1 Tim. 3:1-7 - QUALIFICATIONS FOR OVERSEERS
1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
v. 1: "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do" - Paul's use of the idiom "It is a trustworthy statement," is similar to Jesus', "truly, truly I say to you," as the introduction to an important pronouncement. While in the previous chapter, Paul said women shouldn't serve in primary church leadership positions, he certainly didn't intend to leave the impression that just any man is qualified. No man is qualified to be a spiritual leader in the church just because of his gender.
▪ The term "overseer" (Gk. episkopos) literally means over-watcher and can translate to elder, bishop, or pastor. Regardless of the title used, they are men with leadership authority in the church.
▪ The phrase, "it is a fine work he desires to do," implies that it's not just a title but a position that involves a lot of hard work. Spurgeon said, "What is the use of a lazy minister? He is no good either to the world, to the church, or to himself. He is a dishonor to the noblest profession that can be bestowed on the sons of men."
v. 2: "An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach" - The imperative "must be" reflects that God has specific qualifications for leaders in the church. Leaders aren't chosen at random, or because they volunteer, or seem to be "natural" leaders. In fact, the qualifications for leadership have very little to do with giftedness; instead, they are chosen based on how close they match the qualifications listed here that pertain to godly character and lifestyle, such as:
▪ "above reproach": This is a key qualification. The word literally means "nothing to take hold of." This is an overall statement of good character, not a specific trait. He is a man who is of good repu-tation in both the believing and non-believing community. He's not perfect-nobody is-but displays a noticeable track record of godly living-one in which no one can charge him with any grave sins.
▪ "husband of one wife": This one is somewhat ambiguous. First, it doesn't require an overseer to be married. The generally accepted interpretation (re Utley, DTS) is (1) one wife (i.e., polygamy forbidden and (2) no previous divorce(s) (except Biblical divorce in case of adultery or abandonment), and a widower may remarry a widow or a woman never married. By extension this means he's a "one woman man" who isn't an adulterer or one who shows romantic interest in other woman.
▪ "temperate": The word (Gk. enkrateia) literally means being "sober," both in regard to substance or alcohol abuse and also in terms of being level-headed and sensible.
▪ "prudent": (Gk. sōphrōn) describes a man not given to extremes, someone who doesn't exhibit wide mood swings and other types of inconsistent behavior.
▪ "respectable": (Gk. kosmikos) means one who displays good manners, self-restraint, and correct-ness both in the church and in the local society where he lives. He acts with discretion and modesty.
▪ "hospitable": Not as important today with all the hotels and motels available but still a man willing to open his home both to friends and strangers when the need arises.
▪ "able to teach": Not necessarily a regular teacher, but a man who is skilled enough in the Bible to explain it in a group setting or one-on-one.
v. 3: "not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money" - This doesn't require complete abstinence but strongly discourages any excessive drinking. "Not pugnacious" (Gk. eristikós = lit. not a striker) describes a man not prone to violence either in public or private. A "gentle" man displays kindness and is prepared to give-in to others, and "peaceable" describes a good-humored man who doesn't stir-up controversies and avoids gossip. "Free from love of money" variously means financially responsible and living within your means while being generous and unselfish towards others.
vv. 4-5: "He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)" - A man's leadership (or lack thereof) can be seen in the home. How well a man rules at home certainly reflects on his qualifications to lead the church. Related to this is the idea that his home life shouldn't bring criticism of him from people outside the church.
v. 6: "and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil" - The term for "new convert" literally means "young plant." This would be important in a new church (like Ephesus) having many new believers who really weren't prepared to lead other believers. Too much authority early on can result in an arrogant and a self-righteous attitude that has the net effect of driving people away and impairing the witness of the church.
v. 7: "And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" - As Christians, we need to be conscious of the fact that the outside world is always watching us-closely. The leadership in our church must be viewed as honest and upstanding with the unbelieving people of the community whom we are trying to bring to faith. Paul's mention of the "snare of the devil" refers to spiritual warfare and our need to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-18).