The Right Attitude for Congregational Unity

Not only must one believe the right thing to have unity but one must also have the right attitude and disposition of heart to have unity. Having the truth is no justification for having a haughty disposition. We must have lowliness and meekness with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.

Of Diotrephes, the beloved John wrote (III John 9–10):

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

The sin that John charges against Diotrephes is that he loves to have the preeminence. The word here employed by John is a very rare one and means “fond of being first.”

Years ago A.T. Robertson wrote an article on Diotrephes. He set him forth as “a church regulator,” “a short-horn deacon.” He of course, never knew all the results of the article. But one thing he did learn was that twenty-five subscribers to the paper in which the article appeared, asked that their subscription be cancelled immediately. They did this as a protest against the personal attack that they thought had been madeupon them. These twenty-five men recognized themselves in the picture of Diotrephes whom the writer had painted. The shoe fit; the hit dog howled; the guilty conscience saw its owner in such a setting.

The church does not need men like Diotrephes. We do not need men who seek to rally parties about them. We need people who will follow Jesus and preachers who point people to Jesus and not themselves. Men heard John the Baptist preach, and they followed Jesus. This was great preaching. John was a great preacher. He was no Diotrephes. He said Jesus must increase, but that he himself must decrease. He could gracefully grant the preeminence to Christ, where it belongs, in all things.

Paul did not want the brethren at Corinth divided into parties with each following their favorite preacher. That is the wrong attitude. The glory in the church is not to go to the preacher who plants or the preacher who waters, but to God who gives the increase (I Corinthians 3:1–9). We should step out of selfishness and into the service of God. With the proper attitude among brethren all of the small things vanish away.

J. Noel Meredith