The Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 3:2

Qualifications for Overseers

Not just anybody can be pastor.  It is not a job for which a church advertises and then takes applications from anyone who might be seeking a job.  Moreover, Paul does not seek first to list the gifts such a man should have, other than being “able to teach” and “manage his own household” implying that if he will be a pastor he shall have to manage a church.  But even so, it is the man’s character that takes precedence; in other words, we must have godly men to be overseers of God’s churches.  Next to this, being a great speaker, a gifted manager, even a compassionate man, will not be enough.

So what are those qualifications the Apostle lists?  He begins by saying that he must be “above reproach.”  Paul mentions this one first because the rest of the list seems to branch out from it.  “Above reproach” speaks to having such a reputation and character that the church is not dragged down by the pastor’s faults thereby losing credibility as a result.  Saint Chrysostom said, “Every virtue is implied in this word” (William Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary, 169).  From this point, Paul writes that the bishop must be “the husband of one wife.”  (This does not exclude men who have been widowed, just as we would not assume this passage teaches that every elder be married with a family, as such a qualification would rule out Paul himself.)  This qualification speaks to marital fidelity which was something rare in the ancient world and becoming ever so in ours.  “Sober-minded” speaks to the serious demeanor required for pastors.  I do not say that pastors should never laugh, but I do say that theirs is a task in which the eternal destiny of souls is at stake.  It is the highest of all callings and requires a man who understands that the God He serves will one day call him to account for the service he rendered while in that most holy office.  “Self-controlled” speaks to the pastor’s personal and public habits.  Is he a slave to his desires?  Must he have what he wants when he wants it regarding food, drink, or entertainment?  Must he have his own way?  Can others disagree with him?  Must he be stroked and gratified?  Self-control speaks to spiritual maturity as much as anything else.  “Respectable” speaks to being dignified in our outward bearing.  I notice that people demand respect today but are rarely respectable people themselves.  No wonder.  The word has fallen under suspicion by some as the act of putting on airs or abiding pretense.  So pastors now wear shorts and t-shirts into the pulpit.  Of course, the heart matters, but respect indicates that our hearts care for the feelings of others.  It’s why we open the door for others.  Paul nowhere says pastors must be likeable, but they must command respect by their manner of life.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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