Diotrephes – the spirit that requires preeminence. Part 2

“Fellow Workers with The Shepherd”

In the first article we began to look at Diotrephes the spirit that requires preeminence and in so doing keeps the church of Jesus Christ from receiving The Shepherd, Jesus.

It was the apostle Paul who first warned the elders in the church of Ephesus to beware of wolves rising up from within the church leadership, and Jesus later commended them for taking the apostle’s warning to heart. Paul seemingly had to deal with his issue in other churches as he warned the churches of Galatia also.

Galatians 4:17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. (New International Version – NIV)

When Jesus, through John, addressed the church in Ephesus, He commended them for discerning false leaders in the church, but also warned them about losing their “first love” in doing so.

Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Jesus warned His followers that this would be a danger when dealing with false leaders.

Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

Matthew 24:24, 25 “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.”

I do not believe the Lord is saying that those who are lawless or false ministers are in danger of having their love grow cold. They are lawless and false already. It is those of us who must deal with lawless people and false authority that are in danger of having our love grow cold, just like the church in Ephesus. So, the first lesson is to remain in faith and guard your love so that it does not grow cold. Rejoice with the Lord in each situation and you will do well. When dealing with this spirit it is important to understand that.

The third person mentioned in this third epistle of John is Demetrius. His name means “blessed of the harvest.” In looking at this name, the Spirit brought to my remembrance the words of Jesus concerning the harvest:

Matt 9:37, 37 “Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Next verse –

Matt 10:1 “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.”

Luke 10:1 “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.
2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.
4 Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.
5 But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’
6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.
7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.
8 Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.
9 And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

Applying what Jesus said about the harvest in the context of dealing with the spirit of Diotrephes in the church, I think a major point is to concentrate on raising up laborers for the harvest. You see this in the apostle John’s use of the word “fellow workers” in verse 8 of third John.

“We therefore are to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.”

The Greek word translated as fellow workers here is the word sunergos, which is also translated fellow helpers, fellow laborers or work fellows in other scriptures. I believe John is implicitly saying to us that raising up laborers for the harvest is a key to overcoming this spirit of Diotrephes in the church.

Diotrephes is not interested in raising up laborers, receiving the brethren sent to him, or discipling fellow workers for the harvest or even the truth. This spirit wants total control and preeminence. This is the opposite spirit of that working in the five ministries sent from the Lord Jesus listed in Ephesians 4 which are for the purpose of –

12 “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;”

I think it is apparent that when dealing with this spirit in the church that our defense is to stay in faith, stay, do not imitate his evil, continue to fellowship with like-minded brethren, and continue to raise up laborers for the harvest. Don’t allow this spirit to sidetrack you from doing the work of your Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In verse 6 John encouraged Gaius to send the brethren that he was discipling forward in the manner in which Jesus also had sent the disciples out in Luke 10. It is an important point that Diotrephes would not receive those sent to him in the name of the Lord. This is one of the reasons we do not see more of the literal manifesting of Christ in the church today.

Jesus said – “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) and, “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Matthew 23:39

Jesus told us that He would come to those who follow Him. He also said that we would not see Him if we do not receive those who were sent in His Name.

While the church is often preoccupied with His ultimate return they have missed His coming. This is not His will, but certainly is a work of Satan to hinder the Lord from appearing to His church and manifesting Himself. The spirit of Diotrephes has robbed the church of too much of this blessing.

John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
11a “I am the good shepherd. …”

I think it is important also to note when dealing with this spirit in the church, the apostle John said that if he comes, he will deal directly with Diotrephes. Again, we should note the humility of John versus the arrogance of Diotrephes. The humility of John takes an aggressive approach against the arrogance of Diotrephes.

John’s humility is expressed throughout the New Testament in how he served others, most notably watching over Peter after the events in the Garden on the night Jesus was betrayed, continuing through the resurrection events at the tomb, on to the Ascension and Pentecost, and the several events acknowledging him in the book of Acts. In his gospel he referred to himself simply as “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” I think humility is an essential counter measure in dealing with this spirit. 1 Peter 5:5 tells us that God opposes the arrogant, but gives grace to the humble.

Not everyone is called to directly confront this spirit, but God will give grace for dealing with it to those who are called. Likewise, it is important to remain positive and in faith. It is necessary to guard our hearts with all diligence and protect the love of God when doing so. We all can be involved in the harvest, discipling and receiving those who are sent in the Name of the Lord, despite the spirit of Diotrephes. Just as Jesus has angels to gather out of His kingdom those who practice lawlessness, He has those, like the apostle John, who have the anointing and calling to directly confront the spirit of Diotrephes. I believe we can intercede and pray forth people like John who have the unction to confront the Diotrephes in the spirit. The Lord is jealous over His church and desires to be The Shepherd of His flock.

Over my years in ministry I have witnessed the effects of this spirit of Diotrephes. There is manifest a constant effort to separate part of the flock from the whole, to separate the flock from The Shepherd, to disparage leaders that are sent by the Lord to bring encouragement and understanding, and to instead raise themselves into a seat of preeminence. By understanding this spirit and what the Word of God has to say about its operation, we are better prepared to bring enlightenment, correction, and faith to move forward with those who have been influenced by this spiritual darkness. Operate your faith with humility, seek the Lord with songs and hymns and spiritual songs, pursue the flow of rejoicing in your inner man, and keep His love in first place. Be involved in the harvest, pray for and raise up laborers who will hear the voice of Jesus The Shepherd and follow Him. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
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