3 John 1:10
So if I come, I will call attention to his malicious slander against us. And unsatisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers and forbids those who want to do so, even putting them out of the church.
The Aged Presbyter's Letter to a Private Church-MemberR. Finlayson 3 John 1: 1-14
Diotrephes: a BeaconW. Jones 3 John 1: 9, 10
AmbitionC. H. Spurgeon.3 John 1:9-11
Censorious Men3 John 1:9-11
Covetousness in SinningW. Jones, D. D.3 John 1:9-11
DiotrephesS. Cox, D. D.3 John 1:9-11
DiotrephesChristian Treasury3 John 1:9-11
Diotrephes RebukedW. Jones, D. D.3 John 1:9-11
Love of Pre-EminenceA. Roberts, M. A.3 John 1:9-11
The True Method of Eminence3 John 1:9-11

I wrote unto the Church: but Diotrephes, etc.

I. THE CHARACTER OF DIOTREPHES BRIEFLY STATED. "Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them." We do not know who or what this man was beyond what is stated in our text. Whether he was pastor, elder, deacon, or other office-bearer in the Church, we cannot tell. Whatever he was in other respects, we know that he was ambitious of the highest place and of the greatest power in the Church: he would be first and chief of all, or he would be nothing. An evil and dangerous character in any one. "Before honour is humility." "A man's pride shall bring him low; but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit." "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord." "Pride goeth before destruction," etc. "Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister [or, 'servant']; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant [or, 'bondservant']; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto," etc. The chiefship is to be given, not to him who loveth to be first, but to him who most humbly and faithfully serves others. "For every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." "Humility is the surest path to exaltation." "The highest honour is won by the deepest humility." He who will be first of all, or nothing, will in the end be last and lowest of all.


1. He rejected the highest commendation. "I wrote somewhat unto the Church: but Diotrephes... receiveth us not." He would not recognize the authority of St. John, and rejected the letter of commendation which the apostle had sent to the Church. Neither would he receive the missionaries, and that probably because St. John commended them, and he would acknowledge no one to be greater than himself in the Church to which he belonged. He was determined "that not the apostle, but himself, should rule the Church."

2. He defamed the fairest reputation. "Prating against us with wicked words." Here are two evils, and one worse than the other.

(1) Loquacity. "Prating" - running on with speech. "The reproaches were mere tattle, worth nothing, irrelevant." "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." "Be slow to speak." "If any man bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain." Beware of the slavery of the tongue, and the sin of gab.

(2) Slander. "With wicked words." The holiest man is exposed to the venom of the tongue of the slanderer. Arrogance leads to terrible extremes; it dares to calumniate the most beautiful-spirited apostle. When a man has done wrong to another, he finds it necessary either to confess the wrong or to say false and wicked things against him he has wronged, hoping thereby to justify himself. So Diotrephes prated against St. John with wicked words. Therefore beware of the first wrong step. The slanderer frequently assails the best of men. Our Lord was thus attacked. "A gluttonous man and a wine-bibber." "He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the demons casteth he out the demons."

"No might nor greatness in mortality
Can censure 'scape; back-wounding calumny
The whitest virtue strikes: what king so strong
Can tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue?"


"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
Thou shalt not escape calumny."

(Ibid.) Be not dismayed if you are thus assailed. Loathe this sin.

3. He prohibited the exercise of a sacred privilege and duty. "Neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth," etc. He would neither receive the missionaries himself nor allow others to do so. "The dog in the manger" is the best exponent of his spirit and conduct. He prevented some from doing two things which are at once duties and privileges:

(1) exercising hospitality to the "brethren and strangers;"

(2) aiding them in their work of evangelization.

How terribly evil was the course he pursued! He injured the apostle, the missionaries, those who would have received them, those to whom they were sent, the whole Church, and the Church's Lord; and yet he was a member of the Church, and the chief man in it! He went so far as to expel from the Church those who would have entertained the evangelists. "And casteth them out of the Church."

III. THE CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF DIOTREPHES CONDEMNED. In this letter they are justly censured. And further rebuke is referred to: "If I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth," etc. There is nothing vindictive in this. The apostle would vindicate his own authority and the commission of the missionaries, enlighten the Church, and rebuke Diotrephes. "There are awkward men in the Church; men who, if they have any grace at all, have so much of the devil in them still that their grace has but little control over them. Good men should resist such persons. It may be very pleasant to talk of dealing with them in a spirit of charity, and being gentle with them, and forbearing and kind. Up to a certain point this is perfectly right. There is a work which compassion has to do; there is a sphere in which pity may be called into active exercise; at the same time, we are to mark those who cause divisions and offences, and to avoid them; and there is a certain class of men on whom pity has no effect, and compassion is lost; and the only thing which can be done is to 'deliver them over unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme'" (Dr. Joseph Parker). One masterful, power-loving man in a Church may work incalculable mischief and injury; therefore

(1) let us guard against the presence or growth of such a spirit in ourselves;

(2) let us take heed that we afford no encouragement or countenance to such a spirit in others. - W.J.

