I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. – 3 John 1:9
John says that he has written something to the church. We don’t know what this “something” is. Some have suggested 1 John, others 2 John, others something else that was not a part of the canon. Perhaps it was instructions for the church to receive the traveling missionaries that John had just written about above.
Whatever it was, it seems to have been stopped by a man named Diotrephes. This is another man of whom we don’t really know a lot about. He’s probably not a false teacher, in terms of doctrine. Otherwise, John would have likely addressed the false doctrine as well. But what Diotrephes does is just as bad. Wicked practice is just as harmful to the church as false doctrine. Whoever this Diotrephes is, this is how he goes down in history.
John says of Diotrephes that he likes to put himself first. This is a major problem. Jesus says, many who are first will be last (Matthew 19:30; Mark 10:31). Putting oneself first is a precept of the world, not of Christ. Instead, He Himself is to be supreme in every aspect of our lives, and that includes counting others more significant than ourselves. That includes outdoing one another in showing honor.
It seems that Diotrephes had some sort of authority over the church, and he enjoyed wielding it.
In the next phrase, John uses the word our. This is likely talking about the Apostles, who were given authority by Christ Himself to lay down the foundation of the church.
John says, Diotrephes does not acknowledge our authority. We’ll see in what way he rejected their authority in the next verse.
Consider how this verse relates to the Savior. Jesus Himself did not put Himself first. Instead, He laid down His life for the church. And He has called His people to follow suit.
How does this apply to us? First, notice that Christian love doesn’t necessarily mean to ignore sin. Unrepentant sin needs to be addressed in love, which John surely intended on doing when he went to Diotrephes. Unrepentant sin also needs to be announced to the church in order to warn them, as John warns Gaius. We need to be made aware and make others aware of false teaching and bad practice so that none of us falls into either.
Secondly, may we never be known as people who like to put ourselves first. Our Savior did not put Himself first, and far be it from us to do so. Christ is our all in all, and He commands us to put others first, just as He does.