Saturday, August 3, 2013

1 Timothy 3 - Qualifications of Leaders

LINK: 1 Timothy 3
Parallel passage: Titus 1:5-9


The title of an "overseer" is what we would call a modern day elder. There are a number of Greek words that are used interchangeably to describe this office (bishop, pastor, elder, overseer). Elders oversee the work of the church (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-3). Paul lists 15 requirements here. 

Probably the most controversial requirement is that the overseer be the "husband of one wife." Literally, this means a "one-woman man." The most obvious would be that the elder cannot be a polygamous or have other women in his life outside the marriage. Many commentators hold that it also means that a person who has been divorced and remarried is not eligible. An even more strict interpretation would be that even widowers are not eligible, but this goes against other Scripture (Genesis 2:18 and 1 Timothy 4:3).  The main point is that an elder be one who can manage his marriage and home in a godly way. 

Here are some short definitions for some of the more unclear characteristics for an elder:
  • Blameless - Nothing in his life that others could take hold of to criticize or attack
  • Temperate - abstaining from immoderate use of wine
  • Prudent - Sound mind, curbing one's desires and impulses
  • Respectable - modest
  • Hospitable - generous to guests
  • Not Pugnacious - not quarrelsome
The Greek word for deacon means "servant." The first deacons were assistants to the Apostles in Acts 6. Today, they relieve the pastors and elders from certain tasks in the church so they can concentrate on ministry of the Word, prayer, and spiritual oversight of the flock. 

Here are some short definitions for some of the more unclear characteristics for a deacon:
  • Men of dignity - Honorable and venerated for their character
  • Not double-tongued - Saying one thing with one person another with another (with the intent to deceive)
  • Not fond of sordid gain - greedy for money
  • Holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience - They understand the basics of the Christian life. They aren't required to teach it (elders must be "able to teach"), but they need to know what they believe. 
There is also a discussion of qualification for women here. They were either qualifications of the wives of deacons (the same word in Greek can be translated either "women" or "wives") or female deacons (Phoebe, is described with the same Greek word for "deacon" in Romans 16:1). We don't know.

I am going to discuss 3:14-16 tomorrow because it fits better with 1 Timothy 4. 


Several years ago, my girlfriend was reading the qualifications for an elder to my godson, John, when he was a preschooler. When she was finished, he said, "That sounds like Uncle George!"

George is my husband (and just stepped down as an elder in our church). I totally agree! He is a gem. 


All of these qualifications are good things for ALL of us to aspire to. How are you doing? Pray through the list asking God to develop these qualities in you. 

Also, pray for the leaders in your local church. 


Lord, I pray that You would grow us in godliness. Amen. 
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