This message was presented on February 16, 2014 as part of the series on 1 Timothy.
The question came up from last week’s message, “What roles should, or can a woman serve in outside of the church?” I’m very open to this, so come to the home group that meets on Wednesday nights, here at the church at 7pm and we’ll discuss it. I’m interested in your thoughts. You might feel like Job, not knowing why things happen. Let’s talk.
My custom is to walk through the book of the Bible we’re studying and then deal with related topics from the text at the end. That way…if the Rapture happens, I don’t have to deal with them! No seriously, I want you to have the flow of the text and we’ll come back to them. You are always welcome to ask or write down questions, or get together.
As Adam went, so went the human race. As goes the husband, so goes the marriage. As goes the dad, so goes the family. As goes the men, so goes the church. That does not denigrate women AT ALL. They are precious and to be honored in all things. Peter made it very clear,
Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Pet. 3:7 NKJ)
Who disciples men how to be good husbands? Most parents didn’t. Most grandparents didn’t help the parents, and most great-grandparents didn’t help them. There are few good examples, of discipling each generation through families. What we have to do is pound in a stake and say, from now on, we are going to pour our energies into building up men and women for tomorrow. We are done with the distractions of the world!
In 1 Timothy 3 we transition from “how to worship Jesus” to “what are the qualifications of the men who are going to lead in church?” Paul doesn’t define all the responsibilities of the Elder, but he does define the qualities of their character. What is more important? Ability to complete tasks or character? God the Holy Spirit will lead in their shepherding. If someone has the right character, they are going to be “all about” ministry. There is no elder who will do everything perfectly. I’ve never met a man who was just like Jesus, but I have had the privilege to influence, ask questions, and cast a vision to encourage men to seek leadership. How do you disciple men to be overseers?
1) Disciple men who want to oversee (3:1)
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. (1 Tim. 3:1 NKJ)
Paul begins with the expression, “This is a faithful saying,” which literally could be translated, “The Word is faithful.” Is the Word faithful to you? Do you know it well enough that while everyone may turn from you, the Word is always faithful?
Then Paul begins with the two-letter word “if.” When we saw this word last week in 1 Timothy 2:15, it was a third class condition. Here it is a first class condition, which means, “if” and the clause is a statement of fact. In other words, “since” a man desires the position of bishop and he’s pursuing it, then “he desires a good work.” In other words, this is normal for every man to stretch for the position of bishop. If he is not stretching, he is acting like the first Adam, rather than Jesus, the second Adam.
Let’s notice the word “desires.” That word and the second word “desires” are different words in the Greek, which is why most other translations use a different word. The challenge with both of them is they both mean desire, but each has a slightly different meaning. What does it mean here? The first word, oregeomai, means “to stretch oneself out in order to grasp something, to reach after, desire something like money.” It’s what you do when you hear the alarm clock and you stretch yourself to get out of bed. I’m not talking about literally stretching your body, but purposing to get out of bed to get to your job to provide for your family. It’s a stretch to face your boss, your customers, your coworkers, and your patients. Now, the second word for desires, epithumeo, means “to turn upon a thing,” even “to lust,” or “to covet for something” in a good way.
And the “good” work means “good of intrinsic value.” A Bishop has a good work. Just by itself it’s good because it stands in the position of God before the flock. It’s just like a husband. He’s in the position of Christ before the wife. It’s just like the father. He’s in the position of God before the family. But who is the bishop?
There are three words used for this person. The first is our word here, which is episkopos, from which we get “Episcopal” and is translated “bishop” or “overseer.” The second word is poimaino, which we translate shepherd or pastor. And the third word is presbuteros from which we get “Presbyterian” and translate “elder” or “old man” (old man being a term of respect or the one who is in charge). These describe his purpose, position and function.
This is where leadership needs to spend much of their time. Yes, it’s important to know all the people of the church and visit with them, but leadership needs to identify those who desire the position of overseer and cast a vision for men to seek that position. When you identify those men, what do you do? Just let things happen? No, you intentionally disciple to proven character.
