40 Days of study

A human being lives, but he is given life.

1 Timothy 3:1-7

(1 Timothy 3:1-7)

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.


My Thoughts:

It was reported that Church Services after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, went up by 20%.

Likewise, it was reported that Church attendance around the world rose about 10% after the September 11 attacks. However, 7 weeks later, pollsters tell us that church attendance settled back to the same level it was, before the terrorist attacks. It seems odd that our nation would be facing our biggest crisis since World War II, and we only saw a 10% increase and that it would only last a few weeks.

It’s tempting for us as the Christian community to point our finger at the people that do not attend church in our community, and say “well they were really not christens anyway” or, we might be tempted to say, “People in our culture today are anti-Christian, so no wonder they aren’t in church during this time of crisis” and this one I have heard this one a lot, “Here’s another example of western individualism, where people don’t see their need for community.” However, I wonder if people’s lack of church attendance during this time of national crisis says more about the church, than it does about the people who don’t attend.

Most non-Christians I know, aren’t anti-Christian, but they are anti-church. In fact, most of my non-Christian friends believe in God and many even try to nurture some kind of personal spirituality, but they’re skittish of organized religion, because of the kind of thing they see in our churches. I believe that more people would attend if they saw Christ in the Church.

I suspect the lack of church attendance in the wake of our national crisis reveals something about the church and our culture. Too many people believe that just attending worship services on Sabbath or Sunday morning is a guarantee that they will experience whatever they are looking for.

The problem as I see it, is many people in our culture “play church” the way children play dress up. They dress in their best suit, they put on a happy face, and pretend to be excited about God, and tell us that they want to learn how to follow Jesus. But the thing is this is a kind of superficial “Christianity” and it looks as bad as it smells. Playing church, can never be a substitute for authentic relationship with Christ that we need.

In 1 Timothy 3 we see that our leaders must lead with integrity.

So, let’s start with (v. 1) “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”

This is the second time we have seen this “trustworthy statement” in 1 Timothy.

Paul says, “if anyone has a goal to be a supervisor in the church, they want a good thing.” That tells me that perhaps they were having difficulty finding people who wanted to serve as church supervisors. Now the word “supervisor or overseer” simply means leader, a person who’s in charge of guiding a church forward in the advancement of its mission. Paul’s is saying that it’s good and right to want to become a supervisor in the church, but he’s going to list some very specific criteria that church leaders must meet to qualify. In other words, it’s good to want to serve this way, but the church must make sure those who serve in this way qualify.

You might remember the context of 1 Timothy, which some of the former elders in the church in Ephesus abandoned the Churches doctrine, so Timothy is trying to appoint new elders and as he does so he needs to make sure the current elders are qualified for their positions.

(vv. 2-7) 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

To me Paul is making it very clear that “Character Still Counts” in these 6 verses we find several qualifications for the men that serve as elders in the church.  And we find that the great majority of them have to do with “character”, not with “leadership ability.” This is because no amount of leadership ability can compensate for a lack of character.

The phrase “above reproach” is a catch all phrase for everything that follows. Now “Above reproach” does not mean morally perfect because if it did, Jesus would be the only person to qualify to lead. In fact, “above reproach” doesn’t even mean, “Nearly perfect.” Instead the word refers to “integrity”, and what this integrity looks like is spelled out in detail in the following character qualities.

In (v. 2) we find the need for a faithfulness in his relationships. The Greek text literally reads “a one woman man.” We may ask why would Paul say that and elder needs to be a “one woman man” you see during Paul’s day polygamy was a greater problem among the Jews than among the pagans. So we find there is no hesitation here! Leadership in Christ church must be different. We are held to a higher standard. Does this mean that only married men are qualified? And what about the widower? If this was the case, then Paul would not have met the criteria! The question must be answered in the context of the New Testament teachings of marriage. Paul is not making canon law here, his counsel is simple and straightforward.  He is saying that someone who lives an adulterous or a promiscuous lifestyle is absolutely incompatible with the calling of an elder. He must be a man who keeps his marriage vows, a person who, if he is married, is completely committed to his spouse.

We also see the need for “self-restraint”, the words “temperate, self-controlled, and respectable” all refer to the leader’s self-restraint. A leader who can’t control his own drives and urges won’t be able to effectively lead other people. A leader in the church must have a sense of self-mastery and accountability.

We also see the need for “hospitality” here as well, hospitality was especially important back in the first century, because all the hotels were crime infested, so the only way for traveling teachers and preachers to serve was for church leaders to open their homes to them.  I think hospitality is also important today as well. This qualification reminds us that we need to be open to people we don’t know. I have been very blessed in this area, not because of my ability to be a good host, but I have a wife that loves to entertain and invite our church family over.

We also, see that a leader needs to have an ability to teach. Now this isn’t simply the ability to follow a lesson plan, but it’s knowing enough about our doctrine and the Bible to accurately communicate it to other people. (Titus 1:9) expands on this requirement, we read “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

This verse helps us understand what “able to teach means.” Paul writes Titus that overseers must “hold firmly to the message” (which refers to understanding our doctrine), He says that they must be able to encourage other people with sound doctrine and they must be able to stand against those who try to bring in false teaching in to our church. Even when it may not be the popular thing to do. To me this is the most important job of an elder. We should reject any potential elder even if they hold all the qualifiers morally but who did not have the skills or the desire to stand up for our doctorial beliefs.

