Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 23, 1962
NUMBER 16, PAGE 5,13c

Diotrephe-Ism Is Still A Curse Of The Church

Henry A. Kirkland

In his second letter the apostle John warns of transgressing and abiding not in the doctrine of Christ. Those who do so, he warns, do not have either the Father or the Son. But, "....he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9)

Today, in various places and under varying circumstances, we see churches being divided. Usually each side maintains that it is because of "scriptural reasons" — either one believes it is scriptural for the church to build and maintain human institutions or the other does not believe it is scriptural and thus each claims it is a "scriptural split." But in many cases I wonder if it is truly a case of 2 John 9 or 3 John 9.

When those who love truth and the authority of Jesus Christ have forced upon them the decision of a "majority" and that by vote or "polling" in many cases it seems to me that this is not a case of "scriptural" division but simply a case of following a majority to do evil. Such was condemned in the Old Testament in the case of God's people under the old covenant for, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil...." (Exodus 23:3) If God would not condone such under the old covenant, what can lead men to think he will accept such actions under the Christ given covenant?

When brethren force upon a local congregation the decision to support something which is contrary to the authority of the scriptures some can do nothing more than simply separate themselves from those who demand they do so. This is the only alternative for even as the Thessalonians, we too must, "withdraw yourselves from every brother who walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition (teaching) which he received of us." (2 Thess. 3:6) In this case Paul commanded them to do so. This is just as binding on us today.

In far too many cases, however, the real reason is not the support of "poor little orphans" nor even "our institutions" but as Diotrephes, some love and must have the "preeminence" in all things or else they will split the blood bought body of Jesus Christ. Under the pretense of "doing good" I have seen congregations split for as little as 250 per month per person. More recently, I have seen a congregation split, not over one penny, but with the idea of the support of human institutions used as a pretense! I formerly granted conscience to some over this but I must indeed begin to reevaluate my conclusions along that line. Unfortunately, I have also seen congregations split under the guise of "standing for truth" when the real reason was that a few could not have their own way. In all such cases one needs to examine carefully before he passes judgment.

The apostle John said, "I wrote unto the church; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not." (3 John 9) The term pre-eminence used here comes from a Greek word, an adjective, which means, "fond of being first." (Vincent's Word Studies, Vol. III, P. 403) The prating by this person who loves to be first (verse 10) likewise comes from a word which means to bubble up or boll over. Thus the talk of such a person is called both fluent and empty and is kin to the term translated tattlers in 1 Tim. 5:13. (mid) In too many instances of division in the body of Christ over present "issues," the real problem is that someone fond of being first in order to keep his exalted position will speak fluently of "Orphan haters," "anti-cooperation" brethren and use other invectives either fluently or speak great swelling words of empty emotionalism for the sake of gaining adherents to his position. The real reason is that they are wanting to have the preeminence.

It is most unfortunate, but true, that this is not a one-sided thing. Many other brethren who are inclined to be somewhat conservative in their thinking are not above practicing the same thing. They will not admit in most cases that they are really fond of being first but in too many instances it shows through their facade of "standing for truth." I, too, have seen this in some instances and it grieves me just as deeply as the abominable actions of those who use the same actions to justify their position for the innovations and promotions now being pushed hard in many places.

Now if any think I am "soft" then they should investigate before passing such judgment. I must in all fairness point out error, even if it does not sit well with some I love dearly. True love requires this and Paul's statement in Romans 2:21 shows the necessity for he says, "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" And too many want to teach — but not learn.

The statement that Diotrepheism is still a curse of the church should now become more plain to all. But you say, "Just what can we do about it?" I am convinced that there is much we can do, if we will only try. In many places congregations need to face the facts and withdraw from such people as Paul told the Thessalonians to do. (2 Thess. 3:8) I know of one case where the former elders admitted to me that if they had dis-fellowshiped two men — one living in a questionable marriage relation — the cause of Christ could have been saved. But now it is too late and all the money spent in providing a commodious meeting house has gone over to the cause of "liberalism" — and those who love truth in that community have had to start over. Brethren, we ought to think on these things and face the fact that liberalism, like communism, is not something you can live with. In other instances of which I know, men went around with petitions trying to get themselves installed as elders when they — in some cases — did not have faithful children or their children were not even members of the church. Should such be allowed? I do not believe such a thing should be allowed and am willing to affirm such by God's Holy Word.

All of us, if human, love to be first. It is also human nature to desire the praises of one's fellows. But there is a way provided for us not only to have the praises of our brethren, but the praises of the Lord also. Jesus said, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Matt. 23:11, 12) Our trouble even in the church today, is that we still do not want to admit it is the person who serves the cause of Christ who should be exalted. What we still want, even as many in the time of our Lord, is to exalt those who exercise the authority over us. This is contrary to the Lord's teaching in this matter. (Matt. 20:25-28)

Brethren, let us stand fast in the faith once delivered. Let us be sure it is because of love for our Saviour and not our own exalted opinion or ourselves. There is no better way to prove this than to get to work trying to save souls after we have had to leave or be pushed out by those who desire to serve the flesh. Past history has shown that if we truly are in love with the Lord, and it is not just the desire to be first, our fruit will bear witness.

Diotrephism is of the devil because it serves the flesh and not the cause of the Lord. Let us then be sure of him whom we serve and in all things, not simply matters of faith; "do nothing through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." (Phil. 2:3) Can you, in the sight of God — and remember He knows — say that you are doing this? — Box 441, Winston, Oregon