Why Would Christians Follow Diotrephes?

In John’s third letter, he warned about a man named Diotrephes. We often talk about his desire for preeminence, his rule over the church, and the trouble he caused; but we don’t usually talk about his followers. In this lesson, we are going to consider the followers of Diotrephes and why they would follow him.

How Do We Know He Had a Following?

  • He loved to have “preeminence” (KJV) – desire to be first, have a place of distinction; desiring it is one thing, having it is something else; Christians must be willing for him to have it, otherwise he would have been withdrawn from (cf. Ephesians 5:11; Titus 3:10-11)
  • Reasons why Diotrephes should have been withdrawn from – did not accept apostolic teaching (2 Thessalonians 3:6); made unjust accusations against truth-teachers (Romans 3:8); refused to receive faithful brethren which would mean enforcing a standard beyond God’s word (2 John 9-11); put out brethren who refused to go along with him (cf. John 12:42; Titus 3:10)
  • The fact that Diotrephes was still in the church and wielding influence shows that he had a following – no details given by John as to the reason, but there are several possible reasons why someone might follow a man like this today

Reasons Why Christians Might Follow One Like Diotrephes

  • They trust him – believe he is right or standing for truth; dangerous to put our trust in fallible men (Romans 3:23; Psalm 118:8); we must follow someone only as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1)
  • They like him personally – could be charismatic, a father-figure, a good friend, etc.; they do not want to jeopardize the relationship they have with him (cf. Matthew 10:34-37); we must not think of men above what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6) and put Christ first over relationships
  • They idolize him – put him in the place of Christ and listen to him rather than the Lord; instead of studying the Bible for themselves, they rely on him to tell them what is right (Acts 17:11); we must study for ourselves (2 Timothy 2:15) and follow the Lord, not men (1 Corinthians 1:12)
  • They believe he is well-respected – within the congregation, with brethren in the area, or both; this would put one in the minority for not following him, making it tempting to compromise (Galatians 2:13); we must strive to please the Lord first (Galatians 1:10) and recognize that others are not our standard (2 Corinthians 10:12)
  • They value the status quo – some would rather things be the way they are than be right; traditions are not wrong in themselves (2 Thessalonians 2:15), but they must be right and practiced for that reason; we must be willing to change to repent (Revelation 2:5), grow (Ephesians 4:15), and reach others (1 Corinthians 9:20-23)
  • They have been manipulated by him – John said Diotrephes was a liar and deceived others; the “unsuspecting” are the ones who are deceived (Romans 16:17-18; cf. 1 Timothy 4:1); we must always be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8), not just for Satan, but also his ministers (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
  • They fear him – he was willing to put people out of the church who would not follow him; temptation to compromise to avoid becoming an outcast (John 9:20-23; 12:42-43); we must not fear (1 Peter 3:14), but instead be willing to stand alone (2 Timothy 4:16-17)


  • Paul said we are not to follow himself, Apollos, or Peter (1 Corinthians 1:12) – these were good, faithful men
  • If we are not to follow them, then we are certainly not to follow a man like Diotrephes
  • We must follow Christ, even if it means facing opposition from “Diotrephes” and his followers
  • Do not fear their intimidation” (1 Peter 3:14) – trust in the Lord and follow Him (3 John 11)

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