This is a solemn and serious subject, for the church is most precious to God. He sent His Son to die for sinners so the church could come into existence. We read in Ephesians 5:25 that, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (NKJV). This is confirmed again 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.” It stands to reason then that anyone who tries to destroy the church will have to answer to God first and foremost. This is borne out in 1st Corinthians 3:16-17 which I will now quote:

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (NASB). If we were to read the whole letter to the Corinthians we would see that there were false teachers who had entered the local church at Corinth with false doctrines that resulted in many of the saints becoming defiled. Their testimony before the world was being ruined (i.e. destroyed) and God promises in this passage that if “anyone destroys my temple, I will destroy them.” Of course these false teachers were unbelievers and thus the word “destroy” here refers to “eternal ruin” in the lake of fire.

We believe that true believers can also wreak havoc in a local church and cause its testimony to be marred (another word for “destroyed”). We have a classic example of this in 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). He was a man who was, in essence, the DICTATOR of a local church! He was a proud man who was guilty of 1) spreading lies about the apostles; 2) refusing to receive the apostles into their local church; and 3) putting out of fellowship all who wanted to receive them. He may have been a true believer, but he had forgotten that Christ is the Head of the Church, not a mere man like himself. And if he was looked up to as a leader in the local church he surely forgot the words that were quoted above from Acts 20:28, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God.” Instead of examining himself to see if he was fit to bear oversight in the church and to shepherd the church of God, he was an egotistical tyrant whose desire was to have the preeminence among them. This, in turn, led him to make all the decisions that should have been made by the whole church.

The apostle John does state that he will deal with this man when he comes, but in view of the inquirer’s question we should ask, “What were those in this local church to do before John arrived?” Verse 11 gives us some valuable instruction, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.” In other words, do not allow yourselves to be influenced by the evil deeds of Diotrephes. Their “deeds” should be characterized as “good” and thus they were NOT to 1) spread lies about the apostles or 2) refuse to receive them. In short, they weren’t to give Diotrephes the place of preeminence that he coveted. This may be hard for a local church to do, for once a man (or a few men) take control of the church it can be very intimidating and it will take spiritual courage and strength to resist him (or them). But if we truly love the Head of the Church (our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ), we will allow Him to have the preeminence, as we read in Colossians 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.” (275.7) (DO)