Thursday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 3:6-7

Qualifications for Overseers

Paul ends this passage with two more qualifications for pastors.  The first is that an elder must not be a recent convert—someone only recently born again.  This tells us that the word “elder” does not mean “senior citizen” as older people can be reborn as well.  An elder is not even one who has been a Christian for many years; nothing is so sad as to see people who have been Christians since childhood but who never grew in the faith.  An elder is one who has been a growing Christian for a number of years—one who has applied his faith to his life and lived godly and blamelessly.  Such a man oozes virtue and the fruit of the Spirit.  He has endured suffering and conquered temptation.  He continues in the disciplines of Scripture reading and meditation, prayer and good deeds.  He is a pillar in his church and provides wise counsel, a man of peace and discernment.  Again, it is not that a man in his twenties or thirties can’t acquire such a character (and many have), but it is acknowledged that such a godly character generally requires time to develop.  The consequence of rushing men to the office under discussion is that they might become conceited—a telltale sign of immaturity—and “fall into the condemnation of the devil”; that is, the condemnation the devil received for his rebellion against the Almighty.  Evangelicals are known for doing just this thing—rushing new or young converts to the front of the line, particularly if they are popular figures, and showing them off as models, only to watch them collapse a few years down the road.  They needed maturation not adulation; the fault lay with those who wanted to so use them.

Moreover, the Apostle says that the overseer “must be well thought of by outsiders” (i.e., unbelievers).  We must be careful how we understand this.  Paul is not saying that an overseer must know how to compromise before the world or rub elbows with the mighty for the sake of worldly gain or just “getting along.”  Pastors can do too much of this.  Instead, Paul is saying that the pastor must be known by outsiders as the kind of man he has been describing, that is, a man of principle.  Unbelievers may not like the man; chances are that if he is living a godly life (which should be a given), they will not like him.  But they will respect him.  They will know him to be gracious and kind, but they will also know him as godly and sincere, taking stands for righteousness and justice regarding community concerns.  Still, pastors must know that their first concern must always be the church and not the community, for it is His Bride they are sent to serve, that he may equip them as missionaries sent out into the community for witness.

Wednesday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 3:4-5

Qualifications for Overseers

I’ll never forget when I was a young pastor attending an ecumenical meeting with other pastors and priests from around the area.  I can’t remember the topic of discussion but I do remember one pastor joking that his teenage son was “half-pagan.”  That a man of God would have such a son—and laugh about it on top of that—made quite an impression on me.  Oh, I know children can go wrong even when godly parents put forth their best efforts, but this man seemed quite nonchalant about the whole affair.  In short, he had no business being in the position he was in.

In 3:15, Paul calls the church the “household of God.”  In the passage before us, the Apostle is speaking of the household of the pastor, and he makes it abundantly clear that there is a relationship between the two.  Men who would pastor churches must pastor their own households; men who would be examples of godliness in churches must be such examples in their homes; men who would provide wise counsel to the brethren in their studies must provide such unto their own children; men who love the Lord’s bride must first learn to love their own bride; men who care for and spend their lives for the household of God must first learn to care for and spend their lives at the household which must be their first concern.  What does it matter if a man builds the greatest church in the world but fails to love his wife or guide his children with a firm but loving hand?  So Paul makes it clear, “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?”  And the answer is, “He can’t.”

Now we are light years away from Paul’s concern in this letter.  Paul is not talking about the massive bureaucratic machines many churches have become today—managing programs and budgets, and the red tape of legalities concerning the handling of money and employees which states continually pile on churches—a necessary evil given the mismanagement and public disgrace of some in these matters.  What Paul is discussing here is the pastor’s role in guarding the integrity of the local church through sound teaching of the word, correcting erring members of the body who are going astray, encouraging weaker brethren who need continual care, and guiding with a firm but gentle hand which keeps the church on course growing in godliness while not allowing petty disagreements and distractions to throw the church off the rails.  BUT he must have the same care for his family.  Being a pastor’s wife and child is difficult; indeed, the family itself is called.  And so he must be a pastor in his own home, and so must be every man.

Tuesday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 3:3

Qualifications for Overseers

It’s taken three devotions to get to verse three but that only proves the importance of this passage of Scripture.  The Church can’t have just any man; she must have men who are qualified for the office of pastor.  Better to have a few that are qualified that many who aren’t.

