Remembering Gaius, Diotrephes and Demetrius

In the Apostle John’s third epistle, three individuals are mentioned by name; Gaius, the one to whom the epistle is addressed, Diotrephes, a leader in the church and Demetrius. There is much we can learn from their examples.

We will begin by remembering Diotrephes. John writes: I wrote to the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, did not receive us.
     Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words: and not content with that, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and forbids them that would, and casts them out of the church (III John 1:9,10).

In this letter that John has addressed to Gaius, the Apostle mentions a leader of the church there who was rejecting the apostles and other traveling evangelists; because as John puts it he, “loves to have preeminence among them.” Was John judging him? No, he had evaluated the man’s spiritual condition that needed correction based on his words and behavior.

This ‘spirit of preeminence’ is basically a spirit of pride and self-exaltation; a dangerous combination that should be avoided, especially if one is in a position of authority in the church.

Any traveling evangelist or speaker in this day and age knows that there are many like Diotrephes in our churches who refuse to share their pulpits with anyone else. This is why having plural leadership in a church is so important because it eliminates the tendency for individuals to be elevated to “star” pastor status.

Aside from the obvious egotistical errors that were ruining Diotrephes’s ministry, this example needs to be considered on another level. This man also represents people in today’s church who rebel against the apostolic authority of our founding apostles.

It is mind boggling to me that this Diotrephes could reject the Apostle John who knew the Lord, who personally ‘handled the Word of life,’ (I John 1:1) and received his doctrine directly from Jesus. Likewise, it is just as devastating to realize that today’s pulpits are becoming infiltrated with people who are also rejecting the authority of our founding apostles. “Biblical Christianity” is being maligned and those who adhere to scriptural authority are deemed as pharisaical in order to justify another version of God’s word that is void of correction. Thus these churches fulfill John’s description he penned in I John 2:19. –

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

John also gives us a very simple way of discerning when a church or individual is emulating the spirit of Diotrephes. –

We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is not of God does not hear us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (I John 4:6).

Anyone who defers to the authority of our founding apostles, whose words are recorded in the pages of God’s Holy Bible, is of God. Those who deviate from that authority are apostates.

It is wise also to follow the Apostle John’s example in his letter to Gaius, to “remember” Diotrephes and not allow ourselves to be deceived by those today who are operating under the same spirit of preeminence that rejects apostolic authority.

The Prosperous Soul

The Apostle John’s third epistle begins with a wish for the letter’s recipient, Gaius, “that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” Gaius had exhibited the evidence that his soul was prospering. This one “walked in the truth” (verse 3) and exhibited faithful service and charity to the church and “strangers,” non-believers (verses 5 and 6).

In response to the witness of Gaius’ living faith to others, the Apostle wished in essence that prosperity and health would be bestowed upon him in proportion to the prosperity or spiritual development of his soul.

It is obvious that the most important factor in the apostle’s wish for Gaius, is not the wealth and health of the individual, but the spiritual condition of Gaius’ soul. Unfortunately many in the church today grab onto the Apostle’s blessing as an excuse to pursue wealth as God’s divine will, without considering the context of the message.

Gaius obviously was not focused on gaining wealth. He was centered on the truth of the Gospel and serving others. Prosperity and health may follow those who are seeking the kingdom first. Jesus promised that if we followed His formula for success; But you seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33), then the things we need would be provided. That would include adequate funds to accomplish what needs to be done for the Lord and to maintain His workers; and the health needed to continue serving.

Anyone who is genuinely serving like Gaius, is focused on the Lord and serving others. We can therefore assume that the Apostle’s wish for this faithful servant of Christ can also be for those who are serving like Gaius.


Demetrius has a good report from all men, and of the truth itself: yes, and we also bear record; and you know that our record is true (verse 12).

The third person mentioned in John’s epistle, Demetrius, is noted for receiving “a good testimony from all and from the truth itself.” Unlike Diotrephes, this man Demetrius was not seeking his own glory, but was faithfully obeying the gospel, and the truth of that which he was proclaiming bore witness to and confirmed the man’s character. In other words, he practiced what he preached. His witness for the Lord was untarnished among the people he was serving. There is no greater witness for the Lord than a soul that is living the truth in his life. He was obviously emulating the teaching and lifestyles of the founding apostles, who also bore witness to his character.

We can look at the fruit of the lives that these three men, Gaius, Diotrephes and Demetrius have produced, and hopefully learn from their examples. John’s simple letter to one faithful servant of the Lord, contains much treasure we can meditate upon for the prosperity and health of our own souls.

Copyright 2023 by H.D. Shively

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