The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius.
It has been said that in the drama of life the scenery shifts and the draperies change, but the plot is the same and the characters the same. This is true; and because of this the most ancient history is in its essentials the story of to-day. Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius are ancient names, but modern characters; dead men, but living spirits.

I. GAIUS, OR THE CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOUR. Of his position in the Church, of his personal history, we know nothing. The light falls on him only for a moment; but in that moment we can see clearly that he was a full-orbed, symmetrical Christian.

1. His soul prospered — i.e., his inner life of prayer and fellowship with the Father was going on so well — the man was making such manifest progress in spiritual life — that St. John could form no higher wish for him than that he might prosper in all things and be in health, as his soul was prospering.

2. But his spirituality did not evaporate in feeling. There was nothing flabby or weak about the man. He was strong in the Lord. "I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and bare witness to thy truth." We do not know all that lies beneath this sentence. Evidently truth had been attacked, and Gaius had stood up in defence.

3. And as he prayed and spoke, so he lived: "even as thou walkest in the truth." The true defenders of the faith, the invincible champions of truth, are all the souls that do the truth. Holiness is an unanswerable argument.

4. He was an active Christian (vers. 5-7). Here we catch just a glimpse of the evangelising activity of the early Church. Error was busy. Many deceivers had gone forth into the world. But truth was busy also. She had taken the field. Christian men had "gone forth" "for the sake of the Name." Gaius probably could not "go forth," but he could help those who did. He could give them a home, could secure for them a favourable hearing, and send them on their way rejoicing. And he did so, thoroughly. He did this, as he did everything else, as unto the Lord. Gains did this, and so became "a fellow-worker with the truth." People often speak of "the workers" in the Church as if they were a small and easily defined class. But who are the workers? Those who preach, and teach, and visit, and sing, and organise? Yes; but not these only. Those who can only give small gifts from their poverty those who pray for us in secret, who smile on our efforts, who wish us well, who love us — behold, these too are workers, fellow-workers with the truth! Thank God for quiet people, kind people, hopeful people! What could the "workers" do without the fellow-workers?

II. DIOTREPHES REPRESENTS OFFICIALISM OUT AND OUT. I am sorry to say that there is little doubt that he was the minister of the Church in which Gaius was a member — a minister in name — in fact, a tyrant, a slanderer, a bad man.

1. "He loveth to have the pre-eminence among them." He did not call it by that name. He called it "principle," or "conscience," or "high sense of duty," for if you want to find the worst things you must not look for them under the words "crime," or "despotism," or "sin," but under "conscience," "duty," "patriotism," and "principle." But fine words notwithstanding, the core of this man's character was love of power and pride of place.

2. "If I come," says the apostle, "I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating against us with wicked words." Yes, "if I come," Diotrephes will find that John was not called the son of thunder for nothing. It ought not to be left to St. John to bring Diotrephes to book. The Church ought to have done this, The Church was partly guilty of this tyrant. "I know mother'll give it me if I scream," said a child. Ay, ay, that is the policy of most agitators. "I believe in screaming" is the one article of Diotrephes' creed in every age. Weak mothers, weak nations, weak Churches alike surrender to the scream. We owe it to Diotrephes to tell him the truth. Whether St. John come or not, slander should be condemned and tyranny opposed.

3. But the real danger to the Church lay, not in this man's despotic action, but in the infectious nature of his tyranny. There is a little Diotrephes in all men — all love to lead; and there was a danger lest this outside Diotrephes should stir up and call out the Diotrephes inside other members — lest opposing him they should still imitate him. Therefore St. John implores even Gaius, "Beloved, imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good."

4. "He that doeth good is of God: he that doeth evil hath not seen God." Let who will be bad, be you good. Though the very angels fall, do you stand. "By Allah," said Mahomet, when he was tempted, "if they placed the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left to persuade me, yet while God bids me I will go on." Yes! heed not the sun or moon. Hear God. Though even Diotrephes turn tyrant, let Gaius be Gaius still. "A single man with God is the majority."

III. DEMETRIUS STANDS FOR THE INSPIRING CHRISTIAN. He was a man whose life was such that John felt he had only to name him in order to inspire Gaius with courage. Yes, we all know names that for us are charged with inspiration. To see them or hear them makes us stronger, braver, better. We need not be rich, nor famous, nor learned in order to inspire men — only to be good, and honest, and loving, and pure. We too, by faith in Christ and by God's grace, may live in such a way that even our names may be to some few souls words of inspiration and means of grace.

(J. M. Gibbon.)


1. Three persons of the name Gaius or Caius appear in the New Testament (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14).

2. Demetrius is, of course, a name redolent of the worship of Demeter, the Earth-Mother, and of Ephesian surroundings. No reader of the New Testament needs to be reminded of the riot at Ephesus, which is told at such length in Acts 19. The conjecture that the agitator of the turbulent guild of silver smiths who made silver shrines of Diana may have become the Demetrius, the object of St. John's lofty commendation, is by no means improbable. The very words of Demetrius about Paul evince that uneasy sense of the powers of fascination possessed by the apostle which is often the first timid witness of reluctant conviction.


