I. Here is a very different example and character, an officer, a minister in the church, less generous, catholic, and communicative than the private Christians. Ministers may sometimes be out-shone, out-done. In reference to this minister, we see,
1. His name—a Gentile name: Diotrephes, attended with an unchristian spirit.
2. His temper and spirit—full of pride and ambition: He loves to have the pre-eminence. This ferment sprang and wrought betimes. It is an ill unbeseeming character of Christ’s ministers to love pre-eminence, to affect presidency in the church of God.
3. His contempt of the apostle’s authority, and letter, and friends. (1.) Of his authority: The deeds which he doeth contrary to our appointment, prating against us with malicious words. Strange that the contempt should run so high! But ambition will breed malice against those who oppose it. Malice and ill-will in the heart will be apt to vent themselves by the lips. The heart and mouth are both to be watched. (2.) Of his letter: “I wrote to the church (3 John 1:9), namely, in recommendation of such and such brethren. But Diotrephes receiveth us not, admits not our letter and testimony therein.” This seems to be the church of which Gaius was a member. A gospel church seems to be such a society as to which a letter may be written and communicated. Gospel churches may well expect and be allowed credentials with the strangers who desire to be admitted among them. The apostle seems to write by and with these brethren. To an ambitious aspiring spirit apostolical authority or epistle signifies but little. (3.) Of his friends, the brethren he recommended: Neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth those that would, and casteth them out of the church, 3 John 1:10. There might be some differences or different customs between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. Pastors should seriously consider what differences are tolerable. The pastor is not at absolute liberty, nor lord over God’s heritage. It is bad to do no good ourselves; but it is worse to hinder those who would. Church-power and church-censures are often abused. Many are cast out of the church who should be received there with satisfaction and welcome. But woe to those who cast out the brethren whom the Lord Christ will take into his own communion and kingdom!
4. The apostle’s menace of this proud domineerer: Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth (3 John 1:10), will remember to censure them. This seems to intimate apostolical authority. But the apostle seems not to hold an episcopal court, to which Diotrephes must be summoned; but he will come to take cognizance of this affair in the church to which it belongs. Acts of ecclesiastical domination and tyranny ought to be animadverted upon. May it be better agreed to whom that power belongs!
II. Here is counsel upon that different character, dissuasion from copying such a pattern, and indeed any evil at all: Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good, 3 John 1:11. Imitate not such unchristian pernicious evil; but pursue the contrary good, in wisdom, purity, peace, and love. Caution and counsel are not needless to those who are good already. Those cautions and counsels are most likely to be accepted that are seasoned with love. Beloved, follow not that which is evil. To this caution and counsel a reason is respectively subjoined. 1. To the counsel: Follow that which is good; for he that doeth good (naturally and genuinely doeth good, as delighting therein) is of God, is born of God. The practice of goodness is the evidence of our filial happy relation to God. 2. To the caution: Follow not that which is evil, for he that doeth evil (with bent of mind pursues it) hath not seen God, is not duly sensible of his holy nature and will. Evil-workers vainly pretend or boast an acquaintance with God.