In case the modern reader of Scriptures had a rosy-eyed view of the early Church and first-century believers, we have an example here of someone who was over-exerting their power and there are other examples scattered throughout Paul's writing. The individuals who would seek to determine the course of their church is not a recent phenomena and John has strong words for Diotrephes, who felt that he could even ignore the Apostles! Remember that in the early Church that this was a double ministry. There were the Apostles and prophets whose area of work and authority was not confined to one fellowship and there were the elders who provided the permanent settled ministry of the local congregations. This worked well to begin with when the local fellowships were made up of fledgling believers, but as these grew stronger, so the resistance to being told what to do by the occasional visitor began to grate. In amongst that structure, there were travelling missionaries and wandering preachers who rightly expected warm and loving hospitality. Their leader in this instance is Demetrius and John makes special reference to him and commends him to Gaius. This may be because he is the same man as we read about in Acts 19 v 21 as the silversmith who instigated riots against Paul or cited as one of Paul's fellow-workers who had forsaken him- Colossians 4 v 14. Either way, it appears that his past actions were being held against him, even though he now had the full support of the Apostles. This reminder of his less-than-perfect past may cause us to sympathise with Diotrephes, but true Christian leadership must always remember that strength and gentleness should go together and he demonstrated a lack of love and that is what John was all about.
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