John, writing to the beloved Gaius, has just warned him about a man named Diotrephes. So far, he has shared with Gaius that Diotrephes does not acknowledge the Apostles’ authority and likes to put himself first. He continues,
So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. – 3 John 1:10
John is seriously considering, if not dead-set on, going there and confronting Diotrephes. It is certainly not an easy task, but it needs to be done, out of love for Diotrephes and out of protection of the church.
What was Diotrephes doing? He was, for starters, talking wicked nonsense about them (probably the Apostles, or perhaps John and other fellow workers). Slander against one another is sin, and if it goes on unrepented of, it must be brought to light before the church.
As bad as the slander was, that’s not all that Diotrephes was doing. John writes, not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He’s probably talking about the traveling missionaries to whom Gaius was so gracious to show hospitable love. In stark contrast to Gaius, Diotrephes wouldn’t have them. There is much speculation as to why Diotrephes would do this, but whatever the case, he was not being loving like Gaius, nor was he being a fellow worker for the truth like Gaius.
His wickedness went a step further. Not only did he refuse to welcome the brothers, but he also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. So, those who do want to show love to these traveling missionaries are rebuked and excommunicated, which likely intimidated others from showing love. And not only was Diotrephes in sin, but he was causing others to sin and punishing those who did not want to sin.
This is very unlike Jesus, who showed unwavering love for His people. And not only has He welcomed the brothers, but He calls His people to do so as well and helps them.
Diotrephes stands in stark contrast not only to the Savior, but also to Gaius. John, whether intentionally or not, has put Diotrephes up against the example of Gaius, and Diotrephes looks silly next to Gaius.
For us, the message is “Don’t be like Diotrephes. Be like Gaius (as he’s being like Christ).” Don’t put yourself first. Submit to the Apostles’ teaching in the Bible. Welcome the brothers. Don’t cause others to stumble. And may it be all to the glory of Jesus.