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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » 1 Timothy 3:1-7

Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Qualifications For Church Officers: Overseers

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 9:1–17

“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.’ Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’” (Genesis 9:1–17, ESV)

Sermon Text: 1 Timothy 3:1-7

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1–7, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

One of the reasons I chose to preach through 1 Timothy was so that we might be encouraged as a congregation to keep our focus upon Christ, the advancement of his kingdom, and the building up of his church in these politically turbulent times. Granted, all of scripture does point to Christ and the furtherance of his kingdom, but 1 Timothy has a lot to say about life in Christ’s church. And I think it is good for this to be our focus.   

As Christians, we are citizens of an earthy nation. We live under the Noahic Covenant. And so we are obligated to participate in the common (but accountable) political communities that covenant sanctions. And this topic has been our focus in Sunday school over the past couple of months. There we have learned a lot about our responsibilities in the civil realm. There you have been encouraged to be responsible citizens. 

But as Christians, we are also citizens of the kingdom of heaven. If you are in Christ you live under the New Covenant ratified in his blood. And where is this New Covenant community found? Many of its members have already gone to glory and are even now enjoying the blessed presence of God. Their bodies lie in the grave but their souls have been perfected and are alive in the presence of God. These saints who have gone to glory are assembled in heaven. Our brother Steven Haws is among them. Our brother John Thezier is among them, along with many others. But there are also many partakers of this New Covenant who are alive on earth today. These are those who have been drawn to faith in Christ. These have turned from their sins to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. These have been justified, adopted, and are now being sanctified by the word of God and by his Spirit. And where do these members of the New Covenant who are alive in the world today assemble? They assemble in God’s house, that is to say, in the Church. They sit at the Lord’s table. They gather together on the Lord’s Day to feast on Christ and on his word. They come to offer up prayers and praise to God with the intent to obey him in the whole of life. They come to fellowship with one another, and in so doing they gain a foretaste of the blessed life that is to come. In fact, the scriptures remind us that the assembly of God’s redeemed in heaven and the assembly of God’s redeemed on earth are synchronized in their worship even now when the writer to the Hebrews says, “But you [speaking to Christians alive on earth] have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22–24, ESV). Where do those who are partakers of the Covenant of Grace assemble? Whether on earth or in heaven they assemble before the throne of God being united to Christ by faith. Let this truth sink in, brothers and sisters. Believe it sincerely so that it brings peace to your soul. You are citizens of the kingdom of heaven now  if you have faith in Christ.  

Do you see, then, that the Christian has a dual citizenship? We are simultaneously citizens of an earthly nation, and of Christ’s heavenly kingdom. God is the Sovereign King of both. He reigns over both through his risen Son, all things having been made subject to him. But he reigns over these realms differently. And though he has a special kind of love and concern for his redeemed — those who are citizens in his heavenly and eternal kingdom — we must remember that we  are citizens of both.

Brethren, while I do not wish to in any way diminish the importance of our political engagement, this morning I do desire to fix your minds upon the far greater task of building Christ’s church and furthering his heavenly and eternal kingdom on earth. To put it differently, Christians must engage in both realms. They must continuously seek the good of the city and nation in which they live and also the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth. But one of these tasks is more important than the other. Neither should be neglected. And some Christians may be called to engage in politics or in Christian ministry more than others. But even the Christian politician must confess that his work in the political realm is subordinate to the work of Christ’s kingdom. 

How so, you ask? Well, while it is true that life in these two kingdoms is always deeply intertwined and interrelated, the political communities in which we live exist to preserve life in this world. And we might ask, why is life on this earth being preserved? If you know about the covenant that God transacted with all of creation through Noah (of which the rainbow is a sign) you know that God promised that “seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease”(Genesis 8:22, ESV). But why did he promise this? Why did he promise to preserve the world? The scriptures are clear. He promised to preserve the natural order so that the human race might be preserved. And the human race is preserved so that God might accomplish his purposes of redemption through the Covenant of Grace. Stated in another way, God in his mercy has determined to preserve the human race. This includes the preservation of stability within our political communities (generally speaking). But the ultimate reason for the preservation of the human race is so that the salvation of God’s elect might be accomplished and applied. Indeed, salvation has been accomplished. The Christ was born. He lived, died, and rose again for himself and others. And indeed, this redemption is being applied to God’s elect, just as it has been from the first utterance of the gospel in the presence of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The world remains — the full and final judgement of God has been delayed — so that redemption may be accomplished by Christ and applied to all his elect. 

