Title: The Two Offices of the Church (Part 1)
Text: 1 Timothy 3.1-7
CIT: There are standards by which elders should live.
CIS: The work of an Elder is noble and should not be entered into lightly. The church should recognize these men and appoint them very carefully.
Aside: Kudos to Jason for a job well done this past week! I’d like to continue in 1st Timothy where Jason left off. Turn to chapter 3. We’ll pick up in v1. Page 932, bottom rt corner and the top of p. 933;
Intro: In the context of our passage, Paul is writing to Timothy, but for the benefit of the church. So, this is how I’m seeing this. I want to approach this from the perspective of a letter to the church and your responsibility toward your leadership and your potential leadership. Consider this: the men who are serving as your elders today will not always be the same combination of men. You’ve had two other elders who are no longer serving as your elders. Even if the three of us remain for years to come, the dynamic will change as other men join us and it is important for you to select the right men for the job.
Ill.: I joined my first band as a front man for Fallen Angel in 1979. I never performed with them because we just could never get it together. Over the past 40 years, I have sung with and/or played the bass and/or played acoustic in many bands with many people – and this is what I’ve learned: having the right people in the right place is the key.
I played with many singers and instrumentalists who were very good at their job; however, their personalities caused so many problems in the band that we couldn’t function properly. And it only takes one person to disrupt your group.
App.: the application remains the same for any team or committee or board. One wrong person can create havoc on you and your work. So, you as a body can select a really good man – who fits the requirements in every way and still fracture your body.
Transition: you have a great responsibility – maybe that is why Paul goes into such great detail about who should and who should not serve as an overseer.
Let’s go back to the beginning and identify the steps that got us to where we are in 1 Timothy:
- A charge to confront false teachers and their false teaching (chap. 1)
- The role of men and women in the public arena concerning prayer and worship (chap. 2)
- Leadership in the church… the role of the church to put the right men in the right spot… all within the context of false teaching and false teachers.
From this text we find that there are two offices in the church:
- Overseers (interchangeable terms: Pastors [shepherds], Elders, Bishops, Overseers) – v1-7
- Deacons v8-15
Ill.: The opening of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one great example of this: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
BTW: this is clarified in our Statement of Faith (BF&M 2000) in Article 6: VI. The Church
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.
This morning, I’d like to focus on just the first of these two offices: the elder or overseer. We note first in v.1 that Paul declares this a noble task. Rd v 1; The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. This someone aspires to something good. It is a “good work”. Overseer is ἐπισκοπή (episcope, i.e.: Episcopalian): epi: over and scope: to see. He desires a noble task. Lit.: a good work; We saw this phrase a good work up in the previous chapter, as a characteristic of a godly woman. ἀγαθός and καλός, both are synonymous and are used in Scripture attributes of God.
So, the first step in becoming an elder is: you want to be one.
I. If someone aspires to be an overseer… he desires a good work. So, because this is a “good work”, a noble task, the church should not enter lightly into selecting men to serve here. That’s why Paul says in the next verse: Therefore… rd v 2-3;
Transition: So, if someone aspires to be an overseer,
II. If someone aspires to be an overseer, you will see it displayed in his upstanding character.
Exp.: We’re talking Behavior/Actions; rd v 2-3; Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
I agree with DA Carson who said that there really isn’t anything special in these – except for one – being able to teach. I mean really, shouldn’t this be characteristic of any man?
- He must be above reproach: in Titus, he uses the synonym It isn’t that he’s perfect and sinless, but rather that he exemplifies Christ in his manner and deportment. Thabiti Anyabwile: Being above reproach means that an elder is to be the kind of man whom no one suspects of wrong-doing or immorality. People would be shocked to hear this kind of man charged with such acts. Above reproach; blameless.
- He must be ‘a man of one woman’: that’s the literal translation; most translation read: the husband of one wife. It’s hard to know exactly what is meant here. It could mean that he’s never been divorced. There are a lot of scholars I respect deeply who hold to that opinion. I think there is a principle being taught here, though, that is really important. I’m not absolutely positive that Paul is laying down the letter of the law here, but rather presenting a principle. No matter your view on divorced or even single men serving as elders, I think Paul is communicating that this man has a high view of marriage as between a man and a woman and that marriage is sacred. His marriage is a display of this belief.
- He must be sober-minded: the literal translation means temperate in his use of alcohol. He is sober. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t drink any alcohol, but rather that he never drinks alcoholic beverages to a point that he is out of control. Baptists like to use this part of Scripture to declare alcohol is bad. You should never do it. But that’s just legalism, too. This man, though, he never lets what he consumes get out of control.
- Self-controlled. The negatives in v 3 below outline a man who is out of control. He can’t control his drinking (must not be a drunkard). He can’t control his anger (he must not be violent). He can’t control himself in conversation (he is quarrelsome; he always has to be right!). And he can’t control his appetite for more and more money. Maybe he gambles, hoping for a big windfall. He works too long and too hard to make more money, not observing the Sabbath, but trying to get the extra cash. No, our man is self-controlled.
- He must be respectable: these are noted by his family (his wife and children) and the community. We’ll look more at this when we get to those verses in 4-7.
