A Bad Example

May 31, 2019 Preacher: Gareth Franks Series: Letters of John - Knowing, Walking & Living the Truth

Topic: Christian Living Scripture: 3 John 1:9–10

Home Group Study - Sermon Date: 31 May 2019

Text: 3 John 1:9-10

Opening Discussion:

There are many heartbreaking stories of people, especially children being bullied at school. Children who don’t fit in and who don’t play sports and would rather read a book than play outside are often labeled as ‘losers’ or ‘geeks’ by these bullies. Often bullying can lead to anxiety, depression, trust issues as well as more severe consequences. Can you relate to this growing up? Share your story of bullies.


There is a lot about bullying in the headlines!  Bullying is not only confined to the school buses or something only children have to deal with. Bullying exists in the work place, in the home and even in the church. It is as old as time itself.  There always have been these kinds of people. And even among the people of God, we can all be tempted in this area, because we all struggle with pride.

Real life in the early church is recorded for us right here in 3 John, and it isn’t pretty.  This is a congregation literally torn apart by a leader who is struggling with PRIDE. He has a huge ego, who likes to bulldoze and bully his own way. His bad example is recorded for us to learn…what we should NOT be doing in the church. His name is Diotrephes. He loved to be first, he loved to have power and be respected and honoured above everyone else. The bad example recorded for us is the bad example of someone who professes to be a Christian but does not possess Christ. Diotrephes would not support the spread of the gospel and stood in the way of people who did!

John is describing this bad example to Gaius for a reason.  Remember, John is writing this letter in the context of how we are to treat Christian missionaries. These faithful missionaries were traveling from church to church, receiving hospitality, which included food and financial support so they could dedicate their time and efforts with the task of spreading the gospel message. John teaches us that Christians ought to invest in the propagation of the gospel. It would be wrong to expect gentiles (unbelievers) to pay the preachers of the gospel for bringing the gospel to them.  And so John is calling for basic support for this kind of evangelistic and missionary endeavor. But Diotrephes completely contradicts the teachings of John the apostle. Diotrephes forbids the rest of the congregation to receive and support missionaries. He even goes so far as kicking people out of the church who have received these faithful evangelists and missionaries.  That’s the setting in which John is writing to Gaius.

Investigation & Interpretation:

  • Read: 3 John 1:9-10
  1. Can you remember what Diotrephes name means?
  2. What does John mean when he says that Diotrephes “likes to put himself first”9
  3. Why was it wrong for Diotrephes to NOT acknowledge the apostles authority? v.9
  4. What does it mean to “talk wicked nonsense”? v.10
  5. Why did Diotrephes “refuse to welcome the brothers”? v.10
  6. How do you suppose Diotrephes ‘stopped those who wanted to’? v.10
  7. What was the final and most significant way Diotrephes abused his authority in verse 10?

Application - How must I change?

  • Is there a Truth to be believed?

Some wise person once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Was Diotrephes an acceptable leader for a church to have? Why or why not? V9 (Mt. 20:20-28, Php 2:5-11, 1 Ti 3:3, 1Pe 5:3).

  • Is there an Attitude to be fostered?

We know that pride motivated the sinful attitude and behaviour of Diotrephes. The same is true for the sons of Zebedee in Matthew 20:20-28. Jesus rebuked James and John by telling them ‘If you want to be first, you should seek to be last.’ In what ways does pride rear its ugly head in your family? How can we overcome this?   

  • Is there a Behavior to be changed?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘PREEMINENT’ as - more important or powerful than all others. Diotrephes loved to be first. He loved the preeminence. In what ways can our behaviour subtly reflect our hearts desire for preeminence in a) our marriage and b) our church?  


One of the biggest dangers of a church contracting Diotrephes disease is that it starts to become inward reaching instead of outward stretching. The challenge presented by this attitude of Diotrephes is to overcome our prideful tendencies to continue to nurse the exclusive club mentality and to rather stretch out and make people feel welcome - going beyond the simple hello and handshake during service, going beyond the casual wave around town - and onto the dinner invitations - the surprise visits - the invitation to participate in church activities - the offer to drive to someone to church. Anything and everything we can do to promote the work of the gospel.

John tells us not to follow the example of Diotrephes. If we're going to follow an example, may it be an example of one who sacrificially loves, not one who seeks to be preeminent. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1  “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Paul can say follow me because he is following Christ. Can we say the same to others? Our greatest example of all is Jesus Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve”, Philippians 2:5-8  “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.”



Prayer Points:  

  1. Pray that the Lord would grant us repentance from the sin of pride and pre-eminence.
  2. Pray that NLC would be a sacrificially loving church that seeks to serve.
  3. Pray that NLC would be equipped, willing and ready to boldly share our faith.

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