This is precisely what the Apostle Peter taught in 2 Peter 3. Listen carefully to his words. And notice his allusion to the flood, and his teaching concerning God’s preservation of the natural world from Noah’s day to the present for the purpose of the accomplishment and application of redemption. He writes. “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:1–10, ESV). According to Peter the return of Christ and the  final judgement is delayed, not because God is slack, but so that “all should reach repentance”.

What is the point that I am making? Well, in brief it is this. Political issues matter. They matter because they pertain to our life in this world. And clearly, God is concerned with life in this world. He has promised to preserve the human race until Christ returns. And one of the ways that he preserves the human race is by the preservation of political stability, in which governmental powers play a significant part. Political issues matter. They matter to God and they should matter to us. But never can the Christian lose sight of the bigger picture. God has promised to preserve the world under the Noahic covenant, so that his redemptive purposes might be fulfilled. This is why I have said that political concerns must remain subordinate to kingdom concerns for the Christian. Both concerns and valid, but the Christian must keep the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom (which is accomplished through the preaching of the gospel, by applying baptism to those who repent and believe, and by teaching those who believe to obey all that Christ has commanded), as their leading concern. This is our mission, brothers and sisters. The church is to  “ make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… [and] teaching them to observe all that [Christ has] commanded…” (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV). This is not our only concern, but it is our primary concern. 

It’s really about perspective and priorities. Tell me friends, what is a husband and father to devote himself to? I hope you would say, his life is to be devoted to loving his wife and children, and to raise the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. So is that all he is to do then? Is he to spend every waking hour with his wife and children and focus all of his energies only on them? You know that life in this world does not work this way. That husband and father must go to work, he must maintain the home, mow the lawn, pay the bills, serve within the church, engage socially, along with many other things. But as he engages in these other responsibilities, he must constantly keep everything in perspective and maintain his priorities. He would be irresponsible to neglect work and the other duties of life. But he would  error greatly if he allowed work or social life to take priority over loving and leading his wife and children. It is about perspective and priorities. And so it is for the Christian sojourner. Life is complex. We have many responsibilities. But why are we here? Answer: To give glory to God and to further Christ’s kingdom. 

I wonder, do you see how keeping this big picture in mind helps us to keep politics in perspective? Should the Christian care about politics? Yes! For God is preserving humanity by maintaining stability in this realm. But should the Christain view political matters as ultimate? No! For according to the scriptures the preservation of the natural world and of the human race is serving a greater end, namely, the accomplishment of salvation and the application of it to God’s elect, which is the furtherance of God’s kingdom which will come to a culmination in the new heavens and earth which Christ has earned on the last day. Stated even more simply: politics matters, but the advancement of the kingdom of Christ and the building up of Christ’s church matters more. This is the mission of the church under which the other responsibilities of life are subordinate. 


One thing that has been on my mind lately is the question, how will the church in this land, not only survive, but thrive as the culture grows ever more hostile to the Christian faith? I’m sure you have noticed the hostility. It’s not directed at Christians only, but towards others who hold to a belief in God and the idea that morality is rooted in him. And the hostility is not coming from our neighbors primarily. Instead it is concentrated in institutions of power — the universities, the press, large and powerful corporations, and in the elite celebrity class. There is indeed some hostility present within the broader society. Will it continue to trickle down to our neighbors and become pervasive? Only God knows. But the question is this, how will the church thrive if our culture remains on this path? 

The answer is rather simple, I think. The church will thrive in a culture that is hostile to her in the same way that will thrive when she holds an honored and privileged place within society, and that is by being faithful to Christ and his word. 

And this is my charge to you this morning: As sojourners maintain a heavenly and eternal perspective, keep our mission always in mind, and be faithful to Christ and his word. Be faithful in your own soul. Be faithful in your home. Be faithful in public. And be faithful in the church. 

The church will thrive if she is faithful. The church will wither if she is compromising.

Compromising churches will seem to be alive for a time. This is especially true when the culture is relatively kind to Chritsians. But compromising churches will surely wither with the passing of time, for they have separated themselves from their lifesource. They are like cut flowers. They may for a brief moment have the appearance of life and beauty, but their decay is inevitable, for they have been severed from their roots.

But faithful churches will thrive with the passing of time. Faithful churches are like the hardy shrubs that blanket the hills here in Southern California. They often go unnoticed. They are not as visually impressive as an elaborate bouquet of flowers, but their roots are firmly set in the soil. They thrive in the springtime rain, and they are resilient to drought and the heat of summer.   

