June 25, 2021

Dear Brethren, 

A few evenings ago, I was reading an e-mail written to me in 2010 by a Church member. I will begin tonight’s letter by sharing some of his e-mail with you. 

This member wrote: 

It was great to hear from you; every year you two send out a Passover card and I always enjoy it and then true to form I rarely respond. This time I thought to pass on my latest pondering. The best I can do with a mind that never seems to stop thinking about something…  

…Mr.________, Mr. ________, and the latest local elder (who joined and had to leave), who told us during his ice breaker sermon “What am I, chopped liver?”, all spoke of themselves. That is the way to measure fruit when looking at leadership in God’s church before turning them loose among the flock. I chose those men to illustrate the point, but all the other leaders seem to have the same problem. Compare that with men whose goal is to be a pipeline for God’s end-time servant and evaluating fruit is much easier. Like your article on Diotrephes – – 

As you will read later in tonight’s letter, there was a man who lived during the apostle John’s life that loved having “preeminence,” and enjoyed putting loyal and faithful members out of God’s Church!  

Sincerely brethren, my wife and I know exactly what it is to be BULLIED by a minister with the same mindset of Diotrephes, as experienced in one of the major Church of God groups we were once a part of.  

Plainly, there is a vast difference between being “CORRECTED” by the ministry and being “BULLIED” by the ministry. There is nothing wrong with correction if it is handled in the way God expects it to be. I have been corrected personally in the past and it was done properly. I learned! I grew from it (spiritually). However, I also know what it means to be BULLIED by the ministry. There is a tremendous difference between the two words, “correction” and “bullying”. We were once under the authority of a regional director who proclaimed, “I’m not a builder, I’m a clean-out man.” In retrospect, I wish I had turned around (he was standing behind me at the time), and reminded him that Christ said, “…I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18). He did NOT say, “…I will destroy My Church.” As an elder, I observed this same minister “suspend” a lady, and then tell me afterwards, “_________ [the lady’s first name], only thinks she’s suspended! She’s really ‘disfellowshipped’, but we’re not going to tell her.” This lady kept on tithing, believing she would be able to return, when she was not.  

In 2010 the Church of God – Scattered Faithful began when two families came to me asking if I would serve them. I had never even considered leading a “group.” Both families had left where they were attending, and I subsequently began to serve them. Since that beginning, over the years I have learned that faithful members from various Church of God groups have gone through experiences of abuse and mistreatment (“bullying,” by certain ministers), just as my wife and I had. This should not be! 

As an ordained elder, I will continue to serve the scattered faithful members who LOVE God’s Truth (given by Christ through Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong), who support the “office” given to Mr. Armstrong as a TYPE of Elijah (Malachi 4:5), and those who understand that Mr. Armstrong was God’s ONLY end-time apostle! 

The Church has been scattered (Daniel 12:7) in this end-time. There are loyal and faithful members out there who have been harmed and abused in various groups. I will continue to serve those loyal and faithful brethren who wish to be served! I will NOT compromise with the TRUTH, and I will not ABUSE God’s people! “Shame” on any minister who does! 

In the beginning of tonight’s letter, I included an e-mail sent to me where a member refers to an article that I wrote in 2010 (updated). Tonight, I will include that article for you to read.  

Please have a good night’s rest! 

Sincerely, Your Brother in Christ, 

Gary Liebold 

  

The Man Named Diotrephes 

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 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.  (III John 9-10 NKJV) 

“I wonder what happened to all of those members that Diotrephes put out of the Church?” For many (if not most people), that would sound like a good Biblical question to ask. Several years ago, that very question was asked in sincerity, by a loyal and faithful member in one of the larger corporate Churches of God. It was asked without any malice or intent of wrongdoing. However, the response to it by the ministry resulted in the FAMILY being sent home early from the Feast of Tabernacles.  

One must wonder… Why would such an innocent question create such a drastic response? It should not have! No one was accusing anyone. Perhaps it was assumed they were. As I John 4:18 shows us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Yes, there is indeed a type of FEAR that involves “torment” as the scripture shows, but God’s people are admonished in Ecclesiastes 12:13 and Hebrews 13:6 to FEAR God with loving reverence, and NOT to fear what men shall do (Matthew 10:28). 

