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Read Introduction to 3 John


“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.”


John now transitions to the 2nd main character of 3 John – denouncing Diotrephes.  This is the climax of 3 John.  The conflict is not between Christians and non-Christians but between different orientations to ministry.  One is interested in self-promotion, and the other is interested in advancing the cause of Christ. 

I wrote to the church,

John wrote to the church, which Gaius attended. 

but Diotrephes,

Diotrephes means nourished by Zeus.  Zeus was the chief god of the pantheon.  Diotrephes may have had a pagan past.  John introduced Diotrephes’ power lust to contrast Gaius’ love for ministry and God’s ministers. 

who loves to have the preeminence among them,

Diotrephes was motivated by a love of preeminence in the church.  The words “loves to have the preeminence” come from one Greek word and means loves to be first in rank or position, wish to be first, to strive to be first.  Diotrephes wanted the attention of being number one in the local church. 

does not receive us

Diotrephes did not want to kowtow to the apostle John or his ambassadors, so he refused to support these itinerant evangelists financially.  John’s group of leaders endangered his power base.  He was on a power trip, and he did not want any competition.  His clandestine self-love exploded in the disruptive conduct of the next verse.  Diotrephes eventually excommunicated those who disagreed with him (v. 10).  He was an influential person whose power went to his head. 

James 3:16,  “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”


Self-seeking always diminishes the work of Christ on earth. 


Love of preeminence is the plague of many churches today.  If churches neglect to deal with this issue, they will have difficulty advancing the gospel of Christ. 

Self-interests get in the way of Christ’s interests.  Love of place and power is unadulterated carnality.  Carnality always blunts the cause of Christ.  Carnality always pushes self to the fore and is more interested in self-advancement than advancing the gospel.  Not everyone owns the objective of world evangelism. 

Mk 10:42-45,  42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”

1 Pt 5:2-4,  2 “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

Some people do not want to kowtow to anyone.  They reject authority from anyone, anywhere.  The root problem behind this is self and self-interest. 

Jn 13:20, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Ambition is an archenemy to churches and to their advancing the cause of Christ.  People who put themselves first love preeminence.  They are in church work for themselves, not for the Lord.  This is a dead giveaway for carnality.  This robs Jesus Christ of His glory and detracts from the work of Christ on earth. 

Co 1:18, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”