Brethren, let us be sure that faithfulness to Christ and his word is our aim. Let us continue to send our roots down deep into the soil of Christ and his word. Let us be sure to believe him and to obey him individually, as families, and as a congregation. And let us not fear times of drought nor the heat of summer, leading us to compromise. No, the very worst thing that we could do is compromise in faith and practice, for then we would be severed from the root. But remaining faithful we must rest assured that God has designed his church to thrive, not only in the springtime rain, but also the heat of summer. The church, and every member within her, is well equipped to thrive in every condition.     

That was a very long introduction, I know. But I wished to set this sermon, and this sermon series, against that backdrop. Faithfulness is what we are after. What is God will for the church? Once we know, we must be faithful. 

And what have we learned so far? In brief, the church must be faithful in doctrine, in holiness, and in prayer. And the text that is before us today makes it clear that one of the most important things that a church will do is to appoint men to the office of overseer. Stated negatively, one of the most damaging things a church can do is to appoint men who are not called qualified to the office of overseer. In brief, if the church is to be faithful, then she must have faithfull men leading her. 

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A Noble Task

Our text for today begins with what Paul calls “a trustworthy saying.” This must have been a saying that was adopted by the early church: “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”

To aspire to something is to seek to attain, or to long for something eagerly.Noble” does not mean glorious, but rather good, fine, and praiseworthy. And it is important to notice that the office of overseer is called a “task”, that is to say, a work. 

You will note that Paul does not rebuke men for aspiring to the office of overseer as if they were being selfishly ambitious, but he does remind Timothy, and through him, the church, that overseers must engage in good, fine, and praiseworthy work. Undoubtedly, there are some who are selfishly ambitious to hold the office of overseer within Christ church. These wish to have the notoriety and respect that sometimes comes with the position. But Paul does not assume that all who aspire to the office are of this spirit. Instead, he simply reminds us that overseers must engage in noble work.

So what is the office of overseer? Well, it is no different from the office of pastor or elder. This one office — the office of elder — goes by many names. Each name highlights a different aspect of what the office requires. The term elder brings to mind authority. The term pastor brings to mind the care of a shepherd. And the term overseer (or bishop) connotes general leadership and oversight. If you were to read Acts 20:17 and following you would find an account of Paul the apostle meeting with the “elders of the church” of Ephesus. And as they met he spoke to them saying, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28, ESV). And so elders are also called overseers, and these have the responsibility to look out for and lead the church of God.  

“If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” But you will notice that someone aspiring to the office of overseer does not make them qualified to hold that office. Instead, there are qualifications to be met. And if we are paying attention to the New Testament scriptures we will agree that it is the church that must agree that the man who aspires to the office of overseer meets these qualifications. Naturally, existing elders have an important role to play in this process. The fact that Paul wrote to Timothy to see to it that these qualifications were met confirms this. But those who aspire the office of overseer are to be vetted by the congregation. The congregation must agree that the man is called and fit for the office. And the church, with the existing elders at the lead, is to lay hands on the man to set him apart for the work, with fasting and prayer as Acts 13 describes. 

So what are the qualifications? Many are listed here, but they fall into two categories. First, the man must exhibit personal self-discipline and maturity. In other words, he must be morally upright.  And secondly, he must have the ability to relate to others, to care for them, and to teach them. In other words, he must be gifted for the work. These personal and interpersonal qualifications are not grouped together. They are intertwined in this text. But we will consider them according to these classifications.

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Morally Upright

First, let us consider the moral qualifications. An overseer, must be morally upright. 

In verse 2 we read “Therefore”.  Because overseers must do noble work, “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach”. This means he must be above criticism. Now, of course the apostle has reasonable or valid criticism in mind. If an overseer, or an aspiring overseer, comes under criticism from someone in the church or outside the church it does not mean he is disqualified. If that were the case then neither Paul himself, nor Jesus, would be qualified to hold the office, for these men were often criticized by others. Clearly, Paul means the man must be above reproach that is valid. No one should be able to look upon the man and say in truth, his life is marked by sin. He is a hypocrite.  

This requirement to be above reproach functions as a heading for the other moral requirements, I think. He is to be above reproach, generally speaking. In particular he is to be “the husband of one wife”. 

Let me tell you what this does not mean. This does not mean that an overseer must be married. Paul was not married. Jesus never married. But if the man is married, he is to be the husband of one wife. Furthermore, this does not mean that a man is disqualified from holding office if he has had more than one wife in his lifetime. If a man has remarried after the death of his previous wife, then he may hold this office. And if a man has remarried after a valid divorce, he may hold this office. But in this case the church would be wise to look very carefully into the circumstances of that divorce to be sure that it was valid according to the scriptures so that the man be truly above reproach. 