With verse three, Paul adopts negatives to tell us what an overseer must NOT be: “Not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”  The Bible does not teach abstinence, but there is no question that alcohol has wrought havoc in millions of lives and destroyed countless families.  It is something everyone must treat with care; this is especially true for ministers.  It is such dissolute behavior as this along with sexual immorality and indiscretions regarding money that brings public disgrace upon the ministry and the Church.  One might think it would go without saying that a bishop should not be violent but then we consider discourse in our own time.  There is no question but that social media has so corrupted public discourse that rudeness is a fashion.  The former qualifications (sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable) completely exclude men who are quarrelsome.  Scripture in many places calls our God “slow to anger.”  This requires a cool head, a steady hand, and certain amount of reserve regarding displays of emotion.  A pastor should always be warm and gentle but not easily aroused to flights of hysteria or bogged down in worry or morbid preoccupation. 

The last “not” is that he must not be a lover of money.  This is a difficult one.  Big name television preachers notwithstanding, the ministry is not a profession one enters for the sake of getting rich.  Pastors and their families often go without many of the luxuries other families take for granted, from vacations to Christmas gifts.  Discontent is often hard to fight and gratitude hard to come by.  Pastors must seek blessings in other places.  When the Israelites were apportioning the land, “the Levites [had] no portion…for the priesthood of the Lord [was] their heritage” (Joshua 18:7).  Pastors must learn that their remuneration comes from heaven, both in the present blessings of ministry and the crown they shall one day receive in glory.  And we must all learn to be content (Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:8). 

Being an overseer means there are some things you simply cannot do.  Call it a double standard, but it goes with the territory.  But the Church needs men who will take up the cross for the joy of godliness.

Monday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 3:2

Qualifications for Overseers

I ended yesterday’s devotion by saying that pastors are not required to be likeable.  I do not mean to say that pastors should strive to be unlikeable, but only that “likeable” is nowhere mentioned in Scripture as a qualification for any office which God has established.  In fact, God’s prophets were often hated by God’s own people and even martyred.  Furthermore, being a people-pleaser is condemned every place it is mentioned in Scripture, and no group of people could be indicted for that sin more than pastors.  I call this to your attention so that if you are one who complains that you and your pastor don’t quite “hit it off” or that he seems oftentimes aloof, bear in mind that he is not there to be your “bud,” and that his “aloofness” might be due to a character that concerns itself with matters that require deep thought and meditation, so that when he does speak to you, he might speak a meaningful word into your life rather than talk to you about the weather.

We left off yesterday with “hospitable.”  Hospitality was huge in the ancient world.  It is still the way today in the Mediterranean world where if you enter someone’s house you will be expected to sit down to eat.  Indeed, bishops in the early church were expected to open their houses to people on a regular basis that weary travelers might have a meal and a place to sleep for the night.  Perhaps such a practice is no longer needed in our day, at least in the “developed world,” but this only means that we must find other ways to practice hospitality.  In other words, being hospitable is not an option, and in our current hyper-partisan society, it might be the best way to bear witness to Jesus Christ.  And be aware that the Scripture is speaking of personal hospitality—not soup kitchens or homeless shelters, though these are certainly needed.  But how often do we give money to these places so others can be hospitable for us?  At any rate, pastors must return to placing a premium on showing hospitality to all people and especially those in need.

An elder must also be “able to teach.”  This qualification is not listed for deacons indicating that this qualification marks the pastor from the deacon.  The pastor must teach and preach the word of God and rightly divide the “word of Truth.”  And allow me to say, THIS REQUIRES TRAINING.  Yes, there have been men who were good teachers who did not have a seminary education, but they are the exception.  A pastor needs to know Greek, some Hebrew, Bible, theology, church history, and basic church management—and at a good Bible-believing school.  We need Spirit-filled AND educated ministers that we may have men who are “able to teach.”

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.

Saturday in the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 3:1

What Kind of Men?

The Church of Jesus Christ is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).  But as these two offices would not always be with us, God provided that two others should be established and remain that His Church be nurtured and grow to maturity such that the gates of hell never prevail against her (Matthew 16:18).  The one office is sometimes referred to as “overseer” or “bishop,” and in other places “pastor” or “elder.”  The second is “deacon.”  At what point in time this happened is now cloaked in the early stages of Church history and shall probably never be known with certainty.  But that it did happen and early on is plain, and so the Church has always cherished these two offices in obedience to her Master.

But who is fit to “oversee” the goings on of the church, to be the watchman for the flock?  Who is qualified be “pastor,” which is Latin for “shepherd”?  Who should enter the ranks of “elder”?  That is what this passage speaks about.  With so many in the Ephesian church abandoning a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith, arrogantly talking of things about which they knew nothing (1:4-7), Paul says, “This is what a pastor should look like.”  Indeed, he focuses not so much on what this man does as what he is.  As such, this passage forever remains the standard as the Church of Jesus Christ searches for worthy men to fill this divine vocation.