2) Disciple men to “proven character” (3:2-6)
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous. (1 Timothy 3:2-3 NKJ)
Let’s walk through these characteristics. Many of us have spent a great deal of time with them, because every year we walk through them with the Nominating Ministry. These are the qualities that men seeking leadership should demonstrate.
First, he must be blameless. This means he “ cannot be laid hold of (by the law)” – that is, he can’t be apprehended or reprehended and he’s not open to censure. He’s not perfect, but the law doesn’t have to watch him.
Second, he must be a husband of one wife, literally, “one woman man.” Some interpret this as a response to polygamy. That was a problem in the ancient world, but this interpretation misses the point. Others say he can’t be involved in adultery or fornication. That’s also true, but is too general and sets a low standard. There are others who say the man must be married, but that is not likely, because Paul was not married and would be excluded. Oh, and Jesus wasn’t married either! Then there are some that say the man can have one marriage only. They say that divorce excludes him as well as remarriage, except in the case of the death of a wife. It’s true, divorce indicates some failure in some way and should be a red alert sign!
This refers to the man’s quality of a proven marriage. Why? Both of the nouns, “woman” and “man” do not have the article “the” in the original language, which means the emphasis is on the quality of the noun, not the quantity. The entire context refers to the character of the bishop. Thus, we can translate it, “a one-wife sort of a husband,” or “a one-woman sort of a man.”
In other words, this is a much higher standard than just saying he can only be married once. An elder, and deacon, should be focused only on the woman with whom he is married, if he is married. If he is not married, he should not be leading any woman on. A married man will not be gazing around at other women, wishing he was with them rather than cultivating the relationship with his wife. A married man is a one woman man in thought, body, and soul.
Thirdly, he must be temperate, which means “sober, self-controlled and well-balanced.” He is patient in trials and conflicts and he is caring toward people. You can’t have a man one who is full of himself, has a personal agenda, or seeks revenge when he is wronged.
Fourthly, he must be sober-minded, which means he is “of sound mind or prudent.” He’s focused on heaven and pursues God’s will rather than his own desires. It doesn’t mean he can’t have fun, but he doesn’t cheapen the gospel message by foolish behavior.
Fifthly, he must have good behavior, which means he is “orderly and respectable.” He’s not wavering back and forth. He stands with conviction. He is a steadfast man (Eph. 4:14).
Sixthly, he must be hospitable, literally “a lover of guests.” He enjoys being with people, especially in his home. He may be rich or poor, yet he invites people into his life.
Seventhly, he must be able to teach, which means he is “skillful in understanding, teaching and refuting.” He doesn’t need to know the whole realm of Scripture, but he’s pursuing it and he can take Biblical concepts to disciple, lead small groups or teach in groups
Eighthly, he must not be given to wine, literally he “must not sit alongside wine.” He’s not a drunkard, AND he’s not addicted. Abstention is a good mindset, but not an absolute. Most people diluted wine in biblical times, in contrast to the industry of today. He doesn’t cry in his beer or stare into his wine glass in discouragement. He may partake of the medicinal benefits of wine, as Paul exhorted Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23. Always ask, “Is it holy?”
Ninthly, he must not be violent, which means he’s not a ”puncher or grappler, and doesn’t resort to fists.” That’s the devil’s work. But he does know when to stand against an intruder, criminal, or the government when it abandons God and forces people away from truth.
Tenthly, he is not greedy for money, that is greedy for gain. He doesn’t use his position to influence people to buy his product or gain customers to earn more money. He’s interested instead in gaining people for the Lord.
Eleventh, he must be gentle, which means he is “yielding, kind and courteous.” He listens and is able to take criticism without reacting. He trusts God and stops division. He also allows people to make mistakes and even have their way in non-important issues.
Twelfth, he is not quarrelsome, which means he’s “not a fighter.” He abstains from fighting in the church. He may disagree, but he refines, sharpens and builds up others to the Lord Jesus. He doesn’t use the Word as a sword, but allows it to work as the sword of the Spirit.
