1 Timothy 3:2 Character Counts 3

How many of you have been to the Grand Canyon? Did you take pictures of the whole canyon? It really doesn't matter how big your camera is you simply cannot take one complete picture of the Grand Canyon. If you want a picture of the Grand canyon you're going to have to take hundreds of photographs and stitch them all together into one massive photo.

When you look into the qualifications to be an overseer or pastor what you're really getting is one snapshot of maturity in Christ. It's not a complete picture but it is a good picture. As much as that picture describes what Pastor's should be, it also describes what every believer should be growing to be. As such it is best understood as a series of Character traits which manifest or display themselves in daily life.

Because we are all representatives of Christ, it is imperative that we grow to be more like him. As we mature in Christ we will begin to leave our sins behind in favor of living more like Jesus. So we all can take the requirements for Overseer as one portion of a snapshot of maturity as it were and try to grow towards the goals set in this paragraph.

We've spent the last few weeks going quite slowly over the first few requirements for an overseer, and now I think it's time to accelerate just a bit before we get overly bogged down.

Not A Drunk (Physically Self Controlled)

If Character Counts than it is imperative that character altering substances like Alcohol are kept on a constant lockdown. There's no need to go into detail – every one of us knows that getting drunk changes a person… usually for the worse.

The word itself means not drinking to the point of being drunk. At the risk of inciting a riot, it does not demand being a tee-totaler. If it did than Paul wouldn't have been able to tell Timothy to drink a little wine with his dinner in 5:23. In order to whet your appetite I'm going to save that rabbit trail until such time as we reach that verse.

The literal impact of the requirement though is that the pastor must not be a drunkard. And if equal maturity is the goal – neither should God's people. Getting drunk is not Godly.

In general the word came to be used over time as a metaphor to express more than just drunkenness thus "[i]t is that state of mind which is free from the excessive influence of passion, lust or emotion."1,2 We still to some degree talk about people who are level headed as "sober" individuals. The overall concept here is not just that he's a teetotaler but that the pastor is physically self controlled as well.

(Mentally) Self Controlled

Back in 1 Timothy 2:9,15 this root word for self controlled is used two times to describe the woman's demeanor as self-controlled. Used as an adjective here it means "having a sound or healthy mind; as having ability to curb desires and impulses so as to produce a measured and orderly life.3

Whereas the former word (sober) refers in a sense to physical self control especially in the realm of drink, this word refers to a sense of mental self control in the realm of the thought life. This is important because thoughts invariably becomes action in the body. The battlefield for your mind is an intense struggle.

How many of you know that it's tough to stay mentally focused at all times? Remember that the battlefield really is your mind. That's why in 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul talks about taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

A godly man is physically self-controlled and mentally self-controlled in fact "order" could describe his life!


The word in the NASB is "respectable" It comes from the Greek "kosmion" it means orderly or well arranged. It's used to describe citizen's who quietly fulfill their duties without being disorderly.4 Respectability is important for a pastor because in a very real way he represents God to the community. Take this together with the last two and you have someone who is physically and mentally self disciplined, that will spill over into consistently appropriate behavior.


Some of you might have heard the word, "Xenophobia" meaning "fear and hatred of strangers…"5 Hospitality is the opposite thereof.

This word "hospitable" springs from two words meaning brotherly love of strangers. In a word: Hospitable will do. Someone who is caustic to strangers is hardly one suited for sharing in the ministry of the gospel. It's interesting that hospitality is a requirement for all Christians. You must recall the words of "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." We need only remember Abraham and Lot offering hospitality to the angels who passed their way in order to understand this concept.

It is almost obvious that one who dares represent Christ to the believing and unbelieving community as a leader he should be one who is welcoming and easy to speak with. When you read Third John you'll find that Gaius was a man noted for being above all things hospitable to itinerant teachers when they came through. It appears that John wrote the letter for the most part in order to encourage Gaius to keep it up.

When it comes to the church, Hospitality is a whole lot more than merely welcoming people into your home. I think it reaches into the attitudes with which you approach people in general. Do People feel embraced or rejected by your approach to them?

An Able Teacher

Last of all in this verse anyway is that he must be a skillful teacher. His task is one of passing on the faith once for all entrusted to the saints. How then could God's man be any less than a skillful teacher. (perhaps at the expense of other important areas I lean quite heavily upon this characteristic in my own life.)

Anyone can stand up with a book and read from it. But that is not necessarily teaching. Teaching by definition requires both a firm grasp on the material as well as the capacity to pass it on. This is a profound necessity for the would be overseer. How could he lead if he cannot teach?

It is notable that in the next main block that the deacon's who's primary Job is meeting the physical needs of the church, do not have this characteristic applied to them. But for a pastor or elder it is required that he be a capable teacher.


So as we draw this verse to a close we step back and examine the snapshot given thus far and ask ourselves, "what is here that I can apply to myself?"

Not everyone here is called to be a teacher – in fact we are warned in James 3:1 that not many of us should become teachers, "… knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." But at bare minimum if we consider our own relationship with Christ – as well as the opportunities we have because everyone here has at least one Bible if not more than one; we should be able to add self teaching to our daily routine in the form of scripture reading and prayer. And for the men of the house it is a reminder to us to at the very least hold family devotions.

Neither does everyone have the gift of hospitality, but throughout scripture in both example as well as by direct command we are urged to practice it. It means more than having people over to eat but extends to the way we actually interact with other people. As Christ died to break down the barrier between Jews and non-Jews so also he died so that we might have fellowship with one another.

Self control in terms of your thought life as well as your general demeanor also will go a long way in answering the skeptics who would look into the church and see nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.

1Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G3524.

2 Cref TDNT: "The reference is to the clarity and self-control necessary for sacred ministry in God's work. The distinction from Philo and Jos. is that the use here is figurative, though with a hint of the literal sense which does not come through so well in translation" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vols. 5-9 Edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 Compiled by Ronald Pitkin., ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), 4:941.)

3Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker's Greek New Testament library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000), 373.

4Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G2887.

5Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary., Includes Index., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).