After this cheerful exhortation, John takes on a more sober mien, and begins to deal with a serious problem that has arisen in the church through a certain man named Diotrephes.  John mentions that he had written to the church before.  Probably this refers either to his first epistle, or perhaps the second, if we understand the “elect lady” to be a church rather than an individual.  But there was a troublemaker in the church who received not the testimony of the holy apostle.  Undoubtedly, Diotrephes feared that by submitting to the authority of the apostle, he would lose somewhat of his own prestige.  This gives us the key to the character of this ungodly man: he loved to have the preeminence.  He could not tolerate that any person, even be he one of Christ’s chosen apostles, be exalted above himself.  Therefore he rejected the writings of John, and demanded that the church submit to him and his ideas.

The attitude of Diotrephes is one that is all too common, even within churches.  If we are looking to exalt ourselves, we forget that our end goal is the glory of God.  “He must increase,” said John the Baptist, “but I must decrease.”  This was not the spirit of Diotrephes.  His attitude was that of an unrenewed individual, a false professor.  R.L. Dabney observed that, beside Adam, probably no man more clearly reflects the basic spirit of the natural man.    We must take care to cultivate humility, lest we fall into the sin of Diotrephes.