Though he is only mentioned in two passages of scripture, much can be learned from the bad example of Diotrephes. John describes him as one “who loves to have the preeminence” (3 John 9). He spoke wickedly and maliciously, he would not receive faithful brethren, nor would he allow others to do so (3 John 10). He was, by all accounts and purposes, a church tyrant. He was arrogant, abusive, and wicked. His example should cause us to think twice about our own motives and actions. Though he died long ago, his disposition can still live in the church today. If Diotrephes were here today how could he be identified?
If he were a preacher he would talk about himself often. He would emphasize his favorite works and accomplishments exclusively. He would seek out his favorite elders and members and try to get them on his side. He would never be wrong. His image would be the most important thing to him and he would do anything to protect it. He would lobby to get his way, and he would not hesitate to gossip and slander anyone whom he perceived as a threat.
If he were an elder he would view himself as the “chief shepherd” instead of Christ. He would never listen to the members of the congregation or even his fellow elders. If something needed to be done, then it would have to be done his way. His opinion would always be right, and if you crossed him, he would be quick to tell you about it. He would have no desire to actually fulfill the office of an elder. His only desire would be the recognition that comes with the title.
If he were a deacon he would have his sights set on being an elder. He would never do the work assigned to him without making a show of it. He would want everyone to know just how “hard” he works, and without him the congregation could not possibly function.
If he were any member of the Lord’s church he would not really care about the church at all. He would only care about himself and what he wants. He would divide the congregation and create a clique of only his biggest fans. He would brag about how much money he puts in the plate and how much he has done for the congregation. As far as he is concerned, nobody is more important than him.
Sadly, scripture does not provide us with information about Diotrephes’ repentance. But, perhaps his spiritual offspring can write a better ending to their own story. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up” (Jas. 4:10).