A Trustworthy Saying: 1 Timothy 3

As we’ve already seen, in his first letter to Timothy Paul has warned Timothy that there are false teachers among them- these are leaders that may know God, but do not know His power. When they speak, they are mere historians simply recounting what has happened in the past. He challenges Timothy to not be like them, to remember what was said about him when the elders laid their hands on him in sending him into ministry.

Paul also gave bold instructions on behavior in worship. Prayer should be at the forefront, and the people had a responsibility to act appropriately in it. But…what next? There’s a wrong way to worship (preacher as historian, knowing ABOUT God but not knowing Him) and a right way to worship (prayer, behavior). There are some within the community of God who are leaders. Paul has this to say:

If one desires to be an overseer (elder), he desires a noble task. Paul then lists out the following traits:

  • above reproach
  • the husband of but one wife
  • temperate
  • self-controlled
  • respectable
  • hospitable
  • able to teach
  • not given to drunkenness
  • not violent, but gentle
  • not quarrelsome
  • not a lover of money
  • must manage his own family well, and see that his children obey him with proper respect (if anyone does not manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
  • not be a recent convert, as he may become conceited (prideful, arrogant)
  • have a good reputation with outsiders (non-believers)

There are others in leadership roles in the church. Paul called these men “deacons.” There’s a list for them as well:

  • worthy of respect
  • sincere
  • not indulging in much wine (an interesting statement)
  • not pursuing dishonest gain
  • keep hold to the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience
  • they must first be tested, and if there is nothing against them, they may serve
  • their wives must be worthy of respect, not gossips but temperate and trustworthy
  • the husband of one wife
  • manage his own household and children well

Paul writes all of this because they need to know how to conduct themselves, how to operate as “God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” A few things of note:

  1. Most of the things listed above are character traits, not skills. If we were to look at the fruits of the Spirit Paul would list in Galatians (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) we see how the lists above are simple manifestations of the inner work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. These roles are more than roles, more than positions. There is a difference between “positional authority” and “leadership.” The difference between the two is character.
  3. Only people of proper character should desire this “noble task”, because only they can conduct themselves properly. Only those of high character can speak and demonstrate the truth from a position of integrity.

Jesus has this to say in Matthew 20:25-28- “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for the ransom of many.”

Jesus clearly knew the difference between positional authority and leadership. Those in positional authority lord, while leaders serve. Jesus was not merely a historian, but a demonstrator. The reason that Jesus is trustworthy in his words and instructions are because he lived it personally , which is why he used the phrase, “just as the Son of Man…” Jesus’ message was valid only because he lived it. Jesus was not self-deluded.

The self-deluded ones (1 Timothy 1:7) are the ones that proclaim the message without living it. The self-deluded ones are the historians. Paul handed men like this over to Satan in 1 Timothy 1:20 so that they may see the error of their ways- this happens through personal repentance, personal reconciliation, and personal restoration. To be clear, a church will NEVER rise above the spiritual maturity of its leadership. A leadership who fails to demonstrate these things will not, cannot, lead their church to do so.

May the church not fall into the hands of those in mere positions of authority, but men of godly character.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “A Trustworthy Saying: 1 Timothy 3

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