1. As to its contents.(1) It supplies us with a valuable test of Christian life, in what may be called the Christian instinct of missionary affection, possessed in such full measure by Caius.(2) The Church is beset with different dangers from very different quarters. As the second Epistle warns the Church of peril from speculative ambition, so the third Epistle marks a danger from personal ambition, arrogating to itself undue authority within the Church.(3) This brief Epistle contains one of those apparently mere spiritual truisms, which make St. John the most powerful and comprehensive of all spiritual teachers. He had suggested a warning to Caius, which serves as the link to connect the example of Diotrephes which he has denounced, with that of Demetrius which he is about to commend. "Beloved!" he cries, "imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good." A glorious little "Imitation of Christ," a compression of his own Gospel, the record of the Great Example in three words.

2. The style of the Epistle is certainly that of an old man. It is reserved in language and in doctrine. Religious language should be deep and real, rather than demonstrative. It is not safe to play with sacred names. To pronounce them at random for the purpose of being effective and impressive is to take them in vain. What a wealth of reverential love there is in that — "for the sake of the Name!" This letter says nothing of rapture, or prophecy, of miracle. It lies in the atmosphere of the Church, as we find it even now. It has a word for friendship. It seeks to individualise its benediction. A hush of evening rests upon the note. May such an evening close upon our old age!

(Abp. Wm. Alexander.)

The Weekly Pulpit.

1. A renewed heart.

2. A loving deportment.

II. THE HIGHEST AFFINITY. The Christian character draws to itself —

1. Our esteem.

2. Our kindness.

3. Our fellowship.

(The Weekly Pulpit.)

This is not a salutation in the sense of Christian greeting usual at the beginning of the Epistles of Paul and Peter, but a simple address, to point out the person for whom the Epistle was intended.

I. THE TRUE CHARACTERISTIC OF A BELIEVER IN JESUS CHRIST — "Beloved." This term is applied both to the Son of God and to the saints, and frequently used by the apostles. It is a term of endearment, and implies a relationship and an affinity of the highest order.

1. Loved. One with a renewed heart, one of tenderness and sympathy instead of hardness, ill-feeling, and cruelty.

2. Loving. The love of God in his heart was not a stagnant pool, but a running rill. Take the Christian life in its composite character, and it will be seen that love permeates the whole. As to the inner resources of thought and desire, there is in them a sweetness which reveals the well of love in the heart. In the life of Gaius, St. John saw the reflection of the greater love which laid down its life for its friends.

3. Lovable. It is almost unnecessary to state that the object of God's love will have attractions for all pure minds.

II. THE RECIPROCAL AFFINITY — "Whom I love in truth." The remembrance of the beloved Gaius awakens the love of the beloved John.

1. Whom I love by the power of truth. The gospel reveals in us the force of love, and in our fellow-Christians the worthy object of that force. The Christian character draws to itself our esteem.

2. Whom I love for the sake of truth. No effect has a greater influence on the Christian heart than the saving influence of the gospel. A more effective spectacle to win the affection of an apostle could not be found.

3. Whom I love in furtherance of truth. Tell the Christian worker that you honour him and love him for his work's sake, and you will strengthen his hands and rejoice his heart.

(T. Davies, M. A.)

Demetrius, Diotrephes, Gaius, John
Accusing, Assembly, Attention, Babbling, Brethren, Bring, Brothers, Cast, Casteth, Casts, Cause, Church, Conduct, Content, Deeds, Desire, Either, Evil, Excludes, Forbid, Forbiddeth, Forbids, Forget, Gossiping, Hinders, Idle, Intending, Keeps, Malicious, Maliciously, Mind, Mischievous, Prating, Prevents, Puts, Putting, Ready, Reason, Receive, Refuses, Remember, Remembrance, Satisfied, Stop, Stops, Talk, Talking, Therewith, Throws, Unjustly, Welcome, Wherefore, Wicked, Works
1. He commends Gaius for his piety,
5. and hospitality,
7. to true preachers;
9. complaining of the unkind dealing of ambitious Diotrephes on the contrary side;
11. whose evil example is not to be followed;
12. and gives special testimony to the good report of Demetrius.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
3 John 1:10

     5436   pain
     5510   rumours
     5972   unkindness
     7026   church, leadership

3 John 1:5-10

     8446   hospitality, duty of

3 John 1:9-10

     5769   behaviour
     8492   watchfulness, leaders

The Books of the New Testament
[Sidenote: The Author.] The author describes himself as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" (i. 1). Few books of the New Testament are so well attested as this Epistle. The external evidence for its authenticity is strong, and stronger than that for any other Catholic Epistle except 1 John. It seems to be quoted in Didache, i. 4. The letter of Polycarp written about A.D. 110 shows a complete familiarity with 1 Peter. He evidently regarded it as a letter of the highest authority. His contemporary
Leighton Pullan—The Books of the New Testament

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