Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3 John 1:9-10)
I was once told, “But you must belong to a local church, otherwise there is no apparatus for excommunicating you for bad doctrine.” How does one answer that?
Yes, there will always be Christians who climb, who are never happy unless they sit on the top of the pile, enjoying a sense of authority, and using it at times like Diotrephes. Jesus didn’t say it was wrong to be in authority, but He did say that such a one must be the “servant of all,” – a shepherd, not a terrier dog.
But our present concern relates, not so much to church leaders, as to attitudes expressed by us all in our contacts with others of different persuasions. Do we dismiss J.Ws and Mormons as heretics? Do we rail against Catholics, Calvinists, Universalists, in fact anyone who doesn’t have the intelligence and common sense we think we possess?
What does this mean? Simply that doctrines often divide, but the love of Christ draws men together. Surely we can disagree with a man’s theology, but still treat him as a brother in Christ? Heresy hunters are likeDiotrephes, always ready to dis-fellowship anyone who doesn’t toe the line.
Over the years we have been dis-fellowshipped because we believe in Christ’s total victory at Calvary. “They are definitely not members of the Body of Christ.” That remark was quite hurtful. We also hold other beliefs that are currently classed as heretical. But the word heretic (in Greek) simply means a person who fosters factions or sects. Basically it has nothing to do with formulating “orthodox doctrines”. In other words heresy is the divider of the brethren, but the love of Christ is the unifier of the brethren.
Rather than shutting the door on J.Ws, or Mormons, because (for example) they don’t believe in the Trinity, invite them in for a cup of tea, and share with them how much the Lord Jesus has meant to you over the years. Their hearts may be warmed and encouraged to think outside their own doctrinal boundaries.
Finally, the Apostle John spoke well of Demetrius. “Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.” (Verse 12) Would the Apostle be able to say this of us if he were alive today?