Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A new idea - 'forbidding' things as a sign of egotistical leadership

I could be completely on the wrong track with this, but tell me what you think.

In bible study this morning we were looking at 3 John. These verses stuck out...

I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

This guy, Diotrephes, doesn't accept John's teaching, unjustly accuses John of something, and forbids anyone from showing hospitality to John's ministry friends.

But John's use of the word forbid interests me.

Is the word 'forbid' ever used positively in the epistles. i.e., does a godly christian leader ever specifically 'forbid' christians from doing something?

There are 2 other verses in the epistles that use the word 'forbid'

  1. 1 Corinthians 14:39
    Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.
  2. 1 Timothy 4:3
    men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
Paul says we are not to forbid speaking in tongues and warns against people who forbid marriage. Paul certainly tells people how they ought to live, but he never 'forbids' something. Is this because freedom is such a feature of the christian life? In contrast to Paul and John, Diotrephes seems a bit controlling. Don't you think? 

Am I drawing too long a bow to suggest that we should we be wary of Christian leaders who forbid their people doing things? Could forbidding things show a leader to have the kind of love for 'being first' that Diotrephes had?



  1. Searching on the Greek makes an even more compelling case, though Acts 16:6 stops you being totally prescriptive!

    Yes, I know, you said epistles. Tough. 23 hits in the NT, and the Acts one there is the only one that would get in the way of your observation. Jesus is big on not forbidding (little children, for instance).

  2. Hi, just saw your blog on a friend's FB. I think you are on to something - very perceptive. Paul's attitude to things that did not necessarily go HIS way is certainly different to Diotrephes. I know that (in the flesh) I would be a lot tighter with the Corinthians, for example, than Paul was! Which probably proves I don't have as much a handle on grace as Paul did. Having been involved at one stage with a Diotrephes-type leader, there is certainly the danger that those who "forbid" others are not so tight when it comes to what they permit for themselves.

  3. I don't know. I think you can find lots of commands in the NT to not do stuff or not allow stuff. Diotrophes is wrong because he forbids hospitality to faithful brothers. In a different context, Paul rightly forbids hospitality to unfaithful brothers (1 Cor 5:9-13). Diotrophes wrongly forbids people from listening to the teaching of John. Paul rightly forbids women from teaching or exercising authority over men (1 Tim 2:12), and also rightly tells elders to forbid false teaching (Titus 1:11). Etc.