What then does it mean to be “the husband of one wife”? First, it means that overseers are to be men and not women (but that was already made clear in 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Secondly, it means that if the man is married, he must be faithful to his wife. He must be a one woman man. This is of course the standard for all Christian husbands, but it is absolutely required to hold the office of overseer. The man must be faithful to his wife, and thus above reproach.   

Thirdly, the man must be “sober-minded”. When we compare English translations of the Bible is clear that translators struggle to capture the meaning of this Greek word with one English word. Some say “temperate”, meaning self-restrained, disciplined or moderate. The KJV says “vigilant”, meaning watchful. Again, the ESV says “sober-minded”. When we put these terms together, we get the idea. An overseer must be alert, clear-headed and disciplined in his way of life. 

Fourthly, he must be “self-controlled”. This term is similar to the previous one. But in the Greek the word seems to suggest prudence, thoughtfulness and sensibility. 

Fifthly, the man must be “respectable”. This means that he must be “modest, well-ordered, moderate”(Louw Nida, 747). He must behave in a way that is becoming of a Christian man and of a leader within Christ’s church. Sometimes I wonder if these celebrity pastors who make a name for themselves by being brash and obnoxious meet this qualification. 

We will leave “hospitable” and “able to teach” for the next section. In verse 3 we find the sixth moral requirement: “not a drunkard”. This, like all of the moral requirements, applies to all Christians, but it is required of overseers. He must not be “given to drunkenness”, the NIV says. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, ESV), brothers and sisters.

Seventhly, he must not be “violent”. Violent here refers to one who is “pugnacious and demanding—‘bully…’, (Louw Nida, 756). This applies not only to physical violence, but also relational violence. He must not be combative, aggressive, and contentious. 

Eightly, let us take “gentle” and “not quarrelsome” together. Instead of being combative, aggressive, and contentious, an overseer must be gentle and peaceful

Some, I am afraid, take this string of requirements — “not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” — to mean that a pastor must never be firm. That is of course ridiculous. In fact, it is because pastors will sometimes need to rebuke false teachers and sinners that they must not be violent nor quarrelsome, but gentle. If the man is sober-minded, self-controlled, not violent or quarrelsome, but gentle, he will be able to deliver a firm rebuke when it is needed without losing his temper. To say it differently, the man must not be driven by his passions. 

In fact, there is parallel passage to 1 Timothy 3 found in Titus 1. There Paul lists qualifications for elders for his co-worker Titus. The list is very similar, but not the same. In Titus 1:7 we read “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain…” (Titus 1:7, ESV). He must not be quick-tempered. But listen to what Paul says just a few verses down in Titus 1:13. He commands that Titus “ rebuke [false teachers] sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:13–14, ESV). The meaning is this: an overseer cannot be violent, quarrelsome, or quick tempered. Instead he must be gentle. And this is so that he might deliver a firm rebuke when needed, not driven by passionate anger, but with affectionate love. All Christians ought to have these qualities, brothers and sisters. 

Ninthly, “not a lover of money”. Money is not evil. Money is good. It is needed to survive. Overseers are not commanded to care nothing about money. The Proverbs calls that foolish. Instead, he must not be a lover of money. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV). Hebrews 13:5 warns us, saying, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV). As you know, there is money to be made in religion. And some do seek positions of authority in the church to capitalize. And this why Peter instructs elders, saying, “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; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2–3, ESV). He must not be  “a lover of money”, Paul says. 

Tenthly, an overseer must be humble. In verse 6 we read, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6, ESV). Recent converts are prone to pride if promoted to positions of leadership prematurely. Let a man demonstrate that he is mature and therefore humble. Life experiences are humbling. And education is humbling — the more you learn the more you realize what you don’t know. Pride is destructive. Pride caused the devil himself to fall and to be condemned. Pride led to Adam’s fall. And pride will lead to our fall as well. Hear Proverbs 16:18:  “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”. And hear Proverbs 18:12: “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”

So the man must be morally fit to hold the office of overseer, bishop, pastor, or elder — whichever term you prefer. I am afraid that churches are often tempted to overlook character flaws for the sake of having a man who is gifted lead the church. What will bring people in?, they ask. Answer: a gifted preacher and a charismatic leader. And it is true, that will bring people in the doors! But if the man is not molly upright, the end is destruction. How many scandals do we need to hear about before we learn this lesson — stories of ministers who are financially corrupt, sexually immoral, compromising, deceitful, and abusive? The church is greatly harmed by these immoral leaders, and so to is the reputation of Christ. The pattern will continue so long as we have numerical success and cultural relevance as our highest aim. Instead, we must seek to be faithful.           

