John dedicated his third epistle to the topic of church politics. There was one leader in particular, Diotriphes who was impeding John’s work. He said, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us” (3 John 1:9, NKJV). Diotrephes may have been concerned that John’s position of being an apostle of Jesus Christ would cause his parishioners to see him as less important and perhaps not think his messages were authoritative enough. John said Diotrephes did not receive him, meaning he wouldn’t allow John to preach at his church.
It is possible that Gaius, the person John addressed his third letter to (3 John 1:1) was a member of Diotrephes’ church and he was trying to help John get an audience with the believers that attended there. Gaius had a reputation for lodging the itinerant preachers that visited his area in order to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (3 John 1:5-7). John commended Gaius for his service and encouraged him to continue his work. He said, “We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 1:8, NKJV).
One of the things that seemed to be troubling John was the power Diotrephes exercised to control the membership of his church. John said, “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” (3 John 1:10, NKJV). Diotrephes ability to prevent people from attending his church was probably offensive to John because it was contrary to the way Jesus had treated people that came to him for spiritual help.
John instructed Gaius to be careful about his leadership choice. He said, “Dear friend, do not follow what is sinful, but follow what is good. The person who does what is good belongs to God. The person who does what is sinful has not seen God” (3 John 1:11, NLV). John’s opinion of Diotrephes was that he was leading people astray. The Greek word John used that is translated sinful, kakopoieo (kak-op-oy-eh’-o) refers to someone with bad character that injures others (G2554) and suggests that Diotrephes may not have been saved, but was being used by Satan to disrupt John’s ministry.