Mr. Big Stuff: The Sin of Diotrephes

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-13.

Norah Jayne is a few days away from seven months old. She sits up by herself, loves bananas and carrots, giggles and smiles nonstop and gets mad in her car seat.

Norah is also fascinated with…




She has discovered this beautiful baby in the mirror and she can’t get enough of herself! It’s so funny to watch when you sit her in front of the mirror. She gets so excited and it makes this nana wonder: does she know she is looking at herself, or does she think it’s someone else to play with? Either way, she gets so much joy, and so do we, just watching her.

Diotrephes was probably like Norah when he was a baby.

The problem is, Diotrephes didn’t grow out of it. He loved himself and enjoyed being in charge.

If you have never heard of him, or don’t remember, he is mentioned in the little book of 3rd John. There is only one chapter in this book, and he is spoken of in two verses. John is writing the letter to Gaius and says to him,

“I wrote unto 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.” 

Get the picture here: it’s actually sad! Diotrephes is amassing a few faults:

  • He loves to be in the spotlight
  • He will not accept or acknowledge the apostles
  • He spreads gossip about his peers and elders
  • He doesn’t receive his brothers in Christ
  • He forbids anyone else to receive them
  • And he excommunicates anyone who tries to befriend them

Some versions say that Diotrephes loves to be the leader, loves to be first or to be the one in charge. That alone might not sound so bad. Someone has to be in charge, right? But Diotrephes didn’t stop with just being the Big Cheese. He was manipulative, vindictive and just plain Not Nice. He actually kicked people out of the Church who tried to bless the traveling ministers and apostles that came in to help!

John decides enough is enough. As the elder, he informs Gaius, in no uncertain terms, that he would call Diotrephes out on his destructive behavior. John could not afford for this disease to spread in the Body of Christ! These are things that the Holy Spirit will root out of our spirits when we take on the name of Jesus, have the blood applied to our lives and lead a godly life of prayer and commitment. When attitudes such as that of Diotrephes come to the surface, you can bet that they didn’t happen overnight. Somewhere along the way he stopped praying, believing or simply listening to the voice of God. He loved the pats on the back, the accolades and the titles and had forgotten the purpose of the Church.

John goes on in the letter, encouraging them to imitate good, not evil. Then he mentions another man who is also not talked about too often, by the name of Demetrius.

“Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.”

Demetrius is mentioned immediately following John’s instruction to model good, not bad, behavior. Demetrius was an example to the Body of Christ. Others obviously noticed because he had a good name and reputation, from the truth itself! John goes a step further and personally endorses this man of God.

It is not hard to see which one of these men was truly following God. Demetrius influenced for the good and surely spent time with the Lord, with Truth…and it showed. People noticed it,  talked about it and followed his example as a leader.

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

Diotrephes, unfortunately, may have started out right, but somewhere along the way, he left his first love and replaced it with himself. Everything was about him, everything was for him and unless he repented and humbled himself before God, he would die a very lost and lonely man.

It might be adorable for an infant to be infatuated with its reflection in the mirror, but when we grow in Christ, we learn to take our eyes off of that man in the mirror and reflect His Glory, not our own.

nannette elkins

Nannette has served in various ministry positions over the last 30 years, most recently as a pastor’s wife and missionary to Eastern Europe serving in the countries of Estonia and Latvia. Wife to The Sweetheart, Mom to the Fantastic Five, Nana to Lark and Norah, Author of The Daniel Fast, A Devotional. UPCI ministers, and NA Directors of RevivalByDesign. She travels with her husband, teaching churches a Bible-based blueprint of revival, Revival By Design. ( Nannette blogs at, is the curriculum editor for and devours anything with coffee in the title.

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