What God Looks for in a Leader (Timothy 7)


(READ 1 Timothy 3:1-3)  Some churches today choose men to become leaders because they are confident, successful businessmen or important, educated community leaders, even if they aren’t living a godly life.  When we make men church leaders just because of their status in the unbelieving world, problems arise in the church.  The difficulties in the house-churches in Ephesus should have been taken care of by qualified leaders, instead they were often the ones causing the problems!  Most of the troubles Timothy faced would have been prevented if he would have had good men serving under him.  To help him find the kind of leaders God wants, Paul gave him a list of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3.  `

“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (3:2-3).

Paul says the pastor “is to be.”  This is a command, not a suggestion.  The leaders in Ephesus must be men like he describes.  There are no exceptions.  They must “be,” which is in the present tense, referring to them now.  They may not have been this way in the past, but they have grown in faith and now can serve.  It’s not the past that matters.  Paul, who is writing this, was responsible for the torture and death of many Christians but God used him greatly.  Also, “be” refers to their character traits.  What matters is who they are, not what they can do.  Paul doesn’t list gifts, talents, education, training or skills.  He tells what kind of men they must be.

He says they must be “above reproach,” meaning there can be no cause for blame or criticism in their current life.  When wrong they must apologize.  When they sin, they must confess the sin.  They don’t have to be perfect, but must be striving to live and act like Jesus, who they represent.

After this first general, over-all description, Paul goes into detail of what it means to be above reproach.  He starts first with his marrige: “faithful to his wife.”  This means he must be a godly husband to the woman he is currently married to.  It doesn’t mean he can’t serve if he is single or widowed, it means if he has a wife, he must treat her as Jesus treats him.  He must put her needs before his own and serve her in love while initiating leadership in a gentle, considerate way.  If a man doesn’t have a godly relationship with his wife, he can’t be a pastor.  Peter adds that if he isn’t treating his wife as he should, his prayers won’t be answered (1 Peter 3:7).

Next Paul gives a description of this person.  He is to be “temperate” meaning moderate in all things and “self-controlled” literally meaning “have a sound mind,” one who makes well-thought decisions and good choices.  He is to live in a way that others honor and admire (“respectable”) and show hospitality by generously sharing with those in need (“hospitable”).

Because teaching God’s Word is a major responsibility of pastors, Paul includes “able to teach” to this list.  He must be someone who studies God’s Word and then uses the gifts God has given him to pass those truths on to others.

This describes the kind of person he must be.  In contrast are some things he absolutely cannot be if he is to lead God’s people.  “Drunkenness” is mentioned first.  The Bible does not forbid drinking wine, but it cannot be to excess.  “Not violent but gentle” means he must be considerate and sensitive of others and not have a short temper.  Also, he cannot be someone who is argumentative and wants his own way (“quarrelsome”).  He cannot be greedy (“lover of money”).

Then Paul goes back and elaborates on the first character trait he mentioned because it is so important.  He must “manage his family well”, because if he can’t take care of his family, he won’t be able to take care of the church (3:4-5).  He doesn’t have to have a perfect marriage or perfect children, but he needs to be following Biblical guidelines in dealing with the problems and difficulties every family faces.  He must lovingly and gently initiate solutions for every situation that arises, just as Jesus does with Him.

Paul concludes with a warning that a leader cannot be a new believer because Satan can tempt him with pride and defeat him (3:6).  He must be a maturing believer who has experience living for Jesus and knows how to have victory over temptations and trials.  Pride and self-centeredness are real problems for many pastors.  Unfortunately, a proud or self-centered person cannot see this in themselves and they don’t take it well if someone points it out to them.  It’s hard to grow in humbleness, but very important.

Then Paul concludes with a general statement, “he must have a good reputation with outsiders” so they will think well of the God that he and the church represent.  This is the same as “above reproach” he started with and summarizes all he has said.

How do you rate yourself against these qualifications?  In which character traits are you strong?  In which are you weak?  What can you do, starting today, to improve in your weak areas?


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