The Apostle begins by referring to a saying then in the church, that “if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”  There are stories in Church history of men who were drafted into the office, as in the case of Saint Augustine, who is counted the greatest teacher of the Church.  But generally, the office is filled as the Church seeks worthy men and as those men answer the call the Lord places upon their hearts.  They do not seek the office of overseer out of desire for advancement or accolades, though doubtless this has happened countless times over the course of two thousand years.  These men seek the office from an inward compulsion of the Spirit.  They desire to serve God’s people.  They love the word.  They love to pray.  They desire a heavenly kingdom over an earthly one.  It is not ambition which drives them, but love for the Lord. 

Giftedness is important, but note that that is not Paul’s first concern.  It is the man himself—his calling and godly character that matters most.  These are the men the Church must have, and the men she must seek out.

Friday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 2:11-15

Men and Women in Church

I begin where I began yesterday: We must remember two things when handling this passage of Scripture: 1) Paul is dealing with how a church of Jesus Christ is to organize, manage itself and operate; and, 2) We must shed ourselves of our contemporary democratic and egalitarian views of human nature and society if we are to understand Scripture and how God wants His church to function.  In other words and as always, Scripture is in the right and we are in the wrong.  The question is not: How do we understand this passage of Scripture in the light of ever-changing contemporary culture, but how do we to understand our culture in the light of God’s holy word?

The passage is simple enough: Women should not exercise authority over men in the church.  Chapter three sheds more light on this passage with the exclusion of women from the office of bishop (i.e., pastor or elder), which authority extends to ruling, sanctifying (administration of the sacraments/ordinances) and teaching—the three primary tasks of the bishop.  Older women are instead encouraged to train younger women in the way of godliness (Titus 2:3-5).

But why is this?  Why are women not allowed to exercise authority over men?  Women are certainly not inferior to men.  (I sometimes think they are much the superior.)  Woman too is created in the image of God.  But God has designed and decreed that the sexes have different roles—roles that are not arbitrary but founded in the very nature of manhood and womanhood.  The Apostle reminds us that man was created first, the woman coming from the man.  He is the head of the woman, not because he is smarter but by nature of his manhood (Ephesians 5:23).  Paul also reminds us that she was the one deceived in the Garden, indicating what happens when women rule over men.  Adam was there but abdicated his position of headship and then transgressed in willful disobedience, choosing sin with his wife rather than life with God (Genesis 3:6).  A rightly ordered family, church, and nation is one in which men do as men were created to do which is to lead, provide, protect, and where women nurture and train the young. 

Paul adds that “she will be saved through childbearing,” not, of course, meaning that such is the way women earn heaven but that childbearing is a natural and primary function of womanhood and the place where a woman finds her greatest joy and fulfillment.  It is a sad state of affairs in our country that some couples actually choose childlessness—a completely unnatural course.  And all of this shows how wicked and unnatural homosexual behavior is in that it completely upsets the course of nature turning men into women and women into men. 

There are those who have rebelled against this teaching of Scripture from the beginning—and there always will be.  Indeed, Western civilization has been in rebellion against this teaching for at least two-hundred years.  But God is not mocked and we reap the fruits of this rebellion in divorce, sexual immorality, illegitimacy, homosexual behavior, loneliness, despair, and a host of other societal pathologies, plagues, and curses.  The solution to these ills is the obedience of faith (Roman 1:5; 16:26) which the gospel brings to the nations. 

Thursday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 2:8-10

A Woman Properly Accessorized

We must remember two things when handling this passage of Scripture: 1) Paul is dealing with how a church of Jesus Christ is to organize and manage itself and operate; and, 2) We must shed ourselves of our contemporary democratic and egalitarian views of human nature and society if we are to understand Scripture and how God wants His church to function.  In other words and as always, Scripture is in the right and we are in the wrong.  The question is not: How do we understand this passage of Scripture in the light of ever-changing contemporary culture, but how do we to understand our culture in the light of God’s holy word?

The passage concerns the spirit and tasks of men and women in the local church; we are not dealing here with the world.  Men are commanded to pray, and to do so without anger and quarreling.  Attitudes are critical when praying.  Our Lord commanded us to be reconciled to our brother before offering our gift upon the altar, and there is no gift greater than prayer (Matthew 5:23-24).  Prayer requires sincerity of heart and confession of sin.  We must forgive if we shall be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). 

