Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1089 MP3 Audio File Video File

Egotistical Elder

(3 John 1:9)

Delivered 11/07/21

We are continuing our study of the little epistle of 3 John. When we read 3 John along with 2 John, it becomes apparent that two groups of missionaries were moving around among the churches. One group was teaching error and the other was teaching the truth.  Second John deals with the admonition to not be hospitable to heretical, itinerant preachers, while 3 John deals with the admonition to be hospitable to itinerant preachers who are teaching the truth.

Colin G. Kruse in the Pillar New Testament Commentary has this to say:

This letter, written by the elder to his friend Gaius, has essentially three functions: (i) to reinforce Gaius's commitment to the noble work of providing hospitality to travelling missionaries, something he was already doing (vv. 5–8), (ii) to draw attention to the intolerable behaviour of Diotrephes and to foreshadow the steps he intends to take in response to it (vv. 9–10), and (iii) to commend Demetrius (v. 12). [Kruse, C. G. (2000). The letters of John (pp. 1-26). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.]

This letter revolves around three men—Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius. We have looked at the first 8 verses so far which are a commendation and encouragement of Gaius' hospitality. Then verses 9 thru 11 deal with Diotrephes and verse 12 deals with Demetrius.

John gave us two concrete examples to clarify how Christian hospitality, which is the product of abiding in the truth, behaves. The first example is positive and involves Gaius' commendable behavior. Gaius put the needs of others before his own needs and desires. The second example of hospitality is negative, and involves Diotrephes' contemptible behavior.

The change in verse 9 is almost startling when it introduces us to a man who, contrary to the call for hospitality, is doing everything he can to prevent the servants of the gospel from having any reception in the church.

Sometimes we have some kind of an idyllic view of the early Christian church as they had this Utopian existence without any sort of problems at all. And at times the actions of the early church were amazing, times like we see in Acts 4.

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Yeshua, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Acts 4:32-35 ESV

This sounds like an amazing assembly. Who wouldn't love to be part of it? But the early church wasn't without its problems. Today we meet one of them named Diotrephes. Our text for today shows us that even the first-century church had problems. The church has always had leaders who love the preeminence, who are proud and selfish and self-centered, and who seek the places of power and the places of fame and the places of prestige.

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 3 John 1:9 ESV

"I have written something to the church"this indicates a prior written communication to the church (not Gaius) which Diotrephes apparently ignored or destroyed. Some see this as a reference to 2 John, but this is unlikely because there is no request for hospitality in that letter.  

This is an interesting statement because it points out that those in the apostolic circle wrote things of which we have no record today. There is a missing letter to the Corinthians referenced in 2 Corinthians 2:4 and 2 Corinthians 7:8–9. There also may be an earlier epistle to the Ephesians referenced in Ephesians 3:3–4. The Epistle to the Laodiceans is referenced at Colossians 4:16. In 3 John we are told about a letter that John wrote that we do not have. That said I believe that we have the cannon that Yahweh intended us to have.

"Diotrephes"—this is the only mention of this man in the New Testament. His name is a very rare name which means "reared by Zeus or nursed by Zeus," and it was a name found only among nobility in ancient families. It was the custom for Christians in those days to discard heathen names, but this man hung onto his.  It may have been that he had a self-importance problem because he came from some noble family.

"Does not acknowledge our authority"not only did Diotrephes reject John's authority, but he was aggressively involved in rejecting Apostolic polity and even taking his vengeance out on those who would follow it. The "our" here would refer to the apostolic circle, the church at Jerusalem. I know that John was not an apostle, but he was part of the church at Jerusalem and would have been considered part of the apostolic circle.

"Who likes to put himself first"—"likes" is not a good translation here.

I wrote to the assembly, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the first among them, does not receive us. 3 John 1:9 TS2009

"Who loves to be the first"—is the compound Greek word philoprōteuō which is from phileō which is "love" and prōteuō which is "foremost to hold first rank." This is only use of philoprōteuō in the New Testament, but prōteuō is used in Colossians 1:18 of Christ's premier rank.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:18 ESV

"Preeminent" here is prōteuō.

"Who loves"—is in the present tense meaning this is a pattern for him; this is habitual for him. Here, then, is a man who's competing with Christ. Here is one who doesn't believe that Yeshua alone is first but seeks to supplant Christ and to rule the church in the place of Christ.

Diotrephes, in other words, was acting with the authority of a monarchical bishop.

A monarchical Bishop is simply one man who was an elder who gained precedence over what was a formerly equal leadership, and he rises to be foremost, to hold first rank.

