Wednesday, December 30, 2009

1 Timothy 3:1-7

V1-7 – 1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer [bishop], he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Paul focuses now on church leadership, the very problem Ephesus appeared to be having. Rather than leave the thought that women were snubbed, Paul makes sure that his audience realizes that not all men were fit for this position. Church leadership is extremely important, and it’s a matter over which the local church rises or falls. It was also a problem that seemed to be encouraged by the false teachers. So Paul focuses on the personal traits, not so much the duties, of elders and deacons. His thought process may be that putting the right people in place would lend to their duty fulfillment. On the contrary, false teachers emphasized duty for the sake of authority and not based on character qualities. In v1, Paul calls attention to an important topic (eldership), for the second of five times in the pastoral letters, by saying, “Here is a trustworthy saying.” The word “overseer” (v5; Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:17,28; Titus 1:5-7) is synonymous with “elder,” “pastor,” “bishop,” and “presbyter,” and the title describes the job function. For example, a teacher teaches, a pastor pastors, a shepherd shepherds, and a bishop bishops. Paul says it is good to covet a role in church leadership, and rather than wait for a clear calling from God, we may ascertain that the heart’s desire is the calling, for the Lord will give believers the desires of their hearts (Psalm 37:4).

In v2-7, Paul gives the traits of one qualified to lead God’s church. “Above reproach” entails being in good standing with Christians, as well as with non-Christians (v7; Titus 1:6-9). An elder must strive for holiness. “Husband of but one wife” has been really scrutinized by theologians, but given the sexual immorality of Greco-Roman culture, Paul likely means simply avoiding martial infidelity. Others suggest that Paul prohibits polygamy and divorce and/or remarriage after divorce or spouse-death with this trait as well. Paul mentions that an elder must be “temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable.” He is referring to sober-mindedness, sensibility, balance, orderliness, and courteousness. Finally in v2, “Able to teach” was especially important in the Ephesian congregation, given their trouble with false teachers. How important it is that leaders can convey truth to disciples!

In v3, Paul turns to negative traits – “not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” Paul never prescribes abstinence from alcohol, but makes it a point to avoid drunkenness while always being a good witness for Christ, especially regarding the weaker brothers (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8-10). V4-5 discuss management, or stewardship, and provide a familial illustration of its importance for the role of elder. For elders to lead the local church, they must show that they can lead their household.

V6 implies that elders could experience the big head (ego / pride) if given the role too soon into their walk as Christians; elders ought to be mature in the faith. Perhaps some elders in the Ephesian church, or former elders, had become false teachers and refused Paul’s apostolic authority. Also noteworthy, this last command is omitted to Titus, perhaps since the Ephesian church was well established and the Cretan church brand new. In other words, all of the Cretan Christians were new believers, so to appoint elders would require the ordaining of recent converts. Finally here, and in v7, Paul brings up the devil, acknowledging the spiritual warfare surrounding the church; selfishness – conceitedness and disgrace – opens the door for Satan.

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