The Apostle then turns to women.  He speaks as an apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not as a misogynist as some would have us believe—a position that says more about their own hearts than it does about Paul’s.  First is the matter of attire.  We fool ourselves if we pretend that women care not for how they dress themselves, or that men care not for how women dress.  Women will always be the fairer sex.  Men have fought wars and duels to have them.  For this reason, women must concern themselves about attire, not only in the church but everywhere.  Paul’s guidelines are that women should dress themselves respectably, with modesty and self-control.  He then mentions specifics that I will agree could be considered culturally-bound: braided hair, gold, pearls, and costly attire.  Braided hair does not offend in our culture; we accept some jewelry but not to gaudiness.  The key is that a woman should dress herself above all with good works; that is, stop fussing over clothing and be anxious about who in your family and church needs your care.  Who in your circle of friends needs to hear from you a word of encouragement?  Paul is only repeating Proverbs 31 of a thousand years previous: “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong…She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy…Strength and beauty are her clothing…She opens her mouth with wisdom.”  Oh the timeless truth of the Scriptures!

Wednesday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 2:4-7

Why Live a Quiet Life?

Paul continues his thought from 2:1-3, namely, that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” and then listing especially “kings and all who are in high positions.”  The context concerns Christian living in a pagan world—a world very much like our own.  And Paul’s concerns are chiefly: 1) that Christians live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness, working with their own hands, being good neighbors, respectable, dignified—in short, being the kind of people others admire; and too, 2) that by living such lives, others may come to the knowledge of the truth—that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

This is the context for the passage of 2:1-7; unfortunately, it often gets dragged into a theological debate concerning the doctrine of election in which Calvinists and Arminians take sides.  The issue is over verse four in which Paul writes that God “desires all people to be saved.”  A couple of lines down, Paul will say that Christ Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all.”  The question is whether “all” in these two verses means people from all nations and tongues or every man, woman, and child.  I am inclined to the former for two reasons: 1) Paul writes in Romans 5:18 our Lord’s “righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”  But we know from too many other places of Scripture that “all men” shall not be justified; and, 2) the former interpretation agrees with other passages of Scripture, for example, Ephesians 1:3-14 to name only one.  Such an interpretation seems to fit the context better in that Paul hastens to speak of Jesus Christ—the one mediator between God and man and thus the only way of salvation.

So this passage is not really about the doctrine of election at all, though some mangle it for that purpose.  1 Timothy 2:1-7 tells us this: There is a world out there that desperately needs Jesus who is the only way to salvation.  It is God’s earnest desire that people from every nation come to this saving knowledge about His Son.  For this reason, you, Christian, need to live such a life before men that is honorable and respectable such that people may see your good works and honor the God you serve.  Perhaps some will ask you about your God, some certainly will not, and some will persecute you for your faith.  This is not your concern.  Your concern is to live such that others cannot help but notice your manner of life.  And so we close with 1 Peter 1:9: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Tuesday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 2:1-3

A Peaceful and Quiet Life

Christians have found themselves under numerous and sundry governments throughout history.  All over the globe for the past two-thousand years, Christians have worshiped under governments friendly and hostile, Christian and pagan, monarchies, dictatorships, democracies, and everything in between.  Christians have and do worship in places secret and open, in grand cathedrals and underground.  The Church has prospered and declined under all these forms.  Though we can say under which we would rather live, we cannot say which is best.

The early Church found herself worshiping and ministering under a pagan, imperial administration.  That administration tolerated different religions to a point—that point being that religion would submit to Rome where Rome demanded its due: tribute and loyalty.  The Church commanded her members to do the former and the latter but up to a point: She would not say, “Caesar is lord,” as such an oath would betray her only true Lord and Savior.  That is where both she and Rome drew their lines, and for this cause the Church suffered under Rome’s brutality the first three hundred years of her existence.  Some of the Church’s earliest writings which survive from ancient times are from men who tried to persuade the Roman authorities that they had nothing to fear from Christians who paid taxes and actually prayed for the emperor, two of whom were Justin Martyr and Tertullian.

Paul had endured persecution from both pagan and Jewish hands.  And as he did in Romans 13, he here lays down rules for Christian worship and practice.  No, we can never betray our Lord.  But we can certainly pray for our rulers and obey all laws which do not conflict with the word of God or conscience.  And why do we do this?  “That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Christians are people who go to work and raise their families.  They are generous and kind to all they meet.  They eat their bread with thanksgiving and pray God’s peace on all people, but most of all that they should come to the knowledge of the truth.  They help those in need and testify to God’s saving grace as opportunities arise.  They meet together and worship once a week to sing praises and hear the word, to encourage and hold one another accountable.  But more than this, Christians are people of peace, both inward and outward, who mind their own business, and seek to behave before the world in a godly and dignified manner: Peaceful, quiet, humble, and yet unafraid, friendly, and winsome.  And if the world persecute us for this, then let them do so with great shame.