We have a clear example in Scripture of a man who did that very thing! Let’s read 3rd John 9-10, “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” (NKJV). John had just exhorted the brethren in verses 5-8 to receive godly Christians who are laboring for the Lord and in doing so we “become fellow workers for the truth.” Yet here was a man who not only refused to receive them, but he was casting believers out of the church for wanting to receive them. Let’s speak plainly; Diotrephes was a DICTATOR in that church! He was so filled with himself that he had no love for anyone else. He wanted to have the FIRST PLACE, forgetting that there is only one Man who deserves that place, the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:18 confirms this, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things HE MIGHT HAVE THE PREEMINENCE.”

In keeping with the scripture just cited, it is vital to see that the Bible NEVER speaks of “one man” being the “head of the church.” Yet in some churches believers have given that place to one man whom they call the “pastor.” Some may be surprised to learn that there is no thought in Scripture of “the pastor of a church.” You can search the New Testament and you will discover that when churches were formed there wasn’t “one man” in charge; rather the apostles chose “men,” called “elders,” to bear oversight over a local church. Acts 14:23 is an example of this: “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (NKJV). Their chief responsibility was to care for God’s people, as we see in Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” In contrast to Diotrephes, these men are humble servants of God who have no desire to lord it over God’s people, but to “shepherd the church of God.” A “shepherd” is one who loves the “sheep,” and their goal will be to feed the “flock” that Christ has “purchased with His own blood” and to glorify the Lord Jesus, the “Head of the church.”

It should be noted that IF there is ever a call for anyone to be excommunicated from the church because of unjudged sin in their life, it is the whole local church (not the elders) that has the authority to do this. In Matthew 18:15-20 the Lord Jesus spoke of the responsibility of the local church to judge sin in their midst. He brought out the PROCESS that should be followed by the church and in verse 17 He spoke of the most extreme action to be taken if one would not repent of their sin. It reads, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (NKJV). The church has this authority because of what we see in verse 20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Christ, the Head of the church, is the One who is leading and directing the church in acts of discipline. I would encourage you to read 1st Corinthians chapter 5 where you will see a real-life case of a local church being called upon to excommunicate a believer who was living in unjudged sin. In verses 4-5 you will read that it is indeed “Christ in the midst” that gives the church the right to put one out of fellowship.  (204.7)  (DO)