The early N.T. church was fairly simple in its organization. The elder was normally the gatekeeper for what a church would teach. (1 Jo 1:9-11) Here John set the standard for what a church was to preach and practice. “9 Whosoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” John does not mince words here. You either teach the “doctrine of Christ” or you are teaching heresy.
The Elder would often write letters to his local churches to keep them focused upon what Jesus taught or help them to correct their teaching to abide with correct doctrine. Any time a pastor would cross the line and teach incorrect doctrine, it was the Elder or Bishop’s responsibility to get him back to what Jesus and the Disciples taught as correct doctrine. We see this in John’s third letter to the “well beloved Gaius” as he explains what Diotrephes was doing to this particular church. Diotrephes was taking the preeminence in that church instead of the focus being on Christ. Paul set this forward in his letter to the Colossians (Col. 1:18) that Christ was the head of the church and he was to have the foremost or preeminent position in the church. Diotrephes was taking the first position in the church and replacing Jesus Christ as the head of the church. This practice of Diotrephes was heresy and blasphemy. John made it a point that this would be corrected.
It is unfortunate that in our modern church organizations that we see this same kind of practice when the pastor of a large church or denomination leader becomes more important than teaching correct doctrine and making sure that Jesus Christ has the preeminent position in the church or denomination. How much heresy and perverted doctrine is being practiced by modern churches when they emphasize “entertainment” and “pleasing” messages that do not upset the congregation. The true focus of a church is to teach the Gospel and correct doctrine not mealy-mouthed platitudes that tickle the ears. Mealy-mouthed platitudes and tickling the ear are the hall mark of the Apostate Church of the last days.