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Gifted For The Work

Let us now briefly consider the gifts that are required of an overseer. And I will have you notice from the outset that “eloquent preacher” and “charismatic leader” is not on the list! If the man is able to preach eloquently and to lead with great skill, then thanks be to God. BUt these are not requirements. Instead, the man must demonstrate that he is able to, one, care for God’s church. And two, teach.  

First, he must demonstrate that he is able to care for God’s church. Look at verse 4: “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” 

The requirement is that the man be able to care for God’s church, just as the title “overseer” implies. And how will he demonstrate that he is able to do this? Answer: in his personal life. Before he is entrusted with the management of the church, he must demonstrate to the congregation that he is able to manage his own household. 

The word translated as “manage” means to “guide, to direct, to lead” (Louw Nida, 464). This is what all husbands and fathers must do in the home. They are called to guide, direct, and lead their wife and children. They are to influence them to cause them to follow a recommended course of action (Louw Nida, 464). But if a man is struggling to manage his own household, he should not be trusted to manage the household of God.

He is to “manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” This phrase, “with all dignity” means that a man is to manage his household with “behavior which is befitting, implying a measure of dignity leading to respect—‘propriety, befitting behavior” (Louw Nida, 746). I suppose there are a couple of different ways for a father to keep his children submissive, or obedient. The children of a father who is a drunkard and violent may be submissive. They may obey, but only out of fear. They may obey, but not from the heart. And they will not obey for long. They will grow to resent their father and to run from him at first opportunity. But Christian fathers must manage their households and keep their children submissive “with all dignity”. They must lead strongly with love and gentleness. It is right that the children fear him, but with the kind of fear that has a deep love and respect for him at its core. This is the kind of fear that we have for God, isn’t it? We fear him because we love and respect him — and we know that he loves us. All Christian men must manage their households well. All are to keep their children submissive. But they are to do so, “with all dignity”. They are to lead as Christ leads — not by domineering over those under their care, but with love and service.  

Secondly, an overseer must be “hospitable”. This was stated up in verse 2. It means that he must be open to others and able to care for them. The one who is hospitable is willing to receive others into their home, to be involved in their lives, and to care for their needs. An overseer must have this capacity. Being an overseer involves more than preaching and teaching, you see. In the church we live life together. And pastors must be willing and able to relate to others and to care for this. This does not mean that pastor’s homes must be wide open, for they must maintain their own household. But their homes and their lives should be open, for being an overseer involves caring for others.

Thirdly, and lastly, an overseer must be “able to teach”. This also was stated in verse 2. When we come to the qualifications for deacons in the next passage we will see that they share many things in common with the qualifications for overseers, but “able to teach” is not one of them. Overseers must lead the church. And one of the ways that they lead is through the teaching of God’s word.

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Conclusion

So these are the qualifications to hold the office of overseer. A man must be morally upright and also gifted for the work. 

When it comes to the gifts required, we find that men will possess these gifts to varying degrees. Some will excel in caring for the church, others in hospitality, and others in teaching. Every overseer will have room to grow. But each man must possess all of these gifts to some degree before his appointment to the office, and the church must recognize that he does.  

And when it comes to the moral qualifications, we understand that no man is perfect. Some sins are particularly heinous and may automatically disqualify a man from holding office in Christ’s church. Most sins are not automatically disqualifying. Certainly, the point is that the man must be above reproach. His life is to be marked by obedience to Christ, and not sin.

So how does this apply to you? In many ways!

One, all Christians, young and old, male and female, should seek to mature in Christ so they are morally upright. These moral qualifications are not unique to pastors — all Christians should have them. But an overseer must have them to hold the office.  

Two, how important it is for the church to know what the qualifications for overseers are! To appoint a man to the office of overseer who is not fit may do great damage to the church in the long run. Do not compromise on this, brothers and sisters.

Three, if you aspire to the office of overseer then it is imperative that you ask yourself if you meet these qualifications and that you seek to strengthen what is lacking while you wait for the congregation to add the external call to the inward call that you sense within your heart. It is the church that must recognize these qualities within you. One of the best ways to develop the gifts of an overseer is to simply relate to people, to care for them naturally, to be hospitable, and to pray for others in the corporate prayer meetings of the church. Be careful not to pray for show. But pray with a sincere love for God and others. I do believe a pastors’ heart is put on display through prayer.   

And I will conclude where I began. Brothers and sisters, let us be found faithful. Let us be found faithful in our own souls, in our homes, in society, and within the church. The glory of God must be our aim. Faithfulness to God must be our objective. Let us maintain that eternal perspective, and give priority to the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom over all other earthly pursuits. 

Lord help us. To him be the glory. Amen.      

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Qualifications For Church Officers: Overseers


"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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