people
like this, people who know, for a fact, in their heart, that
they do not belong to Christ, so determined to not only be in
church but to be in church leadership? This nitwit Diotrephes
sounds like any number of arrogant, mean, so-called pastors and
bishops we have encountered at some point in our Christian walk;
Men (typically, though I’ve met several women who also fit the
profile) who are so completely out of tune with God that they
demonstrate almost none of the qualities of the personal example
of Jesus Christ.
There are two handy lists, in Galatians Chapter 5, which contrast demonic influences with those of the Holy Spirit. Discerning who is operating within which spirit is not rocket science. You don’t need advanced spiritual training or some divine empowerment. There are two lists: the works of the flesh, the fruit of the Spirit. You can tell quickly, easily and simply who belongs to God and who does not by the qualities they demonstrate. Why, then, do so many of our church leaders demonstrate arrogance, impatience, ignorance, and mean-spiritedness, and why are we so spiritually bankrupt and spiritually ignorant that we not only keep these liars in office, but once they go (or are forced out or die) we run right out and elect men just like them to lead us?
This is likely a slave mentality, some twist on the Stockholm syndrome where we’ve become so accustomed to abuse that we actually crave it. Many congregations do not respect a pastor who does not abuse them in some manner or who does not demonstrate the antichrist traits of haughty superiority, domination and meanness. We want a disciplinarian, a Saul, not a David, because that’s what we’ve always had. Since we don’t actually study the bible, we’ve convoluted tradition with scripture to craft a dysfunctional and corrupt doctrine that values un-Christlike and ungodly, antichrist character traits in leadership. We, in fact, define “strong leadership” by the bullying, haughty arrogance these men demonstrate.
I would assume this Diotrephes, like many of our pastors, like King Saul, like Bishop Eddie Long pictured above, started out right and began with perhaps the best of intentions. But, by the time of John’s writing (perhaps 90 AD), Diotrephes, like so many of our pastors, had lost his way to the point of being openly hostile toward Christian missionaries passing through his town.
We are, this month, dealing with the concept of CINO’s— Christians In Name Only. These are people who claim to be Christian, who perhaps actually believe they are Christian, who believe God speaks to them (perhaps exclusively), but who are, in fact, lost in self-deception. The voice they are hearing, inspiring them to godly works and good deeds, is not, in fact, the voice of God but the voice of Satan. Satan is a master impressionist. He can sound like anybody, look like anybody. Most Church Folk I’ve known do not realize this or certainly do not process the fact that the devil can and often does appear in our lives, presenting himself as God or as an angel or what have you. And the devil may inspire you to start a prayer group or go feed the hungry or become a youth worker—things that would surely please God.
What pleases God is our obedience to perform the work He has ordained to our hands. If we’re flip-flopping around from one ministry to another, or never gaining traction in our work because we’re too distracted with all these other things we’re trying to do, or if we’re simply exhausted from all the running—something’s wrong. That’s not God. That’s Satan running you in circles, using ministry, of all things, to distract you from an effective work for the Lord.
Satan can also cause you to speak in tongues, to prophecy, to shout and dance, to lay hands on and even heal people. It is the height of ignorance on our part to not understand and acknowledge that Satan can imitate most every spiritual work the Holy Spirit produces in our lives. Just because you are speaking in tongues does not by default mean that the Holy spirit is giving utterance. An unclean spirit can speak in tongues just as fluently as the Holy Spirit can.
Try The Spirit
Diotrephes was a man mentioned in the Third Epistle of John
(verses 9–11). His name means "nourished by Jupiter". As Raymond
E. Brown comments, "Diotrephes is not a particularly common
In addition to being ambitious, proud, disrespectful of apostolic authority, rebellious, and inhospitable, the author of the letter says that Diotrephes tried to hinder those desiring to show hospitality to the brothers and to expel these from the congregation. Not even the location of Diotrephes' church can be determined from the letter. It is debatable whether the antipathy expressed in 3 John is based on "a theological dispute, a clash of competing ecclesiastical authorities, a disagreement about financial responsibilities for the mission, or personal dislike". 
 Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament
(New York: Doubleday, 1997), p. 403
 Margaret M. Mitchell, Diotrephes Does Not Receive Us: The Lexi-cographical and Social Context of 3 John 9-10, Journal of Biblical Literature 117.2 (1998:299-320), with bibliography of the conflict on each possible arena of the conflict
So, how do we know one from spirit from another? It’s actually pretty simple: just go back to our two lists in Galatians 5. If you’re so holy that you speak in tongues, but five minutes later are gossiping about someone, you do not know God and do not belong to God and your magic speaking-in-tongues power did not come from God. You are being used by an unclean spirit. If you are a healer or call yourself a prophet, but do not demonstrate love or patience, sorry sister, God does not dwell within you. The voice you are hearing is not God, but an unclean spirit mimicking God. And you think it’s God because of your arrogance.
Arrogance is simply uninformed boldness. It is right for Christians to be bold, but we must know what we’re talking about. Rushing ahead on emotion or impulse is arrogance. Refusing to admit when we were wrong, that we got it wrong, is arrogance. Arrogance is not a quality of God. Arrogance is a reasonable indicator that God does not dwell within us.
Spiritually superior, haughty people like Diotrephes—while they may once have had a genuine encounter with God—have lost their way somehow. They’ve likely stayed in power too long, despite the fact that the Holy Spirit had left them. Beloved, once the Holy Spirit leaves you, you are now operating under the influence of Satan. There’s no mid-ground, no Sort Of Holy Spirit to fill that gap. You ether belong to God or you don’t.
During John’s time, there emerged a group of spiritual men called Gnostics who considered themselves to be “super” spiritual and, therefore, much, much holier than thou because they desired to rise above literal matter (which they considered to be intrinsically evil) in favor of pursuing existence on a higher plane. The Gnostics could not intellectually reconcile the mystery of the Gospel—how God became flesh—so they made up their own teaching to explain the inexplicable.
Many of us do the same thing—intellectualize theology and fill in gaps in logic or seeming contradictions in the bible. This is usually done to create an excuse for our being able to do as we please. Remarrying after divorce is one example of this. Christians go to great lengths and excruciating levels of scriptural review in order to relieve their conscience about remarrying after divorce, something Christ explicitly taught against [SCR]. In our arrogance, however, we refuse the same level of exegetical review for issues we viscerally revile, like homosexuality. Any rational scriptural review of scripture concerning homosexuality is greeted with suspicion and usually rejected at face value, most Christians preferring a plain-text, boilerplate lease reading of scripture on that issue, something Christ never spoke of, while we do exegetical backflips to defend the sin—yes that’s what it is—of remarriage, something Christ explicitly spoke against.
We are in the doctrinal cafeteria, refusing to simply accept all of the bible—every word of it—and, therefore, live like the Amish. We pick and choose which parts of the bible we will believe or at least enforce. We all do it.
This is what leads to a guy like Diotrephes. His temperament, full of pride and ambition. He loves to be first. He has convinced himself that he is much holier than the rabble he oversees, certainly much holier than these wretches passing through his district. When we become so holy that we, in our haughtiness, look down upon others, we become complete fools. If you really think you’re holier than I am— you might be right. But just thinking that is evidence that you do not know God because God does not inspire that kind of thinking.
The bible does not say what ultimately happened to Diotrephes. What tries my patience is how well and successful so many of these arrogant bastards live. Bishop Eddie Long lost his wife but recent news reports his ministry at New Birth has begun to flourish once more, despite the millions he’s lavished upon himself, his having allowed some odd group to appoint him “king,” or the damming evidence of the truth of his having had multiple homosexual encounters with young men in his ministry (be virtue of his having settled, with millions of church funds, a lawsuit brought against him by three former church members). This isn’t to say that Bishop Long could not or should not be restored, but to my knowledge he has not admitted anything, has not repented, has not stepped down or submitted himself to any authority. And the ignorant masses continue to flood toward this modern-day Diotrephes, who continues to flourish as he revels in his own self-righteousness. One can only wonder: how many young men and boys will Bishop Long have to sodomize before the deceived, lost people following him finally say enough, already?
There are two lists. Galatians 5. Which list contains more observable attributes of Bishop Long? Which list best describes each of us? A reasonable self-examination, in light of those lists, will help us know whether we are actually hearing God, or a corrupted echo. In verse 11, John made it even simpler: Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.