Friday, April 02, 2004

1 Timothy -- Passing the Baton (8)

In Acts, we are told that Paul appointed elders in the new congregations. In his letter to Timothy, he  describes what he looks for:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be 

  • above reproach, (Not sinless, but without a hidden past that could compromise his decisions)
  • the husband of one wife, (Legalists like to debate whether an elder can be divorced or must be married. The spirit behind this is who the man is now. To be sure, a divorce in the past must be examined, but so should the current marriage. It is not a past divorce that is the problem so much as a future divorce or an adulterous affair.)
  • temperate,  (Not given to excess, balanced, able to appreciate clean fun)
  • prudent, (Full of common sense. Able to give sound advice and counsel)
  • respectable, (This is almost a corollary of the above. The elder has real authority in the congregation. That authority is best mediated through one who has earned the respect of those who must obey. In other words, this characteristic helps promote the unity of the body.) 
  • hospitable, (He must have an open home. He should be friendly and outgoing. He should not care who comes into his home.)
  • able to teach, (He must know and be able to communicate the Scriptures.)
  • not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, (I kept these together because of that quality in drink that triggers violence in people. Paul does not prohibit drinking, but indicates that it is a beverage to be used in moderation.)
  • peaceable, (One who works to recognize and settle disputes, and is, himself, prone to be peaceful)
  • free from the love of money. (Sex and Money seem to be things that can bring down a leader more than anything else. The elder must be one who seeks the Kingdom of God above all else.)
  • He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and (The measure of a man is often his household. When the doors of a home close, the hidden things in the soul emerge. There are no hypocrites behind closed doors. If the wife and children have an easy respect for husband and father, then the man may be a good candidate for leadership)
  • not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And (This covers the hidden pride that can be in the heart. This qualification implies that the elder has gone through testing and breaking so that he stands only by God's grace and mercy.)
  • he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (This presumes a friendly community and not those who hate the Church. Like the family, the external community that has business and social contacts with the candidate can indicate the quality of the man. If he is shady in his dealings, the external community will provide evidence of this. On the other hand, if the external community honors him, you know that his dealings are honest.)  (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

If you look at leaders in the Church today who give Christianity, you can see where they have failed in at least one of these areas. That is the elegance of this list, it provides external evidence for the internal heart. The more fully a man exhibits these qualities, the more likely he will be to serve the local body well. To be sure, some will slip through the screen that should have been caught and some will be caught that should have passed through. The above are guidelines that let us know the importance of character in the office of elder.

Tomorrow: Deacons

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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