Mrs. White makes it very clear in her book {Last day events p. 92} she says “Men and women will arise professing to have some new light or some new revelation whose tendency is to unsettle faith in the old landmarks. Their doctrines will not bear the test of God’s Word, yet souls will be deceived. False reports will be circulated, and some will be taken in this snare. . . . We cannot be too watchful against every form of error, for Satan is constantly seeking to draw men from the truth.

We must make it appear essential to be united, not that we are to require others to come to our ideas, but if all are seeking the meekness and lowliness of Christ they will have the mind of Christ. Then there will be unity of spirit.

I urge those who claim to believe the truth to walk in unity with their brethren. Do not seek to give to the world occasion to say that we are extremists, that we are disunited, that one teaches one thing, and one another. Avoid dissension.”

She is saying that Character still counts

Paul also mentions relationship integrity. The word “violent” in (v. 3) refers to someone who’s a bully in their relationships with others. The words “gentle” and “not quarrelsome” also refer to relationship integrity. Paul’s point seems to be that church leaders must know how to have good, healthy relationships with other people.

Paul also mentions “family integrity” in (vv. 4-5) notice the emphasis here is both on the potential elder’s leadership skill in his own home and on his integrity in his relationship with his kids. Although the English translation uses the word “manage” here the Greek word is “lead” and it refers to giving direction to a group.

In (v. 6) Paul mentions “spiritual maturity” The Greek word here is the word, originally described a seedling that’s just been recently planted but that doesn’t yet have deep roots. He say that the Elder needs to will grounded in the church and its beliefs.

Paul mentions that the elder must have a good “community reputation” in the non-Christian world. This reminds me of a time when I went in to the local grocery store and the young lady over paid me, I told her and she told me not to worry about it, she said “I am sure that the store had over charged me more than once so I could keep it.” Of course I said no thank you and gave her the money back. I could have keep the money the truth was it was only about $8.00, but what would that have said about me? And our church?

Again, this doesn’t mean that we must be perfect, but it refers a person who doesn’t have a reputation for being dishonest or immoral in the community. One of the biggest reasons why the people that do not go to church avoid the church, is because often our leaders lack this kind of integrity.

Frankly, I think the key to having integrity, is not pretending to be perfect, but it’s simply having high moral standards and being honest with our shortcomings. We all struggle to live by these qualifications. Some come easily, but others are a real struggle, and all we can do is to continue to make progress. The reality is that all genuine leadership requires integrity.

Our culture has bought into the idea that leadership performance is not related to a leader’s personal character. I think the biggest tragedy of the Clinton scandal, it was not so much what our former president did–as bad as that was–but how the American public responded to what he did. As a country we seemed have little or no awareness at his inability to tell us the truth. The fact that he lied to us, should say a lot about his character as a person and as the leader of our country. According to the Bible there is a clear and direct connection between authentic leadership and integrity.

So before we point the finger at the people that do not come to church, we need to understand the point of this text, and that is to make sure we in the Christian community have leaders who lead us with integrity. The credibility of our message is directly connected to the integrity of our leaders and the integrity of our members. And for the people in the twenty-first century, the church lacks credibility.

Could it be that this is the backlash of years and years of pastors getting busted for prostitution, stealing, not to mention the pastors that drive BMW’s and still ask people to send them monies.

But we all se hope in Paul words, we see that when we follow these guidelines in selecting our leaders not only will we have the leaders who have integrity our church will have credibility in the community and then we can share the good news with them.

So in Chapter 3 Paul tells us that character still counts. And the kind of character that still counts, is not perfection or even near perfection, but its integrity. We all struggle with things in our lives and when we pretend to be anything other than fellow strugglers, all we succeed in doing is confirming our culture’s belief that Christians are hypocrites.


Ellen White statement:

Ellen White in {GW p.81}

God does not desire wooden men to guard the interests of his institutions and the church, but he wants living, working men,— men who have ability and quick perception, men who have eyes, and open them that they may see, and hearts that are susceptible to the influences of his Spirit. He holds men to a strict accountability in guarding the interests of his cause. . . .


Last thoughts:

Character still counts, and it is only when we make it count in our lives will others listen to our message.

About bobh6

I am Seventh-day Adventist pastor in the Texas Panhandle

One comment on “1 Timothy 3:1-7

  1. Rosi
    March 4, 2013

    In our sinful nature, we read what Paul says and most of us immediately go on the defensive. ” I have plenty of character” we say. ” I am a good person” or ” I am as good as the next person.” What we really need to remember is Jesus Loves us and does not ask us to do something we cannot do. If we pray the Jesus would manifest in us His character, then allow Him to do so, it is done. Granted we have to pray this prayer daily and probably more than once a day even. We must also remember that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strenght.

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