- He must be hospitable: this Gk word is a compound word translated a lover of strangers. He is a lover of strangers and not a lover of money. The man who loves his money holds his purse strings tight. The man who loves strangers opens up his moneybag and pours out his money for them. He uses his money to love people instead of using people to satisfy his love of money.
- He must be able to teach: this is our first and only requirement that isn’t really universal of all believers. Basically, all of the traits we’ve listed simply outline who and how we should be as Christians.
Now Paul turns toward the negatives, which we already listed with the out of control man.
- He must not be a drunkard
- He must not be violent but gentle
- He must not be quarrelsome
- He must not be a lover of money.
So, the only requirement listed here that wouldn’t be an expectation of any man in your congregation is that he be able to teach. I believe the reason for this is his responsibility to communicate sound, healthy doctrine.
Conclusion: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – he must display upstanding character. You will have already seen it in his behavior.
III. If someone aspires to be an overseer, then he has set an example of leadership with his family.
If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – his example has already been set in his family.
Exp.: rd v 4-5; He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
This doesn’t mean that his family is perfect any more than it means that the church is perfect. There are problems; there are struggles. You will find it anywhere you find relationships. The issue isn’t that he has the perfect family. Because he won’t and he can’t! It has to do with his management skills in caring for his family. Here is a good question to ask: Does his wife respect him? Do his children hold him with high regard and have that same respect? You can witness this respect through the submissive nature of their relationship. They hold him in high regard. They know him better than anyone else. Their respect speaks volumes.
Conclusion: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – his example has already been set in his family. Not that they are perfect, mind you, but that they see him that same way.
IV. If someone aspires to be an overseer, then the church must determine his fitness based upon his spiritual maturity and positive public perception.
Exp.: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – the church must be careful in its appointment of this someone to the position of overseer. Rd v 6; He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Spiritual maturity will help a man avoid those pitfalls and snares of the devil. Oh Man, if there is anything the devil can do to bring down your elders, he will. So be careful in your appointments. Don’t appoint a man before his time.
So to review:
- If someone aspires to be an overseer… he desires a good work.
- If someone aspires to be an overseer, you will see this desire displayed in his upstanding character.
- If someone aspires to be an overseer, then he has set an example of leadership with his family.
- If someone aspires to be an overseer, then the church must determine his fitness based upon his spiritual maturity and positive public perception.
Application: As we consider sound doctrine…
- Church, your theology drives your methodology. It impacts everything you do.
- Bad theology corrupts a church body. Remember, it was Paul’s purpose in placing Timothy in Ephesus – to protect them.
Ill.: I sometimes think of Eve and the serpent. I remember her statement of how she told the serpent that not only was she not allowed to eat of the fruit, but she wasn’t even allowed to touch it. Now, God told this to Adam before she came along. rd 2.17 and then 2.18ff. Why did she say this? She must have gotten it from Adam. Did he add to God’s Word or did she add to what Adam told her? Either way, doctrine is important. It is vital to not add or take away from it.
- Good theology informs the decisions a church body has to make. Therefore, your leadership should have a solid foundation when it comes to what they believe about God and His Word.
- These leaders must live that good theology out. They must teach it. They must exhibit it in their lives (personal, familial, work).
- Church, when you appoint men to serve as elders (and deacons for that matter), you are making a doctrinal statement. Too often, the church wants to pick popular, pretty people. Standards set in the Word of God are cast aside for comfort and popularity.
Ill.: Mark Dever writes: I had made a statement in a doctoral seminar about God. Bill responded politely but firmly that he liked to think of God rather differently. For several minutes, Bill painted a picture for us of a friendly deity. He liked to think of God as being wise, but not meddling; compassionate, but never overpowering; ever so resourceful, but never interrupting. “This,” said Bill in conclusion, “is how I like to think of God.”
My reply was perhaps somewhat sharper than it should have been. “Thank you, Bill,” I said, “for telling us so much about yourself, but we are concerned to know what God is really liked, not simply about our own desires.”
And all of God’s children said, “Ouch”. Dever has a great point: what someone likes to think about God isn’t so as important as what God says about himself. Our theology is important and it must be grounded in God’s Word. The God of Christmas in Luke is also the God of Judgment in Revelation. So, when you appoint men to serve, you’re making a doctrinal statement about what you believe. Finally,
- Men, if you aspire to the office of elder, I’d like to close with two thoughts:
First, as a pastor and elder, there are certain texts of Scripture that float around in my head on a regular basis. Scriptures like James 3.1: 3 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. And Heb 13.17: 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Professor John Brown was sought out by a former divinity student, who had graduated and moved to the country to become the pastor a very small church. This young man wrote his former professor declaring his impatience in serving the 16 souls in the country church. He stated that he could not wait until he was finally asked to pastor a much larger congregation with greater prestige and publicity. The kindly professor responded to this eager young preacher:
I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at his judgment-seat, you will think you have had enough.
Oh, what a mighty leadership team we would be if we entered each day with this thought in our minds.
Second, 1 Peter charges the elders to serve the people under their care: So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And then he finishes with this: 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Brother, great is your reward for your faithful service. I can think of no higher calling than to do just what I’m doing.