True Christians Forced Out 

In the book of III John, (verses 9-10), we see where the apostle John addressed the subject (with rebuke), of a FALSE minister physically in the Church of God. John describes this person as a man who loved having the “pre-eminence” (verse 9). His name? “…DIOTREPHES!” Diotrephes rebelled against God, the apostle John, and converted members of the Church who were loyal and faithful. He willfully cast converted members of the Church out of the congregation, in BLATANT disregard for anything righteous in the sight of God. Those members he thrust out and scattered, were still very much a part of the TRUE Church.  

Dr. Herman Hoeh wrote in the 1959 edition of A TRUE HISTORY of the TRUE CHURCH, under the sub-heading of “True Christians Forced Out”, the following… “The true Christians, who alone comprised the true Church, WERE BEING PUT OUT OF THE VISIBLE, ORGANIZED CONGREGATION. …But that did not mean the scattered individuals were not a part of the Church. They WERE the Church because they were joined to Christ through the Holy Spirit. Those who drove them out became the FALSE church. The church of the god of this world — ‘the synagogue of Satan’.” 

Yes, these loyal brethren were still considered to be TRUE members of the Body of Christ by the only REAL authority… GOD! Quite plainly, as shown in Romans 8:14, those who are “…led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God,” and considered to be TRUE Christians. No minister on earth has the power to alter that GOD-GIVEN fact! 

John continued in verse 11 (of III John), “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil [depraved or injurious], but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does EVIL has not seen God.” The Greek word for “evil” in the last part of the verse, is the word “kakopoieo,” from a word that means to be a “bad-doer,” “to injure,” or “to sin: — do(-ing) evil.” This verse directly follows John’s rebuke of Diotrephes in verses 9 and 10. John also shows us some other names of men who were not a part of Diotrephes’ diabolical plan. For example, Gaius is spoken highly of, as, “…the beloved Gaius whom I love in truth” (Verse 1). John also names Demetrius as a man who had, “…good report of all men, and of the truth itself” (Verse 12 – KJV).  

Some Biblical commentaries indicate the possibility that Demetrius was also cast out of the Church by Diotrephes. Clearly, both Gaius and Demetrius had kept their spiritual focus on the TRUTH, and not on FOLLOWING Diotrephes. Both were loyal, faithful men of God, whom John would have truly expected the brethren to follow, as they followed Christ. Diotrephes, even in all his evil scheming, “prating with malicious words” (malevolent gossip), and the casting out of TRUE Christians, lacked the power to destroy Gaius, Demetrius, or any of the TRUE members he spiritually abused. 

The Desire to Magnify “SELF” 

As we take a closer look at Diotrephes, it is easy to see just what his underlying spiritual problem was. He had the same problem that has plagued mankind throughout all history, a problem that is at the very HEART of “human nature.”  That “nature” predates even mankind, as we will see. If we look historically at just a few former leaders in this world, we see a common trait. 

First, we will look at Nimrod, a leader in man’s earlier history. Nimrod is described as a “…mighty one on the earth” (I Chronicles 1:10). In the book, Mystery of the Ages, by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (pages 152-153), quotes C. Paul Meredith’s thesis, “Satan’s Great Deception,” we read…  

Then it was that Nimrod ‘began to be a mighty one’ and a ‘mighty hunter before the Lord’ [Gen. 10:8-9] in a ruling sense (the Hebrew word for “mighty” is gibbor, which means tyrant,”  

…Nimrod became a tyrant over the people. …Nimrod set himself up as the priest of the things worshiped by the people, to obtain a still stronger hold on them and gradually put himself in place of the true God… 

Nimrod longed to put himself in place of the true God. He had an insatiable desire to magnify the SELF! Just as Diotrephes, he too was totally SELF-CENTERED! He wanted the POWER and “preeminence” over the people, having a burning lust to put “SELF” in place of the True God. 

Another example in history was the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. In his arrogance and self-adoration, he erected a huge golden image (perhaps over 100 feet in height), in which he commanded the people of that time, to bow down and worship. Anyone who did not obey his order would “…be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:1-7). 

There were three young Jews (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego), who refused to bow-down and worship the king’s graven image (verses 12 and 18). Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage and fury knowing that these three young men (who were loyal and faithful to the only TRUE God), would dare refuse to obey him. They plainly stated to Nebuchadnezzar as he contemptuously threatened to cast them into the furnace… 

…O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Verses 16-18). 