Please notice that John did not say or imply that Diotrephes held false doctrine. Diotrephes' theology was orthodox. If it had not been, John would have condemned him as a heretic. His problem was not his theology; it was clerical. He believed an individual could take control of the local church and determine the things that will happen in the church. This kind of egotistical individual has been present in the church in every age!

The root problem with Diotrephes' behavior was pride, self-centeredness. This is the explanation for the majority of church problems down through history! People want to be first, people want to have the preeminence.

In our next study we'll look more at Diotrephes and what exactly he was doing. But for the rest of our time this morning we are going to talk about the sin of pride, perhaps the chief of sins. Some even think that pride is the root of other sins. It well may be because it leads to so many other particular offenses. Older commentators spoke of pride as a "chief sin" in that other twigs grew from its fertile and fatal root.

Diotrephes' attitude of pride is condemned throughout the Scripture.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  James 4:6 ESV

Please notice that this verse is both a warning to the proud and a promise to the humble. Pride is an attitude of self-sufficiency toward God. Humility is an acknowledgment that we are weak, unworthy, and inadequate. To the humble, God promises grace.

I believe everyone here knows what pride is. I think we certainly know it when we see it. We see pride in our neighborhoods and in all corners of human existence. Even in our homes. It sprouts well in the corridors of power, in every borough in America, and down into the halls of the homeless. When that husband maintains one position in an argument with his wife or when that wife stubbornly tries to get her way, pride grows. Pride seeds itself in the office suite, in the schoolroom, on the athletic field; in fact, in every corner of the universe where the active Lordship of Christ is not present. Pride is characterized by self-assertion and selfishness. Its opposite, humility, is known by its selflessness.

We saw an example of pride and arrogance this past week when the Democrat Party doubled down on its spending bills after Tuesday's bloodbath. Glen Youngkin, a political novice and businessman who had never run for office and had only 2% name recognition, defeated the entire Democrat establishment to include Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Terry McAuliffe, and others. He defeated them all.

And he wasn't alone. Republican Winsome Sears won the lieutenant governor's race, and Republican Jason Miyares won the attorney general's seat. Republicans have won 52 seats in the Virginia House. Every Republican House incumbent won reelection and the party flipped seven Democrat seats because of the failed Biden residency. And yet instead of backing off and reevaluating, they push forward with their hated agenda.

Paul contrasts pride and humility in Philippians 2.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 ESV

The word "conceit" here is from the Greek word kenodoxia which means "vainglory" or "empty pride." It is a state of mind that seeks personal glory. It is used only here in Scripture.

Right now you're probably thinking of people who need to hear this. You're hoping they're listening or wishing they were here. Well, before you exclude yourself from this sin, let me read to you the comments of Albert Barns on the Greek word kenodoxia (pride).

Who is there who passes a single day without in some respect, desiring to display himself? What minister of the gospel preaches, who never has any wish to exhibit his talents, eloquence, or learning. How few make a gesture, but with some wish to display the grace of power with which it is done! Who, in conversation, is always free from a desire to show his wit, or his power in argumentation? Who plays the piano without the desire of commendation? Who thunders in the senate, or goes to the field of battle; who builds a house, or purchases an article of apparel; who writes a book, or performs a deed of benevolence, altogether uninfluenced by this desire? If all could be taken out of human conduct which is performed merely from 'pride,' how small a portion would be left!

Wow! That is pretty powerful. In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis calls pride the "great sin" because it "leads to every other vice." He said this about it:

There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people except Christians ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…. There is no fault which makes man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. (NY; MacMillan, 1943), p. 94.

Pride is willful arrogance. It is claiming for yourself what is really God's. It is essentially a lust for power, and it is far more prevalent than in rulers alone. Pride is no respecter of persons or position. In a power-centric society, pride is at the top of the list of sins. Today, many of us are routinely tempted with pride. Much of our very environment seduces us with pride. It is a sin of which we should constantly be aware and seek to restrain. If a person tells me they have no pride, then I know I'm dealing with a person who does not know himself very well or a person who is in dangerous denial.

We need a prideectomy or at the very least, an antidote for it. The first thing that I want you to understand this morning is that Scripture condemns pride. Our society looks at pride as a virtue. Everything in our society is built to cater to man's pride, to build man up, to inflate his ego. But the Bible has nothing good to say about pride—nothing. The Wisdom literature in the Tanakh is quite helpful in exhibiting the true nature of pride and in calling us to avoid it.