Thirteenth, he is not covetous, literally, “not a lover of silver,” who doesn’t see money as the meaning to life.
4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (1 Tim. 3:4 NKJ)
Fourteenth, he rules his house, literally, “he stands before his house well.” He has his finances under control. He is known as one whose wife and children follow him. His home is in order (this doesn’t mean his home is in the Home and Garden magazine, but others enjoy being with him because he leads the family spiritually). Notice it says that his children are in submission with all reverence – that is, his children are teachable and under his authority. It doesn’t mean they are soldiers, but they listen and are in control. Paul explains why in verse five.
5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?) (1 Tim. 3:5 NKJ)
If he doesn’t know how to rule his home, he cannot be effective at church, which is often full of disobedient, rebellious and stubborn people that are just like sheep! If he has problems at home, he likely won’t be able to handle the issues in church.
6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. (1 Tim. 3:6 NKJ)
Fifteenth, he must not be a novice, which is literally “a neophyte,” a young Christian, or a new convert. Why? Because he might fall into the same condemnation as the devil by letting his position may increase his pride. He may think he can handle trouble, conflicts and personal problems, but he will likely implode AND/OR he may use his position for purposes other than shepherding and seek to control people.
Additionally, Paul cites several qualities specifically related to his standing in the community.
3) Disciple men who are proven outside the church (3:7)
7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Tim. 3:7 NKJ)
He must have a good testimony, which is “good of intrinsic value,” regardless of the setting outside the church. Bad checks, running red lights, etc. do matter for leadership. It affects outreach and the community’s view of God. YET, what was the view the world had of Jesus? They twisted truth, misrepresented Him and conjured lies, but His followers saw He was right.
The Lord does not want him to fall into reproach and snare of the devil (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24-26). When you serve as a church leader, you will come under great scrutiny from the devil and his organization. If Satan can cause leaders to fall, how many other people does that take down? There are three main elements the enemy uses to take down spiritual leaders: prideful ambition, the love of money and inappropriate relationships with women. They have been the cause of most downfalls.
Consider that most elders never think they are what they are supposed to be. That’s their humility and is one reason why men don’t pursue spiritual leadership. How many wives and mothers are encouraging their husbands and sons to pursue this position? And if an when they achieve this position, they will need constant prayer. It’s not easy to serve as an elder, but character makes it easier.
Invest time discipling quality men for oversight in the church!
- No man starts out with perfect character. Every man has to grow in sanctification – to holiness.
- He is committed to following Jesus Matt. 4:19
- He is committed to being changed by Jesus Matt. 4:19
- He is committed to making disciples Matt. 4:19
- These are qualities that must be gained through patience, perseverance and self-control. Compromise on these qualities and the whole church suffers. Those who don’t have these qualities will cause great harm to the church and the name of Christ.
- Character versus task completions, which is more important?
- You can always find something wrong with someone’s task completion, so how are you helping someone develop their character?
- How are you helping him grow in connecting, equipping, and multiplying?
- It’s all about Jesus and trusting Him to lead the men. Everyone should look for opportunities to lead, influence and pray for men! Women too! Jesus is looking for a few good men.
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) What is your first recollection of spiritual leaders in the church?
2) Do all spiritual leaders in church serve for the sake of Christ? ________ (cf. 3 Jn. 1:9-11). How do you discern whether someone wants the position of elder for his own purposes or for kingdom purposes?
3) What three qualifications do you see as most important in the list given for elders? _________; _______________; _________________ What makes those very important for serving as a church leader? Which others would you consider very important?
4) Does it matter what a man’s marriage is like in order to serve as a church leader? ____________ Why would it matter? Or not?
Making application of the message to life:
5) What are steps that you can take to train men to be elders? What can you pro-actively do?
6) What are two examples of character qualifications that might be difficult to discern for church leadership? How can the church strengthen leadership training in those aspects of leadership?
7) Why does an elder need the requirement of being able to teach? How do you know if he is ready?