Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Diotrephes Revisited

As noted yesterday, Keith Stell taught from 3 John in the PM worship service this past Lord's Day at New Georgia Baptist Church. One of the features about Keith's sermon that I found most interesting was when he pointed out that the Greek verb prōteuō ("preeminent") is used only twice in the New Testament. It is used of Christ in Colossians 1:18 and it is used of Diotrephes in 3 John 9. Clearly, Diotrephes is presented as one who sought a position that is properly held by Christ alone. Christ is the Head of the Church and the One who is preeminent over everything in general. Diotrepehes loved preeminence in general and sought to act as a head over his church.

When reviewing 3 John after Keith's sermon, I was especially interested in the specific ways that Diotrephes sought to usurp Christ's authority in the local church. (Lately, for various reasons, I have been giving a great deal of thought to matters of church government.) One way in which Diotrephes exalted himself above Christ was through taking it upon himself to excommunicate believers. John directly implies that Diotrephes excommunicated people whom he felt threatened his own assumed authority. So Diotrephes was excommunicating people for a bogus reason. But notice: the very practice of excommunication by an individual is, in itself, unwarranted.

Church discipline (possibly to include excommunication, if the person under discipline remains impenitent) is to be conducted according to the commands of Christ recorded in Matthew 18:15-17 and the commands of the Apostle written in passages such as 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Timothy 5:19-20, and Titus 3:10-11. An examination of these passages will abundantly demonstrate church discipline is certainly to be done according to a congregational principle. "By the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact must be established," then-if a person under church discipline refuses to listen to two or three fellow believers-the matter is to be brought before the congregation as a whole, with the congregation making a decision (under prayer and guidance from Scripture) about what action should or should not be taken. Instead, Diotrephes was acting as a kind of pope, effectively issuing "bulls" against people who might question his arrogance.

This is something to consider in our own day as well: church leaders only have authority over God's people insofar as the leaders themselves are submitted to God's Word.

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