I want to get us back into the mode of studying First Timothy and Church 101 so a little bit of review is necessary.
In the first chapter Paul begins with the leadership of the church: Pastoral authority which is grounded in the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Key to the functioning of the church is a pastor who will stay the course long enough to effectively correct error and teach truth.
The Foundation of the gospel
From there Paul switches over to defining the purpose of teaching and the measure of good doctrine. Good doctrine conforms to the gospel of Jesus Christ and is focused upon Love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. It seems that one of the problems in Ephesus was the same as that which many churches today face – people who are teaching but fail themselves to grasp the purpose of the law in revealing the gospel.
The full comprehension of Grace
It is here that Paul recounts the grace that has been shown to him as one who was among the greatest lawbreaker of all time. Paul draws the conclusion that Jesus Christ came but for one purpose: to save sinners and he was the worst one of all. More than that if God can save Paul he can save anyone, including you. Praise God? (I expect at least a few amens!)
Defending and advancing the faith
The gospel is the core of all that the church is and does. Because of this Paul reminded Timothy to fight the good fight. The Christian walk is a life long struggle and we must face many trials on the way to finally entering the kingdom. It’s not just the personal struggles but also the external struggles. False teachers are everywhere. Some are blatant and easy to spot while others are more cunning and a firm grasp on doctrine is necessary in order to combat the lies. In that pathway we are called plainly to keep faith and a good conscience.
As we entered the second chapter Paul finishes focusing on Timothy as the pastor and moves forward to the requirements on every man and woman in the church. And the first order of business is prayer.
God has spoken, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” That requires therefore that the inhabitants of God’s house be people of prayer. We must pray at all times for all people. We should seek God with prayer requests pleading with him to provide our needs and to transform lives. Every type of prayer is urged upon us – we must be people who pray. And we must intercede for others who are outside of God’s grace. And we must not forget to give thanks to our God for what he has given to us.
Specifically Paul gives a charge to the men in the church to pray and to do so without anger and dissension. And the Women are required dress appropriately and to be devoted learners of God’s word. They are equal partners in the kingdom of God and should partake in it. But when they have learned enough to teach their teaching must not include the teaching of men. Neither can they be in a position of church leadership over men. To do so would go not only against the created order but would fail to take into account the headship of Adam in bringing universal guilt upon his descendants.
Now considering the context of what has gone before – specifically in terms of Paul’s statements concerning women in leadership it is only natural that he begin to explain the requirements for leadership in the church but to a certain extent to defend those positions.
This is why he begins the third chapter with “It is a trustworthy statement, if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.”
In this statement Paul demonstrates a few principles for us to adhere to when it comes to church leadership. Before we cover them, I want to take this opportunity to explain what the Bible portrays as a functioning Church “government” if you will. It’s a sad state of affairs that very few churches actually follow this model though many have made attempts to do so.
Through the Pastoral letters of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus as well as in Acts and in a few other locations the ordering of the church governing body is explained to us. Biblically speaking the church leadership consisted of a group of Elders. These were men who were spiritually mature and who had a significant grasp on the doctrines of the Bible and for these reasons they are qualified to give leadership to the body of Christ.
God is the head of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus answers to and obeys the Father because the Father wants what is best for Christ. Jesus Christ is the head of the church. The Church answers to and obeys Jesus first because he is our Lord and second because he wants what is best for her. Within the church the elders are the head and the deacons are the hands if you will of the church. The Elders as a group are responsible to rule, to teach, to protect, to guide and to direct the church. The Deacons and Deaconesses are responsible to meet the physical needs of the congregation. The congregation in turn selects the Deacons and is responsible to meet the needs of the Elders in terms of financial support as well as in terms of honor. The entire congregation including the elders and deacons are responsible the world to bring it the good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ and his death, burial and resurrection.
It is against this backdrop that Paul gives us the guidelines for church leadership in 1 Timothy 3.