I was recently confronted by the reality of a modern day Diotrephes and reminded that everything in Scripture is given for the Church’s instruction and application. Unfortunately, there are too many like Diotrephes who always want the spot light on themselves believing they know best and can do what they want based upon their own authority. These men, and women, are like a caustic acid raining down on the heads of the saints. Their authority is NOT biblical authority, but instead it stems from their own wealth, intelligence or simple muscle power to bully others convincing them that “Diotrephes knows best.”
How can local churches shut down the destructive forces of a 2012 version of this? The book of 1 Timothy, written by the apostle Paul to the young pastor Timothy, in the middle of the Ephesian church building project (remember a church is not first and foremost a building), gives us some great insight into how to avoid the destruction and pain of Diotrephes. Here are just a few of these critical points of guidance:
1. An elder should not be a recent convert. Men young in the faith are at risk of becoming arrogant in positions of power and may use the shepherd’s staff on the heads of the sheep rather than to care for them (3:6).
2. Before a man becomes a deacon, he is first to be tested and shown to be blameless (above reproach), then he may begin to serve the church in this office (3:10).
3. Elders and deacons must first be able to lead their families in godliness and with dignity. If they can’t do that, they definitely won’t be able to lead in the church (3:4-5, 12).
4. Elders must remember that they are servants of Christ and servants of the church. In order to be faithful to that call they must doggedly keep an eye on their own lives and their teaching so they might finish the race they’ve started (4:6-16).
5. The elders of a church must be careful in how they receive accusations about one of their own … it must be based on the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses—nothing random, hasty or rash. If the charges are found to be true, THEN AND ONLY THEN, should the elder be rebuked publicly that all may realize that we are all just dirt and it’s only by the grace of God that we have not fallen into the same sin (5:19-22).
6. Teachers within the church tend to hold prominent, visible positions. It is easy for them to become proud and even to devise get-rich-quick schemes through their “ministry.” No teacher is ever above the warnings and authority of Scripture—they are not untouchable. They must always submit themselves to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the pages of Scripture and strive to fight the good fight of faith and make the most of their stewardship (6:2-14; 20-21).
7. The rich in the congregation are to be sternly warned not to put their confidence or hope in their riches, and not to use the dollar sign for evil but for good so that others may benefit and the rich realize that they have been brought from death to life (6:17-19).