There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, Proverbs 6:16-17 ESV
The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. Proverbs 8:13 ESV
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 ESV
By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom. Proverbs 13:10 ESV
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5 ESV
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 ESV
One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. Proverbs 29:23 ESV

The scriptures have nothing good to say about pride. It is a very destructive, very damaging sin that is to be avoided. This teaching runs all through Scripture—God brings the proud low, but he exalts the humble. Yeshua taught this.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12 ESV

It is one principle with two sides. It is a promise of being brought low to those who exalt themselves, and it is a promise of exaltation to those who humble themselves. We also see the principle in Luke 18.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."  Luke 18:14 ESV

We know that the world works by inflating egos and encouraging pride. But pride has no place in the Christian life. God calls us to humility, the opposite of pride. Peter and James both say, "God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble." The Greek word they use for "resist" is antitassomai which is a compound word from anti ("against") and tasso ("to station or arrange"). In other words, God is the active antagonist of the proud. Pride is perhaps the most destructive attitude because it puts man at enmity with God.

Throughout the New Testament, pride is categorized as a sin.

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Mark 7:21-23 ESV
Slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, Romans 1:30 ESV
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  2 Timothy 3:2 ESV

People, pride is a sin! The Word of God has nothing good to say about pride. Now, someone may ask, "What about taking pride in our work?" Pride says, "Look how good of a job I'm doing. Aren't I wonderful." Instead of saying we take pride in our work, we should say, "I do my work to the best of my ability for the glory of God." The Bible says that we are to do whatever we do for His glory.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  Colossians 3:23 ESV

Shouldn't we be proud of our children? No! Pride is a sin. We should be "pleased" when our children strive to do their best and seek to live godly. We need grace in order to raise our children, and God only gives grace to the humble.

Let's look at what the Scriptures show us as to the consequences of pride. A specific example of the judgment against pride is seen in the prophecy about Edom, a territory southeast of Jerusalem in the desert which had many natural fortresses. The city of Petra, the great capital city of Edom, was well fortified because it was nestled between high cliffs, and the only entrance was just wide enough for a single individual to pass through. It was, therefore, very easy for that city to be guarded by one soldier, making it almost invulnerable.

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to the ground?" Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the LORD. Obadiah 1:3-4 ESV

This prophecy was fulfilled, and the city of Petra was destroyed. Petra had water coming into the city in little troughs, flowing down the sides of the cliffs. When the city's water supply had been cut off by its adversaries, the people eventually had to surrender for lack of water. God brought them down from their lofty pride.

We also see the consequence of pride in the story of Uzziah, King of Judah. God had exalted him to the position of King and was using him mightily until he became proud.

And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 2 Chronicles 26:1 ESV
Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper. 2 Chronicles 26:3-5 ESV

Please notice that last phrase, "…as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper." Seeking God is a sign of humility, and prayer is a sign of humility. Uzziah humbled himself, and God exalted him.

God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabians who lived in Gurbaal and against the Meunites. 2 Chronicles 26:7 ESV

In verses 10-15, we are told of Uzziah's military might and accomplishments, but then at the end of verse 15, "for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong." 

But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 2 Chronicles 26:16 ESV

According to Numbers 16:40, he was not to burn incense on the altar,

to be a reminder to the people of Israel, so that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, should draw near to burn incense before the LORD, lest he become like Korah and his company—as the LORD said to him through Moses. Numbers 16:40 ESV

Uzziah knew this, but in his pride, he disobeyed the word of Yahweh. Pride is an attitude of self-glorification and an attempt to disown one's dependence on God. Pride sets the will of the creature against the will of the Creator. Pride violates the first commandment—to have no other gods before our Creator. Pride puts self before God. It seeks elevation above divinity. Because of this sin of pride, God judged Uzziah.

And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him. And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king's household, governing the people of the land. 2 Chronicles 26:20-21 ESV

He went from being the King of Judah, a powerful military leader, to being a leper, a social outcast. Uzziah is an example of the truth that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Another illustration of the destruction of pride is Nebuchadnezzar.  In Daniel chapter 4 Nebuchadnezzar sought to exalt himself. And because he sought to exalt himself, God turned him into a maniac and caused him to graze like an animal for seven years until he finally came to his senses.

Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws. Daniel 4:33 ESV

He is a model of self-centered, proud, power-mad love for preeminence.

Then we have Haman, whom we see in the book of Esther. King Ahasuerus ruled all the way from India to Ethiopia, and he had raised a man by the name of Haman to very high rank in his kingdom. Haman became drunk with power and drunk with prestige. He demanded that everybody obey him, bow before him, pay him homage, and honor him. And there was a Jew who would not bow to him by the name of Mordecai.

