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The DEEP

Preeminence

An unexpected idol.

3 John 9–10

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

After installing Gaius in the spiritual hall of fame, John now dumps Diotrephes into the hall of shame. And for what? What’s John’s point here?

It’s hospitality again. This guy is the perfect opposite of Gaius. Not only does he refuse to receive the brethren, he forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Just on the control-freak level, this is nuts. His prating (incessant talk) against John is hard to fathom too. What’s wrong with this guy?

Unfortunately, we get no help from other references on Diotrephes. This passage is the only one about him in all of scripture (or anywhere else). Thus, we don’t get any backstory on what went wrong. We must go on only what we have here. So, what does Diotrephes do?

He does not receive us. He talks incessantly against John with malicious words. Even worse, he does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

John’s inspired diagnosis is that all these things are because Diotrephes loves to have the preeminence. Thus we get a profound lesson in how sin can blossom into a nightmare.

Wanting preeminence doesn’t sound too bad at first glance. There’s nothing wrong with working hard to get ahead. But Diotrephes’s desire to do well has warped into a love of preeminence. It has become an obsession. This then led to outrageously sinful behavior towards the brethren and even towards John the apostle.

That’s pride. Diotrephes’s prating confirms the diagnosis.

In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis has a chapter on pride titled “The Great Sin.” In it, Lewis calls pride “spiritual cancer.” “It was through Pride that the devil became the devil.”

Lewis connects it to today’s passage with, “Now what you want to get clear is that pride is essentially competitive—is competitive by its very nature—while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident.”

Loving preeminence is pure, distilled pride.

It’s no surprise that great sins blossom from that root.


If anyone reading this devotional has never read Mere Christianity, or even hasn’t read it recently, promise me you’ll get around to it this year.

You cannot read that book and not be changed by it.


These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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