1 Timothy 3:2 Character Counts 1


What happens when you put a child in charge of their siblings? Sometimes nothing, but sometimes the evil comes out and as soon a the door clicks behind you the power goes to their head and they begin to rule over their siblings like an evil tyrant.

It is a sad statement of reality that such things have happened in the church through the ages. Men in positions of authority have abused their power. As much as it demonstrates the power of the sinful nature it demonstrates even more the overwhelming need for continued humility and intentional application of God's word.

The abuses that have happened in history have not been because there's something inherently evil with authority but rather because there is something inherently evil in humanity. Couple that with ignorance of God's word or just plain ignoring God's word and we have a recipe for disaster.

Last week Paul introduced the first principles of Church leadership to us – if a man has a passionate desire to be an overseer he is striving for something good. In the next few weeks we'll be entering one section of scripture that has generated in myself many hours of soul searching. What follows over the next six verses is a list of requirements or rather guidelines for someone who had a desire for becoming an overseer.

Again the overseer is one of three words in the New Testament used to describe the function of watching over, caring for and instructing the church: the pastor.

I'll tell you a danger though as we get ready to enter this passage. There are two reactions to entering a passage like this. The first one says: "Our pastor is nothing like this – we'd better string him up!" And the second reaction is something like this: "Since these are requirements for the pastor I can take a nap because this doesn't apply to me since I don't want to be and neither am I a pastor."

Both reactions are faulty for the same reason.
In Matthew chapter seven Jesus warns us against poking at specks of sawdust in someone's eye when we have a 4×4 post hanging out of our own. Take care of your own sins first and then you'll be able to see clearly to help someone else out. Then again in Ephesians 4:11 we find out that God's design for pastor-teachers is ultimately to bring the entire church into moral, spiritual and practical equality (Ephesians 4:11ff) in Christ than these measurements which have cost me so much prayer during preparation ought also to challenge each one of God's people.

So there is a twofold application of this text. On the surface level the direct and easiest application is of course to me – I must be this man described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. But the second application is like it. You also must be growing to become like this man. These are not arrows to sharpen and aim at your pastor, they are measuring lines to apply to your own life. So let us then see what we ought to be.

"it is necessary therefore for the overseer (watcher of souls) to be above reproach, a one woman kind of man {idiom: faithful to his wife}, sober (self-controlled with alcohol with a broader reference to his serious handling of his life), self-controlled (in general), orderly, hospitable, skillful in teaching, neither an alcoholic nor prone to violence, but rather gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money" (1Ti 3:2-3 Personal Translation)

Beyond Reproach

If we were to look for one general characteristic that should describe the overseer it is this first requirement.

Because the position of overseer is one that is a good work, and because it can be desired there are requirements for the person who will take on the task. First of all it is entirely possible that the person wanting to be an overseer may have impure motives. The following requirements go along way in determining the character of the person in question. This is vitally important because already some of the would-be teachers at Ephesus were tarnishing the church and thus Christ, it's head.

To be beyond reproach means to be blameless. Literally unable to grip (in terms of blame). This is describing a guy you just can't blame for anything.

It should be important to note – perhaps for my own humble sake, that while perfection is the goal listed here, it is also not an earthly achievable goal. That doesn't give us room to soft pedal the issue though. This requirement hits hard. In a pastor/overseer the quality of character of the individual is of vital importance due to the fact that in a quite visible way he represents the church of Jesus Christ not only to every believer, but by virtue of leadership he also represents Jesus to the unbelieving world. Whether good or bad, the world seems to look at the pastor to discern what the penultimate Christian is. It is because of this fact of life, that the pastor must be someone who can represent Christ well.

While many passages in the scriptures humble me, none abuse me so fiercely as this one. In this sacred text, I am doubly mindful of my own inadequacies which perhaps you may think are blown out of proportion- but which are truly monumental reminders to this servant of Christ that I live daily in the very presence of the constant grace and precious mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To be "above reproach" is the starting point. But it's also somewhat vague. Above reproach how? Above reproach to whom? Certainly there are lots of people who find my view of the world offensive. I dare to believe in absolute truth, sovereign grace, and the eternal punishment of those who reject Jesus. The stoutest Christian cannot be beyond reproach in their eyes. So we need an explanation of what it means to be beyond reproach and that is exactly what follows.

Instead of treating each of the following descriptions as an isolated pocket of righteousness we need to treat the rest of the descriptives as an answer to the question, "what does it mean to be beyond reproach? This is the umbrella under which every other description is found.

God willing, we'll look more closely at the terms next week but just look at the list for a moment. This is not an unreasonable list. It is a fair representation of basic Christian Character.

It's character that counts. An overseer should be a one woman kind of man. Temperate both in terms of alcohol as well as in life. He must be respectable, hospitable and since it's his task to teach he must be capable of doing so. He'd best not be an alcoholic nor someone prone to violence. He should be gentle, peaceable and certainly not greedy. How someone acts at home is more important than how they act outside of the home, so character at home matters as well. Above all he must be a mature believer and people who aren't even Christians should think well of him. It's a tall order.

I've been asking myself the same question for weeks now. How do I measure up against this? If God's desire is that we all reach unity in maturity in the faith than is it not vital that each one of us share the same character traits.

Are you beyond reproach? How would your co-workers or fellow students answer that question? Better yet, how would your family?

God is calling us to holiness. And the world around us expects holiness. Even if they can't always define what righteousness means they automatically know when it's not there.

Let us resolve ourselves to being beyond reproach.

Jesus Christ came to save sinners. If your behavior at home or at school or at work has been unholy it's time to bring it to Jesus first of all. Repentance and confession results in forgiveness from God. People are often not so forgiving.

This is one of those situations where you might need to take another step. You might need to go to some people and confess your failures to them. It's never an easy thing to do but it will make a difference.