And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. Esther 5:9 ESV

This is pride. Because Mordecai would not to bow to him, Haman decided that because of what Mordecai had done, he would literally annihilate the Jews. He would commit genocide. He loved the preeminence to such a degree that he would literally obliterate a whole race of people because of one man who would not bow to him. Remember "God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble."

So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated. Esther 7:10 ESV

Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had built on which to hang Mordecai.

I'd like to make a distinction here. There is a difference between pride and contentment (satisfaction). God wants us to be content but not proud. The one gives glory to God the other to self. There may be a fine line between smugness and satisfaction. We must be on our guard against pride while at the same time we continue to practice gratitude and thankfulness. The presence of contentment is a good sign that pride is being crucified again and again. Yes, God wants us content and thankful; in fact, such attitudes keep us from the demanding-ness of pride. Henry Ward Beecher said, "Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow…. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves."

If Albert Barns is right and all of us struggle with pride, how do we overcome it? The solution to the problem of pride is to see yourself in a proper manner. To see yourself as a sinner saved and sustained by the grace of God alone. All we are and all we have is a gift of grace from God. What, then, do we have to be proud about?

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?  1 Corinthians 4:7 ESV

We do differ from one another. Some of us are smarter than others, some of us are better looking than others, some of us are more talented than others, and some of us are more gifted than others. We do differ, but who makes us to differ? The answer of course is God!

Then the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  Exodus 4:11 ESV

What do you have that is not a gift from God? Looks? Intelligence? Popularity? Talents? Possessions? This is true even of those things which are acquired by great self-denial and exertion.

You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18 ESV

We have absolutely no good thing that we did not receive.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 ESV

Look with me at David's prayer.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. 1 Chronicles 29:11-16 ESV

"What do you have that you did not receive?"  In this single sentence, Augustine saw the whole doctrine of grace. When we think of what we have done and think of what God has done for us, pride is ruled out and only humble gratitude remains.

Have you ever realized what a pointless thing pride really is? Since we possess only what God has given us, why do we boast as if we had created the things ourselves or earned them? Everything you are and everything you have you owe to God. In the life of a believer, there is no place for pride.

Before we close, I would like to draw two things to your attention in relation to pride. I want us to understand that pride is a great hindrance to love and prayer.

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

Prayer is an act of humility, it is saying, "God, I need You, I need your help." And on the other hand, prayerlessness is pride. It is saying, "God, I'm not praying because I don't need you or any help from you." You can judge the extent of your pride by the amount of time you spend in prayer. Think about that!

Pride is a hindrance to love.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant. 1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV

Paul tells us that love "is not arrogant." The Greek word here is phusioo which means "blowing; to inflate." Figuratively it means "make proud." This word is only used in the New Testament six times. Five of those occasions are in 1 Corinthians. One of the great problems of the Corinthians was their pride. And the pride of the Corinthians demonstrated itself in a lack of love. Love is not proud. So often we are impatient and unkind to people because we think we deserve better treatment than we are getting. This is pride. And we need to understand that the root problem in any conflict between two people is pride.

By pride comes only strife, But wisdom is with those who take advice. Proverbs 13:10 TS2009

Whenever there is a division between a husband and wife, between a parent and child, or between one believer and another believer, there is always a root cause—pride. And where there is pride, there is no love. Love is not proud.

In One Church from the Fence, Wes Seelinger writes:

I have spent long hours in the intensive care waiting room … watching with anguished people … listening to urgent questions: Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again? How do you live without your companion of thirty years?

The intensive care waiting room is different from any other place in the world. And the people who wait are different. They can't do enough for each other. No one is proud. The distinctions of race and class melt away. A person is a father first, a black man second. The garbage man loves his wife as much as the university professor loves his, and everyone understands this. Each person pulls for everyone else.

In the intensive care waiting room, the world changes. Vanity and pretense vanish. The universe is focused on the doctor's next report. If only it will show improvement. Everyone knows that loving someone else is what life is all about.

Let's all seek to be characterized by a loving humble spirit before we're in the intensive care waiting room. Love is not proud.

Don't we all need to be a little more on guard against pride? Aren't there some looming examples of this in all our lives? The solution to the problem of pride is to see yourself in a biblical manner. The remedy for pride is a spirit of humility—to see yourself as a sinner saved and sustained by the grace of God alone. All we are and all we have is a gift of grace from God. What do we have to be proud about?

Believer, please remember: God resists the proud but give grace to the humble.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 1 Peter 5:5-6 ESV

Diotrephes may have had the truth, but the only person he loved was himself! Don't be like Diotrephes. Be like Gaius.

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