1Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin

After explaining to Timothy in the previous chapter that he doesn’t permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man, the apostle Paul moves on to the subject of qualified men who are permitted to have authority within the church.  In vv.14-15 he tells Timothy that he is writing these things to him, now, in case his arrival at Ephesus is delayed so that the Ephesians might know how they ought to conduct themselves in the household of God.

The elder-overseers and deacons are addressed in this context, for they are the ones who are to model Christ-like behavior for the rest of the church.  They should be able to say like Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  That is why the very first qualification for an elder is that he be a man “above reproach.”  Of course, this doesn’t mean that an elder is meant to be perfect in every way, even if it does imply that he is continually working towards perfection.  It simply means that no one in his church or in his community can accuse him of any heinous or scandalous sin that is unbecoming of a Christian, especially one who is serving in such a noble calling.  Certainly, he is still a sinner, but he ought to be known for his great repentance of sin and his great faith in Jesus Christ.

You’ll notice that most of the qualifications for the two leadership roles in the church are based primarily on character rather than giftedness.  The elder should be gifted to teach in some capacity, and the deacon ought to be willing to serve, but their lives teach the church firsthand what it looks like to be a “little Christ,” the qualifications for both men centering on their personal conduct, their management of their homes, and their reputation within the community.

Personal character is essential to Christian leadership.  Paul says that leaders ought to be sober-minded and self-controlled meaning that they have disciplined their mind and their flesh keeping them under control.  Peter says that these two thing are essential for the sake of one’s prayers.  So they are key to maintaining a relationship with God.  Leaders are also to be respectable, gentle and hospitable in their relationships with others.  Clearly, drunkenness, violence, and a quarrelsome spirit are unacceptable for any leader of the church.

Regarding the home-life, the leader is to be the faithful husband of one wife loving her as Christ loved the church, and training up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Paul says, here, that the leaders ought to manage their household well, in a dignified manner, keeping their children submissive, so there is to be a proper balance between love and discipline within the home.  If he can’t do this, Paul questions how he could manage the church, which is a much larger and much more complicated institution.

The leader also ought to have a good reputation within the community outside of the church, for the last thing the church needs is to have unbelievers accusing their leaders of flagrant sin and leading immoral lives.  Paul also says that leaders should not be new to the faith or else they will quickly become puffed up in the faith.

Notice that Paul mentions the devil twice in these verses concerning the role of the overseer.  Satan is either seeking to snare the leaders of the church into disgraceful sin or to condemn them in some other way.  As soon as a man is called by the Church to serve in a leadership capacity, he immediately comes under the close scrutiny of the forces of darkness and now wears a target on his back, which is why the members of the church should pick their leaders very carefully, and once they have chosen them to pray for them daily.