1 & 2 Timothyby Robert M. Solomon
More people could be convinced of the gospel’s truth if the behaviour of Christians corresponded with their beliefs. Beginning with his own experience of God’s transforming grace in Christ, Paul goes on to show how worship and behaviour in the church has an impact on those outside the church. He then moves on in this passage to deal with the kind of leaders we should have in church, and their desired character and behaviour.
Paul lists the qualifications of an episkopos (translated as bishop or overseer). Many scholars consider this leadership position to be similar to that of an elder (Titus 1:5–6). An overseer has a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1) and must be “above reproach” (v. 2), that is, he must not have serious character flaws. Paul’s list focuses on the character of the overseer rather than his task (which would involve watching over the flock, protecting, nurturing, guiding, and leading them). The most critical task is shown in the words “able to teach” (v. 2), which is connected with the unique role of overseers (1 Timothy 5:17).
The rest of Paul’s list spells out how the overseer must be a mature (1 Timothy 3:6) and godly Christian. He must not be guilty of sinful passions or habits—no drunkenness, violence, quarrelsome attitude or greed (3:3). Instead, he should reflect Christ-likeness—temperate, self-controlled, hospitable, and gentle (vv. 2–3). He must have “a good reputation with outsiders” (v. 7) so that his life and ministry do not become a stumbling block to believers and those outside the church. He must live in such a way, including living an exemplary family life, with marital faithfulness (“faithful to his wife”, v. 2; literally a “one-woman man”) and domestic stability (v. 4). He will gain the respect of all (“respectable”, v. 2) as he lives out what we read in Isaiah 32:8, “the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds they stands”.
The church must choose leaders after God’s own heart—those who are godly and serious about their leadership role and ministry, and who will inspire people and bring them closer to God (Jeremiah 3:15).
Why do you think Paul focused on character more than skills? Can the ways in which the church chooses its leaders and ministers be improved?
In what ways can a leader become proud, fall into disgrace, or be entrapped by the devil (1 Timothy 3:6–7)? If you are a leader, how can you guard yourself? If not, how can you pray for your leaders?