Diotrephes – the spirit that requires preeminence. Part 3
“Diotrephes and the Nicolaitan”
Continuing to look at the spirit of Diotrephes, we know that this name means blessed by Jupiter, we now know the connection to the church in Pergamos in Revelation chapter 2. We know that Jesus spoke to them stating that He knew that they dwelled where Satan’s throne was, which was referring to the temple to Zeus that was in Pergamos. I believe there’s another key here to dealing with and understanding the spirit that wants preeminence, Diotrephes. Jesus said to them through John in Revelation 2.
“14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam,1 who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”
Notice Jesus does not hate people He hates the doctrines. What is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans? That word comes from two Greek words, nikos and laos. Nikos means to subdue or to conquer, and the second part of the word laos means “the people”. This is a doctrine which is used to subdue the people by placing them under burdensome or preeminent authority. We get our English word laity from laos, and through this we can see that even in the time of John the church was already entertaining doctrines contrary to the ascension doctrine of Jesus. The ascension doctrine, sending gifts to equip the church, was not followed, but rather raising up individuals into positions to subjugate the people or the laity. This, in time, came to be known as the clergy. The term clergy should not be confused with the biblical understanding that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God and gave gifts to men. These include apostles and prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. These gifts are ordained to equip, train, strengthen and mobilize the people to do the works of the ministry of Jesus Christ on the earth. Anyone called into an ascension gift will be recognized on earth by other men, and as the Lord instructs, will be commissioned into the ministry they are called to function in (see Acts 13:1-3).
When Jesus left the earth, He left behind 12 apostles. These 12 apostles, also called the apostles of the Lamb, in turn raised up other ministries including other apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. In the pattern of the first century church apostles would ordain elders in the churches, and these leaders were called, interchangeably, elders, overseers, and bishops. Recall that Diotrephes would not receive the apostle John, as this spirit will reject the Holy Spirit and the ministries given by Jesus (3 John 1:9).
The word elder came from the Greek word presbuteros, which was commonly used in the Jewish tradition and synagogues to bring attention to the character, respectability and sometimes the age of the individual functioning in that position. The word overseers and bishop came from the Greek word episkope, which was commonly used in the Greek assemblies, which brought attention to the honor of the position the person was functioning in. In the early church these Greek words, translated into these different English words, spoke of the same position. There was no idea in the church that one elder was over another elder but that a plurality of elders working together would shepherd and oversee the business of the church. Eldership spoke of the position whereas various prophets, teachers, evangelists, and shepherds could and were functioning in the positions of overseers in the various churches. However, already by the end of the early church age doctrines were being promoted to place some leaders over others. In time the term bishop became synonymous with an elder over other elders, but that was not the case in the early church. By the time of the Middle Ages this became an actual legal system in the church consisting of bishops, archbishops, elders, priests and potentates in a hierarchy or pyramid structure.
Jesus said that He hates this doctrine. The reason that Jesus hates this doctrine is because it is contrary to, and replaces, His present ascension ministry which functions through those gifts He gave, as mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Jesus has order and rank in His Kingdom, but it is not built like a pyramid, but like a net (Matthew 13:47). People, are placed like knots in a net, built not from the top down, but from each knot connecting out with others, strengthening and reaching out to one another. He has set order in His church through those whom He has called to lead.
As an example of rank and order in His kingdom, when James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and asked if one could be seated at His right hand and the other at His left – both seats of high authority – He did not rebuke them, but only said it would be up to His Father who would be placed in these seats of authority “is for those for whom it is prepared.”2 (Matt 20:23, Mark 10:40). He then continued by teaching the apostles about leadership in His Kingdom
Matt 20:25 … “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.
26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave —
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Later Paul the apostle spoke of those whom the Lord has set in order in His Kingdom leadership.
1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has set [placed, appointed] some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helpers, administrators, various kinds of tongues.
When Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, that He would “… build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He never promised that the powers of hell could not prevail against a church that He has not built, or that was not built after the pattern which He presented to us. The pattern for his church is built on fellowship, first with Him, and then with one another, and He reveals His ministry of The Apostle, The Prophet, The Evangelist, The Shepherd, and The Teacher (Jesus), through men and women whom he has called and commissioned into those gift ministries. These in turn raise up and disciple the people of God to exercise His Great Commission.
Even in the days of John the apostle there was a spirit blessed by Satan working in the church which desired to have preeminence. Just as Lucifer desired preeminence in the heavens, this spirit desires preeminence in the church. This spirit functioning through men, uses the doctrine of the Nicolaitans to secure a position which operates to keep the people bound under the doctrines of men rather than the commissioning of Christ. This is the spirit which comes against the Holy Spirit and the five ministries the Lord uses to equip and often reveal Himself to his church.
We saw that the name Gaius means to rejoice, and through that we know that one way to battle this spirit is to remain energized and joyful and keeping our focus on our first love and praising Him. We saw that Jesus, through John, spoke to the church in Ephesus and commended them for having discerned false apostles, discerned that they were liars, and did not follow their doctrines. He also reminded them that they had lost their first love in the process of dealing with those false ministers. However, He also commended them for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans which Jesus also hated. The church in Ephesus had been equipped by the apostle Paul. The elders had been trained and commissioned by him, and prophetically warned by him of the test which would come from among them – of men coming against the people (Acts 20:17-31). They were commended for not allowing false apostles to replace the true apostles, and false leaders to raise up above the others taking preeminence, thereby grieving the Holy Spirit.
Christianity is the only major world philosophy whose founder is still alive and can – and desires to – influence the daily activities of His people. A major deception amongst the leaders of Christianity is that Jesus is alive in name only, but not in function. Jesus really is alive and wants to be the functioning head of His church, raising His people up as disciples through His leaders, those gifts which He has given from His ascended position. This spirit of Diotrephes, often using the doctrine of the Nicolaitans is far too preeminent in His church, allowing hell to prevail.
It’s incumbent upon those leaders who truly hunger for Jesus in their lives and ministries to allow Him preeminence, first in their lives by restoring Him as their first love. But then also, to discern false systems of leadership which have crept in and replaced those forms which Jesus left through His disciples which He truly can bless. When we have returned to that system which Jesus gave us, allowing the Holy Spirit to have preeminence, we will again have a church in which the gates of hell can never prevail, but we rather will have preeminence over all the forces of darkness, and the people of God will truly know their Shepherd the Lord Jesus Christ.
James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
Unless noted, all scripture from New King James Version.
Lloyd C. Phillips PhD, Director
The Fellow Laborers’ International Network (FLInt Net)
P.O. Box 113 Missoula, MT 59806