Nebuchadnezzar had the same problem as Nimrod, … a desire to glorify and magnify “SELF”! His mindset was the same as Nimrod and Diotrephes. He was immersed in SELF-CENTEREDNESS! He wanted POWER and “preeminence” over the people, putting “SELF” in place of the True God. 

Another individual in history, “Simon the Sorcerer” also had the identical problem. (Acts 8:9-11). 

But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city, and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God.’ And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 

Simon the Sorcerer saw himself as “SOMEONE GREAT” in his own eyes, and even had many followers. Just having “followers” (no matter what the number) is definitely not the criteria God uses to judge “spirituality.” We can see even more in in verses 18-21 of the Book of Acts. Simon discovered in amazement that as God’s apostles laid hands upon those who were newly baptized, that they received God’s Holy Spirit. 

Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.’ (Acts 8:18-21).  

On page 52 of Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong wrote… “…Simon proclaimed himself a Christian apostle, … He aspired to turn his pagan religion, under the name “Christianity,” into a universal religion, to gain thereby the political rule of the world.” 

Simon had this same SELF-CENTERED “nature” (a lust for POWER, and self-adoration), just as Nimrod, Nebuchadnezzar, and Diotrephes!!! He wanted “preeminence” over the people and put “SELF” in place of the True God. 

Satan is the Source 

Where does such a self-centered lust for power, self-adulation, wanting the “preeminence” and having a desire to put “SELF” in place of the True God originate? God’s Word is very plain! The source of this “nature” emanates from a being that remains in a perpetual state of rebellion, and is filled with unchangeable, unyielding vanity. He is none other than SATAN THE DEVIL (Ezekiel 28:15-17)! 

Through God’s Word we can see where “human nature” emanates from (Ephesians 2:2). Satan is referred to as “the prince of the power of the air,” broadcasting his nature on unsuspecting (for the most part) man.  

Before man was ever created, Lucifer, renamed “Satan,” (God’s adversary), wanted to oust God from His throne and take the power for himself 

(Isaiah 14:12-14). He also tried futilely to tempt Christ in his perverted lust to have Christ worship him and had a hope of destroying man’s future with Christ as our Savior. 

Again, the devil took Him [Jesus] up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will 

give You, if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’ (Matthew 4:8-10). 

Yes, in the first century Church of God, there was a man named Diotrephes. He was REAL! But the “spirit of Diotrephes” is not limited to just ONE man existing ONLY in the first era of God’s Church (III John). He has existed in “type” throughout the Church eras. There are those like him (with the same spirit of rebellion), in corporate Churches of God today! 

In this very end-time God’s people have been scattered [“shattered”] (Daniel 12:7). ANY man acting in the “spirit of Diotrephes” is also of the same mind, as Diotrephes! He may revel in thinking he has scattered the brethren. He may enjoy “prating” (maliciously gossiping) against the brethren. He may delight in his (limited) “POWER” for a short season (II Corinthians 11:13-15, Acts 20:29-30), but these things will eventually cease when Christ returns to this earth, and His saints come with Him (I Corinthians 15:51-58; I Thessalonians 3:11-13). Christ will put a stop to any future “Diotrephes,” from ever coming on the scene again! 

The original Diotrephes loved to have the “preeminence” (III John 9). He was a self-serving individual whose personal ambition, self-recognition, and desire to be “the center” was paramount to him, above all else. He took control over the TRUE people of God, even to the point of scattering them in merciless persecution. Neither God the Father nor Jesus Christ ever once abandoned those members he put out. “… For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). 

Caring for the Sheep 

In quoting part of chapter 34, in the book of Ezekiel (verses 12 and 16), the Eternal says, “…I (will) seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost and bring again that which was driven away…” (KJV). A true minister of God; a true SHEPHERD of God, will always care for (II Corinthians 1:24), those “scattered” and loyal sheep, whenever and wherever they are found.  

As shown in Daniel 12:3… “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” The True Church of God can never be destroyed (Matthew 16:18). Just as the apostle John spoke of loyal men like Gaius and Demetrius (GOD-CENTERED men), with brethren whose names we do not yet know, people who were scattered by Diotrephes… they were NEVER forsaken by God! It is no different today! 

Any man acting with the same rebellious “spirit of Diotrephes,” will ultimately FAIL to destroy the TRUE ELECT. Those converted members who love the TRUTH and keep their spiritual FOCUS will not allow “Diotrephes” to take their spiritual “crowns